Bowling ‘Fairy Godmother,’ Bestselling Author Elaine Brumberg Dies at 81

Elaine Brumberg is a white woman with red hair wearing a pink dress and crown and holding a wand.
Elaine Brumberg as the “Fairy Godmother of Bowling” | Courtesy of Lee Shelly

Elaine Brumberg, the bestselling author of three beauty and cosmetics books and the owner of Thunderbird Lanes in Warminster, died on April 17. She was 81.

Described as living life like a “race car driver” by daughter Amy Seiden, Brumberg lived life her way, not letting age define her.

For her 70th birthday celebration, Brumberg decided she wanted to go skydiving. Her partner of a decade, David Singer, coordinated the trip. 

Brumberg had no reservations about the experience, but she did have one request: She’d agree to take the dive along with a tandem master, “as long as he’s a hunk.”

“I got a former Navy SEAL to take her out,” Singer said.

Aptly, Brumberg was the author of “Ageless: What Every Woman Needs to Know to Look and Feel Great,” “Take Care of Your Skin” and her 1986 bestselling debut, “Save Your Money, Save Your Face: What Every Cosmetics Buyer Needs to Know,” which earned her an hourlong guest spot on “The Phil Donahue Show” and The Washington Post dub of “the Ralph Nader of the cosmetics industry.”

Brumberg’s books worked to empower women, particularly those going through menopause, by providing beauty insights and expertise.

She was inspired to share cosmetic secrets after being fired from her makeup artist position at Borghese, where she told a customer that one of their products caused allergic reactions.

Three white woman (Elaine Brumberg in the center) smile at the camera.
Elaine Brumberg (center) with daughter Amy Seiden and Seiden’s daughter | Courtesy of Amy Seiden

After her time as a beauty writer for several publications and years after the death of her husband Norman, who owned five area bowling alleys, in 2011, Brumberg decided to buy one of his alleys, Thunderbird Lanes, at age 78.

She earned the nickname “Fairy Godmother of Bowling” when she decided to take Thunderbird Lanes to hospital patients and sick children, packing up portable bins and bowling balls and dressing herself in a bright pink dress and plastic crown. Brumberg also served veterans and people with disabilities and hosted fundraisers at the alley.

Brumberg was determined to be successful in the face of the antisemitism she experienced as a child. 

Born in Pittsburgh in 1940 and raised in western Pennsylvania, Brumberg was the only Jew in a class of 350 students. 

“I had very few friends because their parents would not let them associate with a Jewish girl,” Brumberg said in a 2020 Jewish Exponent article. 

The adversity only made her more set on success: “I was determined to be successful; I didn’t want to be just anyone.”

After moving to the Philadelphia area, Brumberg became a longtime member of Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park and also was a member of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

“Being Jewish was something she was very proud of,” son Bruce Brumberg said. “She always hosted a great break fast at her house on Yom Kippur.”

Elaine Brumberg is wearing a white wig and red hat. She is smiling and standing between two men.
Elaine Brumberg (center) at a Thunderbird Lanes event | Courtesy of Thunderbird Lanes

Brumberg was a proud grandmother who loved spending time with her grandchildren down the shore.

She also met Singer down the shore in Margate, New Jersey, 13 years ago at the Fourth of July fireworks. The couple moved in together five years ago.

In 2020, Brumberg and Singer both contracted COVID-19. While Brumberg had a milder case, Singer became severely ill and was on a ventilator for two weeks. 

“Even though I was in a coma, I could hear voices,” Singer said. “And I could hear Elaine’s voice every night: She’d call, they’d put the phone to my ear and she would tell me she loved me.”

Brumberg is survived by her children, Seiden, Bruce and Harriet Brumberg and Scott Dimetrosky; their spouses; Singer’s daughter Rachel Hahn; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


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