My Role Daddy
In honor of Father's Day, I'd like to introduce you to my dad, Neil Stoller. My dad is truly one of a kind. From an early age, he was a performer - entertaining crowds starting at age three with his rendition of "Don't Fence Me In." From there, while he had a passion for theater, he also loved sports and in junior high, he played basketball on a team named "The Comets" with fashion icon Ralph Lauren! Although back in those days, Lauren was better known as Ralphie Lifschitz. Incidentally, my dad's nickname was Butch.
As he grew up, dad auditioned for the High School of Performing arts and made it! And while his dream was to become a professional actor, Dad came of age when heartthrobs like James Dean were all the rage. And so, rather than move to Hollywood or try his hand auditioning for a Broadway show, Dad attended City College, worked in his aunt and uncle's bakery in Brooklyn and eventually decided to become an educator after he married my mom (his childhood sweetheart) when they both graduated in 1962.
By the time my brother and I came along, Dad's favorite sport was tennis - he played regularly on weekends and then encouraged both of us to take lessons too. While he was a bit of a tough coach, Dad actually was a great motivator and in high school, I even won a few trophies as a doubles player for my tennis team. My only downfall was that every time Dad watched one of my games, I usually choked and lost the match.
While my parents bought a home in the poconos so we could escape the humidity and concrete jungles of Brooklyn, Dad used to work summers to bring in extra money. During the year, I remember that he worked by day as a special education supervisor and then he'd make extra cash selling roofs for Edelstein & Sons. I also recall when my mom was attending graduate school, Dad would serve us TV dinners - which he fondly referred to as "radio dinners" - giving us permission to watch our favorite television shows in the den while munching on fried chicken.
Despite his busy schedule, my father always did what he loved. From tennis, to performing in community theater, to taking us to the Amish Country, Gettysburg, Washington DC and eventually Israel, Greece and Italy too, Dad has always made the things he loves an important part of his life.
When I worked as a publicist at CBS, I used to take Dad with me to the CMA Awards so that he could enjoy the performances and help me out on the red carpet. One of my favorite memories was when Dad took on the glorified role as water boy - racing around the red carpet offering bottled water to Brad Paisley, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, among many other country music artists. My friends in Nashville loved seeing my dad every year and when he wrote them a song called "The Jewish Cowboy," he pretty much became an honorary member of the Country Music Association.
Today, while my dad has been retired from the Board of Education for more than a decade, he pursues his passions even more. He plays tennis and golf several times a week, takes tap dancing lessons with my mom - and even made the cover of the Southampton Press since he was the only man among the group of Senior hoofers. Dad also performs every year in the Palm Isle Players sold out theatrical production in Boynton Beach Florida along with my former dance teacher Ms. Phyllis, who serves as the group's musical director. Dad also applies his love of history, coupled with his incredible gift of gab as a docent at a museum in Stonybrook, NY. And, he has written several yet-to-be published children's books and is also hard at work on his memoirs.
So if anyone wants to know where I get my indomitable spirit and optimistic outlook on life, then all you need to do is meet my dad. Neil Stoller is my Role Daddy and all I can say is I am so lucky to have been raised by a man who truly loves everything that life has to offer.
Happy Father's Day!
So now it's your turn...who's your Role Daddy? Inquiring moms want to know!