RUTH HUGHES AARONS--PART IIUSATT Hall of Fame Inductee (1966)
by USATT Historian Tim Boggan - © 1999
After concluding her playing commitments for the U.S. Team at the '37 Baden World's and the English Open that followed, Aarons stayed on in London and the very next week worked up a 15-minute exhibition act with "Michael French," a "World Doubles Champion," as her partner. Show business was in Ruth's blood and she wanted to take advantage of the fame her titles, looks, and personality had brought her. She'd contracted for a series of bookings that, though they would take her up to Scotland, were centered in London--one at the May Fair Hotel cabaret, for example, another on a flood-lit stage at the Paramount Theatre where Claire Trevor's film "Career Woman" was playing.
"Michael French" was no "World Doubles Champion," but Michel Glickman, the 1931 French Champion, who, for a short time back in the States in 1935, had given some exhibitions with Ruth. The two of them had quickly incorporated some sophistication into their act. Astaire and Rogers were playing in "Swing Time" at the Streatham Astoria? Don't miss the companion Aarons/French stage show:
"One of the novelties of this attraction is the way in which the latter half of the match is presented [in the dark], the players being disclosed in silhouette form by means of special lighting. The ball [as well as the net] appears to be illuminated, while the players can be picked out by their white berets, white gloves, and white shoes."
Ah, and it was only last Oct., when Ruth and Sandor Glancz had an engagement at the Palmer House in Chicago, that the manager had chided Ruth "for ordering changes in the lighting system" in the ballroom where she was performing.
Now she was no less direct in speaking with the press about her contracts:
"Since [in Table Tennis] there is no distinction between amateur and professional [that is, all players are permitted to be members of the same USTTA and to play against one another for titles and prizes, and to be paid to give exhibitions and to endorse products--Table Tennis Corporation of America, for example, sold an Aarons bat with carrying case for $2] I intend to make all the money possible while I have my title, and I. m not at all ashamed of cashing in on this opportunity."
So what's the problem? How is it that Aarons' difficulties with the ETTA are far and away going to upstage even Sol Schiff's suspect USTTA suspension?...
Back on Jan. 10--as USTTA President Carl Zeisberg would later make clear in a detailed four-month chronological review to all USTTA Officers and Affiliates--Ruth had asked for USTTA approval to make contractual commitments in London. So on Jan. 24 Zeisberg wrote her "a letter of approval with copies to W. J. Pope, English TTA Secretary, and Ivor Montagu, ITTF Advisory Committee Chairman [in effect, Montagu's the ITTF President, a title soon inaugurated and that he'll then have]." Montagu is also "the ETTA Chairman," but, says Zeisberg, "I didn't know that at the time." That same day, Zeisberg also wrote Pope "requesting ETTA sanction, with copies to Mr. Montagu and Ruth."According to ITTF regulations, the ETTA had territorial jurisdiction over Ruth:
"[That is, with regard to compensatory acts]...players registered with any other national governing Association and temporarily visiting a country upon a specific tour or [for a] tournament, the governing body of that country is entitled to rule...upon such acts as may be committed within its borders...."
This request for approval for Aarons to make compensatory contracts, Zeisberg thought, or wanted to think, was merely "a courteous formality." And apparently Ruth thought that, or wanted to think that, too, for on receiving Zeisberg's letters in Baden, she signed the London engagement contracts.
It's hard to believe though that Ruth, as Montagu himself would claim, "entered into the contracts in all innocence and without knowing that ETTA permission was necessary." Surely she had to know from Zeisberg's letters that permission was necessary. But she expected it to be more or less automatic...or, if it wasn't, she'd risk the violation?
Though Montagu was not at Baden (it was the only World Championship he'd thus far missed), it's not clear to me whether Ruth contacted any other English TTA authority figure (though she should have?) before she signed. My guess is she didn't. She wants to do the performances, so why seek out possible objections?
Apparently, as the ETTA's rival publication Table Tennis Activity reported, Ruth did not receive any "official communication" from the ETTA; however, Mr. Pope, ETTA Secretary, spoke to her (at some time in Baden?) "and said that he understood that she was to give exhibitions" in London, and she said yes, "and as a result of what then passed she was under the impression that her plans met with approval." (Perhaps Pope didn't realize--and it made a difference that he didn't--that Ruth "was to appear at two London super cinemas and at the Mayfair [sic] hotel"? Or perhaps Pope felt he ought to talk to Montagu before he insisted to Ruth that her plans would not meet with ETTA approval.)
At any rate, Zeisberg's understanding was that when the U.S. Team arrived in England about Feb. 9 Montagu said that "Ruth and Elmer F. Cinnater, Captain, were lax in complying with his requests" (I assume that Montagu, informed by Pope, wanted verification that Ruth had indeed signed a contract or contracts without first getting permission from the ETTA, and, were that true, he wanted her to break that contract or contracts or be subject to ETTA penalty.) That independent-minded Ruth was loath to break any contract (though actually she did secure a cancellation for one week to play in the post-English Open Anglo-American international event in Birmingham) we can easily believe--and not just because she was legally obligated but because she was enjoying her show business career and feeling fulfilled by performing. But world-famous Champion or not, it was ultimately her responsibility to see that she'd actually gotten ETTA permission to make these bookings, and perhaps she knew that but thought the more practical and wiser course (seconded by Captain Cinnater?) was to just go ahead and sign, and no big deal, trust that her prestige, her youthful enthusiasm and "innocence," and the sure popular support for her performances would carry the day.As Table Tennis Activity, defending her, would say:
"...she was news. Pictures and stories about her appeared daily in almost every national newspaper.
It is safe to say that she gained more publicity for the English National Championships than any other individual player.
If only because she was definitely . box-office. Miss Aarons should have earned the gratitude of the E.T.T.A., to whom the financial success of the tournament was imperative.
Common-sense would have indicated that in the interests of Anglo-American good feeling, and as a personal act of courtesy to Miss Aarons, it would have been as well to have...given approval, even if reluctantly, and accompanied by a . Don't do it again. admonition."
But, regardless of the fact that exhibitions or performances had been given at hotels or cinemas before, the ETTA Executive Committee had just that season passed new regulations regarding "Payment to Players" which they'd decided to apply rigorously. An article in the Dec., 1936 issue of the official ETTA Table Tennis made this very clear:"(g) Players may not enter into any contract to provide for the exclusive use of certain goods or materials, or exclusive play on premises controlled by a firm, in any circumstances.
(h) Players shall not receive any remuneration other than bare expenses for playing in a competitive event in any circumstances."
English players who played table tennis exhibitions for money or were tempted to, and who participated in other sports during the summer, were worried about losing their amateur status? If so, these ETTA regulations helped to protect them. But what about other players who didn't care if they were considered professionals, who in fact rather liked the idea?
Table Tennis Activity, the independent publication, opposed the ETTA view. Their editors argued that "income should be the birthright of those who have climbed to the top. The sooner it is possible for a steady income to be made by those skilled in the arts of the game the better. Further, they said:
"There is no particular virtue in amateurism [or, also in their words, "a descent to shamateurism"]. Too often people label themselves amateurs and thereby seek to justify an insufficient performance.
Rules or no rules, the only time paid players will cease to exist is when nobody is prepared to pay them. Not before."
Clearly, though, Ruth, whose exhibition status in London was like that of an English player, had violated ETTA rule "(g)" above. And because she had, she'd also violated the following ITTF rule:
"22. Expenses: General. A Table Tennis player may accept compensation in any form, travelling and hotel expenses, for playing the game in a tournament, match or competition other than those named in 21 [World Championships, Swaythling Cup and Corbillon Cup], or in an exhibition, only provided that:--
(a) Permission to pay such expenses shall have been previously obtained by the payer from the Association, or such payment shall be by the Association, in whose territorial jurisdiction the event may take place."
Montagu, President of both the ETTA and the ITTF, felt he had to be adamant. "The ETTA," he was to write later, "was on the spot as a disciplinary-exercising body: could visitors flout with impunity the rules we enforced on our own players? There was bound to be trouble either way, whether ETT[A] acted or not."
This was Montagu's strongest argument, but he had no trouble finding others...then or through the years. For example, he later wrote:"...Worse still, in England the particular precedent of Ruth Aarons, using an opportunity to visit England on invitation to play an international match as an official representative, and accepting an engagement for professional entertainment that the law of that time obliged the intending visitor to disclose beforehand and which required a labor permit for entry--this could not only jeopardise our relationship with the immigration authorities in respect to all future teams, but place the offender herself, however innocently, in jeopardy from the law."
Ruth was lucky she wasn't jailed?
As it is, Montagu just plans to suspend her. Which of course draws the ire of the equally strong-minded, equally autocratic USTTA President, Zeisberg. Now, an I-have-to-suspend-her/Don't-you-dare-suspend-her debate goes on literally for weeks, with threatening telegrams from both sides being exchanged like gunshots across each other's ship-of-state bow. When Montagu persists, Zeisberg will threaten to, and finally, at least informally, withdraw the USTTA from the ITTF and attack Montagu himself as incompetent.
Zeisberg defends Ruth by saying it was he who made the initial mistake (in not taking the need for ETTA permission seriously enough); innocent Ruth shouldn't be held accountable. This of course was not his position when a year earlier he'd written in Topics:"Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Star players who yield to the impulse to play before big crowds without consulting the proper sanctioning official may suddenly find the reward for their thoughtlessness is suspension or expulsion."
Ruth herself--who said, "when I learned that the English Association did not approve, I tried to obtain release from my contract, but was unable to do so"--soon adopted a what's-the-fuss-all-about? attitude that would further her innocence: "I really am at a loss to understand the attitude of the ITTF....No one in England had anything but praise to say of my exhibition tour there."
After a prolonged ego struggle between Montagu and Zeisberg, mirror-image I-want-control power-figures, on Apr. 8, 1937 Ruth was officially suspended by the ITTF, and Zeisberg responded by introducing "[USTTA] Executive Committee resolution No. 65 to suspend Bylaw I [ITTF Affiliation]."
Montagu relates how Ruth was requested to and did "helpfully" appear before an ETTA Disciplinary Committee. An innocent breach of the law Ruth's may have been, Monatgu says, but the Committee didn't really think she'd made any serious endeavor to void her contracts. Moreover, as Montagu later explains, her advisor, Corti Woodcock, Ivor's "old friend and doubles partner" who spoke for her, "instead of excusing her by an apology and pleading inadvertent offence by ignorance, sought to attempt justification by attacking the rule." And, says Montagu, that defense "struck us. We had to maintain the policy and authority of the rule." So the Committee saw it as their duty to:"enforce a penalty as testimony of their right to do so and [affirm] that an offense had technically been committed; to make it [the penalty] a nominal one, so that its [sic: meaning the penalty for the rule's] infraction should inflict no undue hardship on the technical offender."
You can see from the confusingly written lines above (so uncharacteristic of his usual clarity) that Montagu's squirming with the language, as he must be consciously and unconsciously with his thought, so as to judiciously both penalize and not penalize Ruth. However, more than 10 years later, he says that he can remember "almost the exact words that passed" between Aarons and himself:
"I.M. . Miss Aarons, supposing--appreciate, please, that I am only supposing--the committee find an offense proved, they would not wish to impose any penalty that might inflict a hardship disproportionate to the offense. What are your plans?.
Miss A. . When I get back, I am playing in the U.S. Championship..
I.M. . And after the U.S. Championships?.
Miss A. . I am going to take a rest..
I.M. . No other engagements? No other tournaments, night club shows, anything?.
Miss A. . No, I have had a hard season and irrespective of anything that happens here, I plan to rest "all summer.". "
So she was suspended, Montagu recalls, for a period of only "one month [sic]...after the conclusion of the [Apr. 1-4] U.S. Championships--which, if not precisely accurate (since the actual suspension was from Apr. 20-June 30), is perhaps close enough to the truth.
This suspension means, Zeisberg protests, that, unless the USTTA breaks off its affiliation with the ITTF, Ruth can't play in the Apr. 30-May 1 Eastern's--for each ITTF-member Association must acknowledge that the suspension is world-wide.
As it happens, however, Ruth has no intention of playing in the Eastern's, and, in fact, after the National's, would never play in a tournament again.
Eventually, the USTTA will offer to exchange apologies with the ETTA and will re-affiliate with the ITTF. Then, as Table Tennis Activity will report, the E.T.T.A. will "welcome" U.S. representatives "to London to compete in the [. 38] World Championships" and afterwards the English Open.
But though years, decades, will pass, Montagu on more than one occasion will be forced to correct misimpressions and misstatements of fact about both the Aarons-Pritzi disqualification and the Aarons suspension that would continue to appear in U.S. articles.
Montagu was right, for instance, to take exception when Laflin and Roberts, in one of their late 1940's "History of Table Tennis" articles in Topics, bizarrely suggest, without putting forth any explanation whatsoever, that, because England's "only chance for international success was in the women's division," England "had been prominent in depriving Miss Aarons of her title."
What had the last Woman's Singles match of the '37 World's to do with England's women winning anything? And what reason had the English to think that when Ruth's title was declared "vacant," or when her two-month, post-USTTA National's suspension was up, that she wouldn't be playing in the 1938 World's? She was never to make any statement that I know of that she quit tournament table tennis because of her stopped Singles final or her suspension. Anyway, she was definitely playing in the '37 U.S. National's.
The Women's Singles at the Apr. Newark, N.J. National's drew 44 entries--a very good turnout. Ruth advanced to the semi's through three rounds--playing nine games and giving up 98 points.
Joining her there was Mildred Wilkinson, the #6 seed; she'd downed the #4 seed, Anne Sigman, who'd been extended into the 5th by former U.S. World Team member Corinne Migneco. Both Sigman and Migneco were about to disappear from the tournament scene--Anne emphasizing that, with all the exhibitions she'd played, she'd just lost her desire to be competitive. Hence, partnered with Aarons, her -27, -19, -15 loss in the Women's Doubles final to Kuenz and Fuller, and, with Schiff, her straight-game loss in the Mixed to Aarons and Blattner.
In her semi's match against Mildred, it seemed that Aarons, like Sigman, was suffering from a recent lack of competition. Indeed, how could six weeks of "soft" but tiring exhibition play in England and Scotland, her appearance before the ETTA "court," and her long sea-journey home not take a toll on Ruth? If ever she was to be upset, this was the time. When Wilkinson, up at the table banging in forehands, won the 23-21 3rd game from Aarons to take a 2-1 lead, she "leaped like a happy jumping-jack into the arms of her delirious followers for the intermission while Ruth, unperturbed, conferred with her anxious board of strategy." Then, on their return to the table..."...Ruth quickly demonstrated why she is World Champion. Finding her unparalleled defense unable to check Mildred's man-like hitting, she switched tactics and attacked with a dazzling mixture of chops and topspin drives, smacking the ball for kills, and what looked like a staggering upset became almost a routine rout as Mildred tired under the barrage."
Just who Ruth's opponent and, as it would turn out, relatively docile victim in the final would be was uncertain up to the 19-in-the-5th end of the other semi's. But the much improved Fuller, who'd gradually built up her confidence abroad, found just enough strength to end-game prevail over Purves.
For the fourth straight year, Aarons would head the Women's Ranking--but, with her absence in the Eastern's (won by Fuller), her tournament career had abruptly come to an end. On winning the English Open back in Feb., Ruth had said that she had "at most only seven more years to . live. " before she'd be "dead" as a champion table tennis player. Now, sooner than she'd thought--she was not quite 19--it was time to make the break. She'd live her remaining table tennis years as a professional entertainer, a class act, her unmatchable reputation intact. After she'd been given the whole front cover of the Feb. 22, 1937 issue of Life, she was not going to sully her past achievements, her box office name with the inevitable losses that would come under the pressure of competition.
Table tennis, she had said on her way to becoming the best woman player in the world, was "hard work." It meant she had "to forgo some of the films she would love to see, stay away from the night clubs she would like to . peek in at. ...[and forget about lolling] in bed until three in the afternoon after...[she'd] been to a dance."
Now, with her second and perhaps even more glamorous table tennis career as a night club and theater entertainer about to give her continued recognition, she could have as much night life as she wanted. Though forget those girlish fancies, show business would be a lot more work than fun:"...When you play before a theater or night club audience you have to be careful to play at top speed at all time[s]. Each point must be a spectacular one or the crowd is disappointed."
Of course, just as when she was competing, she still had to keep herself fit--get "lots of sleep and [eat] next to nothing for meals sometimes." Performing was in her blood, and she wanted to look attractive and put on a good show.
Her partner for the summer of '37 was not Glancz, who was on a tour of vaudeville theaters with Bellak, but Barna whom the gossip-mongers had been saying for weeks was Ruth's fiancé--this despite her protestations that "I. m not getting myself married, well, for a good long time. And that's that. [She never did marry.]"
Ruth and Victor's first engagement--in the exclusive Rainbow Room on the 65th floor atop Rockefeller Center--certainly presented no problem, for, to the surprise of those in the business who'd said table tennis was just "a toy game" and patrons wouldn't pay to see it, Ruth and Sandor had been extremely successful there last summer. And very soon the theatrical magazine Variety was giving Glancz's successor what it considered his just due: "in her matches with Barna, Ruth Aarons is not winning by such a wide margin now, for Barna is steadily improving."
Theater engagements followed. In July, they played Washington, D.C.'s Earle Theater (Midnight Madonna," with Warren William, was being shown on the screen). And in August, Ruth, joined by a momentarily free Sandor, and their announcer, Ruth's brother, Lisle, shared the bill at the Baltimore Hippodrome with The Three Stooges. "Larry, Curly and Moe," wrote Ruth, "dashing around in the wings madly retrieving the balls which rolled off stage...invariably had us laughing so hard by the middle of the game...that the audience out in front must have thought we were mildly eccentric, to say the least." For 25 cents at the Hippodrome you could see the stage acts, the March of Time newsreel, and Ralph Bellamy and Betty Furness in "It Can't Last Forever."
In mid-Sept., after completing an engagement with Ruth at the Roxy Theater in New York, Barna left for home--with Bellak following a month later to serve an obligatory stint in the Hungarian Army. That left Sandor and Ruth free to resume their partnership. (Maybe he was her fiance?...No.)
A few months into the new '37-38 season, as U.S. Team members prepared for the 1938 January World's at Wembley, Ruth and Sandor, in red shirts and white slacks, were intently going through their nightly routine, swinging and swaying, as it were, with Sammy Kaye (his weekly salary: $1,250) at the Hotel Statler's Terrace Room in Cleveland, Ohio. Table tennis is popular with the "local swank set," wrote one reporter, and the Aarons-Glancz act "is appealing to class."
Emphasizing to an interviewer that all you needed to play table tennis was an easy-to-set-up-and-take-down table, good lighting, and a level floor, Ruth said that she thought "the game owes a great deal of its popularity to its cheapness." Unfortunately, she was right. But it's not the game Zeisberg and Co. are trying to promote, it's the sport. And the all prevailing cheapness of those who want organized play without paying for it will be the bane of the sport forever.
After the '38 World's, where he won the Mixed Doubles, and after successfully defending his U.S. National's Singles title, Laci Bellak was the star of the Glancz traveling "Circus" troupe. Or well, alright, for one night only, the Apr. 8th Tour stop at the Boston Arena, maybe the co-star, maybe even the second banana. For at this performance, the troupe's "guest" was World Champion Ruth Aarons. She was giving what she called her "last sports exhibition"--except she hoped that there would be "a few more nite club and vaudeville engagements." Uh-huh.
Though it was a terrible night in Boston for anyone to go out, a night of "snow, sleet and rain storm," over 4,000 paid spectators attended--the largest crowd in the U.S. ever to watch a table tennis exhibition. And--with the help of Glancz, Lou Pagliaro, Johnny Abrahams, Les Lowry, and of course Bellak, what a show Ruth put on.
She took a back seat to no one. To wit: because "the second coating of green water-colored paint on the wooden flooring of the court had not dried sufficiently," Ruth slipped and fell three times. "Every time she fell she came up with her hands covered with green paint. The back of her [grey] slacks was smooched...but she laughed heartily."
Ruth was so much the focus of everyone's attention that reporters seemed to think she was the only player on court. And many a spectator too, for they would not only be talking about her but would be able to show living proof of her endearing uniqueness:"A novel touch was added to the two hour and a half program when a special exhibition match was played purely for the benefit of the candid camera enthusiasts in this section. Under ideal lighting conditions almost 40% of said rabid fans gathered on the court to photograph Miss Aarons."
Ah, show biz--nothing like it.
Now that there'd be no tournament play for Ruth ever again, what did she plan on doing?
Well, "with the aid of the new Table Tennis Manufacturers. Association," she had already made, or soon would make, the Warner Brothers. Clem McCarthy table tennis movie short, "Table Manners," starring Eddie Foy and his strong supporting cast--1938 National Champion Fuller, runner-up Dorothy Halliday, Bellak, Glancz, and Pagliaro. Perhaps Ruth found the thought of performing before an estimated 30,000,000 as much fun as playing before an actual 4,000?..."...I'm going to Hollywood, and Sandy is going, too,' she said. . This is the end for me. No more competition. I've won every title I wanted. I've traveled a lot while winning four American and two world championships. And now we. re heading for the West Coast. I have studied singing and can dance a little, and may be able to get into the movies.. "
Ruth won't be wowing them in Hollywood the rest of this spring and summer, but she and her partner, the "European Wizard"--that's Sandor--will keep busy. In mid-April, they'll be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania--not trying to perform a windy exhibition on one of the 21 concrete tables enthusiast George Smith will make available for outside summer play in the area, but, far more sedately, giving some of the after-dinner entertainment at the 11th Annual Ladies Night of the Zembo Luncheon Club. A booking that suggests her popularity's on the wane? Don't be deceived. This Club considered itself the "Largest and Best Shrine Luncheon Club in the World." In May she and Sandor will be at Billy Rose's Cafe Manana with Frank Fay and Bert Wheeler. In June, with Barna as her partner, Ruth will again play the Rockefeller Center Rainbow Room, so informal in the summer that women can wear "clothes that don't necessitate a girdle."
July 1, 1938 promises a new beginning (but nothing more): Ruth will make her stage debut as Hilda Manney in the Saratoga Springs Spa Theater Players. production of "Room Service"--and, as if that wasn't enough without the Marx Brothers, she'll be asked by some patrons to entertain in between Acts; you know, bring out a table, a stand-in partner, and rally the audience as if it were a promotion of U.S. table tennis. Later in July she'll be on more professional footing with Barna at the Washington, D.C. Earle Theater.
In Aug. (and for months, years, to come) she'll continue to stay at the top of her profession. She and Sandor will perform at Boston's Ritz Carlton Roof with Eddy Duchin and his Orchestra. After being challenged there by patron Jimmy Foxx of the Boston Red Sox, she'd say, "Jimmy has excellent timing and a good eye but he has no idea of this modern table tennis and the importance of spin."
The '38-39 season was another winner for Ruth--though in Apr., at the Windy City's Chicago theater, in between showings of Errol Flynn's "Dodge City, " Ruth "stumbled into the orchestra pit in an attempt to return a difficult shot." But perhaps she recovered quickly enough to later join Sandor in offering, as part of their engagement, "free instructions to patrons on the lower promenade of the theater." It was all part of the job, and, as reporter Bob Considine somewhat ambiguously said, of Ruth making about as much money "as a so-so big league ball player."
But sing no sad songs for Ruth--not yet anyway. This summer of '39 she and Sandor were again celebrities among celebrities at the Rainbow Room taking on all comers. Edgar Bergen would win a bottle of champagne for Charlie McCarthy, and Gloria Swanson's 14-year-old son would win...well, an orangeade, and a bottle of the bubbly for Mum.
This summer, too, Aarons, retired but not retiring, was favored as a semifinalist in the Gold Star Mothers. "Typical American Daughter" contest. But Ruth, golfer Patty Berg, and songstress Cobina Wright, Jr. were all runner-ups to Hollywood's Priscilla Lane.
The weeks, the months go by, and occasionally Ruth has a partner other than Glancz--is on the Astor Hotel Roof with Intercollegiate Champ Bernie Grimes. She and Sandor continue to play theaters--before Pearl Harbor, the 1941 Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour movie "Caught in the Draft" is playing for laughs at the Loew's theater in New York's Times Square, and there on stage is Ruth, trading quips with Georgie Jessel who'd be helping to build up her act with running gags.
Publicity she knew how to get (and give what in return?). Here, almost four years after her retirement, is an excerpt from a Jan., 1942 Colliers feature article on her that's sycophantic:"Miss Aarons is not only the greatest table tennis player in the world--she is also beautiful and streamlined. She possesses all the glamour of a besweatered Hollywood starlet. In a game which features lanky, wizened males, and chunky, horse-faced females, she stands out like Betty Grable in a Home for Aged Spinsters."
Ruth also played that Loew's theater with Chuck Burns, 1942 runner-up to U.S. Champion Lou Pagliaro. During the War, Burns's "trick knee, acquired while sliding in a baseball game in the late 1930's...kept him out of military service." But in 1945 he joined Aarons, who'd been touring in USOC camp shows with other partners, and for eight months their travels took them to such faraway places as "West and North Africa, the Persian Gulf, India, and Palestine." An Oct. 11, 1945 publication put out by "Hq. Port Service, Khorramshahr, Iran" speaks of the activities of "USO Unit #612." In the troupe was an impersonator, a puppeteer, a tap dancer, and..."Ruth Aarons and Chuck Burns, the table tennis experts, put on a good show for the crowd, with Ruth demonstrating that the fair sex isn't always the weaker sex. Chuck, however, was hindered by a bad leg and couldn't play his usual driving game [uh, yes, especially since he favored stiff pushes and a backhand flick].
After the War, Ruth who'd earlier dabbled in dramatics at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York, and also tried her hand at writing songs, now abandoned table tennis and became a booking agent. Eventually, she "guided the careers of Shirley Jones, Sean and David and Jack Cassidy, Janis Paige, Celeste Holm, and Oscar-winner George Chakiris."...
Much later, in the last decade of her life, her interest in the sport surfaced. She wrote a letter urging sponsorship of Wendy Hicks to the '71 World's; continued to keep in touch with her old friend Sandor until he died in 1974; turned up at the 1977 Hollywood U.S. Open ("First time I ever had to pay to see table tennis," she said); and in Las Vegas in 1979, the year before she died, was honored at, and honored us by attending, the first Hall of Fame Awards Banquet.
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