Graham was born Wolodia Grajonca in Berlin and given the nickname Wolfgang by his family early in his life. Graham was the youngest son of a lower-middle-class Jewish family that had emigrated from Russia prior to the rise of Nazism. Graham's father died two days after his son's birth. Graham's mother placed her son and his younger sister in an orphanage in Berlin due to the increasing peril to Jews in Nazi Germany. The orphanage sent them to France in a pre–Holocaust exchange of Jewish children for Christian orphans. Graham's older sisters stayed behind with his mother. After the fall of France, Graham was among a group of Jewish orphans spirited out of France. A majority of the children—including Graham's older sister Tolla—did not survive the journey. Graham's mother was killed in Auschwitz. Graham had five sisters, Rita, Evelyn, Sonja, Ester and Tolla (Tanya). His sister Ester survived Auschwitz. She later moved to the United States and was very close to Graham in his later life. His sister Rita escaped, first to Shanghai and then (after the war) to the United States.
Once in the United States, Graham stayed in a foster home in The Bronx in New York City. After being taunted as an immigrant and being called a Nazi because of his German accented English, Graham first worked on his accent, eventually being able to speak in a perfect New York accent, and changed his name ("Graham" was found in the phonebook, it was closest to his real surname "Grajonca." According to Graham, both "Bill" and "Graham" were meaningless to him). Graham graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School and then obtained a business degree from City College. He was later quoted as describing his training as that of an "efficiency expert".
Graham was drafted into the United States Army in 1951, and served in the Korean War, where he was awarded both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Upon his return to the States he worked as a waiter/maître d' in Catskill Mountain resorts in upstate New York during their heyday. He was later quoted as saying his experience as a maître d' and with the poker games he hosted behind the scenes was good training for his eventual career as a promoter. Tito Puente, who played some of these resorts, went on record once saying that Graham was avid to learn Spanish from him, but only cared about the curse words. It was during the 1950s that Graham became a champion mambo dancer in the mambo clubs of New York City ("Latin Music USA", PBS TV, broadcast 2010).
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|Title||The Circus Star|
|Publisher||About Me! Personalized Children's Books|
|File size||6.3 Mb|
|eBook format||Hardcover, (torrent)|
|Book rating||5 (1 votes)
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