2008-05-29 / Community
Diamond wedding anniversary couple entertain on the Tonight Show with Leno
Irma and Ray Ziff are favorites in the retirement community where they live. Jennifer McGhee, recreation director, enjoys how the two are so loving of each other.
"They are always holding hands or walking arm in arm. They laugh and talk and smile, and when they tell a story, they tell it together," McGhee said.
More than 100 of the Ziffs' fellow University Village residents showed up on May 21 for a champagne reception and screening of their May 20 "Tonight Show" appearance. When Irma, 92, and Ray, 95, walked in, the crowd gave them a standing ovation.
Mary Ann and Bill Bang, who themselves have been married more than 56 years, seek out the Ziffs for dinner companions as often as they can.
"They're utterly fascinating people who have been all over the world and have so many interesting stories to tell," Mary Ann said.
Now they have the story of driving down to NBC studios in a limousine, going into makeup to be primped, waiting in their own personal dressing room and going on-stage to talk to Leno. Actor Sylvester Stallone appeared before them on the show, but during the screening his interview was fast-forwarded to get to the Ziffs.
"Makeup didn't have much to work with, with me," Ray quipped.
He also recounted how a bartender offered them drinks, which they declined, before they went on stage.
Leno, an avid car collector, asked what the first car Ray owned was. A Model T was the answer. Then he had the couple tell how they first met. Irma said her father built the Hollywood Tower in 1929 but lost everything in the stock market crash.
The family had to move to Altadena, where she just so happened to live right across the street from Ray. She was 14, and he was 17. Neither had ever dated before when Ray asked her to a school play in nearby Pasadena.
"She was a hot number," Ray recalled.
That school play was their first date, and neither ever dated anyone else after that.
"He bought me some chocolates in a sack, and I was too shy to open it. I put it in my lap, and it melted," Irma said.
"I told you she was a hot number!" Ray interjected.
On March 28, 1933, when she was 17 and he 20, they married with their parents by their sides. Ray's mother had picked out a different girl for him to wed, and it was rumored many in the family thought they were too young and their marriage would never last, he said.
But the two had good role models. Both sets of parents were married to each other for more than 50 years. And the couple sticks to the belief that a long marriage takes patience and compromise. Irma said you have to work at marriage like you have to work at any job.
Ray points out you both have to live a long time to stay married a long time and advises moderation in all things. Not too much food, drink or even exercise, he said.
The couple said their children, Ronald Ziff, 71, and Nicole Glazer, 64, also have strong marriages. Irma and Ray have four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
The family does not believe in divorce. The couple agree they have never felt unhappy with each other, wanting to call it quits. They've only been apart during short hospital stays and make it a point never to go to bed angry, Irma said.