Jewish Journal

Downloading Papa Douglas

by Tom Tugend

Posted on Apr. 19, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Click the BIG ARROW for Kirk Douglas Kirk Douglas, having survived 87 movies, countless one-night stands with Hollywood's most beautiful women, a helicopter crash, a stroke and two bar mitzvahs is beginning to hit his stride at age 90.

His latest endeavor, coinciding with the publication of his ninth book, is a clarion call for tikkun olam to rouse Generation Y to repair the world through social action and respect for human rights.

Douglas knows exactly where to reach his target audience -- on the Internet, and more specifically on MySpace and YouTube.

He is all over the popular Web sites, preaching his message, showing clips from his old movies and introducing himself, to those who know not Kirk, as the father of Michael Douglas and father-in-law of Catherine Zeta- Jones.

The book's title is "Let's Face It," and picks up his exhortation to a new generation at his 90th birthday party, "Let's face it, the world is a mess."

To mark the publication of the book by John Wiley & Sons, Douglas recently urged his young readers and viewers "to rebel, to speak up, vote and care about people."

He continued, "You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, AIDS and suicide bombers.... We have done very little to solve these problems. Now we leave it to you. You have to fix it, because the situation is intolerable."

Quaint old-timers, who still prefer books to the Internet, will find "Let's Face It," subtitled "90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning," a pleasant read.

Douglas is an artless writer, in a positive sense, and reading him is like listening to an interesting, humorous man who has lived much, suffered much and thought a great deal about what it all means.

The man born Issur Danielovitch Demsky, the son a dirt-poor illiterate Russian immigrants, returns again and again to his Judaism, which he ignored as a Hollywood superstar and rediscovered full force in old age.

In chapters such as "Both Semites," "Does God Laugh?" "Don't Be Too Religious" and "Israel," Douglas introduces beginners to his faith and heritage, sometimes naively but often with original insights.

He asks, for instance, "Why was God so talkative thousands of years ago? Why is He silent now? Can it be that we are not on the right frequency?"

Douglas is a born storyteller. He tells Jewish jokes, wonders why Jews and Muslims hate each other, berates the biblical Samson for his stupidity and reminisces about his second bar mitzvah at 83, when he proudly declared, "Today, I am a man."

Anecdotes of the high Hollywood life are interspersed with ruminations about death and such tragic memories as the suicide of his son Eric and the helicopter crash that left Douglas literally without speech.

Looking back on a very full life, with its lights and shadows, Douglas sums up in the book's last sentence: "Let's face it -- 90 isn't so bad."

On the Internet, the virtual Kirk Douglas can be found at www.myspace.com/letsfaceitbook.
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