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Exhibit Map
Commercials on Yiddish Radio
1 Commercials on Yiddish radio
2 Mitchell Levitsky: The Advertising King
3 "Joe and Paul"
4 Index of Commercials
NPR Documentary
Commercials on Yiddish Radio, the documentary about the jingles, stores, and ad-men that time forgot. (12:14 min.)  

Gallery of Mitchell Levitsky in his element.  

Four ads by Mitchell Levitsky:

Mrs. Weinberg's Chopped Liver.

The Crown Hotel.

Meyer Mehadrin Foods.

Portnoy's Trusses.


Mitchell Levitsky: The Advertising King

Few figures from the golden age of Yiddish radio are more widely if anonymously recalled than Mitchell Levitsky. He began his radio career in 1927, at age 18, as a Yiddish announcer for New York's WFAB. But by the time he arrived at WEVD in 1943, he had discovered his true calling: selling radio ads.

As the patriarch of advertising sales reps, Levitsky proved an unstoppable force on the streets of the Lower East Side, tossing shop after shop into his game sack. Dick Sugar, the veteran WEVD announcer, recalls that shop owners along Second Avenue would push Levitsky out the front door only to turn around and see him coming through the back. Yet one way or another, Levitsky always got his man. Portnoy's Trusses, Mrs. Weinberg's Frozen Kosher Chopped Liver, Meyer Mehadrin Kosher Herring Products -- one and all fell before Levitsky's relentless onslaught.

Shopkeeper's buying ads from Levitsky hired not just WEVD airtime but the on-air talents of the advertising king, whose delivery was legendary among Jewish New Yorkers. When Levitsky spoke English it sounded like Yiddish was his first language, and when he spoke Yiddish you would swear he was born here. He wended his way through ad copy as though navigating a minefield, stopping to rest on "ums" and "ahs" and regrouping during significant pauses that lapsed into dead air. Yet despite such caution, WEVD listeners heard pitches for bedroom "suits" and hotel rooms with "wall-to-wall telephones in every room."

Levitsky wooed advertisers by impressing upon them that one little commercial would make them big-time theatrical producers. Each pint-size patron of the arts also got an annual cruise of the East River complete with an open bar and celebrity shipmates like Jewish boxing great Benny Leonard. By the by, Levitsky would corner his guests to discuss a renewal of their contract.

In addition to hawking ads, Levitsky hosted knockoff shows like the advice program Jewish Court of Human Relations and a Sunday morning children's hour. He was the announcer for The Chunky Program, featuring the Joseph Rumshinsky Orchestra. And he was the host of the long-running Oddities in the News, on which he read offbeat items gleaned from the week's papers. Listeners to these programs recall no dearth of commercial messages.

Next Page: "Joe and Paul" »


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