Last Friday, JWA’s Leah and Gwen went to the New Repertory Theatre production of Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas. Gwen was excited to see Sophie Tucker’s Jewish identity acknowledged in the show:
I was pleased to see that the show celebrates Sophie Tucker’s Jewish identity. At the very beginning, the big-hipped, brassy voiced actress reassures the audience as she comes onstage that there’s no need to be afraid because she’s “just a nice Jewish girl from Hartford, Connecticut.” This is the first of many references to Sophie’s Jewishness. Although the strict Orthodox community where Tucker was brought up viewed her flamboyant career with suspicion, they embraced her with open arms when she came back to Hartford as a star. Sophie talked openly and loudly about issues that were taboo in her home community, particularly women’s sexuality. I can definitely see why jokes like “Why are Jewish divorces so expensive? Because they’re worth it!” caused discomfort in an Orthodox community!
Leah’s walked away from Sophie Tucker: The Last of the Red Hot Mamas with 5 Life Lessons that are in sharp contrast to much of today’s modern and somewhat anti-feminist advice for women.
Recently there has been a lot of buzz about Lori Gottlieb’s controversial Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Gottlieb argues: “Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.”
Gottlieb’s message is depressing, but the wisdom Sophie Tucker dispensed at New Rep Theatre is courageous, no-nonsense, and absolutely more feminist. Despite the fact that Sophie Tucker was born almost exactly a century before I was, her advice is more relevant today than ever, especially in the face of Marry Him and other scare-tactic advice books for women. Today I want to share 5 life lessons that Sophie is still teaching us, 44 years after her death.