People mostly remember Hall from "Let's Make a Deal," the landmark show that ran intermittently from 1963 to 1991, featuring prize-hungry contestants in chicken costumes or bunny suits vying to see what was behind doors number one, two or three. Audience members traded knickknacks for refrigerators, and strangers still chase Hall down the street, yelling that they have a bobby pin in a purse, a hard-boiled egg in a pocket.
While "Deal" made the emcee a household name, his life's passion is less known to the general public -- so much so that he wanted to call his autobiography, "There's More to My Life." What many don't realize about Hall is that he has raised almost a billion dollars for dozens of charities, at least half of them Jewish, from Israel Bonds to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to the Israel Children's Centers.
Today, three hospital wings bear his name, and so do two city streets, in Cathedral City, CA, and in his native Winnipeg, Canada. Even at age 78, Hall makes more than 100 appearances a year around the world, speaking and performing gratis at benefit shows, and enlisting the help of his celebrity friends.
"If you left it up to Monty, I wouldn't have a dime," Don Rickles teased on an A & E Biography of Hall. "I'd just be on a bus, doing everything for free."
This weekend, between events for the Venice Family Clinic and Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Hall will appear with friends Carl Reiner, Shelley Berman, Hal Kanter and Sherwood Schwartz in a panel discussion about Jews and TV comedy. The panel is a highlight of the national King David Society weekend, an event for major donors to the United Jewish Appeal Federation Campaign of United Jewish Communities, organized by the UJC and the Los Angeles Jewish Federation (see box).
Although he's proud of the show, don't tell Hall that "Let's Make a Deal" will be his epitaph. "You put that on my tombstone," he has quipped, "and I'll kill you."
Hall's charitable roots go back two generations, to his Ukrainian maternal grandfather, David Rosenwasser. When the greenhorn stepped off the train at Winnipeg, Canada, in 1901, he was greeted by "a big voice ringing off the platform in Yiddish, --'Are there any Jews here?'," Hall says. "This man took my grandfather home, where he proceeded to give him a hot meal and a hot bath, his first in months. The next morning he got my grandfather a rooming house, a $5 loan from the Jewish free loan society, bought him a pushcart, taught him the money system and showed him where the farmers brought in produce from the provinces. And my grandfather was in business."
Rosenwasser, in turn, ultimately became president of his Orthodox synagogue and brought over as many Jews from his shtetl as possible.