Recalling Two Active in the Third Ward Who Later Became 'Gods' in Their Art

by Nat Bodian


In an earlier Old Newark memory, I wrote about Father Divine's Peace Movement in the old Third Ward...of his followers who proclaimed him God in the Flesh, and of his purchase of the Third Ward's Hotel Riviera as Father Divine's Newark Heaven.

But Father Divine was not the first of the "gods" who had worked or otherwise been active in my old Third Ward neighborhood.

Memory About Two other "Gods"

This memory is about two other "gods" who had earlier been active in my old Third Ward neighborhood during my younger years growing up there.

The 'catch' is that these two 'gods' were Hollywood created.

Both were realistically 'gods' in their respective realms. I will explain:

God No. 1

God No. 1 was George Burns, born January 20th, 1896.

George Burns Third Ward connection was his booking the winter of 1923 with a new vaudeville partner, Gracie Allen, for the first time, at the Hill Theatre1 at 100 Springfield Avenue.

Together he and partner Gracie were paid $5 for three shows a night. They got a good reception and it led to additional bookings. The team of Burns and Allen performed for 40 years.

Burns Takes on Role of "God"

Burns later played the role of "God" in three of his 23 Hollywood motion picture films.

He was God in 1977 for the first time at the age of 81 in "Oh God!"...then for a second time in 1980 in the sequel "Oh God! Book II". At age 88, he played God for a third time in "Oh God! You Devil" in 1984.

How He Viewed His "God" Role

As the Supreme Being in his three Oh God! films--all successes--Burns wore baggy pants, golf sneakers and a golf cap.

He said he was a bit nervous at first about taking on the role of God "because I didn't know what kind of makeup he uses...and besides, he's bigger than Milton Berle" but, he added, he decided to take on the role because "Why shouldn't I play God? Anything I do at my age is a miracle.

His Passing at 100

George Burns died March 8, 1996, six and 1/2 weeks past his 100th birthday. He is interred alongside his beloved Gracie in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, Los Angeles.

God No. 2

God No. 2 was Dore Schary, born August 31, 1905, in Newark, and for many years resident at 604 High Street, corner of Court Street, where his family operated a successful kosher catering establishment, popular with Newark's large Jewish community.

Schary, during his youthful years, helped out in his family's catering business, and in 1961 wrote a book about it: "For Special Occasions."

Although he was already a teenager when I was born, we both attended the same synagogue, Anshe Russia on West Kinney Street and were bar mitzvahed there. We both also graduated from Central High School.

Schary's Claim as a "God"

Schary's claim as a 'god' was in the motion picture industry. for many years he was chief of production at the MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) Studios under Louis B. Mayer. In 1951, Schary succeeded Mayer as president of MGM, after Mayer's 27-year reign. During his leadership of MGM, he introduced a new era of Cinemascoping of such blockbuster Hollywood films as Brigadoon and Ben Hur.

Certainly he was a 'god' in the film industry.

Schary's Passing

Schary died July 7, 1980. He is interred in the Hebrew Cemetery in West Long Branch.

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