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October 4, 2007

Party like it’s 5768—Persian style, JCafeLA, Billy Crystal

http://www.jewishjournal.com/circuit/article/party_like_its_5768_persian_style_jcafela_billy_crystal_20071005

Amanda Goldberg and Christina Ricci. Photo by Alex Berliner

Amanda Goldberg and Christina Ricci. Photo by Alex Berliner

Party Like It's 5768!

OK, I admit it: I partied during the High Holy Days. It wasn't all fun and games of course -- I spent a great deal of time considering my deeds and misdeeds of the past year, and that kind of repenting is exhausting. After intense reflection and days upon days of sitting in synagogue, I needed a little space, a little spice -- a little honey for my challah. Not to mention New Year's Eve is notoriously overrated, so what better way to ensure the seal of life than by celebrating a new year of living?

The first fiesta was the opulent fundraiser of a new young leadership organization that happened upon the scene. Mostly Persian and purportedly progressive, Generation 26 endeavors to unite all ethnicities of young Jews. On Sept. 8, they enticed a formidable crowd of 500 to West Hollywood for the Gypsy Kings For Hunger benefit concert. A bustling ballroom contained two sumptuous sushi bars, white-leather ottomans flanking the dance floor and the rumba-flamenco sound of the Gypsy Kings. But the centerpiece of the evening was not the musical headliners, nor the ravenously consumed raw fish. Instead, the posh Persian Jewish crowd was the star on this stage.

As an outsider, it would be easy to deride the fluff from the periphery. In part, it looked like any Saturday night in West Hollywood -- luxury cars, fancy clothes and wads of cash. The ethnic flair solidified the fashion statement -- ebony tresses and smoldering eyes filled the scene like a sea. Glittering jewels hung in plunging necklines, and dapper young fellows tended to their ladies.

But beneath the veil of privilege, there was social responsibility. This young, wealthy and attractive set could have indulged at any Paris Hilton haunt, but they were at Neman Hall, adjacent to the Iranian American Jewish Federation. And those double-zero bills being thrown like confetti? Charity. The $25,000 raised that night will benefit Meir Panim, an organization that feeds 160,000 hungry children in Israel. On a Saturday night when they could have been anywhere, they chose to be together -- a close-knit coterie of Jewish value smack in the middle of West Hollywood's indiscriminate debauchery. Call it glamorous generosity.

Next up, a holy mitzvah followed the holiest day. Subscribing to the ancient Jewish tradition of men and women seeking mates during the holidays, JcafeLA -- another yuppie newcomer -- invited hipsters to "break the party fast" and schmooze and booze their way through The Camden House in Beverly Hills.

Though organizer Aaron Kemp took pains to line up a compelling list of entertainers, the ample crowd was interested in only one thing: one another. Not the soulful vocals of Shir Ba'ir nor the magical "mind reading" of Seth Grabel could distract the pretty people from scoping out potential suitors. Kemp, a business rep for the Screen Actors Guild and a fixture on the Jewish social scene, encouraged "networking" in the e-mail invitation sent through his listserv Aaron's Tent, which disseminates monthly happenings on the L.A. Jewish calendar to nearly 1,000 inboxes.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

The good news is that JcafeLA has tapped into a local niche for matchmaking, and it may well become a recurring treat. The unfortunate bit was the waning crowd lingering around a stage of disgruntled performers, who took a clue and began touting their sex appeal to elicit audience attention. The entertainment descended into a farcical camp talent show when host Richard Rubin ("Beauty and the Geek") improvised a strip-tease-in-reverse (walking onto the stage in boxers and proceeding to dress in front of the crowd). Comedian Eric Schwartz, aka Smooth E, disparaged the audience for ignoring his act.

"What am I doing up here? I'm supposed to be the big headliner, and there's four people left," he uttered to the meager leftovers hanging around by the night's end. Next time, Mr. Kemp, be sure to put your headliner on first.


Scene and Heard

Billy Crystal entertained a glittering gala of celebrities at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Women's Guild 50th Anniversary dinner. Marcia Cross, Christina Ricci, Anne and Kirk Douglas and other philanthropic A-listers pooled their funds and raised $1.7 million for women's healthcare projects at Cedars. Lynda and Stewart Resnick, Harry and Florence Sloan and Anita May Rosenstein also attended the event, underwritten by Gelson's Market, Neiman Marcus and more. Edie Baskin Bronson More marvelous medical news comes on the heels of a life-threatening experience for Edie Baskin Bronson (photo) of Beverly Hills. UCLA's Division of Neurosurgery saved her life by repairing tangled blood vessels resulting from two aneurysms. Bronson, a photographer best known for documenting 25 years behind-the-scenes of "Saturday Night Live," and her husband, real-estate developer Richard "Skip" Bronson, will partner with the neurosurgery team for the next decade of fundraising. The 2007 Visionary Ball Fundraiser takes place Oct. 4 at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel.

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