January 26, 2006
Solo Loeb Seeks a Duet—on Camera
On her new E! reality TV show, "No. 1 Single," which premiered last week, singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb hesitantly typed her personal profile into an online matchmaking service.
The eight-episode series chronicles the 37-year-old's odyssey to find a suitable husband and father for her future children, after finding herself single for the first time in more than a decade.
Since cameras began rolling last fall, they've captured her nice (and not so nice) dates, her efforts to stay out of the gossip columns -- even a doctor's visit to check out her biological clock. Because several episodes remain to be shot this winter, the outcome of Loeb's efforts remains unknown.
The Jewish chanteuse was among the first in a new wave of female folk-rock musicians to emerge in a trend that would later include Jewel and Alanis Morissette; she is known for her trademark cat-eyed glasses, sexy-brainy image and wistful lyrics about ambivalent lovers.
As she awkwardly begins looking for love on her TV show, she seems as lost as a character from one of her songs.
She says she hasn't dated since college, courtesy of two long-term relationships, and is befuddled by 21st-century rituals such as that online dating service. With much coaxing from a friend, she finally writes that she's looking for a "highly intellectual" man who can cry at movies, eschews fake hair and "is Jewish or not seriously something else."
"Judaism, for me, is a serious avocation," she tells The Journal of why she added the religious requirement. When she is at home in Studio City, she regularly attends Ohr HaTorah, a traditional yet progressive synagogue that emphasizes interpreting text. It's a perfect fit for Loeb, whose songs tend "to be very analytical; to ask questions and to over-question," she says.
She uses the same technique to find a husband on "Single," which is smarter and quirkier than E!'s usual celebrity fare or cheesy reality shows, such as "The Bachelorette."
"Lisa is an Ivy League-educated, nice Jewish girl from Dallas, who happens to be in the public eye,'" producer Daniel Laikind told the Sacramento Bee.
"She is Everywoman with a lot more exposure," the New York Post said in one of the show's early reviews (those perused by The Journal have been positive).
"Single" captures the contrast between Loeb's perky, retro '60s look and her melancholy lyrics; her pop-diva image and her passion for Judaism.
In one scene, she breezily rifles through the funky short skirts in her closet to find a modest outfit to visit Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the popular but controversial author of "Kosher Sex" and "Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments." At his Shabbat dinner table, she appreciates his probing questions but is taken aback when a guest appears shocked upon learning her age.
In another sequence, she joyfully prepares a High Holiday kugel with her mother, then cries about becoming the kind of "older single person" she once pitied. When mom gushes about a wedding party on the street, Loeb wryly asks, "Is this a setup -- a Jewish mother, a single daughter and a bride and groom?"
To become a bride herself, Loeb takes a Manhattan apartment to meet new people ("I'm like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn, although in New York it's called lox," she quipped in the first episode this week). She repeatedly asks friends and acquaintances to fix her up, forcing a smile as one tries to impress her by croaking a karaoke version of her 1994 hit single, "Stay." She visits Victoria's Secret when her sister insists she must "wear things guys can imagine tearing off of you" -- and lifts her blouse to reveal a sequined bra in the fitting room.
Loeb's father, Peter, a Dallas gastroenterologist, told The Journal that he was initially anxious about that scene and the show in general. "But I know how well Lisa handles unusual situations," he said. "She's very mature, and she can defuse difficult and almost embarrassing situations in a very positive way."
He says he would like to see his daughter married, preferably to someone Jewish due to child-rearing issues. But he acknowledges she "just hasn't had time to find the right guy."
Boteach agrees, urging Loeb to curb her madcap schedule when she visits him on the show.
"He says you have to experience being lonely so you can be open to meeting somebody new," the musician recalls.
Loeb isn't lonely because she frequently tours, has tons of friends, and just released a retrospective album, "The Very Best of Lisa Loeb" (Geffen/UME) on Jan. 24. In fact, as she speaks to an interviewer, a tailor is placing pins in a black, ruffled skirt she'll wear while promoting her new TV show. It seems "Single," in part, is another example of her endless multitasking -- husband-searching while heightening her media exposure.
That doesn't mean Loeb isn't serious about finding a soul mate. Growing up Reform (she made her acoustic guitar debut at Dallas' Camp Chai), the message was "you should start focusing on marriage as soon as you graduate from college, and by the time you're in your 30s, you should definitely have a family," she says.
Loeb did not follow this expected path as she formed a singing duo at Brown University, burst onto the national scene with "Stay" and released her 1995 debut album, "Tails," which went gold and made her a Generation X icon. Instead, she immersed herself in back-to-back, six-year relationships, respectively, with a Catholic record producer, and the atheist Dweezil Zappa, son of the late subversive rocker Frank Zappa. While the non-Jewish boyfriends did not thrill her parents, they ultimately brought the agnostic Loeb back to Judaism.
"I realized throughout both relationships I was thinking about getting married and having kids and I wanted my kids to be raised Jewish," she says.
She began consulting rabbis, avidly reading books and shul shopping around Los Angeles. Eventually she forged an identity from a stew of Jewish influences, including sentimental memories of cooking with mom; texts as diverse as Chabad treatises and Rabbi Ted Falcon's "Judaism for Dummies"; and the Ohr HaTorah congregation. (She says she's hesitated to introduce dates to her synagogue, however, lest they stick around after a breakup.)
Loeb was even more reluctant when Laikind approached her with the idea for "Single" around 2004. She'd split with Zappa, knew little about contemporary dating and says she wasn't remotely ready to start playing the field. She also worried the cameras would ruin her life, but she changed her mind upon realizing she could reach out to other single 30-somethings.
Of course, celebrities like Loeb encounter atypical dating woes: At a JDate party some time ago, for example, some people recognized her and "stopped treating me as a peer," she says.
Nevertheless, she agrees when Boteach states, "What's truly special aren't the 10,000 people who scream your name, but the one man who knows you better than all those 10,000 fans."
The show airs Sundays, 10 p.m., on E! Entertainment Television. For more information on her Lisa Loeb's CD, visit www.lisaloeb.com.