What does it take to be a friend of celebrities?
How do you get to ride in a limousine to a premiere of the Who’s rock opera “Tommy,” and then have a couple of the band members show up for one of your sons’ bar mitzvahs?
The answer, at least in the case of Henry Goldrich, is to be a solid mensch.
That’s the word repeatedly used to describe Mr. Goldrich, who died last month at 88, by those who knew him.
Mr. Goldrich was the proprietor of Manny’s Music on Manhattan’s West 48th Street, where a hall of fame’s worth of rock and rollers would stop by regularly to pick up the greatest and latest of musical equipment. Those customers who made the big time would have their pictures placed on the store’s wall of fame, alongside older stalwarts of the pre-rock era who had been customers of the store opened by Henry’s father, Manny Goldrich, in 1935.
But Mr. Goldrich treated his customers like stars long before they became famous, because that’s what a mensch does.
“I’ve been getting notes from kids who came to the store with their bar mitzvah money to buy an instrument,” Holly Goldrich, his daughter, who lives in Demarest, said. “If they didn’t have enough money to buy one, he’d give them the rest. He’d slip them a few bucks to get home.”
“I bought my very first guitar here for my 13th birthday,” Janis Ian, the folk singer who at age 14 released her first hit single “Society’s Child” back in 1965, remembered in a Facebook post. “The sales people let me try out at least half a dozen, and helped me stay within the $75 budget my grandparents could afford.”
“He could not have been more welcoming to those buying big or those buying on time,” John Sebastian, founder of the Lovin’ Spoonful, wrote on Henry’s memorial page.
Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna fame, wrote on his blog that Manny’s “became my home port for gear. As Jefferson Airplane established itself in the music business world, it is understandable that we would just be able to pick out stuff and be billed later. What I remember is that in the ’80s, as I was dismantling my life, Henry always extended me credit when I needed something, and I will never forget that. Without putting words or thoughts into his mouth and head, it seemed to me at the time that he believed in me when I had trouble believing in myself.”
Henry Goldrich took over running the store when his father died in 1968, but he already was in charge of the electric guitars and all that came with the post-Elvis music business.
“He turned [Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix] on to wah-wah pedals,” Holly said. “If it was the newest thing, Manny’s had it first.”
Mr. Goldrich was a decade older than the rock stars of the ’60s — close enough in age to forge friendships, old enough to feel free to offer advice. “Be sure to save your money,” he would tell the newly rich stars.
He had served in the army, and then he started working with his dad. He met his future wife, Judi, at a party thrown by one his cousins.
“They got married three weeks later,” Holly said. “Back then you fell in love, and that was it. His love for my mother was like nothing you could ever imagine. He put her up on a pedestal. They worked together in the store. They never had a day apart,” she said. In their later years, in Florida, “They sat together day in and day out. He’d hold her hand and say ‘I love you’ 40 times a day.” They remained blissfully married until Henry died, 63 years later.
Henry and Judi moved to North Jersey from Queens back in 1959, living in Englewood Cliffs, Closter, and Fort Lee. Later, they retired to Florida.
Like her older brothers, Ian and Judd, Holly grew up working in her father’s store. Her brothers started as stock boys; Holly worked as a cashier in the accessories department. Her brothers later managed the store after their father retired and after the business was sold to its competitor, Sam Ash. The store was closed in 2009; Ian Goldrich now is a manager at Sam Ash.
In forging friendships with musicians, as in selling to them, Henry Goldrich was following in his father’s footsteps. Manny Goldrich had been friends with Louis Simon, a bass player and band leader who used to bring his young son Paul with him into the store. “They had quite a friendship, my father and Paul Simon,” Holly said.
Likewise, Harry Chapin.
“He loved Harry Chapin,” she said. “Harry would go upstairs and play songs for him.
“My father loved World Hunger,” the anti-poverty organization Chapin founded in 1975 that now is known as WhyHunger, she said. “Right from the start, my dad was really involved. If people want to make any type of donation in dad’s name, I think it would be to World Hunger.
“When we were growing up, there was always music playing,” she continued. “He loved listening to the music. In his car, his stations varied from classical to rock and roll. He had a wide range of interests with music. He would go to Carnegie Hall, he liked going to the symphony with my mom. And he was always invited to concerts. My first memory is going to Sly and the Family Stone at the Garden and me shaking hands with them.”
Clearly, Henry Goldrich knew how to make and keep friends.
Did he have any enemies?
Holly laughs at the question.
“Not one. He was too good of a guy. There was nothing to hate about him. He was the most wonderful human being,” she said.
That might seem like a daughter’s understandable exaggeration — until you look at the memorial page and the many comments by former employees along the lines of, “In all the years of working, Henry still remains my favorite boss.”
Henry and Judi kept a kosher home.
“Growing up in Englewood Cliffs, Passover was a beautiful thing,” Holly said. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — “It would be a whole family event. My father and mother would invite people in the industry too. When they moved to Closter, they put in another kitchen just for Passover. It got to the point where there were 40 or 50 of us. My mom cooked everything by herself. She would go to the Bronx to get the pike for the gefilte fish.”
Holly said her father had a superstitious side.
“Kiss the mezuza before you go,” he would say. “He would always kiss his chai in the morning and at night. He would always travel with his little Bible. ‘Don’t leave your shoes at the head of your bed,’ he would say. ‘You’ll have bad dreams.’”
The bottom line: “He treated everybody the same. It didn’t matter whether you were a kid getting a bar mitzvah present or Jimi Hendrix.”
And isn’t that the definition of a mensch?