By Deb Silverthorn
Barbara and Stan Levenson’s love story is nearly 62 years strong. The duo celebrated with family and friends from across the country for his 90th birthday on Dec. 28 and her 82nd on New Year’s Day.
For their first meeting at her parents’ home, Barbara invited a group of single girlfriends, imagining any one of them would be a better fit for him than she would be.
“He came over to my parents’ house and I had many friends there. I didn’t think I was at all interested until the next day, when I saw him on a television news story standing next to Ann-Margret, whom he was representing for a movie release.
“I didn’t like her close to him at all — and that was our beginning,” she said. “I was in my second year at the University of Texas and it was my last.”
That beginning led to a few weeks of dating, a three-week engagement and then an impromptu marriage when Barbara and her parents traveled to Florida to meet Stan’s parents.
“Once we were there, everyone figured we should just do it then and we did,” said Barbara. “There was no time to shop so my mother wore white, I wore pink and we exchanged our vows on July 23, 1962, at the Eden Roc Miami Beach hotel.”
Barbara, the daughter of Doris and Bubba Lind and sister of Patricia, all of blessed memory, is a Fort Worth native. A graduate of R.L. Paschal High School, where she was a head cheerleader and Sports Follies Queen, she was raised at Beth-El Congregation and was a member of B’nai B’rith Girls. She holds strong memories of her father’s Lind Paper Company, where, prior to the founding of the Texas Jewish Post, its founder, Jimmy Wisch, was an employee.
“I was ‘Daddy’s girl’ through and through. As a young child I’d sit with him at board meetings and wander through the warehouse filled with paper towels, toilet paper and more,” she said.
The son of the late Dorothy and Irven and brother of Alan (Renay) and Carol (Norman Broad) Salomon, Stan was born in Cincinnati. The family attended the Feinberg Synagogue and later moved to Miami Beach to accommodate Irven’s health issues. They belonged to Temple Israel. Stan graduated from Miami Beach High School and later majored in journalism at the University of Michigan, where he was a member of Zeta Beta Tau.
After college, Stan was a U.S. Army private based in Virginia at Fort Belvoir’s public information office. He pursued a graduate degree at American University before serving one year at the Nancy Ordnance Depot in Nancy, France.
Following his service, Stan worked for Dot Records, whose clients included Billy Vaughn, Lawrence Welk and many more, calling on radio stations and record stores to play and carry the artists’ recordings.
After working in New Orleans and then Memphis, Stan made Dallas his home in 1959. A hot dog package promotion featuring Pat Boone and partnered with Samuels Mohawk Meat owner Sam Rosenthal — the father of Carol Aaron, Linda Daniel and Michele Levy — would change his life: Linda set up the date through Barbara’s mother and Barbara ultimately invited her friends. The rest is history.
Fast-forward to their honeymoon in Nassau: While Stan was checking the couple in, someone was checking Barbara out. As she was sitting in the lobby, she was approached by Sammy Davis Jr., who asked if he could buy her a drink. Stan returned and introduced himself as her husband.
Back in Dallas, Stan founded Stan Levenson & Associates, which became Levenson and Levenson, then Levenson, Levenson & Hill Inc. Barbara, who ultimately became the company’s CEO, was at his side.
The couple’s family soon expanded with daughters Laura (Morris) Gottesman and Amy Levenson Krumholz, now with grandchildren Freddy (Alix), Wesley (Mary Claire) and Garrett Gottesman, Grant (Simone), Braden and Carson Krumholz and great-grandchildren Graham and Hudson Gottesman and River Stanley and Brooks Gottesman. Their family, they say, is their “greatest accomplishment.”
With clients that included Columbia Pictures, Paramount and Warner Bros. studios, the Levensons directed and activated advertising publicity and promotions for the growing entertainment industry. They planned world premieres, managed artists’ tours and hosted invitational film screenings throughout the Southwest.
Some of their memorable campaigns included Chili’s “Baby Back Ribs” and “Like No Place Else” and Church’s Chicken “Gotta Love It.” American Airlines, Fina Oil, HEB/Central Market, the Nasher Sculpture Center, Papa Johns and Zales, The Diamond Store were also among the couple’s clientele.
Stan formed a “Jazz Video Network” partnership with Quincy Jones. With Angus Wynne he owned Dallas’ Soul City Night Club. He represented Diana Ross and The Supremes at the Astrodome and worked for the LBJ Library in Austin.
After 50 years in business together, the couple retired in 2013, giving their business over to their dozens of employees. Stan was battling bladder cancer and Barbara needed two open-heart surgeries. A decade later, they continue to keep each other going.
“All these years later, she’s still my battery — she keeps me energized and inspired,” said Stan. “Barbara means everything to me.”
The family has long been members of Temple Emanu-El, Stan with Temple Emanu-El’s Brotherhood and Barbara with the National Council of Jewish Women. A member of 11 boards of directors, Stan, who was an adjunct professor at SMU, recognizes the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum and Jewish Family Service Foundation, to which his heart has always been dedicated. Among the couple’s many accolades was their being named to the Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame and Stan being honored as the Southwest Jewish Congress’ 2019 Man of Action.
The celebrations of the Levensons’ birthdays kicked off with a “thank you” concert to the couple at The University of Texas at Dallas. On Dec. 6, at UTD’s Jonsson Performance Hall, a performance by the UT Dallas Jazz Ensemble honored the Levensons for their donation of 3,000 jazz-genre albums, tapes, CDs, DVDs, books, memoirs and more.
“When I was in high school, I’d listen to ‘Symphony Sid’ (Sid Torin) on the radio and I fell in love with Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In college, I’d record my friends’ albums and the collection just grew and grew,” said Stan. Thirteen years ago, he donated another 3,000 pieces to Tulane University, whose own library had been all but destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
A favorite memory for the couple is when they were working the Astrodome Jazz Festival with Stan chauffeuring Ray Charles in a golf cart and Barbara driving Ella Fitzgerald.
“We stopped the carts and they got out and hugged,” said Barbara. “As many celebrities as we’ve met and all that we’ve seen, it was a pretty incredible moment.”
The couple has shared a lifetime full of such wonderful moments — with more on their calendar until 120 and beyond.