Murray Bernthal (1911-2010) is gone. The Syracuse,N.Y. music/theater impressario and music educator died a few days ago. Age 99. His daughter, Bobbi Schlesinger, is HG’s long time friend and a former colleague and collaborator in the nefarious business of public relations, so HG met Murray a number of times. A remarkable, fortunate guy. He married well. Rose,who predeceased him, was a beautiful, stylish elegant, super-smart woman. A shapely dynamo adorned with bravura false eyelashes, she lit up any room she entered. Their children were Ricky, a very successful lawyer and Bobbi, publicist extraordinaire. Murray left behind a host of accomplished grandchildren and cute great-grandchildren. My favorite of the brood is his grandson, Adam Schlesinger, Academy Award nominee, Broadway composer, member of the “Fountains of Wayne” rock group. Funny and generous (Adam and wife gave me some great couture ties for my last birthday). Murray was steeped in nachis (the Yiddish word meaning pride in the accomplishments of your family). His professional career was distinguished. He was a prominent member of the Syracuse University music department. In addition, he could also be termed The Impressario of Syracuse. For many decades, as a private entrepreneur, Murray brought to that city the great musicians of our time for concerts. He also attracted the best touring companies of Broadway dramas and musicals. There were many doubters. As if you didn’t know, Syracuse isn’t exactly Paris. Also, weather’s a factor. The city is in the middle of the New York State snow belt and, for many months of the year, it’s worth your life to venture out for the morning mail let alone go to play or a concert. But, Murray (aided by Rose,of course) made it work and year after year brought (at a profit, surprisingly) music, art and enlightenment to Syracusans. No subsidies. No grants. Pure private enterprise. He was recognized and appreciated by his audiences. Murray was an athlete (a talented tennis player, he only stopped playing doubles a few years ago) and a proper gentleman. As young marrieds, Murray and Rose were pals with Bud Wilkinson and wife. Bud was the Syracuse football coach and later achieved great fame as the coach of the invincible Oklahoma Sooners and as an Oklahoma political figure. Murray, recalled with admiration, that Bud, a tough and demanding guy, never sullied his lips with a dirty or profane word. HG did not point out to Murray that his daughter, Bobbi, could use some mighty salty language when circumstances warranted it. So, what has all of this to do with food, HG’s primary interest (obsession) ? Be patient. The Bernthal/Schlesinger clan has some food oddities. Despite her protests, HG knows that Bobbi could live very happily on candy bars, cigarettes and Coca-Cola. As for Murray, he would eat anything but insisted the food be smothered in ketchup. No exceptions. Okay, maybe breakfast cereal and ice cream. There’s a family legend about how a famous chef tried to brain Murray after he covered one of his creations with ketchup. HG has contemplated Murray’s passing at such an old age. Could it be true? Is ketchup the key to longevity? Murray, a remarkable man, will be missed by many. Not, least by the Board Chairman of the H.J. Heinz Company.
Appetizing critique of food and restaurants