Of the American Dream, popular actor Dave Bautista ("Knock at the Cabin," "Guardians of the Galaxy") once quipped: “I was a poor kid. I came from nothing. We didn't have any money; a lot of times we didn't have any food, and now, all of a sudden, I'm a superhero in a Marvel movie? Talk about the American dream, man — I'm living it.”
To be sure, millions of people have culled from their own life experiences and stumbling blocks, only to rise — time and again — to find success so that they, too, can live out the “American Dream.” In that respect, the real superheroes out there mostly exist off screen. They walk among us.
Surely Arthur Shorr can relate.
The ambitious Rancho Mirage resident is steadfast on a personal mission to chat up the American Dream as much as he can. Shorr’s new book, “From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills: Achieving the American Dream, A First Generation Success Story,” is all about the subject. It’s filled with tales about his own journey growing up a first-generation American in a middle-class Jewish Brooklyn ghetto to achieving persona and professional success.
“When I finished writing the book, I realized there was a book for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and a book for the family of immigrant people who came here in the last 10 to 20 years,” Shorr explains. “I realized what I wrote is for the people and families who have thrown themselves on the barbed wire of our society — cleaning homes and cutting lawns and other tasks, so that their children could become Americans, in the fullest sense of the word, and capture the American Dream education.”
Shorr’s book features engaging tales of his family and upbringing. His parents emigrated from Eastern Europe to New York City in the 1920s. They brought with them all the value and culture that would influence his life.
“My father lived in a small little town outside of Kyiv and his sister married a gentleman and they went to America, just like in 'Fiddler on the Roof,'” Shorr says. “They were getting on a train, and my father and his 16-year-old friend went down to say goodbye. My father looked at his friend, and says, ‘What are we doing? Let's get out of here.’ Without saying goodbye, without packing, without planning anything. So, they hopped on a train.”
The duo eventually found themselves walking to Belgium. Shorr’s father then got a job and “paid off the captain of a steamer ship and shoveled coal all the way America,” he adds. “Whenever I faced serious adversity, I always said to myself, ‘he walked to Belgium. Figure it out!’”
After offering some family backstory, Shorr dives into his own life growing up in Brooklyn. He recounts his parents, Louis and Mania, who were hard workers raising their two children. And there’s Uncle Bora, his mother’s brother, who relayed family history. Stir in family events and plenty of cousins and it’s all good fodder.
Beyond childhood, Shorr delves into his own personal quests — from elementary school at The Hebrew Institute of Boro Park and high school at The Yeshivah of Flatbush to George Washington University in Washington DC, where he earned an MBA in Healthcare Administration.
All the while, the author anchors his memoir in familial roots, tradition, and that unmistakable verve to make it as an American. The author certainly did that.
Shorr founded Arthur S. Shorr & Associates Inc: Consultants to HealthCare Providers back in 1984, which he’s been at the helm of as president ever since. He sees himself as a problem solver, and notes that “healthcare providers, hospitals, their staff — physicians, nurses and ancillary support staff — are all very special people. They are so committed to easing pain and suffering, [the firm] enjoys the ability to problem solve on their behalf, providing management, financial, and strategic business skills and solutions.”
His appreciation for the Coachella Valley stems way back. He was first enamored with the area during a college trip. When he returned home, he told his parents: “Did you guys miss the class on California?”
Eventually fate lured him back. When he and his wife moved to Los Angeles in 1980, they became “weekenders” in Palm Springs. “At the time, I remember turning to my wife one morning and saying, ‘we're gonna retire here.’ And that was it,” he says.
The couple moved to Palm Springs on Thanksgiving Day 2012. They now live in Rancho Las Palmas. They have two daughters, one a geriatric-psych social worker, the other a sitcom writer/showrunner/executive producer.
Dreams fulfilled all around.
Meanwhile, the desert has always been a kind of creative haven for him. “It’s clean, quiet, the weather is great, and people are gentle. Even when it's crowded, it's not crowded,” Shorr muses. “The comfort of living and the ease of doing things here is inspiring. And the stress levels are so low.”
He’s quick to also point out the “brilliant” influence of the LGBTQ community. “I can't help but comment on the impact of the gay community,” he says. “I remember when downtown wasn't very pretty. And lo and behold, there was a rebirth. Everybody gets along. Wherever you go, people are nice.”
When asked if writing “From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills” was cathartic, Shorr immediately points out his age — he began writing the book several years ago and is now 78.
“I’m still working about 10 to 15 % of the time, but I, and others around my age, are not on the ‘stage’ anymore; we're in the audience,” he explains. “There's a new set of actors on the stage. Writing the book was a capstone experience, a conclusory kind of event. I'm proud of what I wrote, because it really reflects a journey from the Jewish ghettos of Brooklyn to be able to function in the American world. It gave me a chance to reflect on my life — and validate it.”
“From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills: Achieving the American Dream A First Generation Success Story” is available on Amazon, Kindle and most booksellers.
Greg Archer writes about change agents, happenstance, and the entertainment industry. His work has appeared in the USA Today Network, Palm Springs Life, Huffington Post, The Advocate, and other media outlets. His memoir, "Grace Revealed," chronicles his Polish family's odyssey during World War II. gregarcher.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Rancho Mirage author delivers a candid tale about the American Dream