October 20, 2005
Winners and Schmoozers
When I heard that the Jewish Image Awards were going to be held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, all I could think about was that scene in the movie "Troop Beverly Hills," when Shelley Long's character, Phyllis Nefler, took her Wilderness Girls to one of the bungalow suites after a storm drenched their campsite.
I really wanted to see the bungalows and be a part of the "I can afford to stay here" world, but there wasn't time. Still, I was entering the kind of Los Angeles that people in other states fantasize about: After I handed my car keys to the valet and began to walk into the posh, pink hotel, the artist currently known as Prince scurried -- yes, scurried -- past me. No, he didn't happen to be an honoree.
The Oct. 10 ceremony marked the fifth year for the Jewish Image Awards, sponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC). Honoring Jewish contributions on television and in film is a pretty cool concept, even if it looks like an exercise in preaching to the choir.
I took my spot on the not-exactly-red carpet between a gaggle of guys from VH1 and the stylish female reporter from People and waited.
As the minutes ticked by, people began arriving: celebrities to the left, non-celebrities to the right. The room began to fill beyond capacity and I felt claustrophobic -- a sudden move by the all-too-close gentleman in the kippah would have propelled me headfirst into a very large MorningStar Commission banner.
For my interviews, I decided a Jewish-themed question was in order. I settled on: What was your Rosh Hashanah resolution?
(What? You were expecting Edward R. Murrow? My question was downright investigative compared to the guy from VH1 who asked everyone, "Who is your favorite 'Desperate Housewife'?")
Creative Spirit Award winner Hank Steinberg, creator of the CBS hit, "Without a Trace," said his resolution was to be a better woman ... and put a lead character who is Jewish on his next show.
"The O.C.'s" Peter Gallagher, said he was truly honored to be receiving the award for Male Character in Television, and that his alter ego, Sandy Cohen, would resolve this year to "do everything he could to make the family stronger than ever."
But the wit-at-work winner had to be "Stacked" star Elon Gold: "I try to do as many Jewish events between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur [as possible]."
"It's part of a whole Aseret Yemei Teshuvah tour," he added, referring to the 10 days of repentance. "Any charities.... I'll host any kind of dinner functions that go to Jewish causes. I'll present at the Jewish Image Awards to score points before that book is sealed."
Unfortunately, just as I was about to get some deep resolution insight from SNL alum and MorningStar Commission board member Laraine Newman, the lights began to flicker on and off, signaling the beginning of the ceremony, and Newman had to hurry inside.
For its Israeli-Palestinian conflict storyline, "The West Wing" won for Television Series.
Lauren Lazin, the Oscar-nominated director was Television Special winner for "I'm Still Here: Real Diaries of Young People Who Lived During the Holocaust." He hopes to raise enough money to get the show, which aired on MTV this past spring, into every high school in the country.
"Sister Rose's Passion," about a nun who challenged Christian anti-Semitic teachings, took the award for Documentary Film. Cross-Cultural Production went to HBO's "Everyday People," about the gritty life of workers at a Brooklyn diner.
Actor Martin Landau won for Male Character in a Film for his work in "The Aryan Couple," where he played a steel magnate who makes a deal with Heinrich Himmler to save his family. (Filming took place inside one of the actual Gestapo bunkers.) Landau said he was glad that his next TV role, that of Sol Gold, is a departure from his usual casting as an Italian or Irishman.
Actress-advocate and cancer survivor Fran Dresher, who received the MorningStar Commission Marlene Marks Woman of Inspiration Award, talked about working on congressional legislation that would increase awareness of women's gynecological issues.
Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman got Best Couple in a Film for their portrayal of Ben Stiller's parents in "Meet the Fockers." But no one got to meet these two celebs, who were both no-shows.
One of the best nonceleb moments was the recognition for nine Angelenos who are devoted to the arts, including very excited Skirball docent Marilyn Minkle.
It was, in the end, an evening that could only help one's Jewish image -- even if I had to miss out on both the bungalows and Barbra.