In the 80s, the Goren era of bridge was long over, except for us bridge and lunch ladies who still played Goren or thought we did. I found out much later, in 1987 researching this book, the 80s were a turning point in the establishment bridge world. No more Goren–American Standard was it. And amazingly (to me at least) the Official Standard text of the ACBL had been written by a Canadian woman.
A perfectly logical choice, I was to find later, and one that made sense in terms of internationalism and feminism. American in this instance means North America (including Canada, Mexico–plus Bermuda for the ACBL). As to choosing a woman — why not? Woman bridge players have always far outnumbered men. As to choosing a Canadian? I have the impression that bridge by the early 80s had not taken the dive in Canada that it had in the States. Were there more Canadians playing bridge in the 80s than Americans?
I was to find as my years of dabbling in bridge history went on thru the 90s and early 2000s that this chasm between the two worlds of bridge — sociable majority and serious establishment minority — was still in place. That we didn’t learn, except accidentally, that playing Goren no longer existed was not surprising.
But contract bridge hadn’t started out that way. Ely Culbertson had been a celebrity amongst all kinds of players in his day, and we all knew the friendly face of Charlie Goren. By the 80s, the day of the universally- known bridge guru was over.
I like to wonder what if . . . what if instead of insisting on “American Standard” as its designation, the ACBL marketing department had promoted the Grant-written manual as Grant’s System? Or even Audrey’s Bridge Bible?? At least to the millions of women still playing rubber bridge.
What if women’s magazines had featured a few articles by Audrey Grant telling of her new bridge bible — as Goren and Culbertson had done? d done. Celebrated that a woman had replaced Goren as the bridge guru in media that reached the general public and women’s magazine audience? Just might have re-ignited bridge amongst boomer daughters in the 80s after the decline in dorms and sororities of the 70s.
Audrey Grant did go her separate way later and today is known as a dynamic teacher at seminars, on lovely cruises, and publisher of her own series of Better Bridge Teaching Manuals.
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Would you trade today for life in the 50s?
With the 80s,came first glimmers of an emerging nostalgia for those despised 50s. There was an article by David Schoenbrun in 1987 in Parade magazine–“Would you trade today for life in the 50s?” –warning readers of the “rosy prism of nostalgia” causing people to look back with longing to the 50s.
The 80s are far better said Schoenrbrun and he warned against taking up some aspects of the 50s like riding around in golf carts and women playing bridge. We know better, said Schoebrun, than to pursue sedentary sports, eat charcoal-broiled steaks, drink martinis, play bridge as they did in the 50s.
A second article, this time by Tom Buckley in the New York Times was clearly nostalgic for the tournament bridge world of the past. But he’s going back to the 30s, when great bridge players were celebrities. Today, he says, the most famous bridge player in the world, and second most famous (both Texans) might just as well pitch horshoes.
Buckley blames it on the 80s and the bridge establishment — too many conventions! He concludes “we may need a depression like the 30s” to bring back bridge.
Note to the ACBL: We’ve just had a depression, may still be in it since 2008. I’ve yet to see a story in the Wall Street Journal or New York Times lifestyle sections, generated by the ACBL marketing department, and what bridge did back then to make that depression more bearable. Such a missed opportunity!