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Not Bad for Delancey Street
The Rise of Billy Rose
Mark Cohen

Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life

2018 • 320 pp. 45 illus. (8 color) 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"
Biography - Entertainment & Performing Arts / Jewish Studies

$29.95 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-890-0

$24.99 Ebook, 978-1-5126-0313-2

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“Cohen ably describes Rose’s mind-bending shows and productions. . . . [He] also chronicles Rose’s efforts to aid European Jews caught up in the vortex of WWII and to support the newly... [continued in Reviews below]”—Publishers Weekly

The first comprehensive biography of America’s great mid-century impresario

He was amazing. “A little man with a Napoleonic penchant for the colossal and magnificent, Billy Rose is the country’s No. 1 purveyor of mass entertainment,” Life magazine announced in 1936. The Times reported that with 1,400 people on his payroll, Rose ran a larger organization than any other producer in America. “He's clever, clever, clever,” said Rose's first wife, the legendary Fanny Brice. “He's a smart little goose.”

Not Bad for Delancey Street: The Rise of Billy Rose is the first biography in fifty years of the producer, World’s Fair impresario, songwriter, nightclub and theater owner, syndicated columnist, art collector, tough guy, and philanthropist, and the first to tell the whole story of Rose’s life. He combined a love for his thrilling and lucrative American moment with sometimes grandiose plans to aid his fellow Jews. He was an exaggerated exemplar of the American Jewish experience that predominated after World War II: secular, intermarried, bent on financial success, in love with Israel, and wedded to America.

The life of Billy Rose was set against the great events of the twentieth century, including the Depression, when Rose became rich entertaining millions; the Nazi war on the Jews, which Rose combated through theatrical pageants that urged the American government to act; the postwar American boom, which Rose harnessed to attain extraordinary wealth; and the birth of Israel, where Rose staked his claim to immortality. Mark Cohen tells the unlikely but true story, based on exhaustive research, of Rose’s single-handed rescue in 1939 of an Austrian Jewish refugee stranded in Fascist Italy, an event about which Rose never spoke but which surfaced fifty years later as the nucleus of Saul Bellow’s short novel The Bellarosa Connection.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Cohen ably describes Rose’s mind-bending shows and productions. . . . [He] also chronicles Rose’s efforts to aid European Jews caught up in the vortex of WWII and to support the newly created Israeli government. . . . Although Cohen doesn’t ignore Rose’s penchant for tough dealing, or his celebrity divorces (one from the original Funny Girl, Fanny Brice), he focuses on Rose’s successes and affectionately captures Rose’s outsize personality. Readers will find Rose entertaining company.”—Publishers Weekly

“Comprehensive biography . . . compelling story. . . . Highly recommended for readers interested in Jewish American culture and New York show business in the mid-20th century.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“This is a fine summation of Cohen’s rightful claim of Broadway Billy Rose for the Jews. . . . He is not mistaken, either, in sensing that Bellow found some virtue in both the man and his type.”—Ruth Wisse, Jewish Review of Books

“A biography packed with psychological nuance and more than a few surprises.”—Stephen Whitfield, Brandeis University

“Who remembers Broadway Billy: shorthand wizard, impresario, songwriter, columnist, promoter? Cohen’s Billy proves more audacious, kinkier, more full of mystery than your grandfather’s Billy or the Billy you read about in novels. There are endless surprises here, from the number of beautiful lyrics we owe to the man to unforgettable accounts of his intersection with major historical figures. To have amassed millions seems the least of his many triumphs—perhaps most astonishing was the creation of a full American life in which he openly embraced his identity as a Jew. In the pages of this meticulously researched, probing, and affectionate biography, Cohen grants Billy Rose the revival he deserves.”—Janis Freedman Bellow

“A meticulously researched study of the impresario/philanthropist Billy Rose, a figure rich in contradictions: on the one hand, an anonymous altruist (working to rescue Jews from Nazism), on the other, a hard-nosed self-publicist, possessor of what Saul Bellow called ‘a buglike tropism for celebrity.’ Fascinating.”—Zachary Leader, author of The Life of Saul Bellow

“Billy Rose was at the same time unique and yet also representative of a rich and powerful moment in the Jewish American experience. Cohen’s prodigious research and storytelling skills bring him to life, and we should all be in his debt for this literary and historical rescue mission.”
—Eric Alterman, “The Liberal Media” columnist for
The Nation and author of Inequality and One City: Bill de Blasio and the New York Experiment, Year One

“Cohen leaves few stones unturned in his richly detailed, painstakingly researched, and highly absorbing critical biography of the great theater and music impresario. The story he tells is at once individual and universal, specifically Jewish and entirely American.”

Noah Isenberg, author of the Los Angeles Times best seller We’ll Always Have Casablanca

MARK COHEN is the author of Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman and of two previous books. His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, the Daily News, American Jewish History, Forward, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Modern Judaism, History of Photography, the Journal of Jewish Studies, the Saul Bellow Journal, and Tablet Magazine. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:32 -0500