Author’s humor marks remembrance of famous father

By Winston Skinner - The Newnan Times-Herald
September 20, 2018

When Cathe Nixon introduced Jamie Bernstein to the audience at the Nixon Centre on Tuesday, she asked how people thought Bernstein’s last name should be pronounced.

Someone correctly suggested the last syllable should be pronounced “stine.” Nixon, who directs the local arts center, said she was remembering the correct pronunciation because of “Steinway,” the premiere piano brand.

“Or Einstein,” Bernstein piped up in response, eliciting laughter from the group of about 75 gathered on the stage at the center.

Bernstein spent just under an hour remembering growing up in a home that included her father, famed musician Leonard Bernstein, and his talented actress wife, Felicia Montealegre. She also read two selections from her new book, “Famous Father Girl.”

“We were surrounded by artistic people, because my parents were surrounded by this artistic community in New York City,” she remembered. 

Leading lights in music, film, the arts and literature came to dinner, played charades and sang songs around the piano.

“Because Daddy was Daddy, we had the opportunity to meet famous folks,” she said. That included heads of state, popes and – most exciting for her as a young girl – the Beatles.

Lauren Bacall lived in the same building as the Bernsteins for a time. Photographer Richard Avedon was “a very close friend of the family, like an uncle,” and composer Aaron Copland visited from time to time.

Bernstein particularly was drawn to film and theater director Mike Nichols.  

“I loved Mike Nichols,” she said, “He was a magical guy.”

Bernstein did not realize as a child what a unique environment she was experiencing.

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Jamie Bernstein