A Gift of Music
So No One Forgets
So No One Forgets
Harvey Sheldon isn't afraid to speak his mind, that's for sure. Sheldon, who grew up in Oxford Circle and now lives in California, came back to his hometown last week to donate a set of Holocaust-related visual documents to the University of Pennsylvania. The documents, among other things, imply that President Franklin D. Roosevelt did little or nothing to save Jews from being slaughtered by Adolf Hitler.
For instance, the administration failed to bomb the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz. "Roosevelt is as guilty as if he took a gun and killed them all," Sheldon said.
The documents, valued by Sheldon at $1.5 million, also tell the story of how Hitler loaded 937 Jews on a ship and sent it abroad to prove nobody wanted them. The United States refused to allow the passengers to remain here. They were returned to Germany and killed. "That's a true story," Sheldon said.
As a teenager, he gained some fame by teaming with Erma "Dimples" Eininger, a fellow Lincoln student, to create The Bunny Hop dance on American Bandstand.
Over the years, Sheldon has worked in the entertainment field as a songwriter, musician, actor, dancer, disc jockey, author and television and radio show host. In that time, he collected a huge number of music videos from record companies and movie studios. Much of that collection has been donated to Penn and the University of Southern California to create music video research libraries.
Last week, Sheldon passed on videos related to Jewish history. Besides making the harsh criticism against Roosevelt, the videos blast the New York Times for allegedly underreporting the scope of the Holocaust.
Starting in 1938, the Times ran about 1,100 stories on the persecution and murder of Jews in Nazi Germany. Sheldon said the stories were usually short and buried near fashion ads. "Only six made the front page," he complained. Why? According to The Holocaust: The Untold Story, prepared in 1997 for the History Channel, the Jewish family that owned the Times didn't want the paper to be perceived as "too Jewish." Veteran television journalist Marvin Kalb, now a Harvard University professor, says on the show that the media could have saved lives had they focused more on events in Germany. "It's so unbelievable," said Sheldon, who wants to make a mini-series about the tragedy.
Sheldon's donation also includes a docudrama about the Nuremberg trials, a feature film about the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto, a 1978 NBC mini-series on the Holocaust and Heritage, a 10-hour history of Israel. Sheldon acquired the material in video format and has transferred and remastered it to a digital DVD format. Similarly, he converted the previously donated music videos to DVD.
"It should last forever," Sheldon said, noting the improved technology. Sheldon thinks the videos will have a tremendous impact. "Your eyes see it; your ears hear it," he said.
Sheldon, who is married with three kids and two grandchildren, arrived in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, just before Hurricane Isabel. He stayed until Sept. 26. A die-hard Republican who once lost a close election for a seat in the California State Senate, Sheldon is looking forward to Tuesday's election, when he will vote to recall Gov. Gray Davis and replace him with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In Philadelphia, besides making the donation to Penn, Sheldon indulged in the city's cuisine. He ate sandwiches at Jim's Steaks and Lee's Hoagie House and sat down for more formal meals at Popi's Italian Restaurant and Ruth's Chris Steak House.
Sheldon also listened to the big band sounds on WPEN-AM and visited Gratz College, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the JCC Katz Branch in Cherry Hill to set up a lecture tour.
By next spring, Sheldon hopes to publish A Musical Marriage, the story of how Jews, blacks, Italians and capitalism combined to create American music.
"The book will appeal to the masses", he said, "not the 'academic, intellectual snobs' who seem to favor European music."
In the fall of 2004, Sheldon wants to promote a live concert based on the book. His dream is to have a 20-piece band, along with performances by Bobby Rydell, James Darren, Connie Francis and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. At some point, he'd like to create an Italian-American music video library, featuring the likes of Frank Sinatra, Vic Damone and Mario Lanza. In addition, he's rewriting The Bunny Hop: The Harvey Sheldon Story and the Bandstand Years for a movie version. Sheldon plans to stay active. He says he has to live to 150 to spread his gospel of American music and Jewish history. Two bouts with cancer haven't slowed him even a little bit.
"Nothing's going to stop me," he said.
Tom Waring - The Times