When I first moved to California from Philadelphia in 1978, Leon Brown, editor of the Jewish Exponent, told me to look up his friend Sol Weinstein.
I already knew of Weinstein, as I had one of the books in his “Israel Bond Oy-Oy-7” series, “Loxfinger.” I did connect with him, and over the last 34 years, I was proud to be his friend.
Weinstein was born and raised in Trenton, N.J. In the 1950s, he wrote for his local newspaper, The Trentonian, before turning his sharp wit to comedy sketches and songs for variety show performers. He married Eleanor Eisner in 1955, and they had two children, David and Judee.
He started writing gags for Joe E. Lewis, Alan King and, years later, for Bob Hope’s and Dean Martin’s shows. His show-biz pals were Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Kelly and Dom DeLuise.
In 1962, Weinstein wrote the ballad “The Curtain Falls” for Bobby Darin’s act, which the singer used as his finale for years. The song was also recorded by Hope, and Steve & Eydie, and was featured in the Darin biopic “Beyond the Sea.”
Weinstein conceived his Israel Bond capers, starting with “Loxfinger,” in 1965. The series of four books — including “Matzohball,” “On the Secret Service of His Majesty, the Queen” and “You Only Live Until You Die” — sold more than 400,000 copies and gained him national exposure.
In the ’70s, Weinstein moved to Los Angeles and wrote for such television shows as “The Love Boat,” “The Jeffersons” and “Three’s Company” with writing partner Howard Albrecht.
Weinstein moved to New Zealand in 2002 to be near his son. He was a real mensch, fun to be with, funny, he loved jazz, loved being Jewish and speaking Yiddish, and he loved life itself.
Of his writing partner, Albrecht said, “Sol was the most interesting, knowledgeable, talented — but, more important, the most gentle — man I have ever known.”
Weinstein, writer, composer, jazz fanatic and sweetheart, died of pancreatic cancer on Nov. 25 in his home in Plimmerton, New Zealand, surrounded by his loving family. He was 84.
Predeceased by wife, Eleanor, Weinstein is survived by his daughter, Judee; son, David; and granddaughter, Eleanor.
Kenny Ellis is cantor of Temple Beth Ami, a Reform synagogue in Santa Clarita.