Posted by JewishJournal.com
[more photos below]
By Mical Welles
It was a rainy, almost storming, Tuesday night, around 11:00pm, when I stopped in a shell gas station on Ventura Blvd. in Tarzana. It was a few days after my husband’s death and I was getting gas after driving aimlessly for hours. I noticed a tall and slim man get out of a red Lamborghini, with a huge and jolly dog walking right next to him. The dog seemed full of life and eager to please, while his owner reflective and gloomy. He entered into the shell store and asked for 3 packs of cigarettes and $20 worth of gas for his car. The smile on his face was warm and unpretentious, and I felt at ease asking him if he was the actor who played in the Kong Fu series. He bowed his head. Looking at him closely I could tell that the soft expression on his face revealed many lines of age heavy and individuality uneasy. There was sorrow and definite pain, yet endless warmth and a unique energy. I asked if we could meet and maybe do an article on him for an Israeli newspaper. He thought it was a great idea and gave me his phone numbers.
David was waiting outside playing with his dog “Thunder” and getting some tips from his physical fitness coach. He welcomed me to his “modest habitat” and said he was ready to talk about anything. I asked him about his life, and what was going on with his career.
“There is nothing that I love more than writing and doing music. Making music is my real calling. It is what I love to do. Acting? Well, that too, but not in the same way. There is real art and there’s acting. They are not the same. Even my father was a sculptor first and an actor by force of circumstances. Like Marlon Brando always said, acting is in many ways shameful. All you do is play someone else’s life.” I could tell that David was missing a world where one is not measured by success or monetary gain, but rather by the force of one’s creative force and willingness to share it. His eyes were bright when he took his guitar and played a song he has written a few years ago. With a voice of piercing sensitivity and a deep sound of a dimension unknown, he sang these words, “And he kept loving…they all could never know…what it really meant to him…alone…tonight” His smile faded into that special glare of seriousness that left you feeling out of place.
When I asked David of his marriages and children, his face turned unsettled. He offered to go out and get a drink before we get into this heavy and unresolved area in his life. “I need a drink or two or three before I can get into my adult parts of living. It’s like I missed the beat of serious accounting and in many ways forgot to grow up.” After an hour of mixing drinks and laughing hysterically at the idea of him playing Charles Manson in a movie on the 60’s narrated by him, we went into discussing his life, but he had to make this point before: “Don’t let my height bother you. I have no problem playing short men. There were so many times when I actually felt short, feels short, knows short…” And again, I couldn’t help but crack up and laugh.
Back in his house off Melrose, he agreed to talk about his relationships and children:
“I was never really in tune with my wives as a man committed to a relationship beyond and at the expense of everything else. It’s not in me. Got no nurse David engraved on my heart. The role of a father is also something I never really took to. I love my children, but it took more than I was able to give to be right with them. Now we are doing much better. There is an openness that was never there before. They are grown and not influenced by the dusky bitterness of their mothers. Oscar Wilde said that women ought to be loved and not understood, and I agree. When love isn’t there anymore, a smart man rushes out the door. I didn’t. And that’s where I was wrong and my troubles were born. I always stayed too long. When it’s not there to give, get the hell out, and I stayed to get punished. Again and again and again.”
David Carradine always felt real to me and in no way a go getter, a pusher or a greedy bustard who will step on anyone for a part or a better deal. “There are very few things that I will fight for and they all have to do with my art. I will fight for my writing not to be edited and for my music not to be touched, but I will not deal my life for a better price or stardom. To hell with this business if you have to turn into a pusher of your own talents. This race, girl, can only turn vulgar and ugly and soon, very soon, a stranger to yourself. I am ready to let the Hollywood ship sail without me into the sunset of bright endings and senseless violence. I want something moving and powerful. I need it.” I told him that I agreed with him completely. For no reason we started laughing again and he ordered me to stand up and allow some marshal art “to sink into my nervous Jewish constitution”. His moves were so graceful, that he felt to be holding the secret of light and darkness. He was able to jump with no hesitation and preparation with such completeness of movement, that he broke the laws of gravity through motion. By now there were many guests in his back yard, all came to have a glass of wine and hear David calm words of being and letting it be. There was no malice or bitterness in this man and it filled his friends up with a certain disposition they were blind to a few minutes before.
A few days passed and David moved to an apartment in Hollywood Hills. He invited me to come and share the gorgeous view. I arrived the next day with my daughter Liora. She brought her poetry with her, and hoped that David will look at it and give her some fruitful criticism. He waited for us downstairs with Thunder and we all took a walk together. Tears filled up his brown eyes when he read the poems Liora gave him. He copied one of them and said that this he wants read in his memory when he’s dead and gone. I’d like to share this poem with you:
I swan in your oceans
And sailed on your seas!
I discovered the nature
Of your motion
And climbed up on your trees.
Your purity echoed my name
With the sound of running waters
As little children played their game
While men were in war to slaughter!
I chased your butterflies
And run on your fields
Touching the colors of your disguise
Where everything I felt was healed.
I cried beside your rivers
Searching for your voice
And in the realm of my surrender
You gave me the freedom
Now I lie underneath your stars
And die beneath your love
My grasp does not reach too far
But I can still see
Your world above.
During the hours we spent in his apartment, David showed us his art work and his collection of guitars. “I am always working on something. As far as the movie business is concerned, there something I working on with Terantino that still needs a momentum and a location and many other seasonings.” He would not share with the story idea in any details, and seemed to have mixed feelings regarding this project. This movie, by the way, turned into KILL BILL a year or so later, a terrible movie of revenge turning into a celebrated illness of violence and mental decay. I was never able to see David as the hero Bill who could not turn back the devil within into the powerful nature of a Shaolin priest. It was almost more befitting for him to play Charles Manson . From Kong Fu to Kill Bill is the enigma of David Carradine, for in many ways what we do and who we act, turns our constitution right or wrong.
Two or three months into our friendship, I introduced David to Annie Bierman. They got married and I moved to Israel. Our friendship in a way faded.
Let us all try to remember David Carradine as a man with no frame to his portrait and no category to his being. A beautiful soul and a generous heart, at times looking the wrong way, but always loving and wishing well.
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June 15, 2009 | 7:07 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
So far, Sacha Baron Cohen’s PR tactic for his new film “Bruno” is to deny all interviews. Instead, he is orchestrating a series of live dramatic stunts as the film’s title character, a flamboyantly gay fashionista who aspires to be “the most famous Austrian since Hitler.” The first stunt occurred back in September 2008, when Bruno stormed a runway during Milan Fashion Week. He was quickly pummeled by security guards and escorted to the streets, before trying the same trick at Stella McCartney’s runway show in Paris. At the 2009 MTV Movie Awards a few weeks ago, a jock-strap clad Bruno descended from high-wires and landed his bum in rapper Eminem’s face. Onlookers were scandalized as Eminem fled the theater.
Interest in the film has soared as a result of Baron Cohen’s outlandish antics. But what’s captivating a worldwide audience is far more than the face value of his comedy. Bruno’s in-your-face, over-the-top queerness is meant to challenge gay stereotypes. Many are interpreting Baron Cohen’s outright mockery of those stereotypes as a comment or expose on homophobia. Gay groups are cautiously restrained when commenting on the film, with some feeling that its humor may be too high-minded for the average moviegoer. As they say, homophobics may not get that the joke is on them; especially when the film skirts the line between being offensive or enlightening.
In a story by Brookes Barnes in yesterday’s New York Times, “Bruno” was described as “mercilessly exploiting the discomfort created when straight men are ambushed by aggressive gayness,” which unsurprisingly, he wrote, exposes homophobia. However, the headline of Barnes’s story went so far as to suggest that the film is a “plea for tolerance,” with a carefully added, “or not”. Since Baron Cohen isn’t talking to reporters, it’s unclear whether he has higher social ambitions for his film, or whether this supremely sensitive moment in the gay movement even wants his commentary. It’s possible Baron Cohen is simply using the lure of laughter to sell movie tickets, even at the expense of a minority group. After all, he’s done it before and I can hardly blame “Borat” for either increasing or alleviating Jewish anti-Semitism.
More from the New York Times story:
“Brüno” is not a lecture, at least not overtly. Like “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the 2006 smash that starred Mr. Baron Cohen as an anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist, “Brüno” is first and foremost a raunchy comedy featuring a not-so-bright guy who embraces sexism, racism and stereotypes as he happily goes about his business. Borat and Brüno are both familiar to fans of “Da Ali G Show,” Mr. Baron Cohen’s satirical talk show, which first ran in Britain in 2000 and began appearing on HBO in 2003.
Yet “Brüno” is also intended as a statement about what it is like to be a member of a minority in America in 2009. Mr. Baron Cohen’s malaprop-loaded antics are fictional, but the hate they can elicit from the people he encounters is ostensibly real. (The same was true of “Borat,” which some human rights groups also greeted with hostility; Abraham H. Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said at the time that audiences “may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke.”)
Read more about Bruno:
Sacha Baron Cohen’s tussle with Eminem
June 15, 2009 | 3:03 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In person he’s so sweet, and he brings his mother to awards shows—but on HBO’s “Entourage” Jeremy Piven’s character, Ari Gold is a ruthless Hollywood personality who knows no limits to his temper. Here Piven explains his sensitivity to the movie stars he crudely knocks on the show. (Hint: watch out Zac Efron, who is rumored to be appearing on the show soon—that is, if Adam Lambert lets him off the hook from Burning Man.)
Clip from The Hollywood Reporter:
June 10, 2009 | 6:44 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Ari Emanuel is possibly the only contender to become the next big Hollywood mogul.
The young, brash, uncompromising superagent is on the ascending arc of his career: he is the architect of the new powerhouse agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, which he will run, and has a direct line to the White House through his Chief-of-Staff brother, Rahm Emanuel. But Emanuel is most famous—or perhaps infamous—for inspiring the character of Ari Gold on HBO’s Entourage, who seems to embody both the Hollywood dream and what’s despicable about it.
When he’s not a shark in a boardroom, Emanuel is part of a tight-knit Jewish family, with established roots in Israel. According to Wikipedia, he is the son of Israeli-born Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, a pediatrician, who was active in the Israeli Irgun and Marcia Emanuel, a civil rights activist and one-time owner of a Chicago night club. They raised three exceptionally ambitions sons (the eldest is Ezekiel, an oncologist and bioethicist who advises the Obama administration on healthcare), but placed great emphasis on family time. According to an interview the three Emanuel brothers did with Charlie Rose, they were “never allowed to miss Shabbat dinner”; that was just “not acceptable.”
But the dinner table wasn’t just about the food. The Emanuel brothers were expected to come to dinner with something interesting to say. And argumentation was considered high art: “It’s a sign of love to take someone’s view seriously and want to persuade them that [yours] is more accurate,” Ari Emanuel said to Charlie Rose.
That’s what we hear he’s real good at.
Find out what makes Emanuel tick in the The New York Times story below (for which Emanuel, and brother Rahm, obviously declined to interview):
In 1992, Ariel Zev Emanuel, a young operative with the struggling InterTalent agency, had a problem with the rent on a $639-a-month walk-up in the city’s modest Fairfax district. The landlord took him to court seeking eviction, and won.
Today, Mr. Emanuel has a $10 million home in the Brentwood neighborhood…
Long known as a hardball player of considerable skill, Mr. Emanuel, 48, has emerged in the last six weeks as the pre-eminent power player in a Hollywood that has often bemoaned the sunset of colorful moguls from an older generation, including Michael Ovitz and David Geffen.
As the co-chief executive and principal architect of William Morris Endeavor, formed in late April by the merger of Mr. Emanuel’s Endeavor with the venerable William Morris Agency, Mr. Emanuel has finally stepped into their shoes — assuming he can hold his venture together. He spent much of the last week in mixers meant to help hundreds of wary colleagues from the newly joined agencies get comfortable with one another.
Hollywood, meanwhile, is still struggling to get comfortable with Mr. Emanuel and his aspirations — and to figure out exactly what makes him tick.
“It’s about respect,” offered J. C. Spink, a young producer who, with his business partner Chris Bender, has been a protégé of Mr. Emanuel’s. “With nine out of 10 people, if not more, they tend to be in this business for respect.”
Others queried in the last week mentioned power, money, an itch to surpass the Creative Artists Agency, and, most intriguing, a surge of ambition that came with the return of Mr. Emanuel’s brother Rahm, a former Clinton adviser, to the White House with President Obama. “Ari wants an empire,” said one associate, who insisted on anonymity to protect his relationship.
If empire is indeed being born here, it is being shaped by a restless achiever who hungers for the bold stroke — as when Mr. Emanuel and three colleagues in 1995 started Endeavor with a nighttime raid on their own office files at International Creative Management — even when that leaves a mess to be cleaned up afterward. In the case of their I.C.M. caper, James A. Wiatt, then president of the agency, caught and fired the four before they could quit.
“Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of Ari Emanuel, especially now that his brother is running the White House,” said one television executive, who asked for anonymity to preserve harmony with him.
Sharon Waxman calls Emanuel “the king of the world” on The Wrap:
Michael Ovitz should officially hand over the keys of the kingdom to a fast-talking, trash-mouthed, steam-rolling successor to his Hollywood dominion.
It is a rare moment in time and space that allows Ariel Zev Emanuel to hold the kind of power that even Ovitz could only dream about, chronicled today on the front page of the New York Times and concurrently noted by Kim Masters at the Daily Beast.
Here’s what’s unique about this moment: Over 18 months of hard-selling, Emanuel has just pulled off a “merger” that had William Morris paying Endeavor millions of dollars. And in a matter of weeks he’s turned it into a takeover, firing dozens of Morris agents, while leaving Endeavor more or less intact.
He has quickly shoved Morris chairman Jim Wiatt to the sidelines, with the Times reporting that Wiatt has decided to leave the agency in the coming months and one rumor suggesting that the agency ex-chief may go work with Chase Carey at News Corp. (An individual close to Wiatt denied it.)
The stage has been set for some time. Emanuel cannily figured out how to create positive spin in the blogosphere as he plotted—with a hotline to agency-central’s Deadline Hollywood Daily that guaranteed Nikki Finke’s scoops, while ensuring Emanuel positive coverage throughout the merger-takeover process.
He already has a television avatar in Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold, who channels Emanuel’s testosterone temperament with barely a touch of hyperbole. (I nearly choked when I heard a teenager say the other day that they wanted to be just like him.)
Finally, Emanuel holds an ace in the hole that most could only dream about: His brother Rahm runs the White House.
Mike Ovitz, Lew Wasserman and Louis B. Mayer would all have to tip their hats before this kind of power play.
But then Waxman wonders about his tragic flaw—“Where is Emanuel’s Achilles heel?” she writes. “Every power broker has one. Emanuel has an awful lot of them, but it’s too early to say which character trait—which so far has catapulted him to a rare perch—may also do him in.”
You’d think a Hollywood story might enjoy the luxury of a Hollywood ending. Maybe in the movies, but not in their town.
June 10, 2009 | 5:12 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
After deeply divided negotiations that went on a full year after actor contracts expire last June, the Screen Actors Guild has finally settled on a new contract. Unsurprisingly, SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg, whom I profiled last March, called the contract “devastatingly unsatisfactory” for its failure to improve compensation on the internet.
He’s still a one-man band trying to chart a course the majority of SAG’s 120,000 members do not want to travel.
But at least, for now, the crippling stalemate is over. Of course, because of their mishigas, SAG’s contracts will expire out of step with the other lead unions (AFTRA, Writers Guild, Directors Guild) precluding any chance of a unified force against the studios.
Members of the Screen Actors Guild approved the agreement with 78 percent of the votes cast in favor, the union said today in an e-mailed statement. The accord, which runs through June 2011, excludes retroactive pay increases for the time since the last contract expired on June 30, 2008.
The vote is a defeat for union hardliners who sought a tougher stance in negotiations. The studios exploited the rift to limit the guild’s advances on pay and jurisdiction for shows made for the Internet. Talks for the new agreement began after directors, writers and producers concluded their negotiations, leaving actors with little leverage.
“If we’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that we’re stronger when we’re unified,” Ned Vaughn, head of Unite for Strength, a faction that supported ratification, said before the results were made announced. “That means working in partnership with the other unions.”
The contracts provide more than $105 million in wages, pension contributions and other benefits for actors, the guild said.
The agreement with the studio bargaining group, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, sets rates for work performed on the Internet, provides a 3 percent increase in minimum pay in the first year and 3.5 percent in the second year.
“The members have spoken,” Guild President Alan Rosenberg, who opposed ratification, said in an interview after the results. “Now we’ll live under the terms of this contract and see if they’re as devastating as I think they will be.”
Rosenberg said he would start discussions with other unions to plan for unified talks in 2011.
June 10, 2009 | 2:47 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I’m much more interested in the Bar Refaeli I can chastise for dodging Israeli army service than I am in the supermodel who’s dating Leonardo DiCaprio. But these are times in which speculating about the status of celebrity love lives is actually newsworthy. The problem is, I can’t seem to find any definitive statement about their relationship status, from any reliable source.
According to People, “Leonardo DiCaprio and Bar Refaeli Take a Break.” According to Us Magazine, they’re “still together.” Access Hollywood, Extra TV and the ever dependable gossip artist Perez Hilton have them “split” while TMZ.com yelps “Leo & Bar Are Not Broken Up, People!”
Fortunately, if you google them, there are 61 articles you can scour to make your own determination. But my celebrity gawking is coming to an end because I’m in the middle of “Eat, Pray, Love” and I’m learning how to mediate! (PS - If you caught yesterday’s Variety, the movie version will star Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, who is gorgeous.)
June 9, 2009 | 8:07 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Today the internet is ablaze with news of Adam Lambert’s self-outing in Rolling Stone magazine. I find the outpouring fascinating and confusing, while the news itself of course, is utterly unsurprising. “I don’t think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I’m gay,” Lambert admitted to Rolling Stone. Which is one reason why it’s fascinating: absent any kind of shock value, Lambert’s coming out is being treated like a triumphal celebration. Imagine telling that to Harvey Milk.
The idea that a singer’s sexuality is so darned newsworthy and important is an ironic comment on the gulf between American pop culture and American politics.
Two weeks ago, the California Supreme Court upheld the Prop 8 ban on gay marriage. Today, rock music’s most promising new star poses seductively on the cover of an iconic American magazine to declare he’s gay and he’s proud. But while the headline promises, “The Liberation of Adam Lambert,” the visual conveys a different message. Rolling Stone touts its subversive appetite with the pointed placement of a snake—the bible’s most sinister creature—heading straight for Lambert’s groin. It’s as if it’s saying, ‘Who cares that a snake is heading for your private part? You’re on the COVER of Rolling Stone!’ Unfortunately, gaydom’s new cover boy harbors no ambitions for advancing the cause: He tells Rolling Stone, “I’m trying to be a singer, not a civil rights leader.”
Lambert held out for the Rolling Stone platform because he thought it would be “cooler” to come out to a rock magazine than a melee of reporters. But why is it so significant? Is it because Lambert has finally been liberated from the tight-lipped environment of American Idol, and can dress in drag without consequence? Because his being gay challenges the archetype of the virile, guitar-smashing, womanizing rock star? Or is it exciting because this is this how Hollywood’s liberal populists thumb their noses at conservatives in power? That much would make sense, considering the year’s track record: Hollywood responded to the Prop 8 ban by awarding “Milk,” a film about the assassination of a gay activist and politician, with a screenwriting Oscar.
Option D: All of the above. Lambert can’t marry who he loves, but he can canoodle with them in West Hollywood, unafraid of paparazzi; he can be a sex-crazed rock star who is crazy about a different sex; and yes, even as gays are denied basic civil rights, Lambert can be praised for coming out and given pop culture’s brightest spotlight. And even if he doesn’t want to, or mean to, Lambert can send a message to people who don’t support gay rights that being gay is—as Lambert might say—cool.
June 8, 2009 | 2:49 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Ed Zwick has the antidote to those embarrassing barbs about Jewish male virility (something to do with size…). Zwick, who last directed a bunch of robust Jewish males in the resistance film “Defiance” has since discovered the importance of Viagra—and not simply for its mechanical enhancements. He will direct “Love and Other Drugs” an adaptation of the nonfiction book “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy. The story is autobiographical: Reidy was a traveling salesman for rival pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Eli Lilly in the 1990s before he wrote a memoir revealing internal practices. According to Reidy, “When his book, debuted in ‘05, those enemies finally agreed on one thing: fire that MoFo!” Jake Gyllenhaal will play the disgraced salesman and Anne Hathaway co-stars as his Parkinsons-stricken lady love.
According to Wikipedia, Gyllenhaal considers himself “more Jewish than anything else.” Other reports suggest that his sister Maggie, also an actress, identifies more strongly than he does. Here’s the family breakdown, you decide:
Gyllenhaal was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of film director Stephen Gyllenhaal and film producer and screenwriter Naomi Foner (née Achs). Maggie Gyllenhaal, his sister, is also an actress, and played his sister in the movie Donnie Darko. Gyllenhaal’s father was raised in the Swedenborgian religion and is a descendant of the Swedish noble Gyllenhaal family. His last native Swedish ancestor was his great-great-grandfather, Anders Leonard Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal’s mother is from a Jewish family from New York City. Gyllenhaal’s Bar Mitzvah celebration took place at a homeless shelter because his parents wanted to instill in him a sense of gratitude for his privileged lifestyle. Gyllenhaal has said that he considers himself “more Jewish than anything else.” Gyllenhaal’s parents insisted that he have summer jobs to support himself. He worked as a lifeguard, and as a busboy at a restaurant operated by a family friend.
Oh, and he’s environmentally conscious, which he demonstrates by recycling regularly.
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