Scarlett Johansson's lovely grandmother
Ladies and gentlemen, permit us to introduce the star: Miss Dorothy Sloan! Take a bow, Dorothy; this is your fan club.
Some people who know Dorothy may argue, and mention that she is not the only star in her family. Very true. Dorothy is the grandmother of the shining and enchanting, not to mention very famous, Scarlett Johansson. But let’s face it; we know that any woman’s truly interesting life story demands some time to ripen. The great French Writer, Honoré de Balzac, said that a woman begins to be interesting only when she reaches “a certain age.” The beautiful and talented Ms. Johansson, who loves her grandma dearly and has always thought of Dorothy as her best friend, will be the first to admit that she has followed in Grandma’s footsteps when she decided, at a very early age, to pursue her successful show biz career.
Here is the proof. Dorothy’s favorite song, which she always sings when she is requested to do so when family or friends are gathering, is “Summertime.” A few years ago, Dorothy’s sister called her to play a track from a collection of songs that some Hollywood stars, who are not usually singers, recorded for a charitable organization. And yes, you guessed it. The sexiest, most alluring rendition of “Summertime” was sung by Scarlett – shocking her proud grandma, who had no idea that her little girl could sing like that!
Scarlett was a brilliant child, and learned to read long before kindergarten. When she was ten years old, after attending plays in a neighborhood playhouse and seeing other children put on plays, she started badgering her mother to approach an acting agent. Shortly after, Scarlett landed a part in a movie called Manny and Lo, about two troubled orphans who break into houses for food and shelter. The big break came when she was twelve years old, and got a major role in The Horse Whisperer. The rest is movie history – but let’s get back to Dorothy, shall we?
Dorothy’s family came from Russia and settled in Bronxville, a part of Brooklyn that had produced other interesting stars. A good example is Danny Kaye, whom Dorothy liked very much. Dorothy was born there, in a cheerful and friendly household, full of music. As a young child Dorothy sang Yiddish songs with her maternal grandfather, who was a very active member of the local synagogue. Her father, too, was involved in social and community issues. Working for the leather goods manufacturing industry, he became an active union delegate. As we will see later, Dorothy retained for life the deep interest in social issues as well as her love of song. She had also begun, at a very early age, to show her talent for languages – the household spoke Yiddish, but having learned English from friends and teachers, she usually responded in English.
Dorothy has two siblings, an older sister, now residing in California, and a younger brother, who currently lives in New York, and who had supplied Dorothy with a very nice sister-in-law with whom she is very close.
As she sang with her grandfather, Dorothy dreamed of becoming an actress. Her talent was soon recognized by her teachers, and from first to sixth grade she had a major role in every school play. However, she was also a very good student, earning a medal for good speech and English upon graduation from sixth grade. Her theatrical career continued in high school where she started combining her social conscience with her acting and singing talents. She joined a group of students from various schools in NYC, who met every Saturday to sing German songs, gave an annual concert in City Hall, and even performed in Carnegie Hall. All proceeds went to help German refugees during the war. Dorothy continued to excel in her studies, with a particular interest in languages. She studied French and German, and even participated in a production of a French play.
Soon Dorothy went to Hunter College. She loved it and completed a semester, but unhappily, Dorothy’s father became very ill following a difficult tonsillectomy. He never fully recovered. His mental faculties were intact – he remained as bright and intelligent as ever – but physically he was incapacitated and was never able to work again. Tragically, he died when he was only forty-nine years old. So Dorothy’s mother tried to take up the burden of earning a living, and to support Dorothy and her two siblings. Unfortunately, she could not do so. Being delicate and partially deaf, following a childhood disease, and not having much of a job training, it was too much for her. So Dorothy bravely decided to carry on. Her sister married at the young age of seventeen, and so did not require help, but still there were Dorothy, her semi-invalid mother, and her young brother. Something had to be done, and done quickly.
She found a job at her uncle’s structural steel and ornamental iron plant in White Plains, Long Island. She had taken business courses in both high school and college, and the skills she had acquired allowed her to become a full time bookkeeper and office manager. Quite a challenging position for a young and inexperienced girl, but then again, this was the indomitable Dorothy, whom nothing could keep down. She even decided to try to stay in college, and succeeded in completing one evening semester, but with the very long daily commute it was soon obvious that she could not continue. Sadly, she left school, and went on working steadily until her marriage.
Dorothy had one daughter, Melanie. When Melanie turned three and went to nursery school, Dorothy decided she must do the same. She went back to Hunter College to complete her degree, majoring in psychology with a minor in early childhood education. That was an impressive achievement, and helped greatly a few years later, when Melanie was eight years old and Dorothy’s marriage came to an end.
Soon after graduating from Hunter, Dorothy landed an excellent job as a teacher in Long Island, working with kindergarten children to second grade in a well-to-do community. Most people would be happy with that, but being the social-minded person that she was, always fighting for various causes, this was not emotionally satisfying for Dorothy. She wanted to work with truly needy children. She passed the necessary test with the City of New York, and on her own time, volunteered to work in a Bedford Stuyvesant school with seriously troubled children who had been expelled from first grade due to behavior problems. This was an extremely impoverished neighborhood, and the building was in such a dilapidated condition that it was about to be torn down. The man who later became the principal saved the old building with his zeal and determination, and they set to work. Dorothy did a great deal for these children, including taking them in her cars for excursions on Saturdays, visiting restaurants, walking through different NYC neighborhoods, and strolling in parks. By the end of the school year these children were so much improved that they could rejoin normal schools. During her vacations, Dorothy expanded her horizons and exercised her language skills by frequent travel. She often visited Paris, England, and Germany.
When Melanie became a teenager, Dorothy thought it would be helpful to move to an area where the young girl could get a better social life. Most people would have settled in some nice suburb. Not Dorothy. She decided to go to Denmark! It was a social democracy, which of course appealed to Dorothy. Most of the people spoke English, so it would not be too difficult for them to blend in and get settled, and altogether the country sounded intriguing. However, they had very little money, so the enterprise had to be planned carefully.
So with a seventeen-years-old daughter and two dogs, Dorothy sailed on a freighter to Germany. There, she wanted to buy a VW bus to drive to Denmark. Not a single dealer had the car she wanted, as all these buses were exported to Africa at that time. However, one dealer, who was a POW in America and was treated extremely well there, decided to pay his debt to the US by helping Dorothy. He put an ad in the paper and found an old farmer who was willing to part from his bus. The bus was very cheap, since there was something wrong with the ignition; it needed a push at every single stop to restart.
Eventually the family reached a farming community in Denmark, where life was cheap but not too exciting. Melanie did not like it and after a few months left to go back to the US. Dorothy traveled to Copenhagen and tried to find work, but work permits were no longer easily given to foreigners because of the inundation of workers from Eastern Europe. As she was waiting for work, she stayed in a residential hotel, where life was cheap, and eventually Melanie rejoined her. They had a good time despite the lack of money, and at one point the two remarkable ladies with the two dogs even drove their bus to a Spanish village north of Barcelona, rented a part of a house, and lived there for a month before going back to job hunting in Copenhagen.
Dorothy liked Denmark despite the difficulties. When Melanie met and married Karsten Johansson, it enabled her to finally get a work permit, since Melanie was a minor and they all lived in Dorothy’s house. She planned to teach English, but to her dismay she was told that they did not want Americans to teach the language, preferring British teachers. However, she found good office work instead and all was well. But life never stands still, and Melanie and her husband soon moved to New York. Dorothy, remaining in Copenhagen, became very ill. She had a spinal problem which required surgery, but this was unfortunately delayed due to extended nurses’ strikes. At that time she was in such pain that she could no longer care for her beloved dogs and had to face the tragedy of placing them in a shelter. After the operation, she needed two months in a spa to recover, and enjoyed the luxury the Danish government supplied for free. However, she was not able to resume working.
So after four adventurous years in Denmark, Dorothy returned to NY to be with her family. But not without her faithful companions. Making arrangements with the shelter that had cared for her beloved two dogs, Dorothy was happily reunited with them in the airport, and together they flew back home.
Eventually Dorothy became a grandmother to four lovely children, first Adrian and Vanessa, then Scarlett and her twin brother Hunter. A great lover of children, as always, she was actively involved in raising them. When Melanie was forced to live in another state because of work, Dorothy was the sole care-giver. The separation was difficult for Melanie, but of course she knew that all would be well with Dorothy in charge!
Time passed, the grandchildren grew up, and naturally did not need as much attention from Grandma. Dorothy, now a senior citizen and as energetic as ever, wanted a new interest. Although she lived a comfortable and independent life she wished for more activity and involvement. The grandchildren helped in the search for a suitable situation, and after checking many places that sounded interesting, they decided on the Jewish Home and Hospital Day Center, a dynamic organization that encourages interaction and exploration, where Dorothy found plenty of activity. For example, she was the one to get absentee ballots so the seniors who could not make it to the polls could still vote. Who else would be so civic-minded?
And interestingly, at Dorot, a Jewish non profit organization that helps senior citizens, Dorothy revived her show biz career! With the help of a few professionals, a dozen seniors from Dorot joined forces with five teen-ager boys and girls. They wrote a musical number called “Back in My Day” based on the participants’ childhood experiences. They simultaneously sang and danced to this number for invited guests in a performance given by Dorot. The performance was directed and photographed by employees connected with The New York City Center. As every intelligent reader will assume, it was indeed a huge success, and Dorothy was even interviewed by an influential radio program.
Show biz is in the family’s blood, and Melanie is now a producer, working on multiple projects. Dorothy is considering appearing in bit parts as they become available. But in the meantime, she is a very happy, positive woman, enjoying life to the full. She lives independently, has plenty of friends, is loved by her fascinating family, and is extremely active in social issues. She is also a very lovely lady, as you can see by her picture, so gentlemen – take notice! Dorothy is now free and not averse to socializing and dating… but of course you must be a handsome, kind, intelligent, and cultured person to qualify, nothing less will do for our shining star – we are very proud of her!
BACK IN MY DAY
Back in my day
In the summer
On the street
That’s where all the gang would meet
Play some potsy
Or ring a leevio
Or get and earful
Of the neighborhood dish.
I still smell those
Warm cheese blintzes
And lotsa of matzoh
Floating down from above.
Back in my day!
Back in my day!
WOW those were the days
I still love.
Many thanks to Dianne Ettl, Director of Recreation at the Jewish Home and Hospital