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International Al Jolson Society
New York Festival 2001:
A Jolson Odyssey

You Gotta Get Back To New York

Friday, May 18 - Saturday, May 19 - Sunday, May 20, 2001
Holiday Inn JFK
Jamaica, New York

For three wonderful days, Al Jolson fans from around the globe converged on the JFK Holiday Inn to bask in the memory, sight, and sound of Al Jolson. Here are a few highlights from that weekend. It is not meant to be an all-inclusive report, but rather as a way of remembering what we saw and heard, for those that were there; and a tease to those that did not get to this one to join the Society next year in Orlando, Florida!

Forward covers the Festival Writer Robert Moss, a great friend of the Society who has written several pieces on Al Jolson, wrote this very nice article about the New York Jolson Festival in the weekly periodical Forward. Read his piece, "Al Jolson's Fans Hail the Once and Future King."

Folks of note at the Festival
Dolores Kontowicz
Joe Franklin
Society Founder
Dolores Kontowicz
Radio personality
Joe Franklin
Janet Cantor Gari
Brian Gari
Eddie Cantor's Daughter
Janet Cantor Gari
Eddie Cantor's Grandson
Brian Gari
Parade of Presidents
Parade of Jolson Society Presidents
left to right
Past Presidents Harry Rhinehart, Dolores Kontowicz, Mike Modero, Bruce Wexler, John Wehrman
Festival Chairman Jan Hernstat

Rudy Wissler The first image of Al Jolson seen in The Jolson Story is not Al Jolson nor Larry Parks, but child actor Scotty Beckett. But the voice heard when Scotty opened his mouth belonged to a young Rudy Wissler, whose uncredited voice characterized the young Al Jolson in the movie. This is the third year that Rudy Wissler has delighted Festival audiences with his personality and presentation. Click for a sample of Rudy Wissler's Festival Performance.

Stephen Mo Hanan Stepping in, at the last minute, to the void left by the absence of the incomparable Ira Green, unable to attend the Festival due to illness, Stephen Mo Hanan brought his interpretation of Al Jolson to the fans assembled. Soon to star in an off-Broadway revival of his show Jolson & Co., Stephen Mo Hanan gave his all in tribute to Al Jolson. Click to see a bit about the original run of the show, and hear some of Stephen Mo Hanan's Festival Performance.

Tony Babino With a performance that those in the audience could hardly believe, Tony Babino made his debut performace at the Friday night banquet this year. Singing song after song, to full orchestration or piano, Tony brought down the house with his interpretation of the World's Greatest Entertainer. Atlantic City knows him well, and now we can join in appreciating the talent of this fine entertainer. Click to get some idea of just what was in Tony Babino's Festival Performance.

Richard Halpern A mainstay of Jolson Festivals, Richard Halpern rightfully holds the title of Mr. Tin Pan Alley. His peppy style and love for Jolson music was in evidence this year at the end of his Saturday night performance as it was the first time, many years ago, he entertained Jolson fans. Although Richard's repertoire is wide and varied, it is his unique ability to reinterpret a Jolson song that has made him a headliner at Jolson festivals. Click his picture or the text link to learn about Richard Halpern's Festival Performance.

Custom made centerpieces
The custom made centerpieces from the Jolson Festival

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This listing and material Copyright © 2001 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 01 Jun 01

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