Al Gerstein… that’s is my POPI. What a lucky lady I am to have had him as my father. He was an honest man, a man of integrity. When I was young I remember him as a looker…handsome, with black wavy hair and muscled arms with a tattoo of …mother…on his arm. A very hard worker, who built his business manufacturing mattresses, up from nothing to a huge success.Al was born on the lower east side…New York. He met my mom in the Catskills. Mom was from the Bronx. They moved to Miami and that is where he became ‘THE MATTRESS KING”. He worked six days a week and his greatest joy was providing for his family. My dad was very close with Angelo Dundee who was a boxing trainer. Since my dad didn’t have a son he would take me to the fights with him. It was my private time with my dad. He would introduce me to all the fighters, saying, “I would like you to meet my little girl”. I felt soooo special. He taught me so much that it is the reason I got my first acting job in Raging Bull, as a woman at the fights explaining the fight to another person.
I remember on Monday he would take me with him to jail so he could bail out a few of the men that worked for him. They liked to dress up in dresses and party on the weekends and always got arrested. My dad use to talk to the police explaining that they weren’t hurting anybody, why do you have to put them in jail, and then he would pay and take them to work. I remember the wonderful Xmas parties at the factory. I remember him showing me how to stuff the pillows with feathers and how to make a mattress.
I had horses and showed them and became Florida champion in the 5-gaited division and western pleasure because my dad wanted me to be happy and bought me the horses. He and my mother drove to all the horse shows. I never heard my dad complain.
I remember when I went to college, (a VERY long time ago), at the University of Georgia and my dad was carrying up my trunk to my dorm and he saw a husband and wife carrying up a trunk for their daughter. The wife was struggling and my dad quickly grabbed her end saying, ”Let me take that “. He was quite a gentleman, and so kind.
One of the things I am so very proud of him for is his incredible sense of humanity. His love of all people. His true concern for people. He was so down to earth. I always told him of my concerns and problems and he was so wise helping me deal with what needed to be solved.
When my mother died I brought my dad to live in Los Angeles a few years with me. The move and living conditions was such a huge change and he made it with such eloquence and ease. He had more of a love for life when he moved to LA. He was open to new experiences.
Popi was VERY funny, very quick ….a tremendous sense of humor. My whole family was just naturally funny and I believe that was the backbone of the family.
I MISS MY POPI…I miss his laugh, and us laughing together!!!!