Cliff Hall, Society Band Leader

Posted: February 15, 1989

Cliff Hall, a noted society entertainer and bandleader whose career was cut short two decades ago by a stroke, died yesterday. He was 77 and lived in Lake Worth, Fla.

The Cliff Hall Orchestra, which still performs around the country, came under the direction of Hall's close friend and associate, Neal Smith, when Hall suffered a stroke 22 years ago at the height of his popularity.

Smith, whose orchestra played for parties at the past Presidential Inaugural, said: "Three or four of us owe our whole musical careers to him. He did so much for us. He was the greatest entertainer. First of all an entertainer par excellence.

Cliff Odendhal, Hall's real name, was a graduate of Camden High School. He lived in Philadelphia's Oak Lane section for a number of years when he was getting his start. In the early 1930s, he organized and conducted the Del Regis Orchestra, a co-op band in which every member had a financial share. It broke up in the late 1930s.

Without an orchestra, Hall decided to go solo and worked on his own piano and singing act. He became a sensation at the Embassy nightclub on Spruce Street. At the time, Kathryn MacMullan was a social director who staged a lot of the debutante parties in Philadelphia. It seemed that every time she had one at the Bellevue, all the eligible young men would start disappearing toward the end of the evening.

She discovered they were all going over to the Embassy to hear Cliff Hall. She simply hired Hall to begin performing at the Bellevue's Burgundy cocktail lounge and at her society parties. His first society affair was when Gov. George Earle wanted him for a party for his niece.

While performing at the Bellevue, he was discovered by Meyer Davis, the top society band leader of the day. Davis signed him to a five-year contract and would send him to Palm Beach in the winter and Newport in the summer. Even after Hall went out on his own, he and Davis remained fast friends.

Hall caught fire with audiences wherever he performed. His list of clients included the Dodge and Chrysler families, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Henry Ford II and the Kennedys. Hall performed at 12-year-old Jackie Bouvier's first ''grown-up" party. He also played on Jackie's mother's estate the night before Jackie and John F. Kennedy were married.

On short notice, Hall was called down to Palm Beach to play at a Christmas party given by the Kennedys. Bulletin columnist Frank Brookhouser quoted Hall as saying, "What a thrilling thing to happen. And on Christmas Day too. What a Christmas present." Reporters later wanted to know what were the favorite tunes of the president-elect. Hall said he didn't know if they were favorites, but Kennedy requested two songs, "September Song" and "Greensleeves."

After his stroke, Hall remained partially paralyzed. He was found on Valentine's Day by his ex-wife, Betty Panos, who was helping care for him. Smith said she had gone to his home to take him breakfast when she found him dead.

Hall was the total extrovert. Neal Smith said Hall watched golfer Sam Snead make a great shot, went over and pumped Snead's hand with "You drove wonderful." To which Snead replied, "Who the hell are you?" Smith said Hall would be in a club, "get a beer, stand there and look at everybody and thank everybody for coming in the place and not have anything to do with it."

"Most of all," said Smith, "he really could light up people's lives and that's what he did best."

Survivors include a son, Cliff, and a grandson, Orion.

Funeral arrangements were being completed.


Senior Judge James Hunter III, who as a member of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed an author of a disputed papal biography and a historic community's ban on billboards, died Friday after a lengthy illness. He was 72 and lived in Medford, N.J.

Hunter was a Camden lawyer when President Richard M. Nixon appointed him to the appellate bench in 1971.

Colleagues regarded Hunter as a hard-working jurist who was interested in how issues affected people, colleagues said.

"He was a superb trial lawyer who had excellent judgment, and he carried that judgment over as a trial judge," said Arlin M. Adams, a retired 3rd Circuit judge who served with Hunter for 17 years.

"He was extremely kind," Adams said. "I know very few members of the bar who showed as much courtesy to their colleagues as Judge Hunter."

U.S. District Judge Stanley S. Brotman said Hunter's opinions "reflected that he always had both feet on the ground and was concerned about the bottom line."

"In my opinion, he never got lost in the lofty towers of the law," Brotman said.

Hunter in 1985 voted to bar federal prosecutors from enforcing a subpoena against the author of a disputed biography of Pope John Paul II. In 1984, the judge voted to allow a ban on billboards in historic New Hope, Pa., saying the ban "amounted to nothing more than an expression of the local community's distaste for the billboards."

Among well publicized decisions Hunter supported were a 1982 ruling to block enforcement of an anti-abortion law until its constitutionality was determined and a 1983 ruling to uphold approval of permits for the Point Pleasant pumping station, a water diversion project along the Delaware River.

Hunter, who lived in Medford, N.J., recently served as a senior judge on a semi-retired, as-needed basis, but he remained active.

Survivors include his wife of 45 years, Jane Thierolf Hunter; three daughters, Jane Avis Wickes, Judith Ann and Janet Margaret; and a granddaughter.

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