Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Michael Aushenker

Posted on Jul. 5, 2001 at 8:00 pm

Wonder Boy

It was an evening of nonsequiturs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's 2001 National Tribute Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on June 25. Comedian Bob Saget ("Full House") hosted the candelabra-lit black-tie affair, and country music icon Willie Nelson ("On the Road Again") performed a musical interlude, while Universal Studios Group President/COO Ron Meyer, one of the evening's dinner chairs, made some opening remarks. Honorees included the candidate who did not become mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, recipient of the award for Distinguished Public Service, and actor ("Wonder Boys," "Traffic") and producer ("One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest") Michael Douglas, for his humanitarian work.

In 1991, Douglas established the Michael Douglas Foundation to promote nuclear abolition and curtail small-arms proliferation. Three years ago, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Douglas as Messenger of Peace of the United Nations.

Shepping naches at the event was papa Kirk Douglas, accompanied by wife, Diana, and pal, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Jack Valenti.

"I'm very proud of him," the older Douglas told The Circuit. "He never ceases to amaze me."

L.A. Chief of Police Bernard Parks was also among the gala attendees.

From the stage, the Wiesenthal Center's two-time Oscar-winner Rabbi Marvin Hier and Board of Trustees member Merv Adelson toasted Douglas, who narrated "In Search of Peace," a documentary produced by the nonprofit organization last year.

Evening Highpoint: a powerful video and awards presentation delivered to Judith Feld Carr, Shula Cohen, and (posthumously) Pinchas Rosenbaum, three Jewish individuals who rescued scores of Jews at great personal risk (see page 12).

Evening Lowpoint: Douglas's sexy young wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, did not attend, but she sent her best wishes via video from her New York film shoot.

Evening Weird Point: At the end of Douglas's acceptance speech, in which he denounced the violence in the Middle East, a drunken reveler shouted: "What about the American Indians?" (Perhaps he was trying to recreate his favorite scene from "Cuckoo's Nest"...?) Security forcefully showed him the egress, putting an end to an eventful evening.

Born to Be Wilder

On June 22, Billy Wilder -- legendary writer/director of silver screen masterpieces "Sunset Boulevard," "Double Indemnity," and dozens more -- celebrated his 95th birthday, and the milestone did not go unnoticed. Wilder was bestowed with the Legion of Honor, the French government's highest accolade, short of those given to heads of state. That same day, German art-book publisher Taschen released an illustrated compendium on Wilder's 1959 comedic tour de force "Some Like It Hot," starring Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe and the unforgettable Jack Lemmon, who lost his battle with cancer last week.

A League of Their Own

Mentors and mentees of Jewish Vocational Service (JVS)'s WoMentoring workshop (2OOO-2001).

Wall-to-Wall Talent

200 Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary school students created "The Creation Mural," a sprawling depiction of Eden.

Pledge Break

Sherry and Paul Altura of Los Angeles were among the 80 participants on a solidarity mission to Israel and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Participants toured Technion City, the university's Mt. Carmel campus, and collectively pledged almost $12 million to the school.

Reading is Fundamental

A thank-you reception was held for leaders of grade schools who have instituted KOREH L.A.'s literacy program. Entering its third year, KOREH L.A., which assigns volunteers in the Jewish community to read to public school students, was the brainchild of the Jewish Community Relations Committee, a department of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Part of the program was a stimulating discussion between KOREH L.A. administrators and the visiting educators, led by a panel which included KOREH L.A. Project Coordinator Elaine Albert and Americorps Fellow Ellen Gerber (herself a KOREH L.A. tutor).

Steve Siry, principal of West Los Angeles' Nora Sterry Elementary, feels that literacy programs such as KOREH L.A. are an invaluable supplement to the education children receive in the LAUSD system.

"Students do improve," Siry said. "The program builds self-esteem and confidence for both pupils and volunteers. The kids are enthusiastic about what they're doing and they really seem to enjoy [coming] to school."

"To know that I'm a part of that process is incredibly fulfilling," said Mark Slavkin, KOREH L.A. Task Force member, who reads to two children each week.

Among the reception's attendees: Gary Domnitz, Loyola Village Elementary School and Magnet Center principal; Ed Romotsky,Broadway Elementary School principal; Carole Rosenblum, Glenfeliz Boulevard Elementary School principal; Carthay Center Elementary School coordinator Joan Greanspan and teacher Helen Steimetz; Louis Carillo, Castle Heights Elementary School principal; Elizabeth Calvert, Charnock Road School principal; Barbara Cohen, Knollwood Elementary School principal; as well as representatives from Monlux, Glenfeliz, Sherman Oaks, Richland, Gridley and Melrose Avenue elementary schools.

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