August 30, 2007
Waiting for Ratner, the king formerly known as Solomon
Desperately Seeking Brett
I had big plans for meeting Brett Ratner.
A few days ago, my grandmother called me from Miami and said, "A nice Jewish director has been profiled in The Miami Herald. He went to Beach High and his grandparents live with him - in his Beverly Hills mansion."
Ain't that sweet.
She continued to fill me in on more scuttlebutt about his hotelier family, his very young mother, as well as his incessant partying and infamous womanizing. I planned to introduce myself as a fellow Miami native when I met the "Rush Hour 3" director a few days later at The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding's Los Angeles benefit at his home.
Dressed in understated elegance for the occasion, I'd casually approach him at the wine bar and charm him with my (limited) knowledge of must, crushing and fermentation. Then I'd coyly remark that his Jewish community involvement is truly admirable (he said the Hamotzi at a Simon Wiesenthal Center event back in May) and suggest a profile in The Jewish Journal.
After parking on Benedict Canyon Road, minivan drivers toted the industry power crowd up the hill to his estate, where about 150 people huddled together by the pool - taking cards, talking with moguls and making deals.
Susanne Daniels, Lifetime's entertainment president, was chatting with a couple of young music entrepreneurs. Entertainment lawyer extraordinaire Nina Shaw, whose clientele comprises much of Hollywood's preeminent African American talent, sailed through the crowd shaking hands and spouting small talk. The pool glowed in the background as Hollywood's high-powered Jews met Hollywood's high-powered African Americans.
After the crowd was ushered onto the patio and settled into their seats, Rabbi Marc Schneier praised Ratner for his generosity in sharing his good fortune.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Ratner couldn't be here tonight - he's in Spain," the rabbi said.
Only in Hollywood does a superstar director host a benefit at his home, not even feign intention to be there and get away with it. I'm told this sort of "generosity" in donating one's lawn to a charity for an evening affords lovely tax deductions. At least we know he's smart and savvy. And besides, Jamie Foxx came.
Although he's not indigenous to Miami, Foxx starred in the film "Miami Vice" and knows a thing or two about speeding past the skyline in hot pursuit. Was that his Lamborghini parked out front?
In all fairness, Foxx was supporting his agent, Steve Smooke, who was one of the evening's three honorees, along with Randy Spendlove, Paramount and Dreamworks president of motion picture music, and Charles King, senior vice president at the William Morris Agency, distinguished for being the first African American promoted out of the mailroom at the premier industry establishment.
Smooke recounted a tale of a recent family trip to Israel where he was spooked by an Arabic-speaking man "who looked like the monk from 'The DaVinci Code.'" When the "monk" tried to remove Smooke's baseball cap, confusion escalated into a scuffle, but it turned out that said monk was innocuously suggesting (in Arabic) that Smooke remove his hat while inside the religious chapel. Oh. Duh.
The rabbi slowly but surely explained the foundation's mission to foster race relations among all people and thanked co-host Russell Simmons for his tireless work in promoting the goals of the foundation, including a new anti-racism/anti-Semitism public service announcement with Jay-Z. He announced future plans for a conference coalescing 20 rabbis and 20 Muslim imams and proudly touted Simmons's plan to visit Israel later this year.
Afterward, I ran into Diane Warren, multiple Grammy-winning songwriter, at Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills. Apparently, the line to the Ratner buffet table was too long for her, as well.
Scene and Heard ...
Last Sunday, Aug. 26, The L.A. Dodgers and the N.Y. Mets played some baseball and heard Shlomo Ressler, the Israeli-born, yeshiva-educated local Angeleno and author of "The Weekly Dvar," belt a hip-hop "L'cha Dodi" with his beat-boxing a capella group, Six13. The group's album was nominated by the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards for best religious a capella recording of 2006, and, as a result, they were invited to their Dodgers-field debut as part of Jewish Heritage Day at Shea Stadium.
The rock star once again known as Prince told Giant magazine that the biblical figure he most admires is King Solomon. Renowned for building the first Temple in Jerusalem, the wealthy and wise royal is said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines pining after him. To that, Prince remarked, "The Bible is like the guidebook to help men and women with their sins. If I'm going to get some advice, wouldn't I want it from Solomon? That man had a thousand wives.... I want to talk to the guy who had 1,000 women!" Ladies, he's pious and princely!
Forty-nine North American and British families comprised of 122 children, 25 singles, three dogs and two cats made aliyah to Israel on Aug. 14. The youngest of the 275 olim was 6-weeks-old and the oldest, 89. Upon arriving at their new home, a morning prayer was recited in honor of Rosh Chodesh Elul.
Stand-up comic, part-time professor, award-winning journalist and former Jewish Journal writer Norma Zager is running for California State Senate in the 23rd district. "I think that I need to get up to Sacramento and shake up the waters," the 60-year-old Zager declared. Her political platform in a nutshell? "Children. I am all about children." And humor - the snippy comedienne believes being entertaining is "a prerequisite for state politics in California."