In Memory of Monte Hall, z”l

By Stanley Tiger

Stanley Tiger

Monty Hall, 1920-2017

SAN DIEGO–It has been said that success comes to those who can blow their own horn while blowing other people’s minds. In that regard, Monty Hall was a contrarian. For the former-host and co-originator of Let’s Make a Deal, who passed away on September 30, ostentation was clearly, not his thing.

I had the honor of visiting him at his rather unassuming, modestly appointed home in Beverly Hills a few years ago. During our interview, aside from his personal stories, he could not stop telling jokes. We spent most of the morning laughing at his collection of merriment – in between his matter-of-fact answers to my otherwise serious questions.

His professional media career started at a radio station working as a sports announcer in the city of his birth, Winnipeg, Manitoba, where a street is now named in his honor – Monty Hall Drive.  Born into a traditional Jewish home, he received a degree in chemistry and zoology. While as a student and a lover of sports, he started broadcasting on local radio as a sports announcer. (He also worked for one season as a radio commentator for the New York Rangers.) Having qualified tor medical school, it is believed that due to clandestine quotas on Jewish students, he could not go.

Just as well. Today he is honored by hospitals in the U.S. Canada, and Israel with many awards including four children’s hospital wings named in his honor (Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. and Toronto).

He got a start in television game shows when CBS hired him from 1960 to 1963 to replace the host of Video Village, a kind of giant board game contestants walked on. This gave him the itch – he knew he could and he wanted to do his own game show, so with a partner, Stefan Hatos, they developed an idea – the now renowned, Let’s Make a Deal. It has been suggested the concept, “let’s make a deal,” is quintessentially Jewish, reflecting several millennia of Jewish history as merchants and traders.

Besides the estimated over 4,500 episodes he hosted, his name has also been honored by mathematicians who have developed a fairly well-known conundrum of logic called the “Monty Hall puzzle.”

Hall explained to me the road to the development of his game show. At first, he went to churches, synagogues and other social clubs to try out this innovative prospective television game show. People loved it and were very enthused by the party atmosphere of the new game. But, not so the television networks. He knew he had a hit, yet the first networks he approached refused it. (No surprises here, the script for George Lucas’ Star Wars was first rejected by some movie studios.) Finally, Hall was able to make a deal and the program debuted on NBC in 1963, and as Monty said to me, “And as they say, the rest is history.”

During the interview, I had recalled a statement attributed to singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan (currently a Nobel Laureate and a former idol of Steve Jobs). Dylan said, “The most valuable thing you have is your anonymity,” which I ran by Monty Hall for a reaction. He came back with quick and vehement, “I disagree with that!”, asserting that you have an obligation to use your fame to help your family, your community and others in need. For Hall, these were much more than merely words.

He invited me into a room off of his main living room to show the many shelves packed with awards, plaques and honors received from the many organizations, hospitals and universities he had helped. He had received honorary degrees from universities, including three doctorates which include a Ph.D. from Haifa University, plus awards from governments, charities, halls of fame, and on and on. During his life, he had been presented with over 500 awards, having raised an estimated nearly one billion dollars – the fruits of his wide travels, selflessly donating his time for the many speeches at fundraisers he attended.

One of his favorite charities was Variety Clubs International – the largest children’s charity in the world and a branch of the entertainment industry. Among their work, they provide inner city kids with a free stay at one of their summer camps. The thankful organization named Hall “International Chairman for Life of Variety Clubs International.”

During my visit, Hall introduced me to his wife Marilyn, who, among other activities, was a producer for the made-for-television movie, A Woman Named Golda, starring Ingrid Bergman as Golda Meir. Marylin most graciously brought us a snack.

One of the great rarities in the entertainment industry is a stable marriage. Once again the contrarian, Monty and Marilyn were married for 69 years, with all three of their children currently working in the industry. They and his five grandchildren will miss them both. Marylin passed away in June.

Looking back from a Jewish perspective at his 96 years of life accomplishment: If you want to know what a mensch is, Monty Hall was the real deal.

*

Stanley Tiger is president of Jewish Universe Media, an educational 501(c)(3). He is currently writing a book on the interaction of Judaism and modern science.

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Copyright 2017 San Diego Jewish World

One Response to “In Memory of Monte Hall, z”l”

  1. Rafi Schutzer says:

    A beautiful man he was. Thank you Stan for bringing us this recollection.

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