How did you spend your summer vacation, say, 40, 50, even 60 years ago? For many Long Islanders, those carefree holidays meant heading up to the Catskills for lounging by the pool, playing tennis or laughing at Borscht Belt comics. Back then, the hottest summer spot was the Concord Resort Hotel, a haven for vacationers that featured all the amenities as well as top-notch entertainers, from Tony Bennett to Tom Jones. It was also a cool place to chill in winter, whether for a singles weekend or to hit the ski slopes.
This year marks the first summer for the Resorts World Catskills casino, which opened in February on the site where the Concord stood from the late 1930s until 1998.
Still, nothing can replace the memories of those Concord summers for Newsday readers who shared their stories about working there, playing there and even finding the love of their life there.
LYNN MENDELSOHN, 74, retired Spanish teacher, Oceanside
“In March of 1966, I went to a Jewish singles weekend at the Concord Resort. On Friday and Saturday during the various events, I met a few men who took my number, but there was no one ‘special.’ However, at breakfast on Sunday, a man who had been seated at an adjacent table in the dining room arrived at his empty table and asked the waiter if he could be seated at mine.
"I thought he was cute and stayed at the table to talk to him. Three months later we were engaged, and six months later we were married. That was almost 52 years ago.
“That Concord weekend ended in a very happy marriage.”
JORDAN BRACHMAN, 50, graphic designer, East Meadow
“My time spent at the Concord was in the late ’80s and early ’90s. As a man in my early 20s, I went to the ‘singles weekends’ with a friend. I saw some great comics (Andrew Dice Clay) and ate great food all day and night. . . . The Concord was the biggest and best from the group of hotels in the Catskills, and I had been to them all throughout my childhood as the son of a summer waiter [at Brickman’s, another Catskills resort].
“I proposed to my wife, Jodi, at the Concord in 1995 on Valentine’s Day weekend during a show at the nightclub. I set it up in advance with the show people. The emcee came on in front of the whole crowd. There were about 200 people. He said, ‘Somebody special is in the audience. Jordan, would you like to say something?’ I was at the table with some friends and Jodi. The spotlight came down on me. I wasn’t miked, but everyone saw what I was doing. I got out the ring and proposed. Everyone applauded and then they got out the Champagne. And then we watched the show.”
TERRI STEVENS, 89, singer, Bayside, Queens
“I have many fond memories of the Concord Hotel. I am a singer, and my first appearance at the Concord was in 1956. I had just returned from the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach, where I had performed for two weeks.
“My husband and I drove to the rear of the hotel, not knowing where we were going since it was our first time there. I started to laugh as I said to my husband, ‘It looks like a jail.’ Then we proceeded to the front entrance, in amazement. It was so beautiful.
“Throughout the years, I enjoyed performing at the Concord, I opened for many comedians, including Alan King, Henny Youngman, Marty Allen and Steve Rossi, Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles. Meeting all those famous people and the wonderful clientele were memories I’ll never forget.”
MARY CULKIN NESS, 61, director of operations for a solar-installation company, Lindenhurst
“The first family vacation I remember was at the Concord Hotel in the spring of 1963, when I was 6 years old. . . . One of my favorite memories of that time includes watching Buster Crabbe, whom we all knew as Flash Gordon, perform in the pool. I was chosen as a volunteer to learn a new swim stroke and faked it pretty well as Buster kept me afloat.
“The one night I was allowed to stay up a little late I joined my parents in the cocktail lounge. I don’t remember who the singer was, but I was sitting on the side of the stage, watching him perform, when he came behind the curtain, picked me up and brought me onstage while singing. When the song was done, I gave him the lollipop I was holding, which elicited a lot of ‘awwws’ from the audience. Mom and Dad were beaming.
“Every morning after breakfast, before joining the scheduled children’s activities (arts and crafts, lawn games), I looked forward to joining the ‘older generation’ in the lobby as we danced the Alley Cat and the Hokey Pokey.”
RICK GROSSMAN, actor-director, Middle Island
“The Concord Hotel was my second home, from childhood until its demise. My late sister, Gloria Grossman Winarick, was married to Gordon Winarick, who was the hotel’s executive director and nephew of Concord founder Arthur Winarick. . . .
“I appeared on the stage of the Cordillion Room in a kiddie show at the age of 5, and Buddy Hackett, who had been on the hotel’s social staff for many years and was then an up-and-coming comedy star, came onstage to banter with me. Mac Kinsbrunner, who served in a variety of social and administrative positions at the hotel for over 30 years, became a mentor to me and hired me to work on the backstage crew doing lighting, etc., when I was only 13. It was where I first learned about stage technical aspects, which would help me as I progressed in my theater career as a director and producer.
“Working lights for the shows in the Imperial Room, I had the good fortune to meet — and light — so many, many great performers, such as Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr., Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. . . .
“The Concord — and the Catskills — was also known as the meeting spot of many couples, as it was for me in meeting my future wife, Marcia, up there. She would work at the hotel as well during college days. We are now married for 47 years with two grown sons and four grandchildren and look back at our first date together, when we went ice skating at the hotel’s huge outdoor ice rink, with great fondness.”
In a separate email, Grossman wrote: “In July, I am playing in a golf tournament up in the Catskills, where I will reunite with many of my old friends from The Concord and the area. We will be getting together at the new Casino Resort on the old Concord site! Full circle!”
ARTHUR WALLACH, 59, IT program manager, Commack
“I was 22 years old and working at the Concord Hotel for the summer [of 1981]. . . . I was the unofficial assistant camp director.
“My real object was the social scene. . . . One Monday during the guest dinner hours, I was working the preteen group scavenger hunt. . . . I was sitting in a chair surrounded by preteen girls looking for help on the scavenger hunt items when my future wife [and her friend] strolled past me. . . . She looked great.
“Later, when I showed up at the disco, there . . . [she was] standing near the dance floor with her friend and looking like she wanted to dance. . . .
“She said yes and her name was Gale. WOO HOO!!! We danced for about an hour. . . . By the end of that night, I was smitten. All week long, Gale couldn’t understand how I kept appearing everywhere they [she and her friend Lori] were. I spent the week running down back corridors that the guests never knew existed or taking every shortcut around the hotel to miraculously always be wherever they happened to be. . . .
“By the end of the week, the feelings between Gale and I were mutual. Gale went home, broke up with her boyfriend, and we started seeing each other after Labor Day, when I came home to Queens. Gale lived in the Bronx, so we had a Whitestone Bridge relationship.
“We were married on March 17, 1984, and have lived happily together ever since.”