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Vincent Sardi, Jr. (1915 - 2007)

A photo of Vincent Sardi, Jr.
Vincent Sardi
1915 - 2007
Born
1915
New York, New York United States
Death
January 4, 2007
Berlin, Washington County, Vermont United States
Last Known Residence
Waitsfield, Washington County, Vermont 05673
Summary
Vincent Sardi, Jr. was born in 1915 in New York, New York United States. He died on January 4, 2007 in Berlin, Vermont United States at 91 years of age. We know that Vincent Sardi, Jr. had been residing in Waitsfield, Washington County, Vermont 05673.
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Updated: January 16, 2022
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Introduction
Vincent Sardi Jr., who owned and managed Sardi’s restaurant, his father’s theater-district landmark, for more than half a century and became, by wide agreement, the unofficial mayor of Broadway, died yesterday at a hospital in Berlin, Vt.. He was 91 and had lived in Warren, Vt., since retiring in 1997. The cause was complications of a urinary tract infection, said Sean Ricketts, a grandson and manager at the restaurant. Mr. Sardi ran one of the world’s most famous restaurants, a Broadway institution as central to the life of the theater as actors, agents and critics. It was, the press agent Richard Maney once wrote, “the club, mess hall, lounge, post office, saloon and marketplace of the people of the theater.” Mr. Sardi understood theater people, loved them and was loved in return. He carried out-of-work actors, letting them run up a tab until their ship came in. (At one point, Sardi’s maintained 600 such accounts.) He attended every show and made sure his headwaiters did the same, so that they could recognize even bit players and make a fuss over them. At times, he exercised what he called “a fine Italian hand,” seating a hungry actor near a producer with a suitable part to cast. He commiserated with his patrons when a show failed, and rejoiced with them when the critics were kind. He distributed favors, theater tickets and food, rode on horseback with the local police, and acted as a spokesman, official and unofficial, for the theater district. Mr. Sardi was born on July 23, 1915, in Manhattan and spent his early childhood in a railroad flat on West 56th Street, where his parents took in show-business boarders. In 1921, his father took over a basement restaurant in a brownstone at 246 West 44th Street. He named it the Little Restaurant, but theater people called it Sardi’s, and so it became. The family lived upstairs. When the building was razed in 1927 to make way for the St. James Theater, Sardi’s moved to its current location, at 234 West 44th. Vincent Jr., whom his father called Cino, attended Holy Cross Academy on 43rd Street. He got a taste of the theater at an early age, appearing as Pietro, an Italian urchin, in “The Master of the Inn” at the Little Theater when he was 10. The play closed quickly, but not before Vincent learned about the subtleties of the actor-director relationship. When he pointed out that an Italian would say “addio,” not “adios,” he was told to keep his opinions to himself and read the line as written. In 1926, the Sardis moved to Flushing, Queens, where Vincent graduated from Flushing High School. He entered Columbia University intending to become a doctor, but failed the chemistry examination, in part because, short of pocket money, he had sold his textbook at Barnes & Noble so he could attend a dance. He transferred to Columbia Business School and earned a degree in 1937. In the meantime, he began working in the family business on weekends, earning $14 a week. “My duties included stints at the cigarette counter, shifts at the cash register and a few attempts at being a Saturday headwaiter in the upstairs second-floor level,” he recalled in Playbill. He also learned how to cater to Sardi’s unusual clientele. When Broderick Crawford was appearing in “Of Mice and Men,” Vincent was volunteered to take the actor’s Doberman for its nightly walk. Mr. Sardi spent two years learning the food-service business at the Ritz-Carlton before rejoining Sardi’s in 1939 as dining-room captain. That year he married Carolyn Euiller. The marriage ended in 1946. In 1946, he married Adelle Rasey, an actress. That marriage, too, ended in divorce. In 1947 Vincent Sr. retired, and Vincent Jr. took over the restaurant, buying it from his father. Sardi’s was already renowned as a place where deals were made, gossip circulated and actors and producers made it their business to see and be seen. “The restaurant had a central place in the theater,” said Gerald Schoenfeld, the president of the Shubert Organization. “You could walk in at lunch and do a day’s business, see people you hadn’t seen in a long time. You didn’t think of going anywhere else.” Mr. Sardi, a tall, affable man with a military bearing, perfected the art of seating enemies far apart and putting friends and potential allies near one another. “He was always the soul of politesse, but where he seated you could be crucial to making a deal,” said the producer Arthur Cantor. Mr. Sardi also knew how to keep temperamental actors happy. “You’ve got to be awfully careful with actors out of work,” he told an interviewer. “They’re very sensitive about their fading prestige, and I know darn well they scrimp to come in here, on the chance that they’ll be considered for a part. Boosting an actor’s ego with a table in a good location is simply my way of giving him a pat on the back.” When he was not running the restaurant, Mr. Sardi raced cars, played polo and skied. He was also president of the Greater Times Square Committee in the 1960s and the Restaurant League of New York in the 1970s. If Sardi’s was a club, its rules were mysterious. Only Mr. Sardi knew them, and only he could explain why, for many years, one of the best tables was held for Mr. and Mrs. Ira Katzenberg. The Katzenbergs, who by the early 1950s had attended virtually every Broadway opening for 30 years, took their seats at Sardi’s at 7:15 and ordered, without fail, a brandy and a bottle of Saratoga water. Mr. Sardi called them his favorite customers. “People like them keep the theater alive, and the theater is their life,” he said. “The least we can do is give them the best table in the house.” Mr. Sardi could do nothing about the autograph hounds and the photographers who crowded around the entrance. But inside the front doors, his word was law. Diners were not to be disturbed. Sardi’s shone brightest on the opening night of a Broadway show, and in the 1960s, a show opened nearly every night. The ritual never varied. In a line that stretched down 44th Street, theatergoers, theater insiders and celebrity watchers clamored for a table, hoping against hope to be seated on the first floor, where they could see cast members, producers and the playwright of the moment entering the restaurant after the curtain rang down. As the actors made their way to their tables, the diners would stand and applaud. Once seated, the actors, producers and playwright would put on a brave face waiting for the reviews. The first 25 copies of The New York Times and The New York Herald Tribune were rushed over to Sardi’s from the printing presses at midnight, with the review pages marked. Mr. Sardi would man the telephone, taking calls from friends of the cast, ticket brokers and newspaper columnists eager to get a read on the fate of the new play. If the reviews were poor, a pall descended over the dining room, and diners would slink out the door. If the reviews were good, it was Champagne all around and a celebration until the wee hours.
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Biography
Vincent Sardi, Jr.
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Vincent Sardi
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Waitsfield, Washington County, Vermont 05673
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Vincent Sardi was born in in New York, New York United States
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Vincent Sardi died on in Berlin, Washington County, Vermont United States
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“All of us on the staff were caught up in each Broadway play,” Mr. Sardi wrote in Playbill. “We became involved in the raising of money, the casting of roles, the progress of rehearsals, and, after opening night, the success or failure of a play.” In 1946, hoping to capture some of the excitement of Sardi’s, the radio station WOR created “Luncheon at Sardi’s,” an hour long program in which the host moved from table to table, microphone in hand, interviewing celebrities. In 1949, the show spawned a television spinoff, “Dinner at Sardi’s,” which failed to catch fire. The celebrities had a bad habit of using their air time for shameless self-promotion. Undeterred, Mr. Sardi appeared as himself in two television dramas in the mid-50s, “Catch a Falling Star,” on “Robert Montgomery Presents,” and “Now, Where Was I?” a CBS production. He also turned out a cookbook, “Curtain Up at Sardi’s” (1957), which he wrote with Helen Bryson. It included, of course, the restaurant’s signature dish, cannelloni with Sardi sauce, a homey curiosity in which French crepes were stuffed with ground chicken, ground beef, spinach and Parmesan cheese, then topped with a velouté sauce enhanced with Hollandaise, sherry and whipped cream. By the late 1950s, Sardi’s was grossing about $1 million a year, and in 1958, looking to expand, Mr. Sardi opened Sardi’s East, at 123 East 54th Street. Mr. Sardi threw his all into the new venture. He arranged for theatergoers to be taken to Broadway on a London double-decker bus. He hired out-of-work actors as conductors. He lured his father out of retirement and installed him as manager. Sardi’s East never caught on, however, and Mr. Sardi sold it in 1968. By the 1960s, the Times Square area was deteriorating, the theater district was becoming more dangerous and the vibrant world of culture that had nourished Sardi’s entered a period of decline. To make matters worse, in 1974, Mr. Sardi embarked on a ruinous venture, opening a 700-seat dinner theater in Franklin Square, on Long Island. The theater burned money for two years before closing. At Sardi’s, critics complained, standards seemed to be slipping. “Those who go to the restaurant to observe celebrities will rarely be disappointed,” Mimi Sheraton wrote in a 1981 review for The Times. “Those who go for good food that is well served will rarely be satisfied.” Gradually, Sardi’s became a tourist destination. The lunchtime business evaporated. The restaurant was showing its age. In September 1985, Mr. Sardi sold it for $6.2 million to two producers from Detroit, Ivan Bloch and Harvey Klaris, and the restaurateur Stuart Lichtenstein. They announced plans to bring back the old luster and open up a Sardi’s restaurant, hotel and casino in Atlantic City. Instead, they fell behind on payments, declared bankruptcy and closed the restaurant in June 1990. Mr. Sardi, who had planned to spend a tranquil retirement in Vermont, resumed ownership of Sardi’s in 1991. He gave it a face lift, leaving intact the 700 or so caricatures of theater people that hang on the walls. He also brought in serious chefs, who gradually improved the quality of the food, although Sardi’s, even in its heyday, never owed its reputation to its kitchen. As his health declined, Mr. Sardi spent less and less time at the restaurant, turning its operation over to his partner, Max Klimavicius, who will continue to run the business, a restaurant spokesman said yesterday. Mr. Sardi is survived by his wife, the former June Keller; three children, Paul, of Coco Beach, Fla.; David, of San Diego; and Tabitha, of Manhattan; a sister, Anne Gina Sardi of Stamford, Conn.; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A daughter, Jennifer, died earlier. The family plans to hold a memorial service at a date to be announced but at a location that is certain: Sardi’s.

Personal Life

Vincent Sardi, Jr. Obituary Vincent Sardi Jr., whose very surname is as potent a piece of theatre vocabulary as there is — given that it adorns the most famous Broadway restaurant in history — died Jan. 4, 2007, The New York Times reported. He was 91. Mr. Sardi died at a hospital in Berlin, Vermont. The cause was complications of a urinary-tract infection. He had retired from running his eponymous eatery in 1997 and lived in Warren, VT. In its heyday, Sardi's was the watering hole for all of Broadway. Stars grandly entered the dining room after opening-night performances to be greeted by an ovation. (The first such was granted to Shirley Booth after she opened in Come Back, Little Sheba.) Producers wheeled and dealed in corners. Broadway columnists held court. Newspapers with reviews of that night's show were delivered to the door at midnight. For many years, the Tony Award nominations were announced there. And tourists and theatregoers rubbernecked at the stray remaining tables to see what famous faces were to be seen. Its interior is well known to any theatre professional or theatre lover. The walls are lined with countless framed caricatures of Broadway greats past and present. (The overflow hang on the walls of the second and third floors). Red banquets frame the dining room, surrounding round tables trimmed with bentwood chairs. Although there are now other theatre meccas — including Joe Allen's, Orso and Angus McIndoe's — the Sardi's name still looms larger than any other theatre-district restaurant in the country's theatrical imagination, and it remains a popular destination with tourists from all countries. Vincent Sardi, Jr., was born July 23, 1915, in Manhattan. In 1921 his father took over the restaurant in the basement of a brownstone at 246 W. 44th Street, the Times reported. He named it the Little Restaurant. The theatre people who patronized it called it Sardi's. The building was knocked down in 1927 and replaced by the St. James Theatre. After that, the family moved the business to 234 W. 44th Street, and there it remained. Mr. Sardi joined the business as dining-room caption in 1939. When his father retired in 1947, he took over the restaurant. Columnists such as Walter Winchell and Ward Morehouse made the address famous by mentioning it in their columns. Columnist Leonard Lyons actually made it his second home, stationing himself at the same table night after night. His photograph still hangs in the restaurant bar. Mr. Sardi was always charitable in his treatment of actors. He often ran them lines of credit, and actors working in Broadway shows know to ask for a special menu on which the prices of entrees are reduced. The restaurant has been featured in numerous films, including "But Not For Me," "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," "No Way to Treat a Lady," "The Fan" and "The Kind of Comedy." And, for many years, Playbill magazine has hosted their Spelvin luncheons there, in which they honor cast members of a current Broadway show. Not all of Mr. Sardi's ventures over the years succeeded. A branch eatery called Sardi's East on E. 54th Street never caught on and closed in 1968 after a decade. And a television show called "Dinner at Sardi's," in which dining stars were interviewed, was not popular. In September 1985, after a spell of poor business, Mr. Sardi sold the restaurant to two producers from Detroit, Ivan Bloch and Harvey Klaris, and the restaurateur Stuart Lichtenstein. Mr. Sardi planned to retire. But when the owners declared bankrupcy and closed the place in 1990, he bought the place back and reopened in 1991 after a renovation and with an improved menu. Over time his partner, Max Klimavicius, assumed most operations. The famous caricatures were the idea of Sardi Sr. He remembered the movie-star caricatures that decorated the walls of Joe Zelli’s, a Parisian restaurant and jazz club. He hired a Russian refugee named Alex Gard, who was brought in by press agent Irving Hoffman, to render the drawings. His pay: one free meal a day. In 1947, Vincent Sardi, Jr., attempted to grant Gard more favorable terms, but the artist refused; Gard continued to be paid in free food until the day he died in 1948.

Military Service

In 1942 he joined the Marine Corps, which took one look at his résumé and assigned him to run the bachelor officers’ mess at the Cherry Point Air Station in North Carolina. In 1945 he was sent to Okinawa, where he supervised a rest camp. He left the Marines as a captain.
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Amanda S. Stevenson commented on Nov 08, 2019
I had an Italian mother who looked Italian and I treated her to a lunch at Saqrdi's. She was impressed that Vincent knew me and he treated her like she was a star and even kissed her hand. Directly across from us was an obvious hick from no where because he looked at mother and used words like "guineas" and "wops" and my mother and I were shocked. My mother was tough too, and if she weren't in Sardi's she would not have been ladylike at all. I motioned Vincent over to us and said, "That man there is using words like 'guineas' and 'wops' while glaring at my mother!" (My mother was crying.) Sardi immediately went over to him and said, "How dare you insult Italians in my restaurant." The man stood up and started to apologize and was mortified, and he looked like he was about to have a stroke! Vincent said, "Get the hell out my restaurant and don't come back!" That man left with his head down. My mother was so grateful that she was beaming and crying, and I will love Vincent Sardi until I take my last breath!

Obituary

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Vincent Sardi Jr., who owned and managed Sardi’s restaurant, his father’s theater-district landmark, for more than half a century and became, by wide agreement, the unofficial mayor of Broadway, died today. He was 91 and had lived in Warren, Vt., since retiring in 1997. His death, at a hospital in Berlin, Vt., was caused by complications of a urinary tract infection, said Sean Ricketts, a grandson and manager at the restaurant. Mr. Sardi ran one of the world’s most famous restaurants, a Broadway institution as central to the life of the theater as actors, agents and critics. It was, the press agent Richard Maney once wrote, “the club, mess hall, lounge, post office, saloon and marketplace of the people of the theater.” Mr. Sardi understood theater people, loved them and was loved in return. He carried out-of-work actors, letting them run up a tab until their ship came in. (At one point, Sardi’s maintained 600 such accounts.) He attended every show and made sure his head waiters did the same, so that they could recognize even bit players and make a fuss over them. At times, he exercised what he called “a fine Italian hand,” seating a hungry actor near a producer with a suitable part to cast. He commiserated with his patrons when a show failed, and rejoiced with them when the critics were kind. He distributed favors, theater tickets and food, rode on horseback with the New York City police, and acted as a spokesman, official and unofficial, for the theater district. Mr. Sardi was born July 23, 1915, in Manhattan and spent his early childhood in a railroad flat on West 56th Street, where his parents took in show-business boarders. In 1921, his father took over a basement restaurant in a brownstone at 246 West 44th Street. He named it the Little Restaurant, but theater people called it Sardi’s, and so it became. The family lived upstairs. When the building was razed in 1927 to make way for the St. James Theater, Sardi’s moved to its current location, at 234 West 44th Street. Vincent Jr., whom his father called Cino, attended Holy Cross Academy on 43rd Street. He got a taste of the theater at an early age, appearing as Pietro, an Italian urchin, in “The Master of the Inn” at the Little Theater when he was 10. The play closed quickly, but not before Vincent learned about the subtleties of the actor-director relationship. When he pointed out that an Italian would say “addio,” not “adios,” he was told to keep his opinions to himself and read the line as written. In 1926, the Sardis moved to Flushing, Queens, where Vincent graduated from Flushing High School. He entered Columbia University intending to become a doctor but failed the chemistry examination, in part because, short of pocket money, he had sold his textbook at Barnes & Noble so that he could attend a dance. He transferred to Columbia Business School and earned a degree in 1937. In the meantime, he began working in the family business on weekends, earning $14 a week. “My duties included stints at the cigarette counter, shifts at the cash register and a few attempts at being a Saturday headwaiter in the upstairs second-floor level,” he recalled in Playbill. He also learned how to cater to Sardi’s unusual clientele. When Broderick Crawford was appearing in “Of Mice and Men,” Vincent was volunteered to take the actor’s Doberman for its nightly walk. Mr. Sardi spent two years learning the food-service business at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel before rejoining Sardi’s in 1939 as dining-room captain. That year he married Carolyn Euiller. The marriage ended in divorce in 1946. In 1946, he married Adelle Rasey, an actress. That marriage, too, ended in divorce. In 1947, Vincent Sr. retired, and his son took over the restaurant, purchasing it from his father. Sardi’s was already renowned as a place where deals were made, gossip circulated and actors and producers made it their business to see and be seen. “The restaurant had a central place in the theater,” said Gerald Schoenfeld, the president of the Shubert Organization. “You could walk in at lunch and do a day’s business, see people you hadn’t seen in a long time. You didn’t think of going anywhere else.” Mr. Sardi, a tall, affable man with a military bearing, perfected the art of seating enemies far apart and putting friends and potential allies near one another. “He was always the soul of politesse, but where he seated you could be crucial to making a deal,” the producer Arthur Cantor said. Mr. Sardi also knew how to keep temperamental actors happy. “You’ve got to be awfully careful with actors out of work,” he told an interviewer. “They’re very sensitive about their fading prestige, and I know darn well they scrimp to come in here, on the chance that they’ll be considered for a part. Boosting an actor’s ego with a table in a good location is simply my way of giving him a pat on the back.” When he was not running the restaurant, Mr. Sardi raced cars, played polo and skied. (He had recently moved to a house on Sugarbush Mountain in Vermont.) He was also president of the Greater Times Square Committee in the 1960s and the Restaurant League of New York in the 1970s. If Sardi’s was a club, its rules were mysterious. Only Mr. Sardi knew them, in fact, and only he could explain why, for many years, one of the best tables was held for Mr. and Mrs. Ira Katzenberg. The Katzenbergs , who by the early 1950s had attended virtually every Broadway opening for 30 years, took their seats at Sardi’s at 7:15 and ordered, without fail, a brandy and a bottle of Saratoga water. The bill came to $1.62. Mr. Sardi called them his favorite customers. “People like them keep the theater alive, and the theater is their life,” he said. “The least we can do is give them the best table in the house.” Mr. Sardi could do nothing about the autograph hounds and the photographers who crowded around the entrance. But inside the front doors, his word was law. Diners were not to be disturbed. Sardi’s shone brightest on the opening night of a Broadway show, and in the 1960s, a show opened nearly every night. The ritual never varied. In a line that stretched down 44th Street, theatergoers, theater folk and celebrity watchers clamored for a table, hoping against hope to be seated on the first floor, where they could see cast members, producers and the playwright of the moment entering the restaurant after the curtain rang down. As the actors made their way to their tables, the diners would stand and deliver an ovation. Once seated, the actors, producers and playwright would put on a brave face waiting for the reviews. The first 25 copies of The New York Times and The New York Herald Tribune were rushed over to Sardi’s from the printing presses at midnight, with the review pages marked. Mr. Sardi would man the telephone, taking calls from friends of the cast, ticket brokers and newspaper columnists eager to get a read on the fate of the new play. If the reviews were poor, a pall descended over the dining room, and diners slinked out the door. If the reviews were good, it was champagne all around and a celebration until the wee hours. “All of us on the staff were caught up in each Broadway play,” Mr. Sardi wrote in Playbill. “We became involved in the raising of money, the casting of roles, the progress of rehearsals, and, after opening night, the success or failure of a play.” In 1946, hoping to capture some of the excitement of Sardi’s, the radio station WOR created “Luncheon at Sardi’s,” an hourlong program in which the host moved from table to table, microphone in hand, interviewing celebrities. In 1949, the show spawned a television spin-off, “Dinner at Sardi’s,” which failed to catch fire. Undeterred, Mr. Sardi appeared as himself in two television dramas in the mid-50s, “Catch a Falling Star,” on “Robert Montgomery Presents,” and “Now, Where Was I?” a CBS production. He also turned out a cookbook, “Curtain Up at Sardi’s” (1957), which he wrote with Helen Bryson. It included, of course, the restaurant’s signature dish, cannelloni with Sardi sauce, a homey curiosity in which French crepes were stuffed with ground chicken, ground beef, spinach and Parmesan cheese, then topped with a velouté sauce that was enhanced with Hollandaise, sherry and whipped cream. By the late 1950’s, Sardi’s was grossing about $1 million a year. In September 1985, Mr. Sardi sold it for $6.2 million to two producers from Detroit, Ivan Bloch and Harvey Klaris, and the restaurateur Stuart Lichtenstein. Mr. Sardi, who had planned to spend a tranquil retirement in Vermont, resumed ownership of Sardi’s in 1991. He gave it a facelift, leaving intact the 700 or so caricatures of theater people that hang on the walls. He also brought in serious chefs, who gradually improved the quality of the food, although Sardi’s, even in its heyday, never owed its reputation to its kitchen. Mr. Sardi is survived by his wife, June Keller; a sister, Anne Gina, of Stamford, Conn.; three children, Paul, of Coco Beach, Fla., David, of San Diego, and Tabitha Sardi, of Manhattan; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A daughter, Jennifer, died earlier.
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1915 - 2007 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Vincent's lifetime.

In 1915, in the year that Vincent Sardi, Jr. was born, in May, the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German torpedo. The Lusitania was a British passenger ship that was sailing from New York to Liverpool England. She sank in 18 minutes - 1,198 died and 761 survived. While travelers were the main casualty - and commodity - the Lusitania did carry wartime weapons. "Remember the Lusitania" became the rallying cry of World War 1.

In 1934, Vincent was 19 years old when on July 22nd, gangster John Dillinger was killed in Chicago. His gang had robbed banks and police stations, among other charges, and he was being hunted by J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI - although many in the public saw him as a "Robin Hood". A madam from a brothel in which he was hiding became an informer for the FBI and, after a shootout with FBI agents, Dillinger was shot and died.

In 1947, at the age of 32 years old, Vincent was alive when in June, the Marshall Plan was proposed to help European nations recover economically from World War II. It passed the conservative Republican Congress in March of 1948. After World War I, the economic devastation of Germany caused by burdensome reparations payments led to the rise of Hitler. The Allies didn't want this to happen again and the Marshall Plan was devised to make sure that those conditions didn't arise again.

In 1956, when he was 41 years old, this was the year that the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, became an international sensation. He began the year as a regional favorite and ended the year with 17 recordings having been on the Billboard’s Top 100 singles chart, 11 TV appearances, and a movie. Elvis scandalized adults and thrilled teens.

In 1971, by the time he was 56 years old, in March, Intel shipped the first microprocessor to Busicom, a Japanese manufacturer of calculators. The microprocessor has since allowed computers to become smaller and faster, leading to smaller and more versatile handheld devices, home computers, and supercomputers.

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