Ah yes….I was always bringing homeless and sick animals home to my mom who would teach my sister and me how to care for the animal. We would keep them and nurse them back to a healthy life. I brought home a little sick kitten with ring worm and before you knew it we all had ring worm….then, we all got healthy. My mom would find a place for them to live with us in our little house in Miami. I also remember….when I was pretty young my father would take me with him to jail! You see, my Popi would go there on Monday because two of the men that worked for him liked to dress up as women on the weekends and go out dancing. Needless to say, that did not go over well many years ago in Miami. So Monday morning my dad would take me and we would go and get them released. I would hear my dad talking to the police. “Come on, they aren’t hurting anyone, For God’s sake can’t you leave them alone”? Then, of course, the next Monday we would pick them up again. My parents had a wonderful sense of humanity, and humor. Fortunately, I inherited both from them. Some of my fondest memories were when my Popi would take me with him to the fights. By now I think you get that I was the son he had never had. My dad was very good friends with Angelo Dundee who trained Ali and many other champions. My dad introduced me to magicians and many fighters and trainers and all sorts of interesting people. I met Ali when he was very young and his name was Cassius Clay. My dad told me, “See that man? He is going to be the world champion. I was looking at him, mesmerized, as he floated around the room.
Something inside of me was always for the under dog. The one who needed someone to root for them….and I was only too happy to be their cheerleader.
When I was growing up I rode horses and had horses. I started riding when I was 8 years old because my older sister rode horses and I wanted to be just like her. The problem was, I was afraid of horses and very, very insecure and shy. I remember my mother taking me to the stables for my riding lesson every week and every week I would be in the back seat a nervous wreck, clutching an apple to give to the horse . My mom would say, “You don’t have to ride horses Ellen”. I learned how to take the fear with me. I learned how to show a horse, to be competitive in a healthy, positive way and became the youngest Florida chanpion of the 5-Gaited division for two years in a row with my magical horse LUCKY-COED. I also rode western and was Florida reserve champion in the Western Pleasure division. I had my own used 56-ford convertible, (with holes in the floor board) named BETSY, I loved that car and a two-horse trailer. I taught riding and trailered horses so I could make money. Those were wonderful, fun, educational and character building times.
Part of my years my father was very successful, he was the mattress king of south Florida and we had an affluent lifestyle. Part of growing up my father went bankrupt when he took in someone to run the business while he and my mother went traveling and I was raised with hardly any money. Both were very important life experiences…The good, the bad and the ugly have helped to mold me.
I had a cousin Howard, who did not feel part of society. He would only work at night so he didn’t have to be around people. He did not feel like he belonged and that touched my heart. When I went to college …University of Georgia…back in the day. (My roommate had never seen a Jewish girl). I started the Georgia Students For Human Rights and a tutorial program for kids that needed help. I majored in Sociology, the study of groups and group behavior, VERY INTERESTING.
When I graduated I moved to NYC and was a social worker for the Welfare department. Many years later when I was 41, I went to graduate school at ANTIOCH UNIVERSITY and received a graduate degree in psychology while I was also in a play at the Mark Taper Forum.
I have always been interested in the people that felt isolated from society, thrown away, or pushed to the side…perhaps invisible. As you can see, it is the subject matter I was drawn to at a very early age. This has always been and will always be, a very important theme in my work, as a actor, director and writer.
One’s personal triumph is worth working hard for as well as worth waiting for.
Because, One’s personal triumph is SUCCESS!