Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sol Abrams, 1925-2015

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Sol Abrams, 1925-2015

Article excerpt

Sol Abrams stopped at nothing to promote Palisades Amusement Park. If that meant having an elephant water-ski with a showgirl on the Hudson, so be it.

"Genius? I'd give him that honor," Vince Gargiulo, who runs the Palisades Amusement Park Historical Society, said of Abrams, who died Wednesday at home in New Milford. He was 89 and the last surviving member of the park's management team.

For 20-plus years, until the day in 1971 that the landmark attraction straddling Fort Lee and Cliffside Park closed for good, Abrams, the consummate PR man, dreamed up ways to get Palisades Amusement Park on the airwaves and into the newspapers.

Beauty contests? Check.

Couples marrying on the roller coaster? Check.

Chubby Checker introducing the Twist? Check.

Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds announcing their engagement on the main stage? Check.

"Actually, true story, Eddie's managers didn't want him to get engaged; they thought it would make his fans unhappy," said Abrams' wife, Zelda. "But my husband came up with this little gig, having everyone sing, 'Eddie, say it ain't so!' This is why he was up all night. His creativity kept him awake."

Chubby, Eddie, Debbie and the other stars who graced Palisades Amusement Park -- including Olympic swimming champion and actor Buster Crabbe, who gave swimming lessons in the saltwater pool -- were paid nothing for their appearances.

"It was easy to get them, easy if you know your business," the bespectacled Abrams said in a 1979 interview. "They were all tie- ins, promotions; the stars needed promotion, and I offered the publicity. So they came."

Tom Meyers, Fort Lee's administrator of cultural and heritage affairs, called Abrams "an old-school" press agent with contacts galore. "I remember him telling me what was important: newsreels, then print," Meyers said. "We will never see the likes of him again."

Abrams even stretched the truth to burnish the park's image. "I used to make up the crowd figures," he admitted. When Palisades Amusement Park competed with the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, Abrams took the fair's daily attendance figures, inflated them and passed the numbers off to the media as the amusement park's figures.

His signature gimmick, in the 1950s, was the water-skiing elephant, a promotion for a circus performance. The pachyderm stood on giant, pontoon-like skis and was towed along the Hudson River between Edgewater, just below the park, and the Lincoln Tunnel.

"An elephant, Palisades Park, the Hudson River and history is made," the newsreel announcer intoned grandly. View it on YouTube at youtube.com/watch?v=glX8dsfYinE.

Book changed destiny

Paterson-born and Bronx-reared, Sol Abrams aspired to be a veterinarian until he got his hands on a copy of the book "Press Agentry" by Charles Washburn, who counted Al Jolson as a client. …

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