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Jewish Journal

A Family Doctor

by Rob Eshman

August 14, 1997 | 8:00 pm

When Dr. William H. Parker talks, women listen. As chair of theobstetrics and gynecology department at Santa Monica-UCLA MedicalCenter and a clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, hisjob depends on being able to give clear, calm answers to the fraughtquestions of women's health: "What's an abnormal period?" "What doPap smear results mean?" "What are the risks of a hysterectomy?"

What Parker found is that outside his office and the school,finding answers to these questions is no easy task. The books thatfill "Women's Health" sections at the local Barnes and Noble areusually incomplete or outdated, or burdened with an egregiouslypolitical agenda -- i.e., says the doctor, "All men are out to chopout your uterus no matter what."

So Parker decided to enter the book world himself. "AGynecologist's Second Opinion: The Questions and Answers You Need ToTake Charge of Your Health" (Plume/Penguin, $13.95) is a sparklinglyclear, complete and compact compendium of medical answers to the mostcommon reproductive problems of women. In a question-and-answerformat, Parker tackles cysts, endometriosis, fibroids, pelvic pain,urinary problems, surgery -- just about everything but pregnancy,menopause and breast cancer. "Those are books in themselves," hesays.

Writing the book while maintaining a full practice became a Parkerfamily affair. He woke up at 5 a.m. for two years to write a firstdraft. His wife, Rachel, an English teacher at Temple Emanuel DaySchool in Beverly Hills, where the family belongs, rewrote and editedhis pages before going off to teach. Parker's partners, Drs. IngridA. Rodi and Amy Rosenman, also contributed sections. Although theauthor's credentials are solid and the book lucid, two majorpublishers turned it down because, they explained in a letter, he wasnot a female gynecologist. "I was furious," he said.

Penguin/Plume finally published the book, but left most of thepublicity to the author. Once again, family came through. Parker'sson, Aaron, 16, a student at Crossroads School for Arts and Scienceswith a nascent web-design business, designed a web site for the bookto boost sales and to provide additional answers to readers.

On the web site (www.gynsecond opinion.com), you can ask Parkerquestions and, time permitting, he will e-mail the answer. You canalso order the book through a direct link to Amazon. com, the webmega-bookstore. So far, a surprising number of inquiries have comefrom husbands and boyfriends. "Guys don't have access to this kind ofinformation," says Parker, "and they're concerned about theirpartners." You can find "A Gynecologist's Second Opinion" atbookstores or on the World Wide Web. -- Robert Eshman,Associate Edito

Robbo's Latest Album

At my cousin's seder last year, my son, Sam, stood up and sang afunny ditty that's hard to do justice to in a newspaper without asound chip. It went something like this: "Pharaoh, pharaoh, whoa,baby, let my people go! Uh! Uh!"

It turned out that he had picked up this charming musical numberfrom the song leader at summer camp, JCA Sholom in Malibu. His namewas Robbo. He wore a bandanna on his head and kept the kids in songsand stitches most of the time.

I didn't think much about Robbo until a cassette landed on my deska couple of weeks ago. Titled "A Part of a Chain," it was the firstJewish album by Robbo, a.k.a. Robb Zelonky. Robbo, 33, whom I reachedby phone -- he was between songs at JCA -- has been performing inYiddish, Hebrew, English and hilarious made-up amalgam languagessince he was 4. He started in his hometown of Chicago, where he waspart of a family act with his parents and sister.

He began writing songs a few years ago, when he was a teacher anda student's problem with a bully inspired a song called "JimmyKnucklesandwich." That led to more songs, two popular secular albumsand performances all over the country, including the White House. Buthe is still best-loved in Southern California, particularly in theValley, where he lives with his wife, Barbara, and two smallchildren, Zoe and Elijah. "They're my greatest inspiration," he says.

Robbo also has a huge following at JCA, where he is spending histhird summer. Robbo's songs have all been sparked by children, whosevoices are heard on various tunes on this album. One tender piece,"Miracle in June," celebrates his daughter's birth. Others, such as"Samson," "David and Goliath" and "The Tower of Babel" are funnytakes on biblical tales. The new album is available at PagesBookstore in Tarzana, the House of Judaica in Woodland Hills, or bycalling (818) 758-1888,. -- Ruth Stroud, Staff Writer

From Clown to Terrorist

Elya Baskin doesn't usually get to play bad guys.

In "Moscow on the Hudson," he was the homesick circus clown whocouldn't bear to defect from the Soviet Union with Robin Williams. InNBC's "Mad About You," he was Vladimir, Jamie's amiable co-worker.

In fact, the 46-year-old émigré was getting sick andtired of playing "nice Russians." Until director Wolfgang Petersenchose him to portray the right-hand man of a terrorist played by GaryOldman, who holds the first family hostage aboard the first airplanein "Air Force One."

Baskin doesn't smile much -- he glowers next to Oldman and pilotsthe 747. He grimaces too, as he's being shot dead by Harrison Ford,who plays the president .

Action films don't offer much room for characterization, butBaskin was able to figure out some motivation for his character byreflecting on his life and his

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