LAPIDUSS: Esther (nee Schwartz) Lapiduss, well-known Pittsburgh personality, nightclub entertainer, singer, and actor, passed away peacefully on November 22, in Los Angeles. Born in Donora, Pa., in 1920, Esther spent most of her life in and around Squirrel Hill. Daughter of Saul and Gertrude Schwartz, Esther grew up during the Great Depression, and attended Taylor Allderdice High School, where in 2010, she was voted a Distinguished Alumni. Esther’s father, a tailor, worked for many of the local theaters in the 1930s and 1940s, making and mending their curtains and drapes. He would often take young Esther along with him to the Nixon, and other vaudeville and burlesque palaces of the day, where she would sit backstage and watch the acts with great delight while he worked. It was also in these surroundings that young Esther got a liberal sex education from the scantily clad chorus girls who would discuss such things as they applied their makeup and slipped the kid some money for candy. A sharp contrast to her Orthodox Jewish upbringing, this environment quickly captivated her and she was bitten by the showbiz bug. Esther attended classes at the University of Pittsburgh, and also graduated from beauty college. In her 20s she worked at the cosmetics counter at Kaufmann’s Department Store, and began entertaining at local venues like the famed Pittsburgh Playhouse and Kramer’s Nightclub. Esther spent an impactful summer as the social director at the legendary Concord Hotel in the Catskills during its heyday in the late ’40s. There she met, and worked with, many of the great entertainers of the day. She returned to Pittsburgh to marry Saul Lapiduss (aka Saul Doll), and soon after, they opened Forbes Travel Service in Squirrel Hill. Esther was also a notable hostess, and the family home was always open to a colorful cast of characters. Their “Night After Thanksgiving Party” drew a mix of locals — from educators to drag queens to politicians, all hungry for Esther’s home cooking and a great story. Esther loved people, and her true calling was performing and uplifting others. Over the years, she appeared at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, the Civic Light Opera, Beck’s Charter Oaks, Ben Gross’, and in the ’60s and ’70s was an opening act for Phyllis Diller, Henny Youngman, Joan Rivers, Vic Damone, Buddy Greco and many others at the famed Holiday House Supper Club. With her compatriots in comedy and song, Bob McCully and Joe Negri, she formed the Ecumenical Trio, and they traveled the tri-state area performing unique satirical and topical reviews to packed audiences. Esther also appeared in their summer review shows, which launched the careers of many notables including Albert Brooks, and Broadway veterans Betty Aberlin and George Ball. Esther often collaborated with other local legends, including impresario Don Brockett, writer Janice Friedman, former Squirrel Hill native Iris Dart (“Beaches”), and too many more to name. In the 1970s, Esther was the entertainment reporter at WIIC TV, then Pittsburgh’s NBC affiliate. Her interviews with various visiting luminaries such as Gloria Swanson, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly and Jimmy Stewart, to name just a few, were incisive and charming. She also was a frequent call-in guest on former Mayor Pete Flaherty’s KQV radio show, and co-hosted a weekly show with local legend and friend Chilly Billy Cardille for several years. A gifted storyteller and writer, Esther spent her later years writing reviews and columns for various local newspapers, and for several years worked for the Allegheny County Parks Department as the “parks lady,” visiting schools all over the county to spread the word about ecology and their model Round Hill Farm. Esther was also a tireless volunteer for many charities and organizations including the National Council of Jewish Women, Ladies Hospital Aid Society, B’nai B’rith, and the Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged, and was one of the founding board members of Pittsburgh Aids Task Force. She was a member of Temple Sinai and later, Rodef Shalom Congregation. In their early 80s, she and Saul moved to Palm Springs to be closer to their children. There, Esther became very active in the Palm Springs chapter of PEN Women, and entertained as much as possible. After Saul’s passing, Esther moved to Los Angeles at age 90, where she was an active and vibrant member of the community at the Village of Sherman Oaks. Even then, she continued performing her one-woman shows that were standing walker room only! A celebration of Esther Lapiduss’ life will take place in Pittsburgh at a later date, and was also held at the home of her daughter, Maxine, in Los Angeles, on Nov. 27. Esther is survived by her two daughters, Sally Lapiduss (Francesca Bartoccini) and Maxine Lapiduss (Hillary Carlip), both comedy writers who owe much of their success to the expert timing, comic abilities, generosity of spirit and humor exhibited by Big Es and Saul Doll. Donations can be made to the Saul H. and Esther Lapiduss Arts Education Fund at Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, 5738 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.