Posted by Danielle Berrin
Last month when I was home for my birthday I got scolded—by my best friend. “Haven’t you seen Adam Lambert on Idol?! I’m dying to know what you think!” If I thought I could get away without knowing about Lambert—the second Jewish contestant to be a front runner on ‘Idol’ (Elliott Yamin placed 3rd in Season 5)—I was SO wrong. Adam Lambert cannot be ignored. The buzz around him finally reached a boiling point, so I caved in and tivo’d last week’s show.
And all I could think was, Kara DioGuardi is so right: He is the modern incarnate of Clark Kent!
But before Adam Lambert became the rock star of “American Idol” season 8, he was a rising star on the Jewish stage. The actor/singer played the slave Joshua in a 2004 multi-million-dollar Kodak Theatre production of “The Ten Commandments” that publicly flopped, save for one redeeming feature. Even with movie star Val Kilmer in the lead, L.A. Times critic Mark Swed, who was sparing in his praise, wrote: “Few singers or dancers distinguish themselves with a personal sound or style. High notes are calculated to get applause. Adam Lambert, as Joshua, does the best in ‘Is Anybody Listening?‘ It is also the best song.”
Five years later, Lambert’s success on “Idol” feels well deserved if not overdue. And his newfound stardom has earned him a cult following and celebrity friends; he was recently spotted gallivanting around Hollywood with “High School Musical” stars Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. Living under a microscope hasn’t seemed to bother him either: When provocative photographs surfaced of Lambert dressed in drag and kissing other men, he proclaimed, “I have nothing to hide. I am who I am.”
But before Lambert’s glamorous turn, in which he has become known for his angelic voice and trademark eyeliner, he humbly sang with Jewish groups to gain experience.
In 2007, he performed at the Kol Nidre service at Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theatre, where he sang the duet “The Prayer” with Cantor Illysia Pierce. “He was spectacular. People were just blown away by him,“ said Rabbi David Baron, spiritual leader of Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theatre. “He has that star talent; even among stars, he’s a standout. He’s the shoo-in to win this year’s ‘Idol’ and if you listen to the judges, Randy, Paula—and Simon, the toughest critic—they all say the same thing, ‘You’re already a star.’”
Lambert also joined Temple of the Arts to perform at a memorial concert for Yitzhak Rabin, where he sang Shir LeShalom at American Jewish University.
He’s easily a Jewish star, but will he be the next American Idol? His friends at Temple of the Arts certainly hope so.
“The whole congregation is rooting for him, calling and voting, they’re just so excited that he made it. He’s really captured everbody’s imagination,” Rabbi Baron said.
Should Lambert’s fortunes land him on stage at the Nokia Theatre for the American Idol Finale—there’s a chance you can go see him: Nashuva received 6 tickets to the “American Idol” Finale that they will auction off via email starting Friday, May 1st. For your chance to see Lambert, visit nashuvafundraiser.com for more details.
Now I gotta run. American Idol is on.
Check out Lambert’s slave swagger in “The Ten Commandments”
Listen to Adam sing “The Prayer” at Temple of the Arts at Saban Theatre here
Watch Adam sing “Shir LeShalom” at a tribute to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yizthak Rabin
(Note: This article updated and edited for print)
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April 28, 2009 | 6:21 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I just posted about the William Morris Endeavor merger but I’m so shocked/disappointed/confused about agent David Lonner leaving that I need to vent. So there.
The first thing everyone should know about David Lonner is that he is AWESOME. In addition to being a superagent who reps a darn good roster: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”) Alexander Payne (“Sideways”), Brad Silberling (“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”), Jon Turteltaub (“National Treasure”) and Audrey Wells (“Under the Tuscan Sun”), Lonner is also a passionate Israel advocate. For the past few years, Lonner has invited a select group of Hollywood tastemakers on a curtain-raising trip to Israel. On the trip that he co-finances with the Federation, people with little or no previous relationship to Israel get to fall in love with it. My colleague Brad Greenberg wrote about these trips in December 2007 and the L.A. Times caught up in July 2008.
But as of the merger announcement late yesterday, Lonner has hit more troubling times. He will not continue with William Morris into the new, merged climate. How this came to pass is unclear, but suffice it to say, Lonner left Endeavor for William Morris years ago because he wasn’t happy at Endeavor. The bad blood has remained, apparently on both sides. According to Variety, “[Lonner] was abruptly informed last week that he would not be part of the new agency by WMA chief Jim Wiatt and Endeavor topper Ari Emanuel.” In Hollywood fashion, their timing was impeccable because, just last week, Lonner helped J.J. Abrams secure a 5-year deal at Paramount and that commission will remain with the agency that is now ousting him.
More about the merger fallout from Variety:
WMA agent David Lonner, who with Steve Rabineau left partnership positions at Endeavor in 2003 to join WMA, has confirmed he will not be part of the new agency.
Lonner would not comment on the specifics. But it’s understood that he was abruptly informed last week that he would not be part of the new agency by WMA chief Jim Wiatt and Endeavor topper Ari Emanuel.
Lonner was informed of his fate just after his biggest client, J.J. Abrams, re-upped his feature deal at Paramount for five years—a lavish, commission-rich pact that encompasses future “Star Trek” installments. As soon as the deal was completed, Lonner was given the harsh news about his future.Lonner has repped Abrams for 20 years, signing the filmmaker right out of Sarah Lawrence. He has been co-repped by John Fogelman, who will be part of the new WME board.
The timing leaves Lonner with a tough decision: he could become a manager and co-rep Abrams with WMA, or become an agent elsewhere who tries to take Abrams, whose commissions on the Par deal will stay withWMA.
The drama has been playing out over the past week, with both parties trying to figure out an amicable resolution.
Lonner also reps Alexander Payne, Brad Silberling, Jon Turteltaub and Audrey Wells. They are expected to join him.
Lonner told Daily Variety that there is no truth to rumors that he is zeroing in on a destination at this point. “I’m not rushing into a decision,” he said. “I am making sure I give my clients what they need, and as the weeks progress I’ll analyze all the opportunities presented to me, and then I’ll figure it out.”
April 28, 2009 | 4:53 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
After months of speculation, William Morris Agency and Endeavor have announced their merger—a union that makes Hollywood history. Together, the century-old talent agency and the young, boutique upstart will become a formidable competitor with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the dominant tenpercentery in Hollywood for over 20 years. The change signifies a momentous shift in the talent representation business as two houses in Hollywood battle it out for greater power. Which in Hollywood means profits.
The agencies are perfect complements: WMA is strong in television and music; Endeavor reps a chunk of A-list actors, writers and directors.
But the merger didn’t come without a shake-up. To even out the disparity between WMA’s 300 agents and Endeavor’s 80, WMA is expected to layoff a heap of agents in coming months. And then there’s the inevitable agent/client shifting: WMA’s David Lonner, who represents J.J. Abrams (“Lost” and “Star Trek”) and organizes trips to Israel for Hollywood heavyweights, has said he will not move into the new agency. And although many expected Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel to run the show, WMA’s Jim Wiatt will take the title of Chairman with Emanuel serving as CEO along with WMA’s Dave Wirtschafter and Endeavor’s Patrick Whitesell.
Read more in Variety:
The combination of the 111-year-old WMA and 14-year-old Endeavor will create a mega-agency whose assets extend into virtually every aspect of the entertainment and media biz, with annual revenues estimated at $325 million. The tie-up, which is still subject to government approvals, also creates the largest competitor to CAA since that agency solidified its position as Hollywood’s dominant tenpercentery more than two decades ago.
Leading WME Entertainment will be WMA chief exec Jim Wiatt as chairman, while Endeavor toppers Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell and WMA prexy Dave Wirtschafter will serve as co-CEOs.
Deal is expected to close within a few weeks, though it still requires approval from labor officials in California and New York, and it may face an antitrust review by the Justice Dept.
In addition to the challenges that all tenpercenteries are confronting at a time of great change in the entertainment biz, WME’s leaders will undoubtedly face a formidable task in achieving harmony between the wildly different cultures and backgrounds of the two agencies.
WME will be governed by a nine-member board of directors that includes five from the WMA camp (Wiatt, Wirtschafter, publishing head Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, music department chief Peter Grosslight and motion picture lit department head John Fogelman) and four from Endeavor (Emanuel; Whitesell; Rick Rosen, who will run the combined agency’s TV department; and Adam Venit).
The merger, for which William Morris and Endeavor had been in on-again, off-again talks for nearly a year, was driven by the fact that each agency has assets the other coveted.
WMA has a steady cash flow base primed by its lucrative music and touring department, which by itself generates an estimated $80 million annually; the legacy profits from decades of rich TV packaging fees on shows ranging from “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to later hits like “The Cosby Show,” “Roseanne” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”; and its strong nonscripted-TV department, which rakes in fees on enduring hits including “Dancing With the Stars,” “The Biggest Loser” and “Live With Regis and Kelly.”
WMA also has the international presence that Endeavor lacks, with operations in London, Nashville, Miami and Shanghai.
Endeavor brings an aggressive team of agents and the stronger client base among film and TV actors, writers, directors and producers. As one WMA vet observed: “William Morris is cash-rich; Endeavor is client-rich. They need each other.”
April 27, 2009 | 8:27 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Movie sets have always been ripe breeding grounds for romantic relationships. Part of Hollywood’s grand allure is that its history is studded with fantastic romances—Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall—though most give way to failed relationships. Still, the intensity and chemistry that swirls on a set, when you work and eat and live and sleep so intimately with each other, is for many impossible to resist. Thus is the new fate of “Slumdog Millionaire” stars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto who have finally succumbed to their senses. The couple has been seen gallivanting around Israel while Pinto films a movie there.
It’s amazing when you realize that months ago, these two talents were completely unknown—with Bollywood, the brightest star in their future. Now, with an Oscar-winning movie behind them, the full rush of the Hollywood machine is driving them forth, out into the world, bestowing them with luxuries they could have only henceforth imagined, and all they have to cling to is each other. It’s as if they are the only vestiges left from a life that has irreversibly changed. And as we’ve seen before, whether its young love or the toxins of hard reality, their lovely innocence will inevitably alter as their fame rises. Or maybe it doesn’t, and that breaks them. It’s funny how Hollywood gave us the dream in which our first love could be our last, but the reality driving the magic of the movies is far less generous.
After much speculation about the nature of the relationship involving Slumdog Millionaire stars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, Patel’s mother Anita has confirmed to a British newspaper that the pair are very much a couple.
“First it was the film and now everything else seems to have slotted into place,” Mrs. Patel is quoted as saying in Monday’s Daily Mirror.
“Life can’t get any better for him. Freida is really beautiful, and I am really happy for them.”
Her comments come just days after Patel, 19, jetted to Israel to spend a whirlwind date with the Mumbai beauty, 24. “Yes, we knew he was flying to Israel to see her,” said Patel’s mother.
The pair rendezvoused in Tel Aviv as Pinto took time off from filming her latest movie in Jerusalem. The couple spent a few hours together in a hotel before emerging for a stroll around the harbor and an early champagne dinner at a seaside restaurant.
April 24, 2009 | 4:30 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Looks like the long talked about merger between William Morris Agency and Endeavor is finally happening, after rumors swirled for months.
According to the L.A. Times, “Driving the merger is a punishing economic climate in which fewer jobs for actors, directors and writers and a contracting market for TV shows mean lower commissions and fees for the agencies that depend upon them for their bread and butter.”
However there are devilish details that have threatened to derail the deal all along: How many agents would be let go (WMA has 300, Endeavor 75)? What would the new agency be called (William Morris Endeavor was one option)? Who will run the show (WMA CEO Jim Wiatt or Endeavor’s Ari Emanuel)?
According to the Hollywood Reporter, William Morris’ board will have to downsize and make room for Endeavor reps: “Among the strongest contenders to be on a combined board, other than WMA CEO Jim Wiatt and president David Wirtschafter, are COO Irv Weintraub, motion picture head John Fogelman and New York-based literary co-head Jennifer Rudolph Walsh.” (I interviewed Irv Weintraub, a finance wiz and Jewish community macher about a year ago.)
Last night, I heard that William Morris has confirmed to its clients that the merger is happening and will be announced next week. With that, WMA will lay off 50% of their television department though they’ll retain their name, that century-old brand recognition. But it sounds like Jim Wiatt will have to defer to the cocksure Ari Emanuel when it comes to deal making.
Still, another dilemma remains: Apparently a client merger is problematic too. WMA brings everybody’s favorite anti-Semite Mel Gibson to the table and Endeavor reps Larry David, who has reportedly said he will not work through the same agency as Gibson. So what happens now??
April 23, 2009 | 2:28 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Among Hollywood’s most sought-after publicists, Howard Bragman, 53, has a celebrity clientele that includes Stevie Wonder, Ricki Lake, Mischa Barton and Ed McMahon. In 1989, he founded Bragman Nyman Cafarelli Public Relations and Marketing (BNC), which became one of the premier PR firms in the country before it was sold in 2001. In 2005, he founded Fifteen Minutes, his own boutique agency, where he specializes in entertainment, crisis management and the gay/lesbian market.
Here, he talks to me about the Facebook and Twitter craze, how even Mother Teresa could have used a publicist, and what Israel should do to buffer its image.
Jewish Journal: Your new book, ‘Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?’ makes the point that anyone can become famous. Is this a good thing?
Howard Bragman: Well, the reality is that even 10 years ago, public figures were actors, politicians, athletes and other ‘celebrities.’ With Facebook and Google and iPhones and the world we live in today, we all have a public image, and that’s my main premise here.
JJ: You’ve said that if a person doesn’t take the opportunity to define their own image, somebody else will do it for them and they probably won’t like the results. So as a publicist, is it your job to control that process?
HB: A publicist no longer has the luxury of control; what a publicist can do is manage. If you do something stupid in public, somebody’s going to capture it on their phone and it’s going to get out there.
JJ: How do you manage reputations in the viral age of Facebook and Twitter?
HB: People’s careers can fall apart so quickly now. They can get into trouble in a matter of minutes. Look at Mel Gibson when he had his reported anti-Semitic moment.
JJ: How would you have handled that?
HB: Sometimes somebody has something that’s so bad you can’t fix it. What you can always do is help the client understand what they’re going through, help ease the pain.
JJ: Could a publicist have helped Bernie Madoff?
HB: No, I think he was terminal. I think his shonda was so great that there was no hope for him. I think that’s between him and his lord, and he better pray that wherever we go from here, there’s a place of great forgiveness.
JJ: This month, there’s a story in Vanity Fair about New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. In his case, he refused to speak with the investigating journalist and the story wound up being very unflattering to him. Isn’t it better for image branding to establish camaraderie with a journalist?
HB: What I help celebrities understand is that stories are going to have nuance to them; except for your bar mitzvah and your wedding day, nothing is all roses and chocolate cake. It’s not in any journalist’s best interest to write a totally positive story and present a bouquet of flowers. Nobody’s that wonderful. I’m sure even Mother Teresa had a pimple once.
JJ: She befriended a Haitian dictator. And had questionable donors.
HB: Everybody makes a decision. I don’t think Dick Cheney cares what the press says. He’s transcended it. There are some people who relish the negative, like Ann Coulter. She’s a hater, and she thinks it sells books.
JJ: Your book is all about Hollywood. Does it have any relevance for someone living in an area that’s less metropolitan, like your hometown of Flint, Mich.?
April 22, 2009 | 3:33 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Ticking off religious groups when you make a movie about religion is de rigueur in Hollywood.
The latest religious riff is between Catholic League president William Donohue and director Ron Howard, who are sparring over Howard’s movie “Angels and Demons.” In response to Catholic protests, Howard posted a defense of his film entitled “It’s A Thriller, Not A Crusade,” on The Huffington Post. In it, he argued that the film is not anti-Catholic and people should still see it. Donohue responded to Howard’s treatise by accusing the film of anti-Catholic propaganda and calling Howard “delusional.”
Nice try guys, but this tension is really child’s play compared with the polemics that surrounded “Passion of the Christ.” Can we get Mel Gibson to comment? Please?
And while I completely appreciate Howard’s defense of his film - it’s a movie! It’s fiction!—there is someone Catholics can get mad at: The author. Millions of people have bought Dan Brown’s book, but have they read it? Not exactly a sparkling portrait of the Catholic faith. But a really fun read!
April 20, 2009 | 9:08 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
If I were 13, I’d probably be swooning over Zachary David Alexander Efron. There would be photos of his heart-melting face plastered all over my bedroom (the way it was for Russell Crowe) and I’d have devoted countless diary entries to my unrequited love for him, hoping upon hope that—sigh—someday I could move to California and meet him. But my high-school heartthrob days have long since passed (don’t feel pity, I had Leo) and my heart will go on. I’ll leave this cutie (cute, like in a little brother way) for the generation who has already claimed him—that is, if “High School Musical” co-star/girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens lets him out to play…
But just how Jewish is Zac Efron? According to Wikipedia, Efron was “born in San Luis Obispo, California and later moved to Arroyo Grande, California. His father, David Efron, is an engineer at a power plant, and his mother, Starla Baskett, is a former secretary who worked at the same power plant as Efron’s father. Efron had a self-described “normal childhood” in a middle class family, and has a younger brother, Dylan. Efron is of Jewish ancestry and is an agnostic, having never been religious.”
Before he starred in the smash success, High School Musical, Wikipedia weighs in on how he fared in real-life high school:
“He has said that he would “flip out” if he got a B and not an A in school, and that he was a “class clown”. Although self-described as not academically gifted, he remained focused enough to achieve an overall GPA of 4.3. Efron’s father encouraged him to begin acting when Efron was eleven. He subsequently appeared in theater productions at his high school, worked in a theater called The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, and began taking singing lessons. Efron performed in plays such as Gypsy, Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Music Man. Efron was recommended to an agent in Los Angeles by his drama teacher, Robyn Metchik (the mother of actors Aaron Michael Metchik and Asher Metchik). He was later signed to the Creative Artists Agency.”
Efron graduated from Arroyo Grande High School in 2006, and was then accepted into the University of Southern California, but he deferred his enrollment while he worked on film projects. He plans to return at some time. Efron also attended Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, a community college located in Santa Maria, California, which provided him with the opportunity to perform as a “young player” during the years of 2000 and 2001.”
One thing Wikipedia doesn’t tell you: “Efron” in Hebrew means “lark,” as in the singing bird.
At a tender 21-years-old, hasn’t been around long. His already epic career began in 2002 with some unmemorable TV appearances. He then played a recurring character on the WB series “Summerland,” but it was quickly canceled. Alas in 2006—just three years ago—he won his breakthrough role starring in Disney’s “High School Musical.” There, Efron played a high-school Basketball hunk who spends most of his time capering through the hallways, canoodling with his lady-love and exercising complete social authority over his classmates. The Disney Channel Original Movie became the most successful in the cable channel’s history and begot two sequels (with rumors of a third in the works), with High School Musical 3 enjoying the rare made-for-TV privilege of a theatrical release. Ever since, Efron has expeditiously ascended the ranks of Hollywood stardom, having won another hunky, dancing lead in John Waters’ “Hairspray” and yet another lead in “17 Again” which opened this past weekend and topped box office charts (yes, he surpassed my beloved Gladiator in box office appeal, but what do you expect when the NY Times publishes such hateful drivel as this story?)
In an interview with Elle magazine last summer, Efron was candid about his newfound super-fame: “At first it was mostly kids who recognized me,” Efron said. “The Past eight months it’s completely turned around. It’s been moms and dads. And Mrs. Robinsons. Wink, wink.”
Check out these racy photos of Zac lying on the beach beneath a naked model…
And the corresponding story in Interview magazine where he chats with Oscar-nominated director Gus Van Sant (“Milk,” “Good Will Hunting”)
An excerpt from Interview:
VAN SANT: I wanted to ask you about this Richard Linklater film. Is it Orson and Me?
EFRON: Me and Orson Welles.
VAN SANT: Where did you shoot that?
EFRON: Rick was brilliant, because he found this great theater on the Isle of Man, which, after a little bit of work, looked a whole lot like the Mercury Theatre did in 1937. We took a beautiful theater and made it look rusty and old and dusty, and, once we filled it with extras dressed in 1930s attire, the place was very believable. It even smelled like an old theater. It was pretty neat because we were basically stuck there—you know, we couldn’t leave. There was nowhere to go on the Isle of Man. So we lived in that theater for several weeks. It was fun and exciting, but it was also kind of maddening. I went a little bit insane.
VAN SANT: The Isle of Man—they have a small community there.
EFRON: Yeah, so as soon as they figured out that we were filming there, everyone in the town knew. There was always a small group of onlookers out in front of the theater while we were filming. It was pretty funny.
VAN SANT: And so the play that they’re putting on in the film is Julius Caesar?
EFRON: Yeah. Orson Welles was doing Julius Caesar, but he had a unique adaptation. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but Stalin was Julius Caesar in the Orson Welles adaptation, so it put a whole new practical spin on the play at the time, which was really neat.
VAN SANT: Were there any Mercury Theatre players who were still alive that you met?
EFRON: I haven’t met any of them, but I know there aren’t many who are still alive. Norman Lloyd is still around. There’s a great documentary about Orson Welles, and it has to do with William Randolph Hearst and the making of Citizen Kane  . . . Welles was just hungry. He was actually doing radio to fund his theater, because, as you know, they were in the hole for most of their shows. So they were going from paycheck to paycheck just to run the Mercury Theatre.
VAN SANT: And then eventually Welles went off and did Citizen Kane.
EFRON: Yeah. I don’t think that was too long after.
VAN SANT: How old is Orson Welles in your movie?
EFRON: He’s in his mid-twenties, but he’s got the wisdom and the presence of a 50-year-old . . . Well, you know, a 30-year-old guy. [laughs]
VAN SANT: A friend of mine was Welles’s chauffer.
EFRON: Oh, really?
VAN SANT: Yeah. Welles was in his sixties, and he was in L.A. This was in the ’70s. My friend would drive him in some giant 1950s car that was painted turquoise. It was a convertible. The top was always down, and Welles would wear a huge 10-gallon hat and ride in the passenger seat, because I think he liked that people would see him and recognize him. There’s still a movie of his that we haven’t seen. I think it’s called The Other Side of the Wind. I hear it has a bunch of people playing Welles. John Huston plays him at an older age. Peter Bogdanovich plays him at a younger age. It’s his last unfinished film. I don’t know where it is, but I haven’t met anyone who has seen it.
EFRON: That’ll be interesting. People always have such a different way of playing him. They tend to go for the Citizen Kane interpretation.
VAN SANT: When is Me and Orson Welles going to come out?
EFRON: I think some time later this year.
Read more of the ‘Interview’ interview with Efron and Gus Van Sant here