Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Carl Schlesinger, Tap and Linotype Aficionado

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Carl Schlesinger, Tap and Linotype Aficionado

Article excerpt

The Linotype, that clattering contraption that spit slugs of lead and revolutionized publishing in the late 19th century, dwells in the scrap heap of history.

Tap dance, the percussive art form popularized by the likes of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Gene Kelly, is thankfully with us still.

A round of applause, now, for Carl Schlesinger, who celebrated the memory of the former and promoted the latter -- and made a glamorous Hollywood friend along the way.

The multitalented Mr. Schlesinger, a longtime Rutherford resident who died Sunday at 88, tap-danced as a boy in the Bronx and channeled his journalistic instincts into putting out a penny newspaper. But when the time came to earn a living, the World War II Army veteran turned to typography.

He landed at The New York Times, tapping away at a Linotype and helping retrain his colleagues when offset printing became the next wave. His intimacy with the Linotype was such that the goateed Mr. Schlesinger narrated the documentary film "Farewell Etaoin Shrdlu," which chronicled the production of the July 2, 1978, edition of The Times -- the last one using "hot" type. (etaoin shrdlu refers to the lowercase keys in the first two vertical columns on the left of the Linotype keyboard.)

A decade later, Mr. Schlesinger authored a biography of Ottmar Mergenthaler, the German-born inventor of the Linotype.

So what did this master of typography -- a man who spent several years midcareer teaching printing in Kenya -- know from tap dance?

Fondly remembering the steps from his youth, Mr. Schlesinger, well into his 50s, signed up for a beginner tap class at the Rutherford Adult School.

"He loved the sound and the beat and wanted to express it in his feet, but didn't know how," said his teacher, Lorrain Salerno. "He picked it up very well and never gave up. ... It brought him such joy."

Mr. Schlesinger gave his first public performance on his 64th birthday. He rented a church hall and put on a show for family and friends.

More recently, he belonged to Best Foot Forward, a senior tap ensemble that entertains at North Jersey nursing homes. He was best known in tap circles as the longtime co-producer of Tap Extravaganza, an annual celebration of the dance form in New York. …

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