Birthday: 24 April 1921, Budapest, Hungary
Height: 150 cm
Born to artistic Hungarian-Jewish parents in her native Budapest (her mother was a painter), diminutive (4'11") entertainer Elisa Gallay began her musical career as a pianist at age seven. Her talents were discovered early and by age nine she had been accepted into the Liszt Ferencz (Franz Liszt) Music Academy, studying there from 1930 to... Show more »
Born to artistic Hungarian-Jewish parents in her native Budapest (her mother was a painter), diminutive (4'11") entertainer Elisa Gallay began her musical career as a pianist at age seven. Her talents were discovered early and by age nine she had been accepted into the Liszt Ferencz (Franz Liszt) Music Academy, studying there from 1930 to 1943. She also studied dance and piano at the Royal Opera House Ballet Studio and the Hungarian Royal Academy of Music.Growing up in fear amidst the rise of fascism in 1930s Hungary, Elisa and her mother struggled valiantly in order to survive the horrors of their imprisonment within Budapest's "Jewish Ghetto." Just as the Russian Army advanced in the fall of 1944, Elisa and her mother, already facing arrest and deportation to a concentration camp, were rescued by her aunt's non-Jewish husband who managed to save them with papers signed by the Swedish envoy of Budapest at the time, diplomat and humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg, who saved tens of thousands of others at the same time. Following the country's "liberation," Elisa built up her reputation as a radio, nightclub, concert hall and variety show celebrity under the repressive Communist regime.In 1956, Elisa and her mother barely managed to escape the regime and were rescued at Vienna's Austrian border. Contacting family relatives in New York City, the two were sent visas and flown to America to begin their lives anew. Finding work by day in New York as an accompanist at ballet classes, Elisa renewed her celebrity at night by performing cabaret shows in mostly Hungarian nightclubs and restaurants. She worked diligently on her English, however, and built up an unusually large repertoire of American classic standards by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and others all in the hopes of appealing to a crossover audience. While in NYC she also produced four albums and eventually opened her own nightclub, Music Expresso, which was frequented by both American and Hungarian celebs, including the Gabor family.In 1966 Elisa and her son (from a brief marriage to a Cuban émigré) relocated to Los Angeles. Having to reestablish herself all over again in a new city, it was fellow Hungarian Zsa Zsa Gabor who lent a hand by securing her a TV guest appearance on the popular local variety program The Woody Woodbury Show (1967). Gabor was gracious enough to introduce Elisa, who made her TV debut on this segment. Once again singing and playing piano at various restaurants, niteries and cabaret shows (which included "You Must Remember This," "Let Us Love Each Other's Children" and "One Kiss for Nothing"), Elisa would soon enter, broaching the age of 70, a new phase in her career...as a character actress.In the early 1990s the feisty, twinkle-eyed foreigner started things off with atmospheric bits on such TV shows as "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," "Totally Hidden Video," "Brooklyn Bridge," "Picket Fences," "Shasta McNasty" and "Primetime Glick." However, she found her true calling in scores of ethnic parts in commercials for such companies as V-8, Pacific Bell, CVS Pharmacy, AM/PM Mini-Markets, General Electric, etc. In a popular 90s Sprint commercial, Elisa and another elderly lady mischievously call a hunky young man they can view from a neighboring apartment complex as he is about to take a shower just so they can get their kicks of hanging up on him as he scurries to the phone draped only in his towel. This ad ran quite extensively.A couple of films also came Elisa's way in her twilight years. She was featured as James Coburn' disapproving cook/housekeeper Lottie in the film drama The Man from Elysian Fields (2001) also starring Andy Garcia, and as Kevin Pollak's befuddled Hungarian mother Anya in the raucous comedy The Whole Ten Yards (2004) starring Bruce Willis and Matthew Perrys. Elisa continued to perform well into her 80s before retiring to a Burbank senior citizen's complex. Even then she spent her time delighting the other residents singing and playing "golden oldies". She also would make sporadic trips back to perform in her homeland where she was still cherished as a celebrity.Elisa was diagnosed with lung cancer early into the millennium. She showed true stubbornness and resilience by surviving another ten years. In fact, she was still going strong when in January of 2013 it was discovered that the cancer had spread to her brain. She died on April 19th, five days before her 92nd birthday, under hospice care in Northridge, California. She is survived by her son Danny (named after her favorite entertainer Danny Kaye) and a granddaughter. Show less «
Elisa Gallay's FILMOGRAPHY
Country: United States
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Mystery
Twelve years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into ...