Hon. Mr. Francois Knaff, Consul General
Véronique, Pauline, Haderen and Mr. Jean
Olinger, Conseiller Représentant Permanent Adjoint at
the Luxembourg Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
Ms. Laurence Pierron: executive assistant
Luxembourg Board of Economic Development
Jennifer Sherwood: executive director
Turtle Bay Music School.
You keep John Wallowitch’s unique
Christmas Eve tradition alive in New York City. Your
wide open-door generosity continues its welcome.
32 years ago, composer, cabaret star,
pianist, TV cable star John Wallowitch began a tradition
on Christmas Eve by singing Always and White
Christmas, a capella, in front of Irving Berlin’s
(one of the greatest songwriters in history) Beekman
Place home of 42 years. John’s event grew people each
year as he extended invitations to friends. Rehearsing
in his apartment preceded the songfest with food and
In 1983 when Irving Berlin was 95 the
miraculous happened. “For the first time” John said,
“The lights were on in Irving Berlin’s home.” It was
6:00 pm and 9 degrees above zero, The Irving Berlin
Sing included Bertrum Ross (Martha Graham’s dance
partner for 25 years and John’s partner) Broadway
performers Steve Elmore, Audrey Johnson, etc. and me.
Author Henry Miller’s wisdom was part of
“I’ve done everything in life I ever wanted to do but
meet Herman Hesse.” Henry said. “I walked back and
forth past his house and didn’t have the courage to ring
the doorbell. Years later, I met his son who said ‘My
father would have adored you.’ That’s my only regret
in life. Don’t ever forget to ring the doorbell Fiddle
and encourage others to do so!!”
“John, ring the doorbell. Tell the maid
what you are going to do.” I blurted.’ “No!” Everyone
barked. “We’ll disturb him.” “He’s old.” On they went
dueling with “Ring the doorbell.” Finally, John rang;
told the maid, then conducted:
I’ll be loving you Always…I’m dreaming of a White
Suddenly, drapes were drawn. Cops pulled
up. Door bolting was heard with “My God, we’ll be
arrested.” John led more Berlin gems: We’re having a
Heat Wave… There’s no business like Show
Business…Easter Parade… God Bless America.
As we crossed the street leaving, the
maid opened the door calling: “Come in! Irving Berlin
would like to meet you!” John, who could cry at an
adjective in any sentence, was ecstatic. His hero wrote
1500 songs, 19 Broadway shows and 18 movies and John
made the words love and respect for the
great American composer, active verbs.
Into the kitchen, we were escorted.
There stood Irving Berlin in a beige cashmere wrapper
with a black I.B. on its pocket, over his pajamas. “This
is the greatest Christmas present I ever got.”
Phil Roura from The Daily News wrote a
Twas the night before Christmas, Clement Moore’s
type poem about it, using our names and ending
with Berlin/ Santa Clause, And to all a good night.
From that, John became the known authority on
Irving Berlin. Work appeared. The New York Telephone
Company called me and we performed a tribute to Irving
Berlin, for their Summer Arts Festival etc. The
miraculous happens when it comes from the right center.
After the death of Berlin at 101 in 1989
his townhouse became The Luxembourg Consulate. The
Consulate General opened its doors to John’s tradition,
and we sing in the room Call Me Madam was
composed in for Ethel Merman; see Berlin family photos
by Edward Steichen on the wall; view the lit Cul de Sac
Christmas tree from Berlin’s favored curved window, as
memory spins Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy
Garland, Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Rosemary Clooney,
singing the songs, we sing.
John died in 2007. Anna Mae Wallowitch,
John’s beloved sister wanted the tradition to continue.
It does in a different format: Bobb Goldsteinn, The
Roger Edens Foundation and Albert Marcus at the helm.
Time circles. Let’s not forget that John
Wallowich was the first domino. He made us laugh and
sing from his heart as big as a melon. It’s his
footprint in the snow with Irving Berlin’s walking us
through musical history linked to the generosity of
Recently, I over heard a young preppy
tell her date, texting at a movie, “Some immigrant guy
named, like Irv, wrote a Christmas song for Whites."
God Bless America!!!!