Profiles in Education
Levitt: The Author at 97
His name is Mortimer Levitt but it should be Mortimer Live
Education Update Publisher
Pola Rosen and I spent an afternoon with the spirited 97-year
young author in his sumptuous Upper East Side townhouse. The
occasion? His latest published book, Ninety-Six and Too Busy
The dapper retailer and namesake of the society hangout Mortimer's
wore black, white and gold: black velvet slippers, white silk
stockings, white cotton trousers, and a black cashmere v-neck
vest over an elegantly tailored white shirt with exquisitely
detailed double globular gold cufflinks. His gray hair was
slick, combed back; his eyes mischievous and alert. Very much
the author not only of Ninety-Six but also of The Executive Look and Class.
“Of all your many achievements what are you the proudest
of?” asked the forthright Pola.
“That I should write six books alone. I have no ghostwriter,
no collaborator, and the first one when I was 75,” replied
the formidable Mortimer.
His other three books? How to Start Your Own Business Without Losing Your
Shirt, Thinking About Management, The
Marketing Imagination. And
he's just finished one on aptitude.
“I feel the biggest mistake in education is not looking to uncover a
person's aptitude,” he said. “If you're a Rembrandt, a McEnroe,
a Mozart, your aptitude is so strong it cries to be free. But most people don't
uncover their aptitude. If they have an aptitude and look into it there are
certain things they will do well. In my new book we find it the easy way. The reader will do it!”
Levitt's talents cried to be free. He has a near genius IQ but flunked out
of Boys' High in Brooklyn. He got a job as an office boy, later became founder
and sole owner of the Custom Shops Shirtmakers with 82 stores nationwide. Soon
after starting it he got someone to run it for him. He became an art gallery
owner, and found someone to run that for him.
When not overseeing his enterprises
and writing he has played sports, traveled, lectured and created courses
on how to listen to music. “There is a tremendous
shrinkage of audiences for classical music. I've written a course for Bard
College to stop that shrinkage and a course for high school students, ÔAn
Insiders Look at Music from Rock to Bach'.”
He eschews the label “philanthropist” but has given money and
time generously to Lincoln Center, Young Concert Artists, Daytop Village and
others. With his daughter he's building Levitt Pavilions for the Performing
Arts—outdoor stages for entertainment on summer nights, with no admission
charge. They're in Westport, Pasadena, Harrisburg, with many more on the way.
Levitt founded a high school essay contest through the prestigious Writing
Center at Marymount Manhattan College.
Tom Wolfe is his favorite author. He loves
his essay collection, Hooking
Up, his novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, all of his work. It's not hard to see why, for they
both look with humor at the world as it is while exploring it on many levels.
Wolfe writes it. Levitt Lives It!#
Mortimer Levitt's books are available at Amazon.com.