Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Those sultry brown eyes. That glowing brown skin. The sexy brown mane. That last name! Despite all the apparent identifying traits, “On The Lot” host Adrianna Costa is NOT Latina. She’s white…and Jewish…and grew up in the valley.
According to Wikipedia, 26-year-old Adrianna’s real last name is Heber and one of the categories she’s listed under is American Jews. Because anyone can write a Wikipedia entry, they are not always a credible source. So I did a bit of my own research.
I emailed a friend, Jesse Gabriel, who grew up in the same Agoura Hills neighborhood as Adrianna. Although he doesn’t remember her (how can you forget a beauty like that?), he asked a few high school friends about the now famous Jewish girl next door, and this is what he dug up (his words exactly as emailed to me yesterday morning):
1) The family belongs to Temple Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks.
2) She changed her name because she looks Latina (this is only speculative on the part of Jesse’s friends).
3) She is Avi Rutschman’s cousin.
The last piece of info is important because the Wikipedia entry cites an article by Avi Rutschman, therefore verifying the entry’s accuracy. Avi also happens to be the son of my beloved high school teacher/counselor/mentor and the person who started me on the journalism path by (gently) pushing me to write for the school paper (thanks Mr. Rutschman!!!).
The questions still remain: why did Adrianna change her name? why is she marketing herself as a Latina, or at least encouraging people to assume she is? what’s wrong with the name Heber? sure, it’s a single letter away from Hebrew, but what’s wrong with being a Heeb from the Conejo Valley?
I’m sure Jesse Gabriel, the proudest Jew I know, and the rest of the way-out-there largely Jewish valley community is wondering some of the same things.
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July 24, 2007 | 2:19 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Every Jew loves a good Italian restaurant. How lucky for Los Angeles then, that a true taste of Puglia has planted itself on the corner of Melrose and Highland—in not one incarnation, but two: a pipin’ pizzeria and an opulent osteria. A collaboration between chef Mario Batali, his longtime business partner and wine producer, Joe Bastianich along with Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery, Mozza has quickly become the hottest ticket in town.
With reservations booked a month out, I figured my sister and I could try our luck at the “pizza bar” where we could ogle the funghi misti with fontina, taleggio & thyme during its exodus from the oven. But a chance encounter with Mr. Bastianich landed us a table for two at the recently opened Osteria, where we dined on buricotta over sweet toast, layered with grilled artichokes and sprinkled with currants, followed by linguine tossed in olive oil with a cracked black pepper bite.
Three desserts later, we were introduced to general manager David Rosoff, an endearing 40-year-old gentleman with many mouths to feed. Intrigued by the Jew entrusted with pleasing the Hollywood palate, I asked David to garnish this entry with some personal tidbits:
I grew up: in the San Fernando Valley but fled to the city at a young age
At my Bar Mitzvah: I played drums publicly for the first time
The best thing about L.A. is: The multi-cultural cuisine
On Sunday morning: I read the paper, teach European football (soccer), then have tacos and beer at the Farmers Market (âLoteriaâ) followed by film at the Laemmle or Arclight
Best item on the Mozza menu is: Clam Pizza (Pizzeria) / Octopus (Osteria)
Future plans: Turn the city on to Amaro (the regional liquor/herb based beverages made throughout Italy)
Alright ladies, so he’s not kosher; still, I’m sure Mama’s proud of her multi-talented, Mozza-managing member of the tribe.
July 23, 2007 | 11:55 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It’s American Idol for filmmakers—a highly competitive, strut-your-stuff television show that provides amateur filmmakers with the tools, toys and teachers that comprise a mini-film school. Okay, it’s better than American Idol, because there are a million greenbacks involved and no one cares what you’re wearing or what your eating habits are. What compels the “On The Lot” audience is whether or not these aspiring auteurs can entertain Hollywood-style.
Last week, we ventured out to CBS Studios in Studio City for a behind-the-scenes look at the struggling series. When we arrived, we found a long line of audience members waiting in the hot sun for their ticket to “action film” night. After waiting in the green room while the audience was seated, we were escorted into a glowing theatre lit with flashing marquees, wall-to-wall movie posters plugging contestants’ films and an energized emcee touting movie trivia for Starbucks cards.
Just before showtime, regular judges Carrie Fisher (actress, “Star Wars”) and Garry Marshall (director, “Pretty Woman”), along with guest judge Antoine Fuqua (director, “Training Day”) stepped into the spotlight, but were quickly swarmed by makeup artists and soon upstaged by host Adrianna Costa, who traipsed about in 6-inch clunkers and a teeny-tiny disco dress that pushed out enough cleavage to boost saggy ratings. The scintillating get-up was almost enough to distract people from noticing she read verbatim from teleprompters and feigned flirtation with the all-male cast of contestants while urging “America” to call in their votes to the box office.
Five filmmakers, neatly dressed according to their personal style, sat to the side of the stage while screening their action flick and then went front and center to face the judges’ gavels. The audience booed Fisher’s harsh critiques and laughed aloud at Marshall’s kooky witticisms. Fuqua commended the filmmakers for focusing on wild chases, skateboard rides and running rampant instead of depending on violence to drive the narrative.
As the crowd took their exit, we caught up with Adam Stein (who was sitting out this round, but you can catch him screen his romantic comedy Tuesday, July 24). He obliged us with a snapshot, but was reluctant to speak with us since interaction with the outside world is forbidden. It’s probably better for morale since ratings are so low, but even if “America” isn’t watching, the industry certainly is.
July 20, 2007 | 3:28 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Every aspiring Jewish filmmaker could learn a lesson or two from Steven, but how many of them will actually feel the warmth of his wing around their shoulder? Adam Stein hopes he’ll be the one chosen for that golden opportunity.
The 29-year-old USC film school graduate is one of the ten remaining finalists (and the last Jew standing) on the Fox reality show “On The Lot” where up-and-coming filmmakers compete for a $1 million development deal with DreamWorks. Every week, the directors are given a budget, scripts, actors, and all the toys Hollywood has to offer in order to make a 2-4 minute movie that fits a pre-determined genre.
As is customary in reality tv land, the participants are cut off from the outside world until after the grand finale. I got to speak with Adam Stein on the phone (they wouldn’t allow an in-person interview). Here’s a personal look at what he had to say about the experience:
“I never thought I would be on a reality show.” Does anyone ever expect to be on one? If you have applied to be on numerous shows but have never been selected, please email me - it would make a GREAT story!
“I was a literature major at Harvard. I felt pressured to do something more responsible, so I applied to law school.” Adam quickly figured out law was not his calling. Mama Stein must have been livid at the time, but I bet she’s thrilled to see her little boy on TV every Monday and Tuesday night.
“I haven’t met Spielberg yet.” Though Spielberg is co-creater and co-executive producer of “On The Lot,” he’s been busy filming “Indiana Jones 4” and hasn’t had the time to throw even a feather at anyone on the Fox lot in Studio City.
“We all live together and we’re pretty close. The girls cook for us all the time.” Last week the only two women left were booted off the lot. Poor skinny Adam, who will feed him now?
“The hardest part about all this is being away from friends and family and my girlfriend.” The contestants have no internet, no phones, no television, and no interaction with people other than the production staff.
“There’s so many Jews in LA! What a strong community!” Adam is from Miami, where apparently the Jews are strong, but not in number.
“We aren’t supposed to know ratings or anything like that, but I don’t think the show is doing that well.” No, it definitely is not. “But I think the industry is watching and that’s what’s important.” Way to stay positive Adam!
“Later in my career, I would definitely want to do more serious socially-conscious films like Steven Spielberg’s ‘Munich’ and ‘Schindler’s List’.” For now, Adam is focusing on being entertaining. See for yourself…
July 19, 2007 | 1:27 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Not that we wouldn’t be elated to hear the adorable Rob Eshman disseminate dating advice, but folks—the man is married, to a Rabbi, and hasn’t had a date in 20 years. I then thought, maybe she forgot to say “religion editor” and meant Amy Klein, prolific writer and occasional singles columnist, will be divvying up dating tips for the greater good—-a wise choice considering blogger Luke Ford has publicly admitted to fantasizing about her.
But then I got an email.
Stacey wrote that they were going to postpone the dating topic and have Rob in conversation with Rabbi Wolpe on “Why be Jewish?” Now that sounds like a topic “Robb-etzin” and Rabbi Wolpe could expound upon.
So if you’re curious about the role Challah should be playing in your life, don’t miss next month’s FNL on August 10 for your chance to slip in dating questions during the Q&A.
July 17, 2007 | 12:30 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Until Friday, I had never recited the shema next to a man wearing a kufi atop his head. Come to think of it, I had never seen anything but a kippah adorn heads in a Jewish synagogue. But this past Shabbat was an exception; not only did I see kufis, I saw keffiyehs and kente cloth woven into dashikis. The diverse religious dress, from headgear to full-body vestments, imbued Friday Night Live with a cross-cultural, multi-ethnic overtone that enlivened the experience but also created a self-consciousness among the 800 or so attendees.
A group of foreign scholars, who were visiting Los Angeles to study religious pluralism in America, attended FNL as part of a yearly tradition. Sinai Temple hosted the group at their famed Shabbat service in order to foster inter-cultural dialogue between Jews and the scholars representing 18 countries, from United Arab Emirates to Macedonia to Mexico. There was also a young man introduced from “The West Bank.”
Throughout the service, there was a tinge of nervousness in the air. The music was louder than usual. Craig Taubman sweat a little more. Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei thoughtfully tried to pronounce each guest’s name correctly, but slaughtered most of them anyway. All eyes were on the visitors and I wondered how they were feeling as they experienced this lively, musical romp through the Sabbath. I couldn’t help but think, if this is the first or last time they ever set foot in a synagogue, is this a good representation of Judaism? What will they remember? What will they think about how we pray?
To shift the spiritual emphasis away from our obvious differences and focus on our shared humanity, Taubman improvised a harmony during “Hashkiveinu.” He invited several scholars up to the bimah to chant the word for “peace” in their respective languages alongside “Shalom.” Taubman’s clear favorite was the African “mirembe” and his confession that he’d be singing it in his sleep added levity and humor to the atmosphere. He also invited a local female pastor to lend her mellifluous voice to his Hebrew songs.
On a similar note, Rabbi Schuldenfrei sermonized about the culture of traffic in Los Angeles and how stalemate on the 405 would be less agonizing if we were kinder, more generous drivers.
By the end of the service, a sense of comfort and familiarity pervaded the temple and the singing became softer, soulful and more honest. If the scholars remember anything, let it be that a community of Los Angeles Jews warmly welcomed them.
July 16, 2007 | 6:10 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
A herd of animals, including 10 Asian elephants, 14 horses and 3 ponies are going to be strolling through the Fashion District tomorrow morning at around 4:45 a.m. When they get to the corner of Maple Avenue and 18th street, they’re going to take a bath courtesy of the LA fire department, then head to the Staples Center.
This isn’t India, what are elephants doing walking around town?
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey thought a sunrise animal walk would be a superb introduction to their 2007 Southland production, “Bellobration.” The modern take on circus tradition has the usual favorites: majestic white tigers, high swinging acrobats and charming elephants, but promises to captivate children of all ages with non-stop action and an interactive plot line.
If I didn’t have to be in bed at 4:30 tomorrow morning, the Staples Center is where I would be, for sure!
“Bellobration” will be at the Staples Center from July 18-22. Tickets are $15-$90. www.ringling.com.
July 12, 2007 | 1:25 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Mikey Weinstein is no Christian, but his knowledge of Christianity is astounding. The other night, he entertained an L.A. audience by depicting an imaginary dialogue between himself (The Jew) and Jesus Christ (The Evangelical Christian), as they meet on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard. Jesus tells Weinstein to drop to his knees and accept him as his personal savior.
“But Jesus, can’t we just be friends?”
Thus beginning a frightening and comic recitation of bible verses that categorically refute anything Weinstein could say in defense of his blasphemy as a non-believer. It ends with someone going to hell—and it isn’t Jesus.
Having abandoned his career as a businessman and lawyer, Weinstein is in the throes of launching his own crusade. In October 2005, he filed a lawsuit against the United States Air Force, claiming senior military officials and cadets were subjecting non-Christians to proselytizing and evangelizing, pressuring them to convert.
Since his initial foray in Federal Court, Weinstein has launched a full-scale legal battle against the Air Force, which now includes the entire U.S. military. He also began a nation-wide campaign of speaking engagements, which brought him to Westwood’s Hammer Museum (Tues., July 10) for a conversation with Ian Masters, a BBC trained broadcast journalist, which will air on C-SPAN in the coming weeks. Against the backdrop of the Billy Wilder Theatre’s hot pink stage curtain, Weinstein discussed his mission to combat religious intolerance in the military and promoted his new book, “With God On Our Side: One Man’s War Against an Evangelical Coup in America’s Military.”
With his sleek English accent, Masters asked the questions and politely deferred to a garrulous Weinstein, whose outrageous anecdotes of intra-military Christian proselytizing escalated to the realm of farce.
In his fast-talking, semantic-ridden polemic, Weinstein referred to his opponents as “Dominionist, fascistic, lick spittle supplicants of the Christian right,”—strong words for someone railing against extremism. But Weinstein knows what he’s up against and did not shy from using the word “anarchy” or telling the audience, “we have to be militant.”
His animated verbiage rallied the audience as he prepared them for incendiary remarks by instructing, âLadies and gentlemen, shoulder harnesses on please,” and then recounted examples of religious intolerance, racial derision and anti-Semitism in the military. His quips elicited nervous laughter from an exasperated audience.
Weinstein fears that separation between church and state has become so diminished; fundamentalist Christians will parlay their military and political clout into an apocalyptic religious war intended to catalyze the return of Jesus. He affectionately refers to this millennial philosophy as an “imperious, fictitious contagion,” yet his fervent delivery imbues the portentous fiction with credibility.
Even stranger narratives surfaced during the Q&A, when a woman and former Air Force cadet revealed that during her stint at the academy, she was accused of witchcraft.
The wildly bizarre accounts will come to a head three weeks from now, when Weinstein faces the U.S. military in Federal Court. Despite being plagued by death threats and murderous telephone chants, Weinstein is heading into a hardcore limelight.
Ladies and gentlemen, strap on your shoulder harnesses because Weinstein wants you to rally to the cause. But do not fear—he promises that if you donate to his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, he’ll handle the death threats on your behalf.
(Photo: Washington Post)