January 11, 2001
Too Jewish? No Way!
One of the reasons, perhaps the reason, Bette Midler has been a very big star for a very long time is her enormous gift to let us in on who she is, and that includes being Jewish, with no apologies. That's pretty unusual for TV, but was there ever any pressure to tone down the character's Jewishness?
"No," Bruckheimer said. "Bette is playing an exaggerated version of herself, but she's not the archetypal Jewish girl. She didn't grow up like I did in Brooklyn where I didn't know anybody who wasn't Jewish or Black. She grew up in Hawaii and was practically the only Jew there, so she's not [Fran Fine of] 'The Nanny.'"
The two talk and joke about being Jewish all the time and Bruckheimer feels that it has strengthened the bonds between them. "You know, there are some things you can only say to another Jew," she said.
Unlike many Jews in the entertainment industry who want nothing more than to assimilate, Bruckheimer is a strongly identified Jewish woman. She wasn't raised with a particularly religious background: "On the High Holy Days you put on a fancy outfit and stood outside the temple," she said. But when her son was born, even though her husband at the time was not Jewish, she knew she wanted to bring up her children in her faith. "I started my children's Jewish education and my own," she said. "My son's Bar Mitzvah was one of the greatest days of my life."
She feels her Jewishness is a big part of what made her successful. Take self-confidence: "Being Jewish has helped me to be proud of myself. Thousands of years of fighting -- listen, I didn't do it personally, but I feel like it's part of who we are."
Then she made an interesting observation. "I think the older we get the more Jewish we get," she said. "Words come out of my mouth, and I think, where did this expression come from? I laugh at myself because I think somewhere in the back of my head is this expression and now I'm saying it. It's part of everything I do everyday."
Bruckheimer feels that there's a definite Jewish undercurrent on the show and thinks Jewish people are inherently funny. "I think we get each other. I think we bring a lot of humor to situations, it keeps us laughing, and it definitely comes across on the screen."