Taffy Epstein was the creation of Harriett Gombossy, a nice Jewish girl who grew up on Euclid Heights Boulevard. She took on her new identity during World War II, thanks to a patriotic comic strip and an impulsive haircut. The war ended. “Harriett” became a name in old files, but “Taffy” became the force behind a costume empire.
Beginning in downtown Cleveland’s historic arcade, she established outposts from coast to coast, outfitting armies of white-booted marching bands, ranks of clacking tappers, squadrons of fleet and silent ballerinas. She hosted legendary cocktail parties attended by thespians, dancers, choreographers, other local notables and at least a few made guys. Her comings and goings were often the subject of society writers; Windsor French, the noted columnist of the Cleveland Press, impetuously dubbed her “the Marilyn Monroe of Shaker Heights.”
She did not suffer fools gladly or any other way.
Taffy Epstein was as much legend as reality, and those who knew her well will tell the stories and empty her bar before they go home as she made them promise to do when she decided to end her magnificent run. Taffy said goodbye to Harriett a lifetime ago. Now, we say goodbye to Taffy.