One glance at the eclectic scene populating Heeb's Hollywood Issue launch party last week at the bourgeois/hippie clothing store, Von Dutch, and it's easy to see why: Where else in the country would a "Jewish" party comprise everyone from spiky-haired hipsters to artsy bohemians to religious men in yarmulkes crushing together in a parking lot?
It looked like a weird cross-section of disco-pop, grunge and glam, which fits in rather nicely with Heeb's carefully cultivated image of "Jewish" that -- by Heeb standards -- means virtually anything.
To celebrate the release of its Spring 2008 issue, a triumphal ode to Hollywood, Heeb absconded from its home in New York and ventured to the heart of Tinseltown, where Neuman has plans to expand the brand into a lifestyle empire.
When Heeb was introduced in 2002 as an irreverent, secular, tongue-in-cheek quarterly, it spawned a movement of in-your-face Judaism for disaffected urban intellectuals in their 20s and 30s. Five years ago, it was all the rage in New York, but when founder Jennifer Bleyer left in 2003, disillusioned that she had created a magazine whose central message was "Jewish is cool," Heeb found itself at a crossroads.
Now, with its niche in New York and its image in question, one might wonder what sort of influence the Heeb group hopes to have in Los Angeles, a city where image is everything, but that, Neuman believes, has the potential to catapult the magazine from its current plateau.
Dressed in designer jeans and a cashmere hoodie, Neuman looked a bit worn out as he schmoozed his way through the party crowd, unsmiling but interested, passing out magazines and plugging his new plans.
"If we sneeze in New York, it's news," he said with a nonchalance that suggests he's already melding into the L.A. vibe. "Here, nobody knows us."
Maybe most people here don't know them yet, but Heeb somehow managed to attract the right ingredients for a Hollywood debut: The current issue's cover boy, Jason Segal, who plays the lead role in the Judd Apatow production "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which he also wrote, joined a decent-sized crowd that seemed not so Jewish as much as a multiethnic hodgepodge of Jews, Asian Americans and African Americans -- as if to say being part of any minority makes one Jewish enough.
The edginess of the scene is echoed in Heeb's pages, an issue besotted with provocative content: The text bristles with sarcastic sassiness, the photos are wacky and theatrical, and the overall tone is as smart-alecky as its concept is subversive.
In it, Segal candidly discusses his soon-to-be immortalized genitals, thanks to a full-frontal breakup scene in the film; another feature, "David vs. Goliath: The Struggle of Christian Films in the Post-Passion Era," investigates why the success of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" led to a tapering off of Christian-themed blockbusters; "Harold and Kumar" creators Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz are also profiled and are portrayed not as stoners, but as "self-effacing Jewish guys from New Jersey."
Both scandalous and sublime, Heeb's unabashed glorification of tribalism already reeks of Hollywood self-satisfaction.
They should fit in here just fine.
Welcome to Los Angeles.