Being Marilyn by Choice
In a wide ranging and generous interview conducted by her friend of over thirty years, Dr. Judy Koriansky, Marilyn Michaels reminisced, recalled, and recounted a life of music and humor, art and accomplishment. She detailed her diverse career of a woman passionate about her art – whatever its form. This was a dialogue between two friends, open, warm and informative. “Dr. Judy” opened multiple doors and windows; Marilyn stepped through each graciously, filling the conversation with much emotion and generosity of information. She shared memories that brought a smile, or a song, or a laugh, or a tear to the eye of those both on and off the stage. The exchange was wide ranging, a talk about family, career, art, past and future. When asked how being Jewish had influenced her life, Michaels became philosophic saying “Being Jewish is my roots. It’s what makes me what I am.”
Marilyn Michaels, child of immigrants, daughter of the stage, possessor of seven generations of cantorial heritage, is a singer, comedic actress, impressionist, and artist, has played everywhere, from Broadway to the Catskills – even “Catskills on Broadway! Born Marilyn Sternberg in New York, she gained fame for her exuberant stage performances. At 7, she joined her mother, Fredeyle Oysher, singing Yiddish songs to adoring audiences. By 15, she was soloist in her father Harold Sternberg’s choir at the Metropolitan Opera. She starred in the national touring company of “Funny Girl,” and for generations, has kept America laughing. She is a master (mistress?) of comedic timing – which she says “becomes organic” – and of the exaggeration of impressions. With a voice that has been termed “uncanny,” her talent on stage and screen knows few limits.
Michaels has always had an additional focus. Michaels is an accomplished artist who says her interest in art began in elementary school. “Art,” she says “is a lifelong interest.” Her paintings and watercolors currently line the walls of the Museum of Jewish Heritage of Monmouth County, in Freehold, New Jersey, part of an exhibit called “Marilyn Michaels: Paintings and Memories – A Multimedia Exhibit.”
Marilyn is a thoroughly accomplished artist whose style is reminiscent of Van Gogh, yet painted with the romanticism of an impressionist’s brush. The paintings on display at the Freehold Museum of Jewish Heritage are vibrant, exuberant palettes of color. “When you paint, you are alone. With brush in hand I am alone with what I am going to create. Then, I don’t need the audience. On stage, I do.” Oils, watercolors, pastels and sketches of famous celebrities, landscapes and abstracts are included in the display. Calling herself “a city girl who paints the country” – many of her recent works focus on the Freehold area. When her subject turns to people, she paints only on those she admires. Says the artist “I become one with the subject.”