Legendary Dance Critic
By Ken Price
When I was a young boy at the William Penn grammar school after the war ended, I had a young teacher by the name of Anne Eisenstadt.
Anne Eisenstadt aka Ann Barzel in the 1940’s.
She had this huge shock of natural orange/red hair. A wide slash of red lipstick which you applied regularly. She dressed like no other teacher. She had the body of a dancer and wore fitted sweaters and rather short tapered skirts under which she wore black leotards, something unheard of at the time. She was extremely tough and there was no nonsense in her class. The other teachers had little to do with her. She clearly was a “Bohemian.” Once she put the class to work on a project, she would go to her desk and pound on her old Underwood typewriter — writing God knows what. I was one of her favorite students I am proud to say. A few years later, my family moved from the area and my relationship with Miss Eisenstadt ended.
Ann Barzel, far right, teaching another kind of class in the 1950’s.
Fast forward through high school, college, law school, the military and the beginning of my career in PR working 70 hours a week for Nate Perlstein for $60.00 a week.
Twenty Five years later, when I was a young struggling PR guy, I was doing publicity for a show called “Times Square Tonite!” The show had quite a lot of dance in it. Our late dear friend Irv Kupcinet told me to see if I could get the dance critic from the old Herald American to review the show. I was totally green and Kup said, “See if she will let you take her to lunch first.” I called her at the paper, introduced myself and invited her to lunch which she grudgingly accepted.
Dance Critic Ann Barzel in 1996
While I was waiting for her at the entrance of the Coq D’Or at the Drake, I noticed a woman who looked so much like Miss Eisenstadt! I approached her and said, “Miss Eisenstadt!” She said, “How did you know my name?” I explained that I was once one of her favorite students. She asked my name and I told her. She said, “I am here to have lunch with you…..I am Ann Barzel!”
Still very vivid at a gala for Ballet Chicago in 1998.
Following that lunch, she and I became the closest of friends — right up until the day she died. Along with the late Jerry Arpino one of the founders of the Joffrey, I spoke at her funeral – where I told this story. Apparently, Ann, who taught by day, reviewed at night, and wrote her reviews in my classes with her!
Totally true story.
Editors’ Note: Ken Price is Director of Public Relations for the Palmer House Hilton and a Chicago cultural historian.
Photo Credit: Ann Barzel Papers, Newberry Library Chicago