Remembering Monty Hall
Monty Hall, the former host and co-originator of Let’s Make a Deal, passed away on September 30.
I had the honor of visiting Hall at his rather unassuming Beverly Hills home a few years ago. During our interview, he could not stop telling jokes. We spent most of the morning laughing, while discussing his life and career.
Hall’s journey in the entertainment world started as a sports announcer at a radio station in the city of his birth: Winnipeg, Manitoba (a street there is now named in his honor — Monty Hall Drive). Born into a traditional Jewish home, Hall earned a degree in chemistry and zoology.
But he did not attend medical school (where he may have been rejected due to clandestine quotas on Jewish students), and went into radio instead. Just as well. Today, Hall is honored by hospitals in the US, Canada and Israel — and has four children’s hospital wings named in his honor (Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto).
Hall got his start in television game shows when CBS hired him from 1960 to 1963 to replace the host of Video Village. Then, together with a partner — Stefan Hatos — he developed and conceived of Let’s Make a Deal. It has been suggested that the concept — “let’s make a deal” — is quintessentially Jewish, reflecting several millennia of Jewish merchants and traders.
Besides the estimated 4,500 episodes that he hosted, Hall’s name has also been honored by mathematicians who have developed a fairly well-known conundrum of logic called the “Monty Hall puzzle.”
Hall explained to me the road to developing his hit show. At first, he went to churches, synagogues and other social clubs to try out the concept. People loved it, but the studios kept passing. Finally, Hall was able to make a deal and the program debuted on NBC in 1963 — and, as Monty said to me, “the rest is history.”
Hall proudly told me that he tried to use his fame to help his family, his community and others in need. During our interview, Hall showed me the many shelves in his home that were packed with awards, plaques and honors that he had received from the many organizations, hospitals and universities that he’d helped. Hall also received honorary degrees from universities, including three doctorates, plus awards from governments, charities, halls of fame, etc.
Hall also said that he helped raise nearly one billion dollars — the fruits of his wide travels, and of selflessly donating his time for the many speeches and fundraisers that he attended. One of his favorite charities was Variety Clubs International — the largest children’s charity in the world, which named Hall the “International Chairman for Life of Variety Clubs International.”
During my visit, Hall introduced me to his wife, Marilyn, who — among other activities — was a producer for the made-for-television movie, A Woman Named Golda, starring Ingrid Bergman as Golda Meir.
Monty and Marilyn were married for 69 years, with all three of their children currently working in the entertainment industry. They, and his five grandchildren, will miss them both. Marilyn passed away in June.
Monty Hall did much in his 96 years — and if you want to know what a “mensch” is, Monty Hall was the real deal.
Stanley Tiger is president of Jewish Universe Media, an educational 501(c)(3). He is currently writing a book on the interaction of Judaism and modern science.