Looking for Oscar

As 4-H queen, Stella was introduced to one of the best tailors in Detroit who gave her a crash course in fabric, and fine stitching. Even with the limited training she had, added to her rural, agrarian culture seamstress abilities, her eye was keen for quality.

Her skill was such that once she arrived in New York, she was able to tell the difference between the finest suits in the city and their skillfully crafted impostors with the best of ‘em. It was a clever and discrete talent for a stunning, 21-year-old mid-western blond fighting to make it on Broadway.

Every day was the same. She’d wake up in the morning and head for casting calls. She danced, she sang and she acted.

She was Miss 4-H just 3-years ago at the Oakland County fair. That honor in 1936 gave her the privilege to cut the ribbon for a new agriculture museum, imparted a starring role in the 4th of July parade, and earned the primary role in the newest “Milk” ads that every newspaper in Michigan ran for months. It was her time.

Rejection did not discourage Stella. Instead, her working class, farm-bred instincts led her to work harder. More auditions, and more socializing after work meant more opportunities in the big city.

She was an usher at a movie theater. It served as her classroom. She watched the same movie hour after hour. The repetition did not bore her. She anxiously waited for a new movie to arrive each week.

Despite her eternal optimism, she sometimes wondered what made her qualified to be an actor. Was it a dream to unleash her imagination and inner creative beauty? Did she possess that ability?

Arriving in New York, she realized in the first casting calls she attended that it was not as simple as it appeared. The girls in New York were wise and tough. And all the girls were beautiful and gifted performers. The men were clever, charming and manipulating. This was the big time far away from the county fairs and the unlimited attention a strikingly beautiful girl attracted there. Even though the odds were stacked against her, her naïve youth inspired her. She dreamed of her big break and discovery because every day she saw a new girl get that break. It was a waiting game. Her mother told her it was her time.

The ushering job at the movie theater was a big break, she thought. Only a handful of girls in the entire city had the opportunity to hold the flashlight in one of the dozens of theaters the city hosted. Only a few girls had the grace and beauty to attend to the patrons in such a manner. By the number of propositions she received, it was clear men thought she was special.

Stella was in town only 2 weeks when she got the job. Of course she took it wide eyed and excited. The manager told her movie moguls, scouting talent in New York, often searched his theater for her type. She believed that.

Until her 4-H reign, Stella had only heard about the ethnic centers of Detroit. Then her life changed. She was invited to represent Oakland County at an auto factory opening. She told her sponsor, the former Miss Michigan, that she’d never been to the city. The wiser former Miss Michigan, gladly gave the young beauty a tour of the city. There Stella met her first immigrants.

“That’s a Yarmulke”, her hostess, the woman who only 5 years prior had never heard of Liberty Island, proudly instructed her — cocky with her worldly knowledge — as they left the tailor’s shop. His lesson inspired her. He taught her the subtle art of suit quality–and he made suits for auto executives. She learned to interpret an eastern European accent.

The hour of instruction by a European immigrant was enough to let her survive the melting pot of the world, New York, she thought. That day she told herself, age 18, she was ready. Nothing was beyond her understanding and reach. It was her time.

She knew how to spot a good suit. It was her best talent in fighting off opportunists in cheap suits. They often invited the beauty out for a nightcap.

One night, she seated a confident, handsome and tall man who wore a fine navy blue wool suit. Bette Davis and Henry Fonda, bigger than life in Jezebel, mesmerized the audience. This was the fifth time Stella had seen the film. But this time, a man, wearing the finest suit she had seen in New York, watched. She pondered who he was. Could he be the one to change her life?

She was elegant despite the usher suit she wore. Her blond hair was striking on her chiseled face highlighted by her ruby red lips. Her frame was thin, supported by black pumps that highlighted her perfect porcelain skin. Stella was there to be noticed by a man in a suit Moshe would have been proud to call his work. This was her time.

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