The Scarlett Grandma

By Anthony Weiss

Published April 07, 2006, issue of April 07, 2006.

When Dorothy Sloan made her stage debut last week, she was following in her family’s footsteps — make that the world’s sexiest footsteps.

Sloan, who appeared in an intergenerational song-and-dance number in New York, is the maternal grandmother of actress Scarlett Johansson. The star of Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” (2003) and Woody Allen’s 2005 film “Match Point” recently was dubbed the sexiest woman in the world by FHM magazine — with strong support from a member or two of the Forward’s editorial staff — and raised eyebrows (and blood pressures) when she posed naked for the March cover of Vanity Fair.

“That’s my baby!” Sloan told the Forward. “I’m so proud of her.”

A Brooklyn native, Sloan worked in New York as a bookkeeper and schoolteacher. Then she moved to Denmark with her daughter, Melanie, who met and married Karsten Johansson; the marriage produced four children, including Scarlett.

“I spent a lot of time with Scarlett when she was younger,” Sloan said. “People would ask her, ‘Who’s your best friend?’ And she would say, ‘Grandma!’”

Scarlett apparently learned more than a few things from Grandma. It turns out that Sloan’s favorite song to sing at family gatherings was always “Summertime.”

Recently, Sloan’s sister called her up to play for her a track from a collection of songs that Hollywood stars — nonsingers all — had made for a nonprofit. “And I heard a rendition of Scarlett Johansson singing the most sexy, the sultriest version of ‘Summertime’ you ever heard,” Sloan recounted. “I never knew she could sing!”

Sloan had her own brief fling with stardom when she was a youngster. From first grade through sixth, she had, by her own account, the lead role in every school play. “Then I got self-conscious,” she said, and her theatrical career faded.

But now she is back. With the help of a few show-biz professionals, Sloan, along with a dozen seniors and five New York City teens, wrote and performed a musical number titled “Back in My Day.” The newly penned song, which tells about their experiences as youngsters growing up, was presented in a workshop and performance organized by Dorot, a Jewish nonprofit that provides services for the elderly. It was inspired by a recent production of “70, Girls, 70,” a musical about a group of elderly Broadway veterans who, when threatened with eviction, turn to shoplifting.

Prior to the performance, Sloan confessed to only a little trepidation about the old self-consciousness returning. “No. I don’t think so. A little bit,” she said. “You know, after all, I don’t have the experience. I just have someone following in my footsteps.”



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