"It's an attempt at a bit of nostalgia," said Abe Glazer (Haaren High School, '49) as he shuffled into a courtyard ringed with banners identifying high schools -- DeWitt Clinton, Erasmus Hall High, New Dorp -- where former bobby-soxers sat with Shofar hot dogs or lined up at a vintage Carvel Ice Cream cart as a sextet of alumni/musicians whomped out big band sounds.
"Mort Sahl changed the face of comedy. Before his, that face was Marty Allen's."
-- Jack Riley
Who doesn't love old Jewish comedians? Those mamzers of mirth and halutzim of humor who paved the road from the Catskills to Vegas as first-generation entertainers.
"Herb is this wonderful combination of New York savvy, old school wisdom and outrageous life experiences," Kaminoff says. "Imagine Garrison Keillor, only if he was a handsome Jewish guy from Brooklyn."
"I Killed" features headliners like Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Jonathan Winters and Shelley Berman for the first time telling tales away from the "comedy caravans" and "yuk-yuks" and even yuckier joints they endured while perfecting their craft.
Annabelle Gurwitch and her book, "Fired!: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed," which includes the pink-slipped memories of folks like Robert Reich, Felicity Huffman and Bill Maher.
Some of my best friends are clowns. I know that sounds like a line, but it's true. Jewish clowns, too. Back East, there's Dr. Meatloaf and Dr. Noodle (aka Stephen Ringold and Ilene Weiss). They're in the CCU, the "Clown Care Unit" of the Big Apple Circus. Like badchens (Yiddish for clown) for the broken up, they play hospitals instead of weddings.
Like many baby-boomers today, I sometimes feel older than Keith Richards up a palm tree. So when Irv and Eddie, my better elders, invite me to go out with them, I tag along, if only to combat creepy self-pity.
When sexy authors like Erica Jong and Jerry Stahl get together onstage, you expect fireworks. But when I drag my friend Kay up to Skirball for the Writers Bloc conversation, the room is too bright, and Kay tells me Jong's blue-framed eyeglasses and gold necklace make her come off more Carol Channing than "sex goddess."
A voice expert known for coaching singers and nonsingers, and working with deaf and autistic students and contestants for TV shows like "Extreme Makeover" and "American Idol," Coury is unique and considered "revolutionary."
When Irving S. Brecher was writing the Marx Brothers' movie, "At the Circus," in 1938, he got into trouble with the Hollywood censors.
I’m your average middle-aged schmo. I’ve never been able to pick up women in bars or bistros. Never met my beshert in a bakery on Fairfax Avenue or in Beverly Hills, or in one of Los Angeles’ retro-hip boîtes with those sleek banquette settee things, either.
But I did go out with two Jewish 20-somethings the other night — at the same time. Both women were spirited and energetic, wearing those little golden necklaces with their names on them: Marni and Nina. They call themselves “Wing Girls,” dating aides from a new start-up called IcebreakerDating.com.
"If we don't change something now, if people don't open their eyes, we're not gonna have a world," said director Eva Minemar during a rehearsal with "God of Vengeance," the classic Sholem Asch play.
Irving Brecher, 91-year-old wannabe-stand-up comic, is nervous. The Doctors Emeritus Society of Cedars-Sinai is at the buffet in the Harvey Morse room, a conference hall where the old practitioners gather every month to hear specialists on subjects like pain control. Sometimes a marine biologist will discuss Darwin.
"Security measures enacted after 9/11 are impeding the inflow of scientific talent that helps energize American universities.... If the red tape is not untangled soon, it could cause long-term harm to universities and high-tech industries." -- (Visa Quagmire, The New York Times Editorial, May 17, 2004)
When Iris Rainer Dart's cousin was diagnosed with schizophrenia decades ago, the illness sent shockwaves through her Jewish family. "They were from the shtetl and superstitious," said Dart, 59, the best-selling author of 1985's "Beaches." "They thought that the illness was a curse, that the parents must have done something wrong and that it was perhaps contagious."
Dart's cousin was spoken of in hushed tones and kept behind closed doors, a fate that haunted the author.
Like many unaffiliated Angelenos between 30 and marriage, I face a problem every Rosh:
Hanging out with a group of Israeli artists at a hot new cafe in Encino may not be the same as sitting on Dizengoff in Tel Aviv, but the conversation is as close as it gets for Los Angeles.
e Fridays, if I'm lucky, I get to eat pastrami with Irv and Eddie at Langer's, the great old delicatessen on Seventh and Alvarado streets across from MacArthur Park. Irv and Eddie are in their 80s, so the fight over the check begins before they even order anything.
The "Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor" includes 14 pages of jokes on death, so when Buddy Hackett passed away in Malibu at 78 on June 30, the chapel at Hillside Memorial Park was packed with every comedy icon that hadn't booked an out-of-town Fourth of July gig.
In a world where some high school athletes hang out at strip clubs or haze each other in powder puff rituals, isn't it good to know that there's still one nice Jewish football player keeping to a more righteous standard?
Too much driving and dreaming makes me practically a native here, I suppose. When I complained to my friend Stuart back East, he said: "Slow down. Pull over. Take a class."
Fairfax is the best avenue in Los Angeles, containing, within one miracle mile, Little Ethiopia and the Peterson Auto Museum, the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art and Farmers Market.
Irving Brecher, my 88-year-old writing partner, stood onstage at the Arclight Cinemas on Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street after screening "Meet Me in St. Louis." Irv wrote this classic in 1944, one of seven MGM musicals he did.
"It's a war against indigenous people. Arafat was born there, while the other guy is from where, Poland?"
The first time I saw Jan Murray perform was on my TV in 1964.
The scene: Avenue of the Stars, Century City.
The characters: A few older men in a Park Hyatt suite.
The action: They kibbitz
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is here from Atlanta to interview Golden Age Hollywood figures for an oral history, the Turner Classic Movies Archive Project. TCM's goal is to get all available witnesses to tell their cinematic stories. The project is modeled after the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.