JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read previous columns here.
Frank Lieberman, journalist and celebrity publicist
Frank Lieberman, who died Jan. 22 at 68, was remembered by Elvis Presley fans as one of the King’s favorite journalists and a rare recipient outside Elvis’ inner circle of a "Taking Care of Business" necklace.
Lieberman was a one-time sports reporter new to the entertainment beat when he wrote a positive review of an Elvis concert at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1970, the early stage of Elvis’ comeback. According to reports on numerous Elvis fan websites, Elvis sent one of his associates to bring Lieberman to him and then granted him a one-on-one interview.
At a later date, Elvis asked Lieberman why he wasn’t wearing a “TCB” necklace; Lieberman told him he didn’t have one. Elvis gave one to Lieberman and a “TLC” bracelet to Lieberman’s future wife, Karen. The Liebermans wore the mementos the day they married in 1972.
“One night in the restroom at the Hilton a man saw the necklace on Frank and offered him $10,000,” Karen Lieberman said. No way, her husband said.
Friends and clients of Lieberman in Las Vegas included Sammy Davis Jr., Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, members of "the Rat Pack," Tony Orlando, Engelbert Humperdinck, Barry Manilow, Wayne Newton and Shecky Greene. Singer Clint Holmes and his wife visited Lieberman in the hospital shortly before his death.
Celebrity journalist and TV host Robin Leach described Lieberman as “one of the great guys,” “a legend and a gentleman,” who had been a friend for more than 35 years.
Lieberman moved to Los Angeles with his family from New York when he was 14, covered the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and joined the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner to cover entertainment. He moved to Las Vegas to cover entertainment there for the Examiner, and went back into publicity work after the paper closed down.
Among other positions, Lieberman wrote for several Las Vegas media, including the column “Let’s Be Frank” for the Las Vegas Israelite, “the only Jewish newspaper in the country that will tell you who Paris Hilton’s new boyfriend is,” and Vegas Scene for its website, Vegas Inside Tips. Steve Dacri, owner of Vegas Inside Tips, said Lieberman “helped many celebrities when the call arose, and he respected the privacy and secrets that he knew at all costs.”
Lieberman’s final column for the website was “Welcome to the Boneyard,” about a nascent museum in Las Vegas for old and discarded neon signs.
Eva Lassman, Holocaust survivor and anti-hate activist
Eva Lassman, a Holocaust survivor who became prominent in the Spokane, Wash., area for her frequent appearances at schools and events where she spoke against hatred and bigotry, died Feb. 9 at 91.
Lassman and her family arrived in Spokane in 1949, but she began speaking publicly only after attending the inaugural gathering of Holocaust survivors in Washington, D.C., in 1983. In the following years she appeared repeatedly at Spokane-area community events, met frequently with schoolchildren, helped organize a major exhibit about Anne Frank at Gonzaga University, and appeared at a human rights rally to counter a hate march by white supremacists in nearby Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Her awards included a presidential commendation from Whitworth University, an honorary law doctorate from Gonzaga and the Carl Maxey Racial Justice Award from the area’s YWCA. In 2009 she became the first recipient of an award named for her, the Eva Lassman Award, from Gonzaga’s Institute for Hate Studies, to recognize individual achievement in combating hatred.
George Critchlow, an associate law professor at Gonzaga and a founder of that institute, said Lassman “was so committed to educating about the Holocaust.”
Lassman was born in Lodz, Poland, and fled to Warsaw following the Nazi invasion. After the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, she was sent to Majdanek death camp, where she did forced labor.
“They took everything from us. I could not take my ring off of my swollen finger. They cut it off with pliers," she told students in 2001. "The air smelled of burning flesh. It was a scene that no human being should ever have to witness.”
She met her husband, Walter “Wolf” Lassman, at a refugee camp after the war. They had two children in Europe and went to Spokane in 1949 under the sponsorship of the Spokane Jewish community. Her husband, a tailor, ran a clothing shop there until he died in 1976.
The Spokane newspaper editorialized about Lassman after her death: “She labored to make sure this and future generations never underestimate the consequences of hate. She made hundreds of presentations, mostly to children, and her powerful message made the Holocaust chillingly real for thousands."
The editorial added that "the Inland Northwest, tainted as it has been by Hitler worshipers, is a better, more ethical region as a result of her efforts.”