November 8, 2001
Move over, Molly Brown. The 5th Annual Los Angeles Sephardic Film Festival's gala opening proved unsinkable, attracting an enthusiastic turnout despite taking place on the same night as a cliffhanger World Series finale and the twice-delayed Emmy Awards.
Held at the Director's Guild of America in West Hollywood, the festival -- sponsored by Sephardic Educational Center (SEC) -- honored singer-actress Lainie Kazan, and Bob Israel, founder of the movie ad agency Aspect Ratio.
Israel, brother of writer-producer Neal Israel ("Bachelor Party"), has created ad campaigns for several Jim Carrey movies, "Men in Black," and 2002's highly anticipated "Spider-Man." He told the audience of growing up eating borekas and boyos.
"Nobody else in the universe cooked like my Grandma Rebecca," Israel said.
Kazan ("What's Cooking," "My Favorite Year"), now appearing in "The Vagina Monologues" in New York, could not accept her Cinema Sepharad Award in person. Richard Gordon, her manager of 30 years, accepted on her behalf.
An evening highlight was the U.S. premiere of "La Verite Si Je Mens 2," the superior sequel to the hit French comedy.
Sarita Fields, one of the festival's chairs, oversaw the gala evening. Estelle Malka and Jeannine Sefton served as event chairs. Shaun Toub was the master of ceremonies. And much thanks went to SEC founder Dr. Jose Nessim. By evening's end, those at the festival launch were well-rewarded -- great company, good food, a fun movie, and spared the pain of watching the Bronx Bombers lose to an upstart team with a minor-league name, or sitting through yet another long-winded awards show. Viva la difference!
The weeklong festival continues through Nov. 11 at Laemmle's Music Hall Theater in Beverly Hills, wrapping up Sunday with a free filmmakers' seminar and three film screenings. For Sephardic Film Festival information, call (310) 273-8567; www.secla.org.
Kodak Moment for Manilow
Singer Barry Manilow inaugurated the Kodak Theatre on Hollywood and Highland with a sound check Oct. 30. He is the first performer to grace the stage of the highly anticipated multimillion-dollar complex. The theater, the site of the 74th annual Academy Awards, officially opens on Nov. 9. Manilow will be back at the Kodak for four shows in December.
Clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel spoke to 300 parents on the topic of "Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children" at Countrywide Mortgage in Calabasas, sponsored by The Heschel Day Schools in Agoura and Northridge.
Sympathy for the Symphony
Enjoying the first Los Angeles Jewish Symphony's Tribute Dinner were, from left, former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan; the symphony's artistic director Noreen Green; founding benefactor Dr. Richard Merkin; and the evening's master of ceremonies, Emmy-winning actor Fyvush Finkel.
Student Body Electric
The American Society for Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (ATS), in collaboration with Milken Community High School, held its first Excellence in Science Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel. (Back row, from left) ATS board members Gary Freedman and Lilli Friedland; ATS past president Edith Fischer and Technion professor Moris Eisen. (Front row, from left) students Drew Steinberg, Jacob Knobel, Kaitlyn Rosenberg and Daniel Niku.
Music From the Heart, a fundraiser for UCLA Neuro-Oncology Program's Art of the Brain, raised more than $275,000. The gala evening of musical entertainment, which featured a Venetian-themed reception, dazzled more than 1,300 guests at UCLA's Royce Hall. Mallory Lewis, emceeing with wisecracking Lamb Chop, spoke of her mother, ventriloquist Shari Lewis, who died of brain cancer in 1998.
Big Props to Bunny Hop's Pop
He co-created the Bunny Hop. And now, Harvey Sheldon, 65, has created a legacy that might outlast his famous dance.
The Anaheim Hills resident just returned from the University of Pennsylvania to open of the Harvey Sheldon Jewish American Music Video Research Library in his native Philadelphia.
Sheldon initially offered his collection of 2,000 videotapes -- including unseen footage of Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor and Artie Shaw -- to a host of prominent local Jewish organizations.
"None of them wanted the collection," Sheldon said.
Oh, well ... Los Angeles' loss is Philadelphia's gain.
Sheldon, who also launched the USC Harvey Sheldon Rock 'n' Roll Video Research Library in 1998, spoke to The Circuit about the plethora of Jews who redrew the blueprint of American music with their melodies and lyrics. Among them: Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Harold Arlen ("Over The Rainbow").
The Broadway musical has a direct link to the Jewish stage, Sheldon said.
"Yiddish theater plays often ended in a celebratory Jewish wedding," he said.
Sheldon is proud that many of the great composers come from Russian Jewish lineage, a heritage he shares. Born to wealth -- his father was in the oil business -- Sheldon was able to pursue a carefree existence as a bon vivant in the jazz scene of the late 1940s, moments before popular music became usurped by rock 'n' roll. He had the chance to study its Jewish influence firsthand -- through Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman -- at the forefront of jazz's formative years. He hung out at a burlesque club called The Troc, and traveled to New York to frequent famous jazz spots such as the Savoy, the Cotton Club and Birdland, where he witnessed "this marriage that the blacks and the Jews had." Legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa befriended Sheldon and became his role model.
"I still don't drink or smoke because he told me not to," Sheldon said.
In 1952, Sheldon, who started the Bunny Hop with his dance partner, Dimples (aka Dede MacGregor), is agog at how little most people know about popular music's evolution.
"My kids are in their 30s," said Sheldon, who, with his wife of 42 years, has three children -- Sam, Ivy and Beth. "They're Jewish, and they don't even know their own culture. Same thing with the blacks I meet. I know more than they do."
About 150 people attended the dedication ceremony which, sadly, was not capped off with an epic staging of the Bunny Hop.
For more information on early popular music, contact Harvey Sheldon at (714) 281-5929.
At the Southern California District of the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Annual Awards Banquet, from left, District Director Eric Gordon; Rabbi Melvin and Erna Sands Memorial Award for Human Rights recipient S. David Freeman; and Daniel Sokatch, Workmen's Circle member and executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance.