Last month’s nuclear deal with Iran has set off a cacophony of pro and con acrimony pitting public officials, academic experts and pundits against one another. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the interim accord a “historic mistake.”
I never lie. I never, ever lie. Except I lie to my grandmother. I lie to her all the time. The things I tell her are almost exclusively lies.
In one moment, this almost universal wrong became a right. And somewhere deep in the Valley at an elder care facility, in a room painted a hue that should be called "Trying Desperately to be Chipper," my family made the tacit agreement that a series of untruths was truly the best way to usher grandma into the next life. This place is the last stop for our matriarch, who is 91 and often forgets the names of her relatives and eats only tapioca pudding. The Ten Commandments say not to lie, but here in God's waiting room, with CNN on mute and various flowers wilting, we decide in an instant to make an exception.
Grandma tries to make conversation, but she's fading and she tends to ask the same questions again and again. With my cousins, my aunt and my new husband sitting around her room, she looked at the Mr. and asked, "Are you Jewish?"
There was some uncomfortable shifting around. There was a brief silence. Without discussion, we all nodded. Yes.
"Of course he's Jewish, Grammy," I said. What was she going to do? Leap out of bed and Google him? This first lie felt so right. I shot a look to my husband.
"I'm Jewish," he added, and we all looked at each other, a team of liars, all realizing at once that this was the thing to do. We were all smiling, because it was kind of funny, my Catholic blond of a husband's sudden conversion. Plus, smiling is kind of like crossing your fingers. If anyone was checking, we could say we were only joking with grandma.
As is her custom lately, she asked the question about half a dozen more times and got the same answer. I married a Jew, I married a Jew, I married a Jew. This news never failed to delight her.
"How are Buddy's grades?" Grandma asked. Buddy is my 15-year-old cousin, a great kid, excellent drummer, adequate wrestler, but perhaps not the best student, which is the only thing that concerns my grandma. That woman wants your G.P.A. even when she is almost R.I.P.
There was another moment of quiet. The smell of chicken wafted in from the kitchen next door. A few TVs were blaring in the facility, a cozy house turned hospice for six oldsters, most of who can't get out of bed. The phrase "no heroic measures" was whispered last time we were at the hospital with Grandma, and she seemed depressed and didn't want to eat or drink much. When one is at the end of days, does one really need to know one's grandson isn't going to Harvard, but more likely Cal State Northridge, like my dad, if he's lucky?
Grandma looked around the room, her cloudy eyes widening, thrilled.
She didn't know it, and we hadn't planned it, but suddenly grandma was in a nonstop, ad hoc, Make-a-Wish Foundation of the mind, where Shaq didn't need to show up and no one had to acquire a pony or two tickets to Disneyworld. Every secret wish in her heart was coming true through the magic of untruths.
"I'm going with Aunt Julie to temple," I offer during one visit. "I love services." Well, I kind of do, but let's face it, I never drive out to the Valley to go to services on a Friday night, but I would if we were living in an alternative universe, or if I didn't have two jobs, or if I wasn't really fidgety. Conceptually, this wasn't a complete mendacity.
There are also your garden-variety lies; lies you might tell your own grandmother, who still has all of her faculties and isn't knock, knock knocking you-know-where. We don't just tell Grandma exotic tales; we also involve ourselves with the basics, you know, of the "you look great in that" strain.
The nurses ask that we pick up some all-cotton shirts for Grandma that button up the front, so she won't be sitting around in the heat wearing synthetic fibers, and so the staff can easily change her top. My husband and I travel to Wal-Mart and scour the racks for something that fits this description. The only suitable garment we find is a striped oxford that screams substitute teaching or temping more than convalescing. We're running late, the striped shirt seems superior to the pink surfer motif hoodie that was our backup plan, so we buy three.
My aunt wrestles grandma into her new white button-down with red stripes and we all coo at how great she looks. There is something unsettling about a wheezing nonagenarian dressed like a small-market morning news anchor, but that's not how we put it.
"You look so adorable, Grandma" we say, in various ways, riffing on the subject for a good 15 minutes.
In a way, it's not a total fabrication. Grandma has a certain glow. Her hair, now that it's un-coiffed, is doing kind of a soft, wavy, old-fashioned almost Veronica Lake thing. Her happiness at seeing us, her quiet gratitude as my aunt spoon feeds her pudding or does her fingernails in opaque white, the way she remembers my husband's name every time she meets him, even though he's new to the family, there's beauty in all of this. Not so much in the shirt, you see, and there again is where lying is something we all wear well.
When everything hurts you, your swollen leg, your creaky joints, your lungs and most everything else, when you're sitting propped up in a button-down shirt you wouldn't have chosen in a room that you didn't decorate, when you're lonely and scared, the truth isn't always beautiful, a salve, or something that sets you free.
When everything hurts you, what you don't know can't.
Teresa Strasser is the co-host of "The Adam Carolla Show," mornings on 97.1 FM. She also co-hosts "TV Watercooler" on the TV Guide Network, airing Monday nights at 8 p.m.
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Al Roker served as Roastmaster at this year's Friars Club Roast of his "Today Show" co-host and friend Matt Lauer and opened with similarities between Lauer and Sarah Palin: "Both spend $150,000 on clothes; both got screwed by Katie Couric; and both wear women's jeans."
The capacity crowd at the New York Hilton Grand Ballroom boasted dozens of celebrity guests --Lauer's co-hosts, and Donald Trump, Martha Stewart, Howard Stern and "The Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin, who sang the National Anthem.
The roast had a surprise guest, as Tom Cruise led off the skewering of Lauer, joking about all the great advice he gave to people over the years: (Referring to his own Oprah couch-jumping debacle) "You told me, don't be glib -- you're in love, talk about it -- you told Jeff Zucker, if you cut Jay Leno while he's still hot -- people will love you for it -- you told O.J. if they took your stuff, go get it -- and when Katie Couric asked you -- should I jump to CBS..."
"Lose my number, you glib putz!" he finished.
Cruise did not stay for the rest of the program, despite Lauer's offer to get him a "booster seat."
"I haven't gotten this much applause since CBS executives heard a rumor I was leaving," Katie Couric said. "Tom Cruise left because he was jealous. He wanted to be the only good looking man in the room people thought was gay. Sarah Palin's wardrobe -- in Elliot Spitzer dollars that's three hookers and a pony. Al Roker is Barack Obama's second favorite weatherman, after Bill Ayers."
Meredith Viera said: "When Martha Stewart found out I was part Portuguese, she offered me a job -- cleaning her barn. Let's talk about Matt Lauer's achievements as a journalist," Viera added, pausing for a second,"that's enough."
NBC President Jeff Zucker said "When I got the call to speak in front of a few hundred people, I thought I was going to anchor the CBS Evening News... Matt Lauer is a great journalist- all the other guys care about is accuracy and integrity... Matt did a guest spot on "Will and Grace" which is appropriate because both characters were based on him... Matt spent four years at Ohio State University without getting a diploma- that's like going to Apex Tech and leaving without the free set of tools."
"I've never been to a show where the fat lady sang first," "Roastmaster General" Jeffrey Ross told the crowd, referring to Ms. Franklin; "she never forgets an R-E-C-I-P-E." He referred to Sarah Palin as a "GILF" -- "a governor I'd like to forget," and told Abe Vigoda to change his Facebook status to "resting in peace."
"Al Roker claims he's had his stomach stapled. To what? A refrigerator?"
Turning to the guest of honor, Ross said: "Matt Lauer is my favorite TV personality, which is ironic because he has no personality... you're the winner of a Daytime Emmy Award which is the equivalent of not winning an Emmy Award... your interview style is flatter than Martha Stewart's souffle which serves three to five -- just like Martha Stewart."
"A lot of viewers, or people who hold up signs outdoors, wonder if Matt and I are close," NBC news anchor Brian Williams said. "We're not."
Referring to the "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" segment, Williams said, "Matt goes on that trip every year and it was so great- the first year." He also commented on Lauer's "freakishly tailored suits." "A lot of the outfits Matt wears on The Today Show they also make for men."
"I really don't understand financial issues," Williams said. "We just call it all a crisis. But Jeff Zucker did double NBC stock. You can now buy two shares for what one used to be."
Bob Saget told the crowd "I've hidden the matzah somewhere in this room" and Richard Belzer said that Matt Lauer "was born to a Jewish father and an inflatable mother."
Gilbert Gottfried, who told Roker "I thought you were Florida from "Good Times," told his usual palate of unprintable jokes, but this time told the audience he had heard them from Today Show co-host Ann Curry, who covered her face with a napkin.
Lauer thanked the crowd and the comedian for the dubious honor, thanking his roasters. "Brian Williams thinks of himself as an amateur comedian, and we think of him as an amateur journalist. He pointed out that at NBC they had obituaries completed and ready to roll on 11 of the people on the dais, and was thankful "that I didn't invite my mother."
Eddy Friedfeld is a film and entertainment journalist and teaches The History of Comedy in America at Yale and NYU
Mr. Blackwell, whose annual "worst dressed" list turned him into a household name, has died. He was 86.
He had been in failing health and died Sunday afternoon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of complications from an intestinal infection, according to his publicist, Harlan Boll.
Blackwell was born Richard Sylvan Selzer on Aug. 29, 1922, in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.,
In 2002, Blackwell told The Journal that his criticisms are "tongue in cheek with a very strong truth behind them. I don't believe in vicious personal attacks of what they're wearing. It's an impression of how it hits me."
The following is from that 2002 article:
Blackwell, who pins his age as "over 60 and under 100," grew up in Brooklyn. He has Russian-Turkish heritage that descends from the Cohen tribe.
When Blackwell signed on at RKO under his real name, Richard Selzer, the studio's chief gave him a moniker makeover.
"Howard Hughes said that Richard Selzer would never do," says Blackwell, who remembers the legendary billionaire for "his concern, his caring."
Blackwell's famous fashion dos and don'ts originated in a 1960 American Weekly article. Yet he never proclaimed himself the last word on fashion.
"The public did," Blackwell insists. "I just did the list and their feeling was that I'm honest, direct and outspoken."
Jewish entertainers have not escaped Blackwell's radar either.
"She's come a long way and is looking great now," reports Blackwell of Barbra Streisand, once dubbed "Yentl goes mental."
But Phyllis Diller was miffed when she fell off Worst Dressed.
Says Blackwell: "She asked me, 'Where did I go right?!'"
Blackwell is survived by his life partner of almost 60 years, R.L. Spencer.
Instead of flowers, donations can be made to The ROAR Foundation at http://shambala.org, The Actors Fund at http://actorsfund.org or http://noonprop8.com.
Mare Winningham spoke with Ron Kaplan of the New Jersey Jewish News last week, and said she ” . . . was still on a high from davening and fasting the day before.
“You’re catching me at a good time, because I’ve done no wrong; I’m clean,” she said. “We had an amazing Yom Kippur. My fast was easy and I got a lot out of the service. “This is my sixth Yom Kippur. It’s always good for me as a Jew to remind myself, ‘Look how far you’ve come; look what you’re doing.’” Winningham, 49, described herself as “a devoted member” of her Hollywood synagogue. “Every Shabbos we have a beautiful service and then a class afterward, which is my favorite part of the week.”
o Maggie Gyllenhaal
o Scarlett Johannson
o Kate Hudson
o Amanda Bynes
o Michelle Trachtenberg
o Natalie Portman
o Mila Kunis
o Sarah Silverman
o Winona Ryder
o Brooke Burke
o Selma Blair
o Emmanuelle Chriqui
Pretty good list, I think.
It’s just missing one name— JewishJournal.com contributor Orit Arfa.
“A BBC film sheds startling new light on the underage sex case against the director,” writes David Gritten in the Telegraph:
In any list of globally famous public figures for whom it’s hard to summon sympathy, Roman Polanski would rank high. The brilliantly talented film director, who brought ‘Chinatown’, ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ to the big screen, is infamous for having had unlawful sex with an under-age girl in Los Angeles in the Seventies—then fleeing America to escape imprisonment and making a permanent home in France to avoid extradition.
All that is true. But a startling new documentary casts these events in a totally different light. ‘Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired’ probes the legal machinations behind the Polanski case 30 years ago and concludes that the publicity-seeking judge, Laurence Rittenband, was more determined to make an example of Polanski than to uphold the law. The film kicks off the new season of documentaries on BBC Four’s Storyville series next Monday.
Remarkably, the film’s director Marina Zenovich interviewed both Polanski’s lawyer Douglas Dalton and assistant district attorney Roger Gunson, who prosecuted the case - and both men agree that justice was undermined. On camera, Gunson describes the legal proceedings as “a sham”.
The comedy director, famed for box-office smashes like ‘Airplane’ and ‘Naked Gun’ is not all talk, though—his avowedly conservative ‘An American Carol’ opens today.
With an advertising campaign based on Karl Rove ‘culture war’ themes, the director has positioned his movie like a cinematic Sarah Palin—it’ll be good for whatever ails America, you betcha.
To me, the ad campaign seems hateful, divisive and ignorant, but what do I know? I am a Hollywood Jewish liberal with an Ivy education and obviously this film is not for me. I just can’t see how ads based on sneering stereotypes that exploit the fear of imagined media elites will make America a better place.
Who is it for? Michael Moore haters?
I dislike Moore for his boorishness, but I wonder at the singular bitterness and anger that seems to fuel Zucker’s bile towards the guy. What’s up with that?
Zucker likes our health care system? Zucker thinks GM is a good corporate citizen? Or the Bush Policy is a big success?
Is ‘An American Carol’ aimed at ‘middle America?’ If they can afford gas to get to the megaplex maybe they’ll like it.
Zucker didn’t screen it for critics, says the L.A. Times, because he thinks they’re biased. Yup. They don’t like crap. Excuuuuuuuuuuse me.
I haven’t seen it yet either. I’m saving my worthless Bush Dollars for Oliver Stone’s ‘W’ set to come out Oct 17. I hope it shows ‘maverick’ John McCain kissing Bush’s butt.
Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds tied the knot over the weekend, but no one knows whether it was a Jewish wedding…
Johansson is outspoken about her Judaism. She has been called “the kosher Danish” because of her father’s Scandinavian background, but according to Wikipedia, her mother Melanie Sloan, comes from an Ashkenazi Jewish family from the Bronx. When Johansson began working with Woody Allen, she felt an unusual bond with him—and attributed it to his being Jewish. He was the sweet, nerdy, powerful Jewish director and she was his young gorgeous muse. In 2007, she told USA Today, “I just adore Woody. We have a lot in common. We’re New Yorkers, Jewish. We have a very easygoing relationship.”
After Johansson starred with Natalie Portman in “The Other Boleyn Girl,” Portman coined the term “The Hot Knishes” for the Jewish tag team.
When Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek made a movie together, all the headlines blared “the Hot Tamales”. What should the media label a film starring two Jewish girls? Portman doesn’t miss a beat.
“The Hot Knishes,” she says, referring to the Jewish delicacy.
In this old YouTube gem, Johansson talks to the Israeli press about her Jewish background (she grew up with Shabbat and Hanukkah and Passover) and says she wishes she could speak Yiddish like her grandmother:
Details on the wedding from the Associated Press:
The couple married this weekend, according to publicist Meredith O’Sullivan. She did not provide details.
Us Weekly reported on its Web site Sunday that the small wedding took place at a resort outside Vancouver, British Columbia. Guests included Scarlett’s mother, Melanie Sloan, and her brother, Adrian Johansson, the magazine said.
The couple announced their engagement in May.
“We’re just enjoying our time,” the actress said last month. “We’re just recently — very recently — engaged. So, you know, we’re just taking it easy. And no big plan yet. But it’s a good time and we’re just ... enjoying our time to be young and engaged.
“I mean, I’m 23. There’s no reason to rush into it. Everything feels very natural and relaxed.”
Johansson most recently starred in the Woody Allen film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Reynolds starred on the TV show “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” and the romantic comedy “Definitely, Maybe.”
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