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Lillian Booth Actors Home: The Posh NJ Nursing Home Where Celebs Spend Their Golden Years

After entertaining the audience for years, it’s natural that artists would prefer having a pleasurable second act – long after their prime is over. The Lillian Booth Home in Englewood stands notable among several such veterans who don’t miss out on living a great chapter at the last leg of their lives. Starting from The Merry Mailman (a.k.a. Ray Heatherton) to comedians like Joey Faye and Dody Goodman, B-movie actress Pamela Duncan, singers Carrie Smith and Margaret Whiting, and the very famous Smith and Dale (inspirations being the 1971 Broadway play of Neil Simon- The Sunshine Boys) – everyone, including those who are now deceased, have been a resident of this reputed place.

Lillian Booth Actors Home – More Than A Retirement Home

For those who haven’t heard much, the Lillian Booth Actors Home is an American assisted-living facility cum nursing home that the Actors Fund operates. Based in Englewood, New Jersey, this is a non-profit charitable organization that takes care of professionals based in the entertainment and performing arts community. Established way back in 1902, the place is still a coveted one among stalwarts from the industry.

How Did It Become A Celeb-Favorite Care Home?

In 1928, the Actor Fund got the current site in one of the hilly areas of Bergen County, which was a very short drive from Broadway. The actual home belonged to Hetty Green, who was once-upon-a-time a rich financier and America’s richest woman. Years later, in 1961, the mansion was reformed to what it looks like at present. In 1988, an extended-care nursing home containing 50 beds was added.

Five years later, an additional wing came up which was named for Natalie Schafer, a film and TV actress who was best recognized for having essayed the role of Lovey Howell in the series, Gilligan’s Island. Thanks to her huge estate, Schafer gave away no less than $1.5 million to the Actors Fund! 10 years later, the place transformed from a retirement home to what we know as an assisted-living facility. Finally, in 2007, the Home was renamed after the IBM heiress Lillian booth (a resident of the Alpine), who provided a $2 million gift to the Actors Fund.

Who All Are The Residents?

All those who serve visitors here are in praise about the arrangements. As per the show-business terms, the place is a smash! Director of social services, Lucy Seligson said that a waiting list is always present. Since the place caters to entertainment and performing arts only, a broadly defined group can make it to this place. This includes set designers, dancers, choreographers, musicians, lyricists, stagehands, camera crews, theatre ushers, and several such creative folks. Their family members are also welcome.

From the records, there are a total of 42 residents in the assisted living sector, while 82 are based in the nursing-home section. Residents usually have no compulsion for a set amount and can pay whatever they can afford; the monthly fees are, however, supplemented either via insurance or the Actors Fund.

The Star Resident In Focus

Among the current lot, 91-year-old Gene Feist, who is the founding director of New York’s Roundabout Theater Company, has been enjoying his stay. The playwright himself and his wife (late) Elizabeth Owens, an actress, had launched the Company in 1965. His room is one of the finest decors to watch out for replete with showbiz memorabilia all over the walls, leather chairs, and shelves, overflowing with books related to theater. He welcomes almost every visitor in the very modest room, on the first floor of the home, in his trademark black tracksuit and red sneakers. Sometimes he gets lost narrating stories of his heydays, but surely visitors don’t mind!

What Else Forms The Chief Attractions Of The Place?

At the Actors Home, the hallways stand testimony to the works and commitment of theatre personalities, especially when looking at the brass plaques paying a tribute to Natalie Cole, Tony Randall, Lillian, and Dorothy Gish. Added to the beautiful décor are some amazing caricatures from the artist AI Hirschfeld that adorn the walls, along with Broadway posters and few showbiz ephemera.

Not to miss out on the common rooms that include the activity center like Aaron Schroeder Playspace, for TV viewers or even those who like solving puzzles, riddles or simply read.

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