Smiling behind the desk is Steve Freed, a blue-blooded Jewish product of Beverly Hills High School, a successful industrial real estate developer and owner, and a ... cowboy.
"This isn't a typical office of a Beverly Hills executive," Freed, tall, thin and tanned, in jeans and cowboy boots, said dryly.
That, like the fact Freed doesn't run into many other Jewish cowboys, is a given. Not since the Southwest was pioneer country and Adolphus Sterne smuggled arms to Sam Houston have Jewish cowboys been commonplace.
No, today when we think of cowboys the image that comes to mind, at least for this reporter, is of Sacha Baron Cohen's character Borat inciting a Tucson bar to join him in signing "Throw the Jew Down the Well."
"Most of these people have never met a Jewish person that they know of," Freed said as he recounted his rodeo exploits, "and some will look to see how big my horns are."
The misplaced stereotypes bother him a lot less than, say, breaking his hand or getting his thumb ripped off while roping. But in the rodeo, Freed becomes more than just a weekend warrior whose star of choice has six points instead of five.
He's too old these days to ride a bull or bronco. "At 50," he said, "you break."
But he continues to rope, and expects to do so for the next decade or so. This year, to celebrate his half-centennial, Freed is using the circuit to raise $50,000 for neurological cancer research at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles; he hopes to win $20,000 in competition and is seeking donations at his Web site to cover the difference.
The money, routed through Concerned Foundation, the cancer-focused charity that Freed is a past president of, will be used to fund preliminary research looking for genetic indicators for treating brain tumors.
"There is now a group that does very well with surgery and radiation and chemotherapy and a group that does very poorly. We want to find a genetic normality that can predict how well a patient will do," said Stuart E. Siegel, head of hematology and oncology at Childrens.
"This is the first step," Siegel continued. "To take a group of patients that have had this tumor and compare their cells and analyze them. This initial study that will give us the inkling of whether this will be a useful approach to take in a larger group of patients is going to be possible because of Steve's funding."
For more information or to donate, visit beverlyhillscowboy.com.
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