Posted by Danielle Berrin
Apparently, hotels, nightclubs and restaurants are not fashionable enough to undergird developer Sam Nazarian’s SBE lifestyle brand, so he’s adding a new, unlikely element: hot dogs.
That’s right—among luxury linens, rooftop swimming pools and St.Tropez-style nightclubs, Nazarian is now purveyor of Papaya King hot dog carts. The 35-year-old developer has teamed with the New York-based company to launch a series of hot dog stands throughout Los Angeles, the first of which opened in the heart of Hollywood last week. No word yet on whether the Manhattan transplant will taste any good in L.A. and with long lines round the clock at the Hollywood institution Pink’s, Nazarian has a tough act to follow. According to at least one customer surveyed by the New York Times, Papaya’s sausages are just “average.”
From the New York Times:
This symbol of New York landed last week in the heart of Hollywood, with a cluster of balloons and a cheeky billboard campaign that includes an off-color joke about a casting couch. (Another Papaya billboard reads: “We’re 100 percent natural. But we think we’ll fit in L.A. just fine.”)
Not only is the first time in its 80-year history that Papaya King has looked west of the Hudson, it has also chosen as its first target a city that might be as crazy and competitive about food — and hot dogs — as New York. Indeed, even at 1:10 a.m. on Monday, a long line of people was spotted at Pink’s Hot Dogs on La Brea Avenue, waiting patiently for one of this city’s more celebrated hot dogs.
Papaya King teamed up with a restaurant and luxury developer, SBE, to open the shop here and, in the year to come, in other locations across the West. Sam Nazarian, the founder of the company, said he was not worried about the homegrown competition, saying the Papaya dog — not to mention the signature Papaya Drink, made with fresh papaya juice — would more than hold its own with the Western audience.
“Pink’s is a fast-food stand — it has everything and anything,” he said. “For us, it’s literally all about the hot dog.” Mr. Nazarian said he liked and respected Pink’s, but “L.A., I think, is looking for something new.”
Read my 2009 profile of Sam Nazarian here
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May 31, 2011 | 3:49 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It’s no secret that there are powerful forces within the American Jewish community who feel deep distrust and doubt when it comes to President Obama’s relationship to Israel. Whether Haim Saban, the billionaire media mogul and largest individual donor to the Democratic Party counts himself in that camp is a worthy question.
What is not worthy is shoddy reporting that projects false conclusions.
“One of the most important Democratic donors in the past two decades, whose generous contributions helped pay for the DNC headquarters in Washington, D.C., has indicated that he will not contribute to President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, because of the administration’s stance on Israel,” reporter Alana Goodman wrote.
This of course, is a very significant statement, given that it concerns a major political donor known for his single-issue concern – Israel—but the problem is, it isn’t true.
When asked by a CNBC anchor if he was satisfied with Obama’s clarification about a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, what Saban actually said was: “[On that point] we’re all good; as an Israeli-American we’re all good.”
Saban’s criticism, which he made of both Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was that they need to address their differences in private, not at the U.N., not in front of the cameras. Understandably, Saban would like to see the relationship afforded the dignity of confidence between friends.
“The Prime Minister should not be speaking as he has to my President in the oval office,” Saban told CNBC. “That is not an acceptable behavior. Nor is, frankly, President Obama’s handling of every controversy in public, as he has done.”
Even though, under the Obama administration, U.S. military aid to Israel is at its highest in Israel’s history, there remains ambivalence and skepticism regarding Obama’s diplomacy there. Saban seems to be satisfied with Obama’s official policy towards Israel but not with his personal affinity for the Jewish state.
“I’m very perplexed as to why the president, who’s been to Cairo, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, has not made a stop in Israel and spoken to the Israeli people,” he said. Saban also suggested that with a direct address to the Israelis, Obama could assuage their concerns about brokering a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
That’s when the anchor asked Saban if he would contribute to Obama’s re-election campaign. Saban replied obliquely; saying that Obama didn’t really need his financial support: “He has raised so much money and will raise so much through the internet, more than anybody,” Saban said, but made it clear that if he were solicited, he would contribute to Obama’s campaign. Saban also said he would remain a “staunch” supporter of the Democratic Party and indicated his money would be better spent educating and influencing members of congress above and beyond the executive cabinet (the idea that U.S. congressional support for Israel is most vital to Israel’s security and prosperity is also AIPAC’s operating principle).
So what’s with the sensational headline that suggests Saban is withdrawing his full political support from Obama?
At best, it’s a shallow misunderstanding; at worst, it’s irresponsible journalism. Haim Saban is a well-worn political influencer and I can only assume, extremely careful and calculated about the statements he makes to the press. What he’s doing here is playing a political game, sending a message to the President that says, ‘Well, maybe I won’t contribute to your re-election campaign unless...’
His goal is clear: he wants the President to visit Israel and talk to Israelis. He wants the President not simply to support Israel but to love, to treat it as more than a strategic interest, but as an ally, a friend.
This is very smart posturing because it sets up the opportunity for a quid-pro-quo. When it comes time for Obama’s re-election campaign and Saban is next on the call list, rather than a guarantee of support, Obama will have to make good on Saban’s request.
Read my profile of Haim Saban here.
Watch the CNBC interview:
May 26, 2011 | 2:15 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
“Theatre was always my first love,” Kirk Douglas said in a statement announcing a major financial gift to L.A.’s Center Theater Group. His wistfulness came through, even in a press release. “In fact, when I came to Hollywood to make my first picture, I thought it was just a temporary detour. I would earn enough money to tide my family over only until my first long-run hit on Broadway…
“That never happened,” he added, “and I soon resigned myself (believe me, it wasn’t hard) to being a movie star.”
Along with a healthy dose of talent, that stardom led to three Oscar nominations, an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement and the accumulation of great fortune. The 93-year-old’s film success also enabled him to establish The Douglas Foundation, which in 2004 provided $2.5 million in seed funding to transform a defunct Culver City movie house into what is now The Kirk Douglas Theatre. Since then, the 317-seat theatre has focused on nurturing new and emerging artists and has helped land two major works—“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” and the musical “13”—on Broadway. In fact, after an intensive workshop at the theatre, Douglas and his wife, Anne contributed $250,000 to launch the world premiere of “13” at Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum in Downtown L.A.
The Douglas’s latest gift, a $1 million challenge grant aimed at raising additional funds for the theatre, follows a previous $1 million seed grant for developing new work.
In addition to world premieres of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” “The Wake,” and the revival of “Come Back, Little Sheba,” Douglas’s namesake theatre also played host to the actor’s autobiographical show, “Before I Forget” in March 2009.
Only the man who played Spartacus could sustain such stamina as a nonagenarian.
May 25, 2011 | 10:12 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The adjacent photo makes me wish I’d titled this column, “Hollywood Anti-Semites: The Year in Review” but that wouldn’t really be accurate since it’s mostly about Lars Von Trier (republished below as it appears in this week’s paper). Though it would be rascally fun to cast the award for year’s Biggest Anti-Semite. I do have to hand it to these guys on one thing: In Hollywood, there’s no better way to get media attention than shouting “Jew” in a crowded room. For this kind of press, the only alternative is winning an Oscar.
Will the real anti-Semite please stand up?
Is it: a) Mel Gibson; b) Oliver Stone; c) John Galliano; d) Charlie Sheen; e) Lars von Trier — or (f) all of the above?
Trying to determine the worst offender may seem a Sisyphean task considering the past year’s almost farcical uptick in anti-Semitic rants. It’s like separating your least favorite jelly beans from an overstuffed crate. But to their credit as artists, this bunch has at least provided Jew-hating vitriol so colorful and diverse, no one will get bored with the same bean (OK, Mel, you get to be the exception).
There isn’t anything new about anti-Semitism in Hollywood — the very idea of the entertainment industry is a recurring theme in the “Jewish-cabal-runs-the-world” plot, but the past year has provided such a diverse array of offensive things to say about Jews, the verbal wreckage is worth sifting through. Not all anti-Semites are created equal.
To recap: Last fall, Stone blamed Jewish media domination for a misunderstood view of Hitler: “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people”; earlier this spring, Galliano called a woman in a Parisian restaurant a “dirty Jew face” and on another occasion was caught on video verbally assaulting guests at a neighboring table: “I love Hitler. People like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f———gassed”; and then that mad hatter Charlie Sheen degraded his sitcom boss Chuck Lorre, calling him a “clown,” a “turd,” a “contaminated little maggot” and — worst of all — by his Hebrew name, Chaim Levine.
Maybe jelly beans are too kind a metaphor. None of those diatribes is particularly sweet; all are distasteful. But there is a difference between saying something stupid and naive and saying something hateful.
Now I’m going to say something that may sound stupid and naive: Lars von Trier is not an anti-Semite.
Last week, the Danish director disrupted the revelry on the Cote d’Azur with a very bizarre ramble at the Cannes Film Festival. During a press conference for his latest film, the apocalyptic “Melancholia,” which was in competition for the top prize (it didn’t win, but star Kirsten Dunst got an acting nod), von Trier was asked about his German roots and about an interview he once gave citing his “admiration for the Nazi aesthetic.”
“I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew,” von Trier told a conference room full of international reporters. “And then I found out I was really a Nazi, because my family was German, which also gave me some pleasure. So I’m kind of … yep … what can I say? I understand Hitler. But I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. … He’s not what you would call ‘a good guy,’ but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little. I’m not against Jews — no. … I am of course very much for Jews — no, not too much, because the Israelis are a pain in the ass. …”
Finally realizing he had buried himself deep in the jelly bean jar and consequently mortified his cast, who flanked him on both sides, the bumbling von Trier wondered: “How can I get out of this sentence?”
Uh, too late.
Von Trier’s flippant ramble instantly made headlines, hijacking the spotlight from his film (and all other films), and within 24 hours, the festival officially banned the director, declaring him persona non grata. He immediately recanted: “If I have hurt someone by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi.” And later, for good measure, he added, “I’m known for provocations, but I like provocations when they have a purpose, and this had no purpose whatsoever. Because I’m not Mel Gibson. I’m definitely not Mel Gibson.”
As an artist, von Trier is certainly iconoclastic, known for edgy and visually evocative films. The Bjork-headlining musical “Dancer in the Dark,” about a blind woman who escapes despair by daydreaming elaborate musical numbers, won him the Palme d’Or in 2000, Cannes’ top prize. His 2009 entry, the uber-raunchy “Antichrist,” generated heat for its portrayal of female genital mutilation and lots of gratuitous sex. For his next project, von Trier has promised … porn.
The zany director isn’t always so sane. After his banishment, von Trier declared himself “proud” to be cast out and invited anyone who was displeased with him to hit him — the caveat was that he might “enjoy it.”
Even the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman seemed somewhat puzzled by von Trier, calling his comments “insensitive” while calling attention to his frailties.
“He seems to be struggling with some personal ghosts,” Foxman said in a statement. “I don’t know what to make of it, except that what we’re seeing recently is, when somebody has a personal problem or is under intense pressure, it bursts out in an anti-Semitic fashion.” (Hear that, Charlie Sheen?)
The Hollywood reporter Mike Fleming was less charitable. “If there was a festival prize for Biggest Douchebag, von Trier wins, hands down,” he wrote on the entertainment blog Deadline.com.
I can think of a few Yiddish words that might fit, too. One rhymes with “buck.”
But unlike his anti-Semitic-spewing brethren, von Trier’s prattle was not hostile; he used no slang nor slurs, nor threatening language.
In fact, if the vulgar von Trier committed any offense, it was in downplaying the Dictator of Mass Destruction. It’s fine to feel you “understand Hitler” as a man, or as a character — von Trier is, after all, a filmmaker — but to say that the engineer of the greatest mass murder in recent history did “some wrong things” and is “not what you would call ‘a good guy’ ” is wildly misguided. That kind of talk blunts the man’s accomplishments — Hitler would find it insulting.
Foxman got it right when he spoke of personal ghosts. It seems von Trier is unlikely to be a danger to Jewish welfare, but he is a danger to himself.
“I got carried away,” he told The New York Times last Friday, from a hotel five miles north of Cannes. “I feel this obligation, which is completely stupid and very unprofessional, to kind of entertain the crowd a little bit.”
If further proof is needed that von Trier has peculiar ideas about entertainment, watch his movies. Much of his subject matter could only emerge from a dark and tormented mind. The “Melancholia” director is truly melancholy.
“I had actually been drinking quite a lot, but now I’m sober,” he told Times reporter Dennis Lim. “I would suggest to everybody, don’t stop drinking. If I had been [drinking], I would be almost asleep at the press conference and would not have said those stupid things.”
May 24, 2011 | 2:44 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Okay so the quote isn’t actually from today; it comes from a 2009 Guardian profile of Peaches Geldof, a so-called British ‘celebutante’ who I stumbled upon in my Twitter feed (not because I follow her, because I follow horror film director/ Bear-Jew Eli Roth, and apparently, according to someone somewhere, they’re dating—or they used to date, but that’s not the point). In addition to being young, a sometime model, a British fashion icon and an aspiring media mogul, Peaches (real name, according to The Guardian: Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof—- though rumor has it this is “made up”, though of course I thought, ‘Who does she think she is changing her name like that? A Jew?) is also the daughter of musician Bob Geldof, the lead singer of the group The Boomtown Rats (he also starred as Pink in Pink Floyd’s 1982 film The Wall).
The Guardian journalist Rachel Cooke rightly points out that Geldof is a bit “lippy”, but on the topic of the media’s obsession with redundant celebrity journalism—Geldof launched her own mag, Disappear Here in 2008—she said something rather astute, especially in light of recent harping on celebrity scandal (NOT that DMK or the Sperminator don’t deserve every bit):
“Joe Bloggs who only earns 20 grand and really has to struggle doesn’t want to see Brad and Angelina strolling round in their million-dollar mansions. He wants to see them falling apart because that will make him feel better about himself. Our need to knock celebrities is…Twisted: it’s deep in the mid-brain below the survival instinct. That lust to see a downfall. It’s animalistic.”
May 24, 2011 | 1:14 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Iran, it seems, is rushing to the defense of disgraced Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier after the director made flippant remarks about his Nazi-heritage at the Cannes Film Festival last week.
Mike Fleming from Deadline.com is reporting that Iranian Vice Minister of Culture Javad Shamaqdari, one of the regime’s most politically outspoken filmmakers, has sent a letter to the festival decrying their “fascist” treatment of the director, who was officially banned from the festival, after he made sympathetic comments about the Nazis during the press conference for his film, “Melancholia.”
“Surely you remember that the Cannes festival was established with the aim of struggling against fascists,” Shamaqdari wrote, according to indiewire.com’s partial transcript. “After 64 years, it is sad to see the traces of fascist behavior in the Cannes organizers’ decision to expel one of the acclaimed European filmmakers… Perhaps it is necessary to provide a new definition of freedom of speech for encyclopedias. Otherwise, the behavior Cannes exhibited toward Von Trier by forcing him to apologize several times causes everybody to recall the churches’ medieval treatment of Galileo.”
What’s odd is that Fleming thinks this is strange. He calls the incident a “Twilight Zone-like twist” in the ongoing drama, which, unfortunately, is not stranger than fiction.
“It is odd to get a statement of support from the same government that gave harsh prison sentences and banishment from filmmaking to two of its most important directors, Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof,” Fleming wrote.
That may be so; but it is not at all odd that an Iranian official would leap to the defense of someone perceived to be a Nazi-sympathizer. Fleming would do well to remember we’re talking about Iran—a country in the midst of developing nuclear weapons under the leadership of a president who has threatened to wipe Israel “off the map”. And it’s surprising when an official of that regime speaks out on behalf of a man who says nice things about Hitler, who wiped 6 million Jews off the map? Nope, sorry, no surprise there.
May 20, 2011 | 12:55 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The mad hatter Charlie Sheen refuses to relinquish the spotlight, only this time, instead of drumming up personal disaster he’s taking aim at Warner Bros. and producer Chuck Lorre for cutting short his show and giving him the boot. Nothing like $100 million to restore his ego to its former glory.
Lisa de Moraes has details on the lawsuit—and a dose of snark thrown in for good measure at The Washington Post:
The lawsuit, filed Thursday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court, not only demands that Sheen get paid for the eight episodes of the show that were scrapped this TV season, but the actor also says he’s suing on behalf of the entire cast and crew.
“Torpedo away. . . . You corporate Trolls were warned. And now you’ve been served!” Sheen tweeted early Thursday afternoon, right about the time tabloid Web site TMZ was publishing the legal document. TMZ is one of Charlie’s preferred contacts with the outside world since production shut down on “Men.”
“Defendant Chuck Lorre, one of the richest men in television who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, believes himself to be so wealthy and powerful that he can unilaterally decide to take money away from the dedicated cast and crew of the popular television series ‘Two and a Half Men’ in order to serve his own ego and self-interest, and make the star of the Series the scapegoat for Lorre’s own conduct,” Sheen’s attorney, Martin Singer, wrote in the pretty zippy court filing.
May 18, 2011 | 10:50 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The Cannes Film Festival has declared Danish director Lars Von Trier “persona non grata” after he delivered some flippant remarks about Jews, Nazis and Hitler yesterday [see transcript below].
According to several entertainment outlets, the festival’s board of directors issued the following statement:
“The Festival de Cannes provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation. The Festival’s Board of Directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday 19 May 2011, profoundly regrets that this forum has been used by Lars Von Trier to express comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the Festival.
“The Board of Directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars Von Trier a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately.”
According to TheWrap.com, Von Trier responded: “I’m very proud of being persona non grata. I’ve never been that before in my life, and that suits me extremely well…I’m known for provocations, but I like provocations when they have a purpose. And this had no purpose whatsoever. Because I’m not Mel Gibson. I’m definitely not Mel Gibson.”
While premiering his latest film, the apocalyptic drama “Melancholia” starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg on Wednesday, Von Trier had some very strange things to say about the Jews, and in particular, fellow Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, whose film “In A Better World” won this year’s foreign film Oscar.
To be fair, Von Trier seemed to be running his mouth, unsure of what he was saying, and some of it was said in jest. Here is a transcription of his remarks:
“I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew. Then later on came Susanne Bier and then suddenly I wasn’t so happy about being a Jew—no, that was a joke; sorry. But it turned out I was not a Jew, but even if I had been a Jew I would have been a second rate Jew because there’s a kind of a hierarchy in the Jewish population. But anyway I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out I was really a nazi because my family was German, which also gave me some pleasure. So I’m kind of…yep…what can I say? I understand Hitler. But I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker… [At this point Kirsten Dunst gasps with nervous laughter] I think I understand the man. He’s not what you would call ‘a good guy’, but I understand much about him and I sympathise with him a little. But, but, come on, I’m not for the second World War, and I’m not against Jews—no, not even Susanne Bier (that was also a joke). I am of course very much for Jews—no, not too much because the Israelis are a pain in the ass… How can I get out of this sentence? [“By another question,” suggests someone in the press conference. Von Trier stumbles a bit more, and then, realizing he has gone on a weird and dangerous tangent verbally throws his arms up and says…] Okay I’m a Nazi.”
At the end of the press conference video, Kirsten Dunst can be heard saying, “Oh Lars, that was intense.”
While Von Trier’s remarks are somewhat cryptic (Is he a Jew? Is he a Nazi? Is this a joke?), he is known for being a provocateur. He is widely considered an edgy, iconoclastic filmmaker. In 2000, the musical/dance film “Dancer in the Dark” starring the artist Bjork won him the Palme d’Or, Cannes’ highest prize. In 2009, he shocked audiences with “Antichrist” which featured a graphic scene of female genital mutilation. He’s an artist who thrives on scintillation. He is turned on by pushing buttons and shattering boundaries.
The Cannes Film Festival officially wrist-slapped Von Trier, releasing a statement calling his remarks “disturbing” and he recanted in full: “If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not antisemitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a nazi,” Deadline.com reported.
The ADL’s Abe Foxman made the following statement to The Hollywood Reporter:
“He seems to be struggling with some personal ghosts…It’s a bizarre outburst. I don’t know what to make of it except that what we’re seeing recently is, when somebody has a personal problem or is under intense pressure, it bursts out in an anti-Semitic fashion…. It certainly is insensitive to Jewish people and to Jewish history.”
Von Trier’s comments are an odd addition to a recent spate of Hollywood Jew-hating, coming after firestorms surrounding the fashion designer John Galliano, the actor Charlie Sheen and late last year, the director Oliver Stone.
Whether Von Trier’s remarks should be categorized with previous anti-Semitic comments made by Hollywood stars is puzzling. The issue here is not that Von Trier hates Jews, because I think it’s fairly obvious he doesn’t, but that he is diminishing Hitler’s evil. It’s fine to feel you “understand Hitler” as a man, or as a character—Von Trier is, after all, a filmmaker—but to say Hitler did “some wrong things” and is “not what you would call ‘a good guy’” severely blunts Hitler’s crimes against humanity.
Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center was less charitable with Von Trier’s remarks: “The only award that Lars Von Trier should receive is the Cannes Film Festival ‘Bigot of the Year’ for expressing his ‘understanding of’ and ‘sympathy for’ Adolf Hitler and for suggesting a ‘Final Solution’ for journalists,” Hier and Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the museum said in a joint statement. “Please spare us all a meaningless apology written for him by his publicists,” they concluded.
I think what this boils down to is a thoughtless ramble, and next time, someone in the room should have the courage to shut him up. He’s not THAT important.
Here’s a live video of the whole press conference; Von Trier’s comments come in around 35:00, towards the end.