Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
It’s fitting that the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 29 showed a clip of this year’s Oscar ceremony—the one where Steve Martin decreed that in “Inglourious Basterds,” Christophe Waltz played a Nazi “obsessed with finding Jews. “Well, Christophe,“ Martin added, gesturing to the audience – “the Mother lode.” The same could be said of tonight’s Emmys, where “Modern Family” – inspired by the mishpoches of co-creators Steven Levitan (an MOT) and Christopher Lloyd (married to an MOT)—cleaned up with six awards for best comedy. Triumphing in the best drama category (again) was Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men,” which has explored anti-Semitism and other sins in its dark take on the 1960s advertising biz. Here is Arts & Entertainment Editor Naomi Pfefferman’s version of the Top 10 Jewish moments of the evening:
1) Presenter Ricky Gervais—lamenting the lack of booze backstage—pointed out that no one was going to go “mental” since loose-cannon stars such as Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson weren’t around to drink. When the audience groaned (given Mel’s predilection for anti-Semitic and other racist remarks), Gervais deadpanned that he wasn’t going to dis Mel: “He’s been through a lot,” Gervais said. A pregnant pause. “Not as much as the Jews, to be fair.”
2) The dashing Steven Levitan, accepting “Modern Family’s” award for best writing on a comedy series: “Thanks to our wives, without whom we’d probably be dating around a lot,” he quipped. “I mean we just won an Emmy. That’s a pretty good opening line, I think.” The camera then revealed his wife, Krista (nee Schmuck – “So I had to marry her,” Levitan told me in an interview). “What I meant to say, honey is….Thanks for all the inspiration you’ve given us. ‘Modern Family’ is and will always be our love letter to you.” And when the series won the Emmy for best comedy: “I want to thank this amazing cast, who makes us forget how much we hate writing every day,” Levitan said. He also thanked his writers, who crank out work for which he and co-creator Lloyd often get credit: “I just wanna say, ‘That’s Hollywood, dudes.’”
3) “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner gave a self-effacing kind of salute to his colleagues as he accepted the best writing award for a dramatic series. His entire cast and crew reads every single one of his scripts and gives him notes: “I’m so insecure that I actually seem open-minded,” he said. When asked about the best note he’d ever received from a network, he recalled: “They asked me to rewrite some lines from Shakespeare in order to make it a little clearer.” And when Weiner won the best drama award: “I can’t believe we’re here…I didn’t think we’d get through half of one [season].”
4) Jewish performer and Broadway star Lea Michele did not win as best actress in a comedy for “Glee,” although she did winningly prance around with Fallon, Tiny Fey and host Jimmy Fallon in the ceremony’s opening number, a “Glee-Bruce Springsteen” parody. Also on hand for that number was Michele’s co-star, Jane Lynch, who – after winning for best supporting actress in a comedy—was jokingly feted for “creating over 62,000 new jobs in the polyester track suit industry” for her ubiquitous attire as the show’s terrifying cheerleading coach.
5) As Kyra Sedgwick approached the stage to accept her Emmy for best actress in a dramatic series, an announcer declared that she is descended on her father’s side from William Ellery, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. What was not mentioned is that Sedgwick identifies as Jewish, courtesy of her mother, Patricia (nee Rosenwald). Elated by her first Emmy win, she was, however, slightly surprised by the height (or lack thereof) of the microphone onstage, stating, “This is low, this is really low.” She thanked her kids, who are almost grown, and her husband, Kevin Bacon, “my one and only love, Kev.”
6) Host Jimmy Fallon strummed his guitar and sang to Tom Hanks, who with Steven Spielberg produced HBO’s World War II mini-series, “The Pacific,” a kind of sequel to their previous WWII epic, “Band of Brothers.” “The Pacific’s nominated for two dozen awards,” Fallon crooned to Hanks. “Better break the news to Spielberg, you’re running out of wars.” “The Pacific” won the Emmy for best mini-series later in the show.
7) The ceremony turned serious during the “in memorium” segment, which honored TV’s recently departed. Musician Jewel performed her song, “Shape of You,” written for a friend who died of cancer, as a slow-motion montage of late actors graced the stage – including former child star Corey Haim, who died after a battle with drug abuse this past year.
8) When Adam Mazer accepted the best writing award for HBO ‘s “You Don’t Know Jack”—about right-to-death Dr. Jack Kevorkian—he indicated that he did indeed know Jack. Addressing the elderly Kevorkian, who waved from the audience, Mazer said “Jack, “I’m grateful you’re my friend, but even more grateful you’re not my physician.” When Al Pacino accepted his own Emmy for portraying Kevorkian, he thanked Mazer, “who wrote a great script.”
9) “Curb Your Enthusiasm” did NOT win for best comedy, but a clip from the show demonstrated why we love the prickly series – which this season featured creator Larry David attempting a “Seinfeld” reunion. In an argument with Jerry Seinfeld, the 1990s star pointed to the misanthropic David and declared, “icon!” – then pointed at Larry: “no-con!”
10) Yes, “The Daily Show” won its eighth consecutive Emmy for best variety show, but MOT creator Jon Stewart didn’t bother to show up to collect his award. Instead, his colleagues quipped that he was home sleeping on the bed he had made by melting down his previous statuettes.
5.21.13 at 9:43 am | Tribal affiliation notwithstanding, Apatow, 45,. . .
5.20.13 at 12:02 pm |
5.19.13 at 2:45 pm | The Coen brothers and others prove clueless on. . .
5.2.13 at 12:21 pm | Of all the roles one plays in life, how many are. . .
4.24.13 at 5:45 pm | I was supposed to be in the middle of a very. . .
4.23.13 at 5:06 pm |
5.18.12 at 2:38 pm | Now in it's fifth season, Jewishness on "Mad Men". . . (3169)
5.20.13 at 12:02 pm | (1592)
5.19.13 at 2:45 pm | The Coen brothers and others prove clueless on. . . (764)
August 26, 2010 | 7:05 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
What do Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, James Caan, Martin Sheen, Adam Lambert, Sammy Davis, Jr., Al Gore, Jerry Lewis and Bob Saget have in common – besides show business? Each has appeared on the Chabad “To Life!” Telethon, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary show on Aug. 29, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on KTLA, with no less than CNN’s Larry King as host. King will preside along with telethon founder Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin of West Coast Chabad—plus multiple celebrities and dancing rabbis who will grace the set as usual. Tune in to see King interview stars like Sheen about why they’ve supported Chabad, as well as telethon highlights from the past three decades. Here are some of the top 10 celebrity moments – in no particular order – as related by telethon producer Chaim Marcus:
- Adam Sandler spoke in 2004 wearing a Chabad telethon cap, glasses, a well-worn T-shirt and lots of beard stubble: “I know my mom’s watching right now, and she’s probably saying, ‘Adam, did you have to wear that shirt?’ Mom, I didn’t shave – I know you’re wondering about that. But look at the [very long-bearded] rabbis!’” Sandler also deadpanned to Cunin et al: “I watched the telethon last year and you’re dancing even better this year.”
- NBA champion Jordan Farmar shot free-throws to raise money – at $1,800 a shot – in 2008, managing to land 37 baskets in 90 seconds despite the frenetic klezmer music playing in the background and rabbis shouting things like, “What a beautiful mitzvah this is!” and “Plenty of gifts, my man!” Not to mention actor Tom Arnold running around and joking that his Chabad telethon cap was great for hiding his hair transplant plugs. When asked how many shots he could make in one-and-a-half minutes, Farmar replied: “Man, however many it takes to save the world.” Rabbi Chaim Cunin, the telethon’s executive producer, later told the Journal: “[Farmar] raised $66,600 in 90 seconds. How many people can say that? He made 37 free throws in 90 seconds. That is a lot of mitzvahs, as we say.”
Story continues after the jump.
- “It’s good to be here at the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Telethon!” Carroll O’Connor joked on the first Chabad telethon, which aired on Sept. 8, 1980. So how did the non-Jewish actor get involved with the organization? After the Chabad House in Westwood burned down in 1980, O’Connor chanced to drive by the gutted facility. “He met with Rabbi Cunin and discovered the work that Chabad was doing,” Marcus said. “Initially Rabbi Cunin had no idea who he was, because [like most Chasidim] he does not own a TV set. But Mr. O’Connor said, “I’m an actor, I work in television, maybe we could do something together to raise money?” Thus the Chabad Telethon was born, which went on to raise some $150 million over 30 years, Marcus said.
Story continues after the jump.
- “You’ve got to believe in Sha-bad,” Bob Hope said on a video in 1991, mispronouncing the name of the organization as many celebs – Jewish and non-Jewish—have done over the years. “No matter how many times we tell him – Chabad, he can’t get it,” then-host Jan Murray quipped of Hope. This year’s telethon will feature a video of all the stars who have botched the name, including Jack Klugman and even Larry King himself, who Shabad-ed it while rehearsing last year’s show. “I said, ‘Larry, it’s chhhh,—you know, like Chhhaim, Chhhannukah, chhhutzpah, chhhhallah,’” Marcus recalled. “Larry said, ‘OK, I got it’—and then he Sha-baded it again. I said, “Larry, it’s Chhhabad!” And he looked at me and said, “I know how to pronounce Chabad! I have a daughter named Chaya!”
- In the mid-1990s, legendary rocker Bob Dylan and his Chasidic son-in-law, musician Peter Himmelman, belted out “Hava Nagila” along with actor Harry Dean Stanton, who recently portrayed a crazed polygamous cult leader troubling Bill Paxton and his secretly polygamous Mormon brood on HBO’s “Big Love.” All three sang, with Stanton and Himmelman playing guitar. Chabad rabbis had helped Dylan return to Judaism after the musician embraced Christianity for a time. Dylan, in turn, embraced Rabbi Cunin on the show.
- Sammy Cahn, the Oscar-winning lyricist, songwriter and musician who made hit recordings with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Doris Day, riffed on his ditty, “High Hopes” in 1984, which he rewrote as “Chai Hopes:” “We had a fire you know/That’s why we’re making this show/We need your dough/We’ve got Chai hopes,” Cahn sang. The lyricist originally wrote the song with Jimmy Van Heusen for Sinatra in the late 1950s.
- Old Blue Eyes himself phoned in a pledge to the telethon, as did the late, great actor Marlon Brando – The Godfather and Stanley Kowalski to cinefiles – who called in at least five times over the years. Other caller-inners have included Barbra Streisand, John Denver, Van Halen’s David Lee Roth and comedian Richard Lewis.
- “Sam-ela, Sam-ela,” Jan Murray would say when Rat Packer Sammy Davis, Jr. (a convert to Judaism) visited the show. “I’ll tell you the emes,” Davis, in turn, would say when lauding Chabad. In addition to performing his iconic “The Candy Man,” peppered with Yiddishisms, on the telethon, he once personally handed Cunin a hefty check on the show.
- Actor John Voight - - who made his first telethon appearance in 1986 – has told the tale of how a non-Jewish actor like himself became enamored of Chabad. “Jon was meeting with Rabbi Cunin in his office when a family came to the door and said they had no food or furniture, and that they especially needed a couch,” Marcus said. “‘Jon, can you stand up?’ Rabbi Cunin asked. Whereupon the men carried the couch downstairs, and Voight put the couch in his own pickup truck, to deliver to the family’s home. From that moment on, Jon said, ‘This [Rabbi Cunin] is my kind of guy.’ He’s adopted Chabad and vice-versa.”
- Writer-director Tom Kramer (“Fridays,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) ran to the telethon set immediately after his own wedding in 1995, still wearing his tuxedo, with his bride (in her white gown) in tow. “Tom Kramer had had a meteoric rise to fame in the 1980s, but by 2002 he was homeless, on drugs and his life was in shambles,” Marcus said. “Someone told him about Chabad’s drug rehabilitation program, and he went into the program and got clean. Three years later, he told his story on the telethon, on the night of his wedding. One of the writers from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” happened to be watching the show, realized Tom was back, and invited him to direct an episode.”
You can also watch the telethon live online by visiting tolife.com
August 25, 2010 | 12:42 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Howard Gordon, the writer/producer behind Fox’s “24,” got a real-life dose of political intrigue during a recent trip to Iraq organized by the Pacific Council on International Policy, a nonpartisan international affairs group with close ties to the U.S. Department of Defense. Gordon talks here about spending the night in Saddam Hussein’s palace, why American Jews should care about progress in Iraq and how Hollywood could be doing more to spread American values.
Jewish Journal: What exactly does a Hollywood producer do in Iraq these days? Get any movie ideas?
Howard Gordon: (Laughs). Foreign affairs and international policy have always been things I’ve been interested in. This was an opportunity for civilians to educate themselves and get face time with policy thinkers and government leaders, so we were briefed by a number of military and state department groups from morning until night.
JJ: Since you were on a government-sponsored mission, I assume there was some kind of message they wanted you to communicate back home. What is it?
HG: Everybody has a sober view that this [war] is a project whose result we will not know for five to 10 years down the road. But if it’s in our national interest to have a stable and democratic Iraq, it’s going to take continued political will in supporting that vision and supporting Iraq as it develops. Our job was to help craft a narrative, a public narrative in light of the drawdown in troops and the move from military to civilian control.
JJ: Because of regional concerns, such as Iraqi proximity to Israel and growing Iranian influence in Iraq, is there a message that concerns the American Jewish community in particular?
HG: I think I have to speak more as an American than as a Jew. Iraq has still not acknowledged Israel — that’s a policy that the Iraqis are going to have to determine themselves. But to the extent that democracy is a moderating force, should that happen, it will accrue to Israel’s interest.
JJ: Many have said that Iraqi instability presents the opportunity for Iran to strengthen itself, and that coupled with its nuclear program, Iran’s power could destabilize the entire Middle East.
HG: Iraq is a country that’s rebuilding, and there are opportunities for regional actors to exert their influence. Obviously, I’m against the Iranian acquisition of a bomb — not just insofar as it threatens Israel and regional stability, but insofar as the Iranian regime could exert its influence over the entire region and ignite a nuclear arms race elsewhere. One reason for a stable, democratic Iraq would be as a bulwark against theocracy in Iran.
JJ: Did the talking points communicated by American and Iraqi officials cohere with what you saw around you?
HG: We did get to witness two very promising signs. The political situation in Iraq is evolving; during a recent election there was fear of civil war breaking out or that there’d be violence at the polls; there wasn’t. The other thing is, Iraqis are managing their own security. With our troops being drawn down to zero, Iraqi federal police are functioning, and apparently very well.
JJ: Did you feel safe traveling around?
HG: We were very, very protected. We went around in armored caravans.
JJ: It sounds like a real-life version of ‘24.’
HG: My only regret is that I wish I could have had more time with Iraqi [civilians] outside the international zone.
JJ: I read that you stayed at Saddam Hussein’s palace — that must have been nice.
HG: [We stayed at] Camp Victory, his hunting lodge — one of his many palaces. It was fairly opulent, surrounded by lakes he created by damming the Euphrates, which apparently caused some ecological disaster. It reminded me of imperial Rome.
JJ: It’s widely accepted at this point that U.S. attention has shifted from the war in Iraq to the war in Afghanistan. Is that a problem for Iraq?
HG: I think a lot of the politics gets left behind among some of the soldiers. They’re not there to make policy, they’re there for a job. These guys, the military, weren’t arguing over the politics, they were distilling the mission.
JJ: It’s interesting that you speak of sustaining American interest in Iraq when most Jews in America are not sending their kids to fight overseas — as opposed to, say, in Israel, where everyone serves in the military.
HG: There’s a tremendous gap between our military and our civilian populations, and that’s part of the problem we were there to address: How do you keep on the front pages a war that is being fought by other people’s children?
JJ: Do you think Hollywood is invested in the outcome of this war?
HG: There is a disconnect [in Hollywood] between the content that we create and its impact on the world. One of the things that Hollywood needs to understand is that it has an impact: We are the face of America; what we create is how people perceive us. I’m not suggesting we create self-conscious propaganda, but we do have an outsized power. It probably wouldn’t be a bad thing if more people like me open our eyes to the influence that we have beyond our own borders.
JJ: If Hollywood were more mindful of the impact its content has around the world, what might it be doing?
HG: We have an opportunity to present certain essential truths about America. America is a country based on ideas and values, so if we represent that, it is going to be seen and exported across the world. That’s the best advertisement for an America that is too often vilified: We’re imperfect, but we’re the greatest country in the history of man.
August 24, 2010 | 1:20 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old CEO of Facebook, took on a Warholian idea—that anybody could be famous—and created a Website that allows users to be stars of their own lives. Never again would the line between what is public and what is private be clearly understood. By allowing private citizens to reinvent themselves as public figures, Facebook signaled the end of privacy.
And now, the architect of the most powerful social media tool of his generation can’t handle his own spotlight. Turns out, public scrutiny is not so fun.
Now that Zuckerberg is the subject of a big Hollywood movie, “The Social Network,” – which aptly touts the tagline “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”—he is unhappy with the way his image has been cast. Over the weekend, reports at TheWrap.com depicted the young CEO on the verge of a meltdown; and an article in The New York Times detailed fraught negotiations between Facebook and the filmmakers.
“I started Facebook to improve the world, and make it a more transparent place,” Zuckerberg told TheWrap.com’s Sharon Waxman last month at a media conference in Sun Valley. “This movie portrays me as someone who built Facebook so I could meet girls.”
Whether Zuckerberg is peeved at the perceived misinterpretation, or if he’s just irked at being subject to interpretation, either way, he isn’t handling it well.
Earlier this summer, at the AllThingsD conference on digital media, Zuckerberg made his usual hoodie-adorned appearance, but seemed tense. Waxman wrote on her blog, Waxword, that Zuckerberg seemed “nervous”; during his presentation, he “stammered” and “sweated” a lot. Not exactly the picture of Facebook’s calculated cool. In real media, Zuckerberg is learning, you can’t “untag” yourself from an unflattering photo.
Zuckerberg is hardly the first anxious Jew. But barely pushing 30, and running the world’s most popular social network site under the fishbowl scrutiny of the larger media, Zuckerberg is contending with massive—and massively unique—pressures to perform. He is the Julius Caesar of the Internet, presiding over an illusory empire of 540 million.
From this vantage point, it appears he doesn’t much like the attention. He doesn’t like being exposed. Privacy, he’s learning, is a rare and precious thing. It’s something the creators of “The Social Network” didn’t grant him. The director David Fincher and the writer Aaron Sorkin—two of Hollywood’s most powerful filmmakers—chose to base their movie on a more lurid account of Zuckerberg’s rise than the official version Zuckerberg would have preferred.
According to TheWrap.com, “Facebook negotiated for months with Sony to get them to rely on an authorized history of the company written by New York Times writer David Kirkpatrick, instead of a more rollicking, sexy account by Ben Mezrich, ‘The Accidental Billionaires.’”
“Behind the scenes,” The New York Times reported, “Mr. Zuckerberg and his colleagues have been locked in a tense standoff with the filmmakers, who portray Facebook as founded on a series of betrayals, then fueled by the unappeasable craving of almost everyone for ‘friends’ — the Facebook term for those who connect on its online pages — that they will never really have.”
According to the Times, Facebook “fretted for months” over how to respond to their PR crisis, deciding, in the end, to simply ignore it. Biding his time before his millions of friends get a glimpse of their wearied leader and his motives, Zuckerberg is railing against the film, trying to discredit it with spiteful comments and hoping upon hope that it doesn’t become a cult classic.
Zuckerberg’s fast rise and flimsy footing is an object lesson in the limits of power. What happens when the world you create is not the world you want to live in? Where good intentions give way to troubling results, and friends are “friends” only so long as you deteriorate enough to interest them.
“The Social Network” trailer:
August 19, 2010 | 2:40 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
First, “A Film Unfinished,” about the Holocaust, got slapped with an ‘R’ rating by the Motion Picture Association of America. Then, “The Pat Tillman Story,” whose subject matter deals with the Iraq war, a former football star and a government cover-up got marked with the same fate, igniting a controversy over whether films with historical or political value should be kept from young audiences.
According to the MPAA, an R-rating means “Restricted” and since1968, has meant that anyone under 17-years-old must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Presumably, the MPAA’s rationale is this: teenagers and children under the age of 17 are impressionable and therefore, the content they are exposed to should be monitored. That makes sense with respect to fiction films that showcase gratuitous violence, sex or complex adult themes. But what happens when content deemed to provocative for young people comes from a historically-based documentary? Should we shield young audiences from sordid truths about people in power?
In the cases of both the aforementioned films, the R-rating was appealed, and in both cases, to no avail.
According to a Jewish Journal article, “A Film Unfinished,” about Nazi-staged propaganda films from the Warsaw Ghetto, got slapped with an R for “disturbing images of Holocaust atrocities, including graphic nudity” (the nudity, by the way, was of Jewish women being coerced into a mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath). Now, I’m glad the MPAA had the good sense to acknowledge the R-rated atrocities in the film, but as my editor Rob Eshman noted, shame on them for pulling wool over childrens’ eyes when the only way to prevent such horrors is to educate young people on their significance.
With “The Pat Tillman Story,” a harrowing documentary about a military blunder that resulted in the death of NFL star Pat Tillman and a subsequent cover-up, the film was given an ‘R’ for graphic language. One use of the ‘f-word’ that the MPAA didn’t like? When Tillman’s father recounts testimony about his son’s death and repeats his supposed last words while getting fired upon by fellow American soldiers: “I’m Pat fucking Tillman!” The MPAA has a point on this one; I can’t think of a single teenager I know who has ever heard, let alone uses, the f-word.
In their appeals, both films claimed they possess historically important educational value and should not have their audiences limited by an ‘R,’ according to a report at TheWrap.com. They may also possess controversial content, but does that mean teenagers shouldn’t see them? Is any G-rated Disney movie more important for a 15-year-old to see than a documentary about the Holocaust and how the Nazis manipulated its images? Is it more important—or appropriate—for that same kid to see “Toy Story 3” and not a film about the U.S. army at war—something that within three years time they are eligible to enlist in?
Two films does not necessarily constitute a trend, though the MPAA would do well to take a hard look at what kind of precedent is being set. It’s noble to want to protect young minds from the violence of video games and Angelina Jolie action movies, but shielding them from the world’s realities may do them a great disservice. It’s important to ask if by precluding young people from seeing these films, the MPAA is protecting them—or shading them in the dark of Hollywood’s happier illusions?
August 19, 2010 | 12:30 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In the months I spent investigating the pending closure of The Motion Picture Home for this week’s cover story, I was moved by the courage of the home’s residents and their families. Leaving your home is rarely easy, and in this case, made more complicated by the fact that these residents were asked to leave against their will.
But while my knee-jerk reaction was to rail against the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF), the non-profit charity that runs the home and is supported by many of the biggest names in Hollywood—Spielberg, Katzenberg, Douglas, to name just a few—I came to discover a far more complex situation than a battle between opposing forces.
Because the fund is seen as an enterprise of the wealthy and powerful, many wouldn’t accept the claim that they couldn’t afford to operate long-term care. I heard many times over: How could Steven Spielberg let this happen? Are you telling me that Jeffrey Katzenberg can’t give away a few more million? In this battle, there is certainly a camp that believes Hollywood’s wealthy should step up and pay for the cost discrepancy between health care reimbursements and what it costs to operate the nursing home—which the fund claims is about $1 million per month. But what gets lost in that demand is the acknowledgment that many of those people already give—and give a lot. Are we really going to suggest that Spielberg and Katzenberg aren’t philanthropic enough? That seems a dangerous line.
Now it’s true that in recent years, the fund has shifted their financial priorities from covering the costs of long-term care to developing lifestyle facilities for independent and active adults. Some see this as unfair and shallow, but the MPTF believes it is the more sustainable model for their organization and they have a right to prioritize their solvency. Irma Kalish, a former MPTF board member who served the organization for 27 years aptly pointed out that the fund, which was founded as a social justice initiative, has, in recent years, become more corporate and therefore most concerned about its bottom line.
Most of all, the tragedy at the Motion Picture Home is about the utter vulnerability of the nation’s elderly poor. Their health care is so expensive, not even a well-endowed Hollywood charity could support it—and continue to support the 60,000 other people it serves through its outpatient health care clinics. To preserve itself, the fund chose a utilitarian model of health care: provide the greatest number of services to the greatest number of people. That does not obviate the tragedy the impact of closing long-term care has on its residents, but it does help explain it.
This is a battle with no clear villain, a problem with no clear solution.
According to a 2006 essay on aging in Commentary Magazine by Leon R. Kass and Eric Cohen, [due to medical advances] “Average life expectancy in the United States is now seventy-eight years and rising (up from forty-seven in 1900), and those over age eighty-five are already the fastest growing segment of the population.” But along with longer life expectancy comes a period of frailty and decline, placing increasing demands on end-of-life caregivers. The article cites a Rand Study that found “roughly 40 percent of deaths in the United States are now preceded by a period of enfeeblement, debility, and (often) dementia lasting up to a decade.”
Because of lower birthrates, the number of working-age caregivers is dwindling, while modern families, according to the article, are “smaller, less stable and more geographically spread out”. The wealthy, who can afford round the clock care, have to contend with a shortage of professional help, which may be related to the unglamorous work associated with caregiving. But the majority of the American population, however, will struggle with the rising costs of long-term care. And inevitable demands for social reform will pose a huge fiscal challenge to government sponsored health care.
The Commentary article concluded: “Endless chatter about ‘healthy aging’ is at bottom a form of denial. Ultimately, the nursing home refutes the dream of limitless progress toward ageless bodies, and America will surely be building many more nursing homes in the years ahead.”
Is the Motion Picture and Television Fund abandoning its mission? Maybe, in part. The only thing that could preserve the remaining residents’ way of life would be an incredible act of charity. I suppose, the kind of act the MPTF’s founders hoped to make real.
Read my full story on the closure of the Motion Picture Home here:
One day last spring, Jill Schary-Robinson Shaw was walking through a quiet, darkened corridor in the long-term care unit at The Motion Picture Home, the iconic Woodland Hills nursing home for entertainment industry veterans and their families. Hardly anyone was around — lights were dim, residents alone in their rooms — as Schary-Robinson Shaw, the daughter of Isadore “Dore” Schary, who ran MGM in the 1950s, wheeled her husband, Stuart Shaw, a resident of the home, around his desolate indoor neighborhood.
“There used to be wonderful entertainments,” Schary-Robinson Shaw said. “Pianists, musicians. But it’s all changed. Replaced by a mood of tension — a foreboding.”
August 16, 2010 | 10:31 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
In the new book, Furious Love, about the fervent, stormy romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that has been optioned for film, the lovers have a quarrel about Judaism.
In one scene, the joint biography by Sam Kashner, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and Nancy Schoenberger, an author, depicts Taylor and Burton having one of their usual, theatrical spats—over who was more “Jewish.”
The authors write:
Burton had referred to the Welsh as “the Jews of Britain”, a comment on their self-identity as the outsiders of the United Kingdom. [Note: Burton was Welsh]
“You’re not Jewish at all,” he told Elizabeth in one of their very public fights, “If there’s any Jew in this family, it’s me!”
“I am Jewish,” she answered, “and you can fuck off!”
Taylor, the irreverent and dazzling actress was raised a Christian scientist, but converted to Judaism at age 27. Though some say the decision was motivated by marriage to her third husband, Mike Todd—born Avrom Goldbogen, the grandson of a Polish rabbi, according to Time Magazine—Taylor famously denied it, insisting she had always been interested in Judaism. In her book, Elizabeth Takes Off, Taylor tried to set the record straight, and according to Wikipedia wrote: “[Conversion to Judaism] had absolutely nothing to do with my past marriage to Mike [Todd] or my upcoming marriage to Eddie Fisher, both of whom were Jewish. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time.”
Divas do things on their own terms. When she finally decided to convert, Taylor did so at Temple Israel of Hollywood, under the tutelage of then-rabbi Max Nussbaum. According to Time, who reported on Taylor’s conversion in April 1959, Rabbi Nussbaum developed a special curriculum for the actress that included: the Bible, and the books—A History of the Jews, by Abram Leon Sachar, What Is a Jew?, by Morris Kertzer, and Basic Judaism, by Milton Steinberg. Afterwards, “[T]hey discussed the ancient traditions and modern problems of the people of Israel,” Time reported.
At her conversion ceremony, Taylor was given the Hebrew name Elisheba Rachel Taylor (Elisheba being the Hebrew version of Elizabeth and Rachel being the actress’s biblical heroine). Time described the ritual in detail:
[The] ceremony took place in the chapel of Temple Israel in the presence of Convert Taylor’s parents. Facing the open Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Scrolls, she answered the ritual questions put to her by Rabbi Nussbaum. Among them: “Do you promise to cast in your lot with the people of Israel amid all circumstances and conditions?” “Do you agree to rear your future children according to the Jewish faith?”
Then Elisheba Rachel Taylor repeated the pledge: “I, of my own free will, seek the fellowship of Israel . . . I believe that God is One, Almighty, All-Wise and Most Holy . . . I promise that I shall endeavor to live, as far as it is in my power, in accordance with the ideals of Jewish life . . . Most fervently, therefore, do I herewith pronounce the Jewish confession of faith: Shma yisroel adonoy elohenu adonoy echod [Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One]. Boruch shem kvod malchuso I’olom voed [Praised be his name whose glorious kingdom is for ever and ever].”
Taylor channeled her defiant Jewish spirit into almost everything - even her marriage. Director Mike Nichols is reportedly attached to direct Furious Love, the movie—which should be interesting since Nichols directed Taylor and Burton in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, the 1966 film that the public came to view as a window into the couple’s real marriage. For those who haven’t seen the film—first of all, you should—but just in case, this line from the New York Times review of the book aptly sums up their relationship: “In their prime, the Burtons made ‘married love’ seem ‘glamorous and sexy,’ ‘even dangerous,’ the authors write. They also made it seem deranged and codependent,” Times writer Ada Calhoun notes. “There’s a lesson here for couples: marriage doesn’t have to be a partnership of equals. It can be a bodice-ripping, booze-soaked, jewel-bedecked brawl that survives even death.”
Imagine reading that on your ketubah.
Read more about Liz as a rabbi remembers her in Tales from the Jewish Crypt
August 12, 2010 | 4:31 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
A recent headline from the Miami Herald screamed: “Lebron James hires rabbi.” Two days later, Israeli papers reported that “Dawson’s Creek” star James Van Der Beek wed his model girlfriend at the Kabbalah Centre in Tel Aviv.
Two Jewish headlines, but no Jews.
Non-Jews turning to Judaism isn’t new. The concept is at least as old as the bible. But over the last several years, more and more high-profile stars like Madonna, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, David and Victoria Beckham have all been embracing their inner-Jew. Which is especially amusing at a time when fewer and fewer Jews are practicing Judaism. Let’s face it: Lebron James could walk into any church in America for guidance—but he sought a rabbi instead. And even though she didn’t convert, Chelsea Clinton proudly included Jewish ritual at her interfaith wedding. All of which makes clear that the religious impulse is there—just not among the Jews that Judaism was meant for. And what is it that non-Jews find so interesting?
Now, before the rants against the Kabbalah Centre begin, let’s consider that—cult or not, “Jewish” or not—Rabbi Yehuda Berg is succeeding where the Jewish establishment is failing.
“To get Jews interested in the Jewish world, you have to get the non-Jews interested,” Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is quoted as saying in a profile on slate.com. “The Jews will follow what the non-Jews are doing.”
I asked Boteach about this when I interviewed him last April.
“I would be lying if I said that I believe in influencing the non-Jewish world for the purpose of impacting on the Jews,” Boteach said. “That the non-Jews are nothing but a means to an end. I think that’s insulting. To say that 99.9 percent of the world’s population doesn’t matter is classic Jewish arrogance and condescension. I believe in making the world more godly. I believe in making the world more values-based, in healing all families, all marriage, but I believe in my people and I love my people and I’ve given my life to my people, and yes, I do believe that even for its own sake, the best way to influence the Jewish world is to influence the world at large.”
So, what do you think? Is it working?
(Hat tip to my sis for the news)