In Good Company
What do Al Jolson, Darryl F. Zanuck, Mexican President Miguel Aleman, George Jessel, Walt Disney, Eleanor Roosevelt, Danny Kaye, Conrad Hilton, Jack Benny, Mary Pickford and Walter O’Malley all have in common?
They were recipients of “Man of the Year” honors by the Beverly Hills B’nai B’rith, a Jewish fraternal and charitable organization. Each year B’nai B’rith honors “an outstanding personality as their Man of the Year.”
The Dodger President was recognized as “1961 Man of the Year” on January 28, 1962 by an all-star cast of celebrities, headed by honorary manager and O’Malley’s good friend Mervyn LeRoy. Among the dinner’s many honorary coaches were Milton Berle, Nat “King” Cole, Tony Curtis, Gene Autry, Kirk Douglas, Dean Martin, Rosalind Russell, Dinah Shore, Edward G. Robinson, Jimmy Stewart, Casey Stengel, Jack L. Warner, Leo Durocher, George Burns, Joe E. Brown, Jack Benny and Danny Kaye. Sammy Cahn was one of the entertainment chairmen.
“When the Dodgers won the pennant (in 1959) it gave the city unity it had never known before,” said actor Edward G. Robinson at the dinner.
The fund-raising dinner for various charities featured entertainment by singer Tony Martin and comedians Danny Thomas, Joey Foreman and Bill Dana. Dodger players Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and Willie Davis were big hits by singing a parody of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” which included the line “Who cares about winning, we get paid by the inning, diamonds are a man’s best friend.”
B’nai B’rith presented a scholarship to Loyola University in honor of O’Malley, a Fordham Law School graduate and University of Pennsylvania undergraduate.
As famed producer-director LeRoy was nearing completion of his introduction of O’Malley, he fainted. Thus, the evening ended with LeRoy’s sudden illness at the podium and O’Malley, who was to be the last speaker of the night and express gratitude to the warm audience of 1,300 for the great honor, left concerned about his friend, who later recovered.
Sources: B’nai B’rith Press Release; letterhead, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Jan. 29, 1962