ZACHARY SELIG MATERNAL FAMILY BIOGRAPHY
As a young child, Zachary Selig spent part of the long hot South Texas summer with his mother Eleanor Berg Selig’s large family along the Hudson River in New York, where he was exposed to a fascinating, eccentric, and diverse world that was far removed from his parents’ isolated Faulkner-esque country home. There were those special members of Zachary’s mother’s family that embraced his inherent talents and guided his development. The family had a number of remarkably ingenious individuals. His American born maternal grandmother, Fannie Weiss Berg, had nine brothers and sisters from Austro-Hungarian Jewish parentage that immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in the late 19th century.
Fannie Weiss Berg’s parents Mary Ella Greenberg and Saul Weiss influenced and shaped many of their offspring to either marry or give birth to visionary, ambitious, and glamorous Fashion, Film, Cosmetic, and Real Estate icons in the 20th Century. Many of the Weiss family members and their descendents exhibited creativeness that was tenaciously promoted, and underscored by both perfectionism and aestheticism. The American born children of these families were proud to be of Austro-Hungarian Jewish heritage, but were not religious or spiritual.
One of Zachary’s favorite relatives was his elegant unmarried Great Aunt Dolly Falkenberg, daughter of one of the leading NY late 19th century men’s clothing manufacturers Charles Falkenberg, and sister to Great Aunt Babette Finkelstein (Mrs. Abe Finkelstein) and Sidney Falkenberg. Dolly Falkenberg was the godchild of Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor, the mistress of MGM President Arthur Loew, Sr. (who married and divorced Dolly’s lifetime friend Mildred ‘Mickey’ Zukor), and close friend of actress Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst.
The Falkenberg, Zukor, Loew, Finkelstein, Weiss, and Berg families were tightly interwoven through family, philanthropic, business, social, and romantic liaisons. Saul Weiss and Adolph Zukor had shared common professions as Austro-Hungarian Jewish immigrant furriers in their early lives. Zachary’s childless Great Aunt Dolly spent hours entertaining and greatly influencing him with her mesmerizing and detailed accounts of Hollywood, her talented friends, her world travels, the beguiling family history, visits to museums and art galleries, and always intriguing family introductions.
Aunt Dolly’s best-kept secret from her controlling and suspicious family was her camouflaged relationship as Arthur Loew, Sr.’s mistress, which Arthur Loew, Jr. in the 1980’s divulged to Zachary at a lunch given in honor of his mother Mickey at the Loew ranch in Amado, Arizona. Arthur Loew Sr. and Dolly Falkenberg had established a relationship that transcended many boundaries, which was rooted in Arthur’s trusting childhood friendship with her brother Sidney Falkenberg.
After Mickey's divorce from Arthur Loew Sr., Mickey and Dolly traveled extensively around the world together. Apparently, Arthur Sr. and Mickey were not compatible and Dolly and Arthur were historically magnetized romantically. A unique 3-way relationship was maintained between Dolly, Mickey, and Arthur throughout their lives.
Various male “companions” also frequently accompanied Mickey. When Dolly visited Mickey in Beverly Hills, they used to arrange escorts to parties for Dolly from among a wide choice of young male actors who were under contract to Zukor or Loew at their studios, such as Tyrone Power. Aunt Dolly had many photos of these events, but unfortunately, destroyed most of them shortly before she died – she said she didn't want them to fall into hands outside the family and wind up being hung on restaurant walls.
Arthur Loew, Sr. was also a best friend of Dolly and Babette’s brother Sidney Falkenberg (their parents Marcus Loew and Charles Falkenberg had been close friends), who later moved to Tahiti with his bride and died in New Zealand. Sidney and Arthur were involved in a number of film business enterprises and "catted" around together.
There was always a huge Sunday ‘screening party’ attended by early film stars at the Zukor Estate where the Loews, Falkenbergs, Weisses, Bergs, and Finkelsteins gathered to visit Uncle Adolph. Clearly, these were not indigent or vulgar Jews sometimes falsely characterized in Film and Fashion history. They impacted the lives of so many less fortunate family members to polish their images and achieve unparalleled standards of excellence.
Much later in Aunt Dolly’s life a handsome, but destitute, artist who spent the summer in Rockland County wanted to marry her, but her sister Babette’s father-in-law Abe Finkelstein broke that off because he thought the man was a gigolo.
Zachary’s Great Uncle Joseph Nathan Finkelstein was a piece-goods czar, who monopolized many industrial fabric markets such as denim and corduroy, founded the Pickwick Dress Company, developed Manhattan, Westchester County and Rockland County real estate in the late 19th century. The Finkelstein Memorial Library in Rockland County, NY opened in 1917. In 1941, the Finkelstein family established the permanent structure for the library.
Joseph Nathan Finkelstein had five children Abe, Charles, Jack, Evelyn, and Robert. Jack and Robert later changed their name to Fielding. Robert was a lawyer who became the Justice of the Peace in Spring Valley, New York. Charles Finkelsetin was also a lawyer, who in 1925 became the Deputy Attorney under Manhattan District Attorney Thomas A. Dewey in Manhattan, New York County during the Prohibition years. Dewey was a crime fighter, who went on to become a Republican Governor of New York serving three terms from 1942 – 1954. Many of the racketeers, gangsters, and underworld figures Charles Finkelstein helped prosecute later became his predominant clients from New York, Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, Miami, Cuba, and Hollywood.
Most of the Weiss family moved from Boston to Manhattan and Rockland County in by the early 1920’s. Joseph and Sarah Weiss were close friends of Adolph Zukor and his wife Frances Shaurer, and in 1926 facilitated the Zukor purchase of their family property, The Dells, in Rockland County, NY. Joseph and Sarah Finkelstein moved her parents Saul and Mary Ella Weiss to Spring Valley. Upon graduation from NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Samuel Berg married Fannie Weiss in 1915 to live in Spring Valley.
Some family members later bought the ‘Premium Point’ properties on Long Island Sound near Rye, New York that Joseph had developed in the early 1900’s. Joseph observed the early railroad expansion of Florida through his associate Henry Flagler’s vision only to later invest with George Merrick’s creation of Coral Gables, Florida in the 1920’s.
Additionally, Joseph assisted his Florida friends such as Mitchell Wolfson with film business introductions to Zukor and Loew that enabled Wolsfon to form Wometco Theaters in the 1924. Joseph had land investments with Wolfson's brother in law Sidney Meyer in Miami Beach real-estate development. The Miami Beach Finkelstein relationships arose from introductions that came from Joseph Nathan's wife Aunt Sarah's cousins Joseph and Jennie Weiss, who founded the restaurant Joe's Stone Crab in 1913.
Through Joseph Finkelstein’s real estate development, many of the Weiss families became well established in Rockland County, NY. Always eager to rely upon one another, the more affluent or established families such as the Finkelsteins, Falkenbergs, and Bergs supported other family members moves and businesses. With each move or business development, the Weiss family members would come for prolonged visits to stay with Dr. Samuel Berg, who was the paternal intellectual, politician, and advisor of the family.
Dr. Samuel Berg guided the lives and careers of many of his nephews in collaboration with his brother-in-law Joseph Finkelstein’s financial genius. Joseph Nathan Finkelstien anonymously gave financial donations to many individuals and institutions. Dr. Berg was a founder of the Spring Valley Library, Rockland County Community College, and a New York State Assemblyman. Whenever there was an emergency, such as in 1925 when Joseph Nathan and Sarah Finkelstein’s daughter Evelyn became ill with scarlet fever and died, Robert C. Fielding and his brothers were sent to the Berg’s to live for an extended period.
With the collapse of the 1929 stock market and onset of the Great Depression of the 1930ís, many of the monopolized American fortunes made in the late 19th century were lost. Joseph Finkelstein was one of the few that did the reverse and continued to expand and prosper.
Many of the Weiss family members were not as fortunate. Samuel and Jeanette Weiss Revson (Fannie Weiss Bergís elder sister) were struggling factory workers with their family of three sons Joseph, Charles, and Martin in Manchester, New Hampshire. Jeanette Weiss Revson later died at a young age of pneumonia in the 1920's.
Charles Revson conceptualized Revlon. He hired the chemist Charles Lachman, thus the 'L' in the Revlon name. Later, Charles's elder brother Joseph became a partner and the accountant for the company, while his younger brother Martin became a partner and in charge of marketing. In the beginning, the Revson brothers stored their product in their maternal Aunt Eva Weiss Joffe's lamp factory in NYC. The Revson brothers sold the nail enamel through elite beauty salons. A small bottle of nail enamel found the Revlon Empire. The Revson brothers, like some other Weiss family descendants disassociated from their family of origin to fiercely create self-earned autonomous identities. Their were family jealousies and rivalries. Charles Revson's business vision, through his brother Martin's marketing genius, created a Revlon 'dream-factory' that advertised seamless beauty, dictating what women were to look like. Charles brilliantly promoted Revlon through his glamorous lifestyle of impeccable good taste, while his brothers Joseph and Martin chose to maintain lower profiles.
The concept of the first US franchise for outdoor movie theaters was masterminded and developed by Zachary’s Great Uncle Murray Weiss, who partnered with Arthur Loew, Sr. and David O. Selznick to create the Loews Outdoor Theaters. Murray Weiss’s son Henry Weiss was the first family member to attend Harvard. Henry was the only family member that maintained the family genealogy his entire life, while some wanted to clearly forget their humble backgrounds.
The Weiss family was huge and ranged from Europe, Africa, South America to the United States, many of whom had captivating and daring lives. The Chimes (Chimovitz) family (sister of Mary Ella Greenberg) in Johannesburg, Rhodesia established South African Movie Theater monopolies in the 1920’s through the Weiss film industry associations (M. Weiss, Loew and Zukor). The Chimes made an annual pilgrimage that began with the onset of WW II in 1939 by ship to visit Dr. Berg’s family in New York with steamer trunks of cash and diamonds to deposit in US banks.
Later, some family members lives tragically ended far too soon such as the brothers Doug and Peter Revson did in Grand Prix car racing accidents.
At the same time in the early 1930’s, when the Revson brothers developed Revlon, Uncle Robert C. Fielding (Joseph Finkelstein’s son) invented a number of successful cosmetic formula patents for hair permanents (‘waves’) and skin care products (‘cold creams’) that later continued into such inventions as the 1950’s hair curler ‘Spoolies’. Robert C. Fielding’s diverse accomplishments ranged from his investment with the Colt Manufacturing Company during WW II to the development of unique banking systems in Las Vegas, Nevada. Additionally, he authored poetry and articles under a pseudonym for the Post Magazine in New York. Robert C. Fielding was one of the few unbiased male family members that maintained strong family relationships his entire life, while others became estranged and their children unknown to one another with no family ties.
In addition to the prolific family business achievements, there were academic achievements gained by the second, third and fourth generations of Weiss descendents, who excelled at Harvard, Yale, Wharton, Columbia, Georgetown, and Sorbonne.
Zachary’s most influential and loved lifetime family member was his Aunt Gertrude A. Fielding, who was the wife of Robert C. Fielding. Like many of the ravishingly beautiful women that the powerful male family members married, Gertrude had been a tall Garbo-like John Robert Powers model in the 1930’s. Her strong Hungarian ancestry evoked a commanding presence in her exquisitely chiseled appearance, which was perpetuated by the development of every aspect of her persona.
In the 1930’s, Gertrude enrolled in elocution study at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts through the referral of her fellow Brooklyn born fashion model associate Lauren Bacall. Her disciplines with fashion, interior design, entertaining, and study were meticulous - from her flawless French to her own pursuit of psychoanalysis. Her years in globe trotting Café Society with her husband became less important, as she prioritized her family and career as a psychotherapist. She had academic and sociological quests with a deep love for the Arts that were her greatest interests. Gertrude’s empathetic character set a profound standard for many people’s lives that she unselfishly influenced.
The paramount difference in Gertrude and some of the other women in the family was that Gertrude had a highly sophisticated blend of self-esteem, beauty, charisma, and intellect that enabled her to become an emotionally balanced humanitarian. Gertrude’s strengths set her apart and above in the competitive and complex hierarchy of the family. She was not a narcissist.
Gertrude was a pioneer in community-based mental health services, working as a psychotherapist on the staff of the Throggs Neck Mental Health Center in Bronx, NY. She was deeply empathetic, which enabled her to apply her authentic glamour, style, and taste in revolutionary ‘Patient Self-Image’ therapies she developed and taught to physicians and mental health professionals in her many years of dedicated work at Albert Einstein University in New York.Gertrude’s authentic philanthropy was far removed from the common and well-packaged public relations tax exemption template strategy so often employed by the disingenuous philanthropist. She preserved the honor and gentility of the Finkelstein and Weiss legacies with her numerous humane contributions, just as Joseph Nathan and Sarah Weiss Finkelstein had done in anonymity.
Weiss Family Genealogy
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In memory of: Mr. and Mrs (Mary Ella). Saul J. Weiss, Mr. and Mrs. (Sarah) Joseph N. Finkelstein, Mr. and Mrs (Jeanette). Samuel Revson, Dr. and Mrs. (Fanny) Samuel Berg, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Falkenberg, Miss Dolly Falkenberg, Mrs. Marvin (Eleanor) Berg Selig, Charles Berg, Charles Earl Berg, Eva Joffe, Muriel Joffe, Arthur M. Loew Jr., Lee Goode Kingsley, Mr. and Mrs. Lester Herzog, Mr. and Mrs (Babette) Abe Finkelstein, Mr. and Mrs. (Yolande Scheftel) Jack Fielding Mr. Charles Finkelstein, Joseph Revson, James Revson, Charles Revson, Douglas Revson, Peter Revson, Julie Phelps Revson, and Mr. and Mrs. (Gertrude) Robert C. Fielding.