Cameron Douglas, son of Michael and grandson of Kirk, was in the news this week when a New York judge sentenced him to five years in prison for dealing methamphetamine from a trendy Manhattan hotel.
The 31-year old scion of the Hollywood dynasty has been in scrapes with the law since adolescence, and acted with his father and grandfather in one forgettable movie, but I would like to remember him in a different context.
During one of many interviews with Kirk Douglas over the last two decades, the actor told one anecdote that has stuck in my mind because it seemed to epitomize the penchant of American Jews to forge their own Jewish identities.
Both Kirk and Michael married non-Jewish women, so when Cameron was eight years old he came to his father with a weighty question.
“Pappy (Grandpa) is Jewish, right, Daddy?” Cameron asked.
“That’s right, Cameron,” Michael replied.
“But what are you, Daddy?”
“I guess people would say I’m half-Jewish.”
“Oh, and what am I?”
“Well, I suppose you’re a quarter Jewish.”
Cameron thought for a moment and then looked up at his father, saying, “Daddy, I wanna be half-Jewish.”