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Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Michael Aushenker

November 15, 2001 | 7:00 pm

Author! Author!

Veronique and Gregory Peck kicked off the Literary Odyssey Dinners at downtown's Central Library on Nov. 4. Authors were the featured guest the following night at 50 dinners coordinated all over Los Angeles in private homes. Helping to raise $400,000 for the library system were authors Michael Crichton, Howard Blum, Jonathan Kirsch, Peter Bart, Steven Bach, Herb Cohen, Michael York, Carl Reiner and Gina Nahai.

People of the Books

National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles Light Up a Library volunteers have been working for six months to beautify the West Hollywood Elementary School library, collect books and train the library's staff. After three years of dormancy and disrepair, the library, closed in 1998 due to budget cuts, has reopened to serve its nearly 2,000 students.

Nahai Notes

Journal columnist Gina Nahai celebrated the publication of her new novel, "Sunday's Silence," at the Beverly Hills home she shares with her attorney husband, David Nahai. About 100 guests, noshing on mini-pizzas and salmon-wrapped breadsticks, celebrated the debut of "Sunday's Silence" (Harcourt Brace, $24), the follow-up to her chart-topping "Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith." While "Moonlight" hedged closer to her personal Persian Jewish experience, "Sunday's Silence,"set in the atmospheric mountains of Appalachia, involves the mysterious death of a snake handler. See an upcoming Journal for a full review.

Literacy and Lunch

A North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry program that teaches Ethiopian Jews literacy, arithmetic and Hebrew is making its annual appeal for families to celebrate Chanukah's eighth night by making an $18 gift. (Donations must be made before Nov. 19.) The New York-based organization, overseen by Executive Director Barbara Ribakove Gordon, will use the money to purchase two weeks of lunches for an Ethiopian Israeli child. For information, write to NACOEJ@aol.com .

Something to Crow About

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, in partnership with Upstart Crow Bookstore and Coffeehouse, had opened a store at Universal CityWalk. In addition to the 2,000-square-foot store, Upstart Crow will operate a freestanding Ice Blended coffee cart at the entertainment center. All food sold at the store and cart is kosher.

Sapphire Society Sparkles

Jewish National Fund (JNF) Sapphire Society of Greater Los Angeles, Valleys and Coastal Communities hosted a Sunset Soiree at the home of Dr. Jerry and Mrs. Marie Joelle Unatin in Rancho Palos Verdes. Author and terrorism expert Steven Emerson was keynote speaker. The Sapphire Society is the women's major-gifts division of JNF.

Drawn out of New York

The West Coast might be the last place on Earth one might expect to find legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld in person. Those familiar with "The Line King" (as a 1996 documentary dubbed him) know of his tireless work ethic and his allegiance to staying in his beloved Greenwich Village neighborhood.

So, what brought the master illustrator out West? The train. And a retrospective by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills.

The avuncular 98-year-old with the frosty beard came to Los Angeles for the opening of "Hirschfeld's Hollywood," an exhibit of his work related to Tinseltown, followed the next evening with a special tribute-interview moderated by Robert Osborne, of Turner Classic Movies and Hollywood Reporter fame.

Hirschfeld, of course, is a legend in his field, having reduced many a movie, television and Broadway star, with precision, down to their stylized essence. For decades, New York Times readers have ritualistically picked up the Sunday paper to search for the name of Hirschfeld's daughter, Nina, hidden within his drawings. Free and open to the public, "Hirschfeld's Hollywood" is a rare opportunity to see the actual handiwork of his most familiar images -- such as renderings of Walter Matthau, Woody Allen and Katherine Hepburn -- and rarities, like the display art for the original release of "The Wizard of Oz."

At the exhibit's private reception, Hirschfeld held court alongside his wife, Louise, as old friends Mel Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft, Carl Reiner, Ann Miller and Carole Cook dropped by to kibitz. Many of Bancroft's films have been immortalized by the cartoonist, and her favorite, a sketch based on "The Miracle Worker," is on display at the show.

"The energy that went into it, I'm exhausted just looking at it," Bancroft said. "That scene took a day and a half to shoot and it's all in that picture."

"Comedies are easier to draw than dramas because comedians have expressions embedded on their faces," Hirschfeld told The Circuit.

Gene Kelly's widow, Patricia Kelly, who inherited her late husband's originals of "Singin' in the Rain" and "An American in Paris," said that the star could never decide which Hirschfeld he loved most.

"Here's a guy who is 98 years old," she said of Hirschfeld, "and he remembered every detail about a scene they changed on one of Gene's movie."

"Hirschfeld's Hollywood" runs through Jan. 20. Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. For information, call (310) 247-3000.

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