Centenarian Nehemiah “Nicky” Persoff of Cambria had never received such an overwhelming response to his presence before, he said Saturday, Aug. 3, not even during his half-century as an A-List character actor in many films, hundreds of TV series episodes and stage appearances — or during his subsequent career as a successful Impressionistic artist.
It seemed that each of the 140 or so friends, former coworkers and family members — who attended Saturday’s party in Cambria to help Persoff celebrate his 100th birthday — also wanted to share a selfie or quick, casual portrait with him.
Incoming party goers rushed to his side, cellphone cameras at the ready, to congratulate the birthday honoree and grab a commemorative photo or two.
The perky Persoff held court from his wheelchair at the table, bubbling with personality, greeting people by name, sharing hugs, launching incredibly detailed “do you remember?” conversations and radiating the joy he obviously felt about the people, the festivities and the occasion.
What made it extra special, Persoff said later, was watching the 65 family members, some of whom had only known each other before through Facebook, “communicating with each other in person, enjoying each other.”
The party coordinated by his children also included a slide show, a feast, a cake, a few short speeches and after-dinner performances, some of them especially poignant. Persoff’s wife, jewelry designer Thia Persoff, said she’d actually met some family members for the first time, a few of whom came from as far away as London, Singapore, Spain, Mexico, Israel and various far-flung U.S. cities to commemorate the notable occasion.
And, as son Jeff Persoff said, “Now we’re looking forward to his next 100 years.”
Nicky Persoff’s acting career spans from 1954 to 1999. He was a student in the first “beginner’s class” at New York City’s now-legendary Actors Studio. He appeared in a wide range of movies, TV series and stage shows, often as an intense, volatile, ethnic villain. Some of his many credits include “Some Like It Hot,” “Yentl,” “Twins,” “On the Waterfront,” “Gunsmoke,” “Law & Order,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E,” “I Spy,” “Mission Impossible” and so many more. He also voiced the kind-hearted, violin- playing Papa Mousekewitz in “The American Tale” series of animated films.