Posted by Danielle Berrin
After apoplectic reactions to his controversial, sexually explicit performance at the American Music Awards last week, singer Adam Lambert is promising fans “a new direction.”
Earlier today, Lambert announced on Twitter that his “AMA performance was a one time event,” adding, “Goin in a new direction now. Focus back on the music.”
That would be wise for Lambert, who deeply offended some of his fans and prime-time viewers of the AMAs with his racy sexual slavery number. In it, Lambert flaunted his sexuality by simulating various sex acts and even orgasm during the debut performance of his new single, “For Your Entertainment.” In between dragging his dancers by a leash, Lambert gyrated around while holding a male dancer’s head in his crotch. He also made out with his keyboardist.
Lambert has made his sexuality a primary issue from the moment he concluded his run on 2009’s “American Idol.” Last July, about 6 weeks after he was crowned Idol’s runner-up, he came out on the cover of Rolling Stone, under the headline, “The Liberation of Adam Lambert”, confirming speculation that his affinity for eye-liner and nail polish was more than a mere costume choice.
The RS cover turned out to be rather prescient, as the cover photo itself features Lambert lying on a mattress, in a pose of sexual submission, as a green serpent—the bible’s most sinister creature—heads straight for his groin.
Shortly after that, fans started seeing Lambert in a different light. He was no longer the versatile song and dance man who happened to have a stunning set of vocal chords—he was the gay re-incarnate of Madonna’s Erotica period, a 21st century glam-rock sex object. Soon
Fans were hurling sex toys on stage while Lambert performed on the Idols summer tour. Then he posed in a racy spread for Details Magazine in which he feigned all kinds of heterosexual love for a naked female model. In the article, writer Nancy Jo Sales asked, “Why Does Every Woman in America Want to Sleep with the American Idol?” and subsequently dubbed him “the new American sex symbol.”
After performing with Lambert during the American Idol finale, Gene Simmons, from the band Kiss, said that the post- Rolling Stone Lambert had “killed his career.”
“Because,” Simmons said, “now the conversation is not about his talent but about his sexual preference. He’s done.”
Of course, few believed him then. But after Lambert’s losing performance at the AMAs—ABC edited out parts of his show for re-broadcast and “Good Morning America” canceled his scheduled appearance two days later—Simmons is looking psychic.
Mainstream opinion of Lambert has undoubtedly changed. People who have been huge fans of Lambert’s talent were turned off by his recent stunt.
So now, Lambert is doing damage control. His announcement on Twitter was more than a desperate backpedal; it’s a cry for forgiveness.
“Don’t worry friends,” Lambert assured fans via Twitter. “I’m still gonna be me. Always. W/o appologies.”
And then added, “Just gonna experiment differently w how I present myself.”
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November 30, 2009 | 1:21 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Over Thanksgiving weekend, Chelsea Clinton announced through an email that she plans to marry her nice Jewish boy, Marc Mezvinsky, a Goldman Sachs banker.
(And on July 31, 2010, the couple wed in a Jew-ish ceremony)
According to the New York Times Caucus Blog:
Ms. Clinton and Mr. Mezvinsky were good friends during high school and became romantically involved years later. Ms. Clinton, who formerly worked at McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, returned to school after last year’s presidential campaign to study public health at Columbia University.
Mr. Mezvinsky, 31, works at Goldman Sachs and is the son of two former Democratic members of Congress, Edward Mezvinsky of Iowa, who served from 1973 to 1977 but was later convicted of defrauding investors and sentenced to seven years in prison, and Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky of Pennsylvania, who served from 1993 to 1995 and lost re-election after voting for President Clinton’s budget program.
Mezvinksy and Clinton met in Washington in 1993, and both attended Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Clinton, a Methodist, was seen attending Yom Kippur services in September with Mezvinsky at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where they both now live.
No word on whether Clinton will convert before the marriage—or at all—but as political royalty, her close affiliation with Judaism is certain to delight America’s pro-Israel supporters.
More on Chelsea Clinton’s nuptials:
Chelsea and Marc tie-the-knot, but was it a Jewish wedding?
Chelsea Clinton’s $5 million wedding
Asking the wrong questions about Chelsea Clinton’s conversion
November 25, 2009 | 1:29 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Oscar winning director Roman Polanski has been granted a $4.5 million bail to be released from a Swiss prison and placed under house arrest.
But the country’s justice ministry has 10 days to appeal the decision.
The acclaimed director of “Chinatown” and “The Pianist” was arrested in Zurich last September in connection with a 32-year-old rape charge filed in Los Angeles.
His female victim, Samantha Geimer, then a 13-year-old girl, has repeatedly pleaded with authorities to drop the charges.
At this time, Swiss authorities are still undecided as to whether Polanski will be extradited to the United States and tried for his crime.
From the Daily Mail:
[T]he film director will have to remain in jail while the country’s government decide on whether to appeal the decision.
Polanski has been held for two months after America applied to have him extradited on child sex charges.
Under an agreement hammered out by the 76-year-old’s lawyers, Polanski will be released from prison and kept under house arrest while wearing an electronic tag.
He owns a family ski chalet in the upmarket resort of Gstaad, and has pledged not to flee to his home city of Paris.
Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said: ‘We have ten days to appeal, but will come to our decision quickly.’
He said that Polanski is considered a ‘high flight risk’ - perhaps because he has already spent 30 years dodging American justice.
November 24, 2009 | 7:17 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It won’t be hard to guess four of the Jewish men who were invited to have dinner with President Obama tonight.
The most obvious of these is Endeavor chief Ari Emanuel, whose brother Rahm, is Obama’s Chief of Staff.
As for the other three, the initials SKG may ring a bell: For all of Hollywood’s Jews, Steven Spielberg is probably the industry’s most famous Jew; Jeffrey Katzenberg is the man who would be Lew Wasserman if only he possessed the galvanizing personality; and David Geffen, the third DreamWorks partner may in fact be the wealthiest, with an estimated fortune around $4.6 billion, according to Wikipedia which he has used to become one of Hollywood’s biggest philanthropists.
Tonight’s dinner, hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle, is being held in honor of Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India and Ms. Gursharan Kaur.
Other Hollywood Jew invitees are Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton and his wife, Jamie. Oprah’s BF Gayle King will attend, along with Jeff Immelt, the Chairman of GE, director M. Night Shyamalan, Alfre Woodard and Blair E Underwood.
This first dinner is primarily a thank you to the Obamas’ most important political supporters.
Spielberg’s inclusion is interesting since he was a much ballyhooed Hillary Clinton supporter during the first months of her primary campaign when she looked like a sure thing, then quietly threw his clout behind Obama after he became the clear winner. But, given that the guest of honor is India’s highest ranking statesman, Spielberg’s new financial relationship with India’s giant corporation Reliance more than explains his presence. Geffen was an early Obama backer who publicly took on the Clintons with pointed criticism at the start of the primary season. Katzenberg was not an early bird, but he became a faithful fundraiser. Both he and Geffen were considered Obama’s biggest Hollywood bundlers during the campaign.
Lynton was a longtime supporter primarily because of the influence of his wife Jamie whose Chicago family has longtime political connections to the Obamas. Her mother Joanne Alter, the first female Democrat elected in Cook County, talent-spotted Obama in 2003 and convinced her daughter to support him. As a result, Lynton co-hosted an early fundraiser for Obama’s Senate bid in 2004 in addition to hosting one of the earliest Hollywood campaign events for him when most showbiz types were still supporting Hillary. (Will.i.am, who composed the viral video for the Obama campaign anthem “Yes, We Can,” met the candidate during a fundraiser at the Lyntons’ home.)
November 24, 2009 | 2:02 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Adam Lambert’s racy American Music Awards performance drew an estimated 1500 complaints to ABC—forcing the network to cancel his scheduled appearance on Good Morning America on Wednesday.
Yesterday, the number of complaints seemed weighty enough to make a headline, but hardly a dent in the millions of viewers who watched Sunday night’s AMA show.
Still, the backlash managed to ruffle the wrong feathers at the prime time network who then canceled Lambert’s Wednesday appearance to perform his new single, “For Your Entertainment”—the same number he performed at the awards show—on Good Morning America. A spokesman for ABC explained, “Given his controversial American Music Awards performance, we were concerned about airing a similar concert so early in the morning.”
Lambert’s show-stopping finale at the AMA’s in which he simulated oral sex with a male backup dancer, made out with his male keyboardist and shot fans the middle finger occurred after the Federal Communication Commission’s sensitive 6pm-10pm time slot, making it unlikely that the network will get slapped with a fine. But the controversial move seems to have narrowed Lambert’s audience and now, the network doesn’t trust him.
According to Reuters, ABC confirmed that Lambert’s oral sex stunt was cut from the AMA program in time for the West Coast feed (sorry California). And as Rolling Stone points out, all of the Lambert hullabaloo is nothing compared to the 500,000 complaints lodged after Super Bowl XXXVIII when Justin Timberlake famously afflicted Janet Jackson with a “wardrobe malfunction.”
Even with all the controversy, there are some in the music community who are praising Lambert’s performance.
Rob Sheffield writes about the “full frontal glamgasm” for Rolling Stone:
Good Lord, it was filthy, not to mention one of the most awesomely outrageous rock & roll moments to show up on prime-time network TV lately. It’s already hard to remember what the world was like before Adam Lambert showed up, less than a year ago — but we can be sure it was a colder, drearier, and less pervy place, and moments like this epitomize why we’re glad to have this lady-stardust guy in our lives. Don’t trip off his glitz, America!
November 24, 2009 | 1:59 am
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
“We’re making a movie about ourselves!”
That’s what then-Disney Studios’ animation chief Peter Schneider told his bosses back in the early 1990s, when the gang in the storied halls of cartoons and camp were cooking up “The Lion King,” soon to be another Disney box office and award-winning triumph—onscreen and then, much later, onstage.
What Schneider, the producer of the new documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty” meant was, the testosterone-filled fight for power in the “Lion King’s” story, where lions roar and collaborate with hyenas in a fight for the throne – the “circle of life,” they say – was also a mirror of the power struggles within Disney’s own dynasty.
Now an independent producer, Schneider has once again made a movie “about ourselves,” in “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” chronicling the heyday of Disney animation from 1984-1994. The film screened tonight for “friends and family” in a packed El Capitan theatre in Hollywood.
“Waking Sleeping Beauty’s” general release, producer Schneider and director Don Hahn announced from the stage, won’t be until next March, but the early buzz in the theater was very happy – that the real story had now, finally, been told. (Hahn makes his directorial debut here – and he’s very much in the film as its narrator—he was the Oscar-nominated producer of “The Lion King” and of “Beauty and the Beast.”)
This film covers a world that seems like we know it, but really don’t. It moves beyond the celebrity-driven coverage of million-dollar catfights between Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and, later, Michael Ovitz (who is never mentioned in “Waking,” since he had no bearing on the film’s era). It focuses on and captures the heat and the hilarity of an office where dancing in the halls was normal, every meeting seems to have been made into a home movie, and work took place ’round the clock, with meetings called regularly at 8 a.m.—on a Sunday. It was a time of enormous creativity, a time when beauties and beasts linked arms with mermaids, genies and more.
All of the footage is vintage, though the voice-over interviews are mostly new.
From the film, it looks like a lot of hard work went on, but also amazing, even surprising collaborations between new and veteran talents – and there was also a whole lot of fun. Eye-scratching for credit aside—much of that took place up at the top of the administration building over in Burbank, where those poor dwarfs are still struggling to hold up the roof.
Many of the cast of characters were Jews, it might be added, for purposes of this blog. Schneider, for one, a driven ambitious and stage-trained son of a Holocaust survivor, who helped to turn the languishing animation studio into a goldmine by bringing in the culture and creativity of the theater world. Eisner, for another, looking surprisingly lovable and abashed, here, and Katzenberg, who saw no limelight he couldn’t find a way into.
But the film is also a tribute to other key players, like the late Frank Wells, who was the glue that kept it together until he died, tragically, at 62 in a helicopter crash in 1994. And Roy Disney, whose personal quest and vision it was to revitalize the one-languishing brand that first made his Uncle Walt so famous.
“Waking Sleeping Beauty” is a terrific film for anyone who’s seen the classic movies of 1984-1994 – and who hasn’t? My now-14-year-old daughter and my husband joined me for the screening, and all of us have seen each of those movies, what, hundreds of times? And it’s great to see again even the short snippets from them interspersed between the documentary footage, as we come to understand the climate in which they were made.
“Waking Sleeping Beauty,” a reference to the revitalization of the medium and the studio, offers an irresistible peek into a place were any kind of artistry seemed possible—it allows us to see Angela Landsbury singing her heart out in a sound room in her role as a teapot, and genie Robin Williams cutting loose having just been released from his lamp. It’s also a celebration of far less-known artists, the ones who drew the characters, again and again and again.
Genius casting, brilliant drawing, the money to use new technology and the smarts to be ahead of the game all made this golden era happen.
Before the film rolled tonight, Schneider and Hahn said as introduction that they made their film to tell a story that many journalists have written about, but no one’s gotten right.
Well, we’ll probably learn from the bloggers who were present (at the time in the studio, and in the theater tonight) whether Schneider and Hahn sugarcoated it, or have, in fact, captured the real magic and tension of the time.
But one thing’s for sure, this movie makes you wish you worked in a place like that.
November 23, 2009 | 1:17 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Some people just don’t know their audience.
Last night, Adam Lambert angered some fans after a racy American Music Awards performance in which he simulated scenes of sexual slavery. Desperate to shed any family friendly following from American Idol, Lambert evoked Erotica-era Madonna replete with bondage, simulated oral sex and a same-sex kiss.
Dressed in a metallic suit with shoulder spikes, Lambert trotted around stage dragging his dancers by a leash while vocally riffing on his first single, the musically sedate “For Your Entertainment.” It was a spectacle that reeked of re-branding, as Lambert and his handlers deliberately craft a sexually rebellious glam-rock image.
But some of his fans were not impressed.
Weighing in on his racy finale, The L.A. Times Pop & Hiss blog writes:
Within minutes of the American Music Awards coming to an end, irate viewers had begun writing in. Reader Kathie Kunish declared that the telecast should have been rated “PG-14,” and user “penny” noted that she had to cover the eyes of her 10-year-old daughter.
Reader Richard Bowen agreed, posting on Pop & Hiss, “I know he wants to break out and show the world his dangerous side, but why alienate an entire population of kids to do it?”
Lambert is blaming criticism of his show on the double-standard. When asked what he would feel if ABC edited his performance for re-broadcasts, he told the Times: “If it’s gonna be edited, then in a way that’s discrimination. I don’t mean to get political, but Madonna, Britney and Christina weren’t edited…It’s a shame. Female entertainers have been risqué for years. Honestly, there’s a huge double standard.”
To be fair, the Madonna/Britney/Christina three-way made quite a splash at the time, but mostly because fans enjoyed it. Lambert, who is making an equal spectacle of his sexual self in the media, is not garnering the same kind of adoration. There’s something forced and disingenuous about Lambert’s act, which makes it altogether less sexy. And Lambert is making no secret of the fact that his sexuality sets him apart, and that he does after all, have something to prove.
Watch this and judge for yourself:
November 17, 2009 | 8:53 am
Posted by JewishJournal
It’s official, the mysterious English prostitute Belle du Jour is Jewish… and somehow the real life woman, a cancer researcher named Brooke Magnanti, credits (is that the word?) her Jewish background for leading her to become a high-priced call girl. This from The Daily Mail:
In a newspaper interview she offered a particularly tasteless explanation for this bizarre impulse: ‘I have a pathological aversion to being in debt.
‘My mother’s family are Jewish; there’s this hoarding thing, saving, being prepared - if you’re in debt, somebody could come and knock on your door and take it all away tomorrow.’
That explanation sent columnists in a stammering outrage. Where to take umbrage first: at the ethnic stereotype? At the leap from debt to paid sex? At the idea of a smart woman taking life-threatening risks?
Leaving the stereotypical reference to Jewish people aside, it is outrageous by implication to liken herself - an educated woman waiting to get her PhD - to the kind of pitifully poverty-stricken and powerless female who, the world over, becomes a prostitute because of need.
Backing up, Magnanti admitted this week to being the prostitute behind the Belle du Jour blog because, she said, she was tired of leading a double life, and an ex-boyfriend threatened to go public.
Dr Magnanti, who lives in Bristol, said she decided to reveal her secret because it was making her paranoid.
Yesterday she was back on her Belle de Jour blog, posting an entry about whether she owes the taxman a vast amount in back taxes.
She wrote: ‘So much curiosity about my tax situation! Yes, I did pay taxes on sex work earnings.’
In her real world, Dr Magnanti is part of a team researching the potential effects on babies of their mothers’ exposure to toxic chemicals.
She said her colleagues, all female, had been ‘amazingly kind and supportive’ when she revealed her secret.
A spokesman for her employer, Bristol University, said: ‘This aspect of Dr Magnanti’s past is not relevant to her current role at the university.’
Dr Magnanti, who studied anthropology and maths in Florida, was completing a PhD at Sheffield University’s department of forensic pathology when she became a call girl.
Realising she had no objection to having sex for money, she contacted an agency and worked as a prostitute from 2003 to late 2004, which she said was ‘so much more enjoyable’ than her shifts in another job as a computer programmer.
The Belle du Jour blog became a hot media property, spurring speculation about the true author, a lucrative book deal. The book was serialized on UK prime time television in 2007’s “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” starring actress of Billie Piper, and eventually played on pay cable in the US.
(Jewish Bonus Points! The Belle du Jour reference comes from the title of a 1967 Luis Bunuel film which stars Catherine Deneuve as a married woman who decides to spend her days as a prostitute. The movie was based on a 1928 novel by Joseph Kessel, the Argentine-born Jewish writer.)
The blog made no secret of Belle du Jour’s Jewish background. But in a recent post, though, Magnanti provided a slightly different explanation of why she turned to a life of $600 hour sex rather than the workaday grind:
Once upon a (very long) time ago, after being a student and before moving to London, I had a year of working several jobs at the same time. They were, in case you wondered, at an art gallery, a bookshop, a map/travel store, and an internship for the professional employment I later returned to. I put two thirds of my earnings into savings… savings that didn’t last half as long as I needed them to, or thought they would, and were long gone by the time I moved to London.
It was a busy time of my life. So busy, in fact, there were days I literally had to choose between having time enough to eat and getting enough sleep. I lost weight to the point at which my father, all ten stone of him, was concerned for my health. And once out the other side I promised - no, I swore - I would never do that again.
Which is not, incidentally, the reason I became a call girl a couple of years later - though certainly it was an experience informing that decision.
So was it boredom, or a “Jewish” aversion to debt that led Magnanti into her secret life as a hooker with a heart of…Goldstein? Her father, a plumber who lives in Holiday, Florida, told the Daily Mail it’s all his fault: after his dovorce from Magnanti’s mother, he visited as many as 150 prostitutes, and introduced his daughter to many of them.
‘Of those, four or five were deep emotional relationships, and Brooke met those women. She saw that prostitutes were human. They were women.
‘Brooke did not approve of me seeing the prostitutes, not because they were selling their bodies for sex but because of their drug use.
‘We had a very big falling out. Brooke said some harsh things that she hoped would help me - but which had the opposite effect.’
But the former plumber said he was proud of his daughter, saying: ‘She has not done anything wrong. Brooke is a very independent woman, and I support whatever she has done.’
He added: ‘I am glad that she is no longer a prostitute. In my experience prostitution is wrong and corrupts people. I know that from my own experience.
So what does Judaism teach about prostitution? Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, jewishjournal.com’s resident expert on sex and Jewish law, put it this way:
“Don’t believe any balderdash that says Jews can visit prostitutes. Judaism demands that all men and women experience sex the best way. And that is, where they can have really uninhibited sex because they are devoted to each other. They are not ashamed to be around one another because they are totally committed. They are not afraid of exposing their soft underbelly. Many people today have sex with full body armor, with all their inhibitions intact, with their defenses up.”
Judaism condemns prostitution. Then again, it has some pretty harsh things to say about eating shrimp, and plenty of Jews enjoy that too. So are we shocked, shocked that a bright Jewish woman would turn to tricks to make a living? No—just that she’d somehow ascribe “a pathological aversion to being in debt” as a Jewish trait. Way to shatter one stereotype and spread another.