Manilow of the Year

Add Sheba Humanitarian Award to the accolades garnered by the recording artist who Rolling Stone once named “showman of our generation.”

Last month, Barry Manilow was honored by the Friends of Sheba Medical Center for his musical and philanthropic gifts. The Regent Beverly Wilshire gala — which featured Barbara Sinatra, Lea Rabin and emcee David Brenner — was held on the entertainer’s 53rd birthday and raised money toward new buildings on Sheba’s 200-acre Tel Aviv-based medical campus.

Like the State of Israel itself, the erstwhile Tel Hashomer hospital — under the direction of the late Dr. Chaim Sheba — evolved from humble ad hoc beginnings in 1948 into an eminent world-respected facility. At a private Peninsula Hotel breakfast on the day of Manilow’s tribute, Rabin praised the doctor as “a very exceptional human being. The philosophy he introduced to the hospital is still strong in the minds of those who run it today.”

At the banquet, Melissa Manchester shared her enthusiasm for Manilow (“We always have a good time”) and the upcoming release of Barbra Streisand’s wedding song, “Just One Lifetime,” which Manchester wrote. Joked “Hollywood Squares” fixture Bruce Vilanch, who used to work with Manilow for Bette Midler: “We’re both friends of Sheba …I had no idea that Barry knew her too.”

Manilow himself was in good spirits all evening long, teasing Rabin (“I formally dub you the queen of Sheba”) and praising the Israeli hospital for functioning “in a part of the world that knows every form of violence and sadness. I salute you, Sheba, for opening your doors to everyone [regardless of race or religion]”.

Following sets by Barbara Cook and Manchester, Manilow performed several numbers of his own. Against psychedelic “Austin Powers”-style lighting, the former Barry Alan Pincus of Brooklyn burst into “Copacabana,” then donned a white kippah for his duet of “Va Mier Birste Scheine” with Manchester.

The big birthday finale for Manilow was not the evening’s only surprise. Elizabeth Taylor electrified the proceedings with an unbilled appearance, as she praised Manilow’s generosity toward her AIDS crusade.

Said an exhilarated Manilow, at the engagement’s end, “I think we might do this once a week.” — Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer

No More Vacancies

The Beverly Grand Hotel never prided itself on its stylish decor or lush comforts. What the hotel lacked in physical amenities, it made up for in spiritual goods.

Located on the same Beverly Boulevard block as Congregation Shaarei Tefila, and within a block radius from two other shuls, the hotel was the only one in the area to greet its guests with a “Good Shabbos” and offer a kosher meal on Saturdays.

With the Beverly Grand’s 1998 closing (commercial offices will soon occupy the former rooms), Orthodox Jews have lost a great convenience, and Los Angeles bids farewell to what may be considered a Jewish landmark.

No one can offer an exact year of the hotel’s opening, but residents of the community say that “it’s just always been there.” Business at the hotel, a converted Jewish old-age home, was never regular: On one weekend, the hotel would host five guests. On another, the hotel would have 50. Its peak season was during the High Holidays.

The former owner, Michael Kest, Orthodox himself, basically underwrote the hotel, providing a service that was not returning the investment, said a former employee who requested anonymity.

“There is a loss in the sense that some families who did not live close to the synagogue, especially at the time of the High Holidays, could stay nearby,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Berkowitz, of Shaarei Tefila.

Most guests would agree that even though the Beverly Grand was not the most luxurious of hotels — although it was clean with a certain charm — they stayed there because they wanted an Orthodox atmosphere or had no other choice.

“People needed food for Shabbos,” said Michelline Weiss of Michelline’s Catering, who worked out of the hotel’s kitchen. But Weiss, well-known for her Jewish cuisine and Passover takeout, is not about to let people staying on that side of town grow hungry. She now works out of Etz Jacob Congregation down the street and, to fill the void left by Beverly Grand’s closing, has made arrangements with nearby hotels to provide their guests full-course Shabbat and Holiday meals, complete with a waiter service.

And if guests are nostalgic for the Beverly Grand’s quaint decor, they can stay at the Beverly Inn, which bought the Beverly Grand’s furniture for their remodeling efforts. — Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

Sampras: ‘I’m Jewish’

Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras served up a surprise when he told a British newspaper, “Not too many people know that I’m Jewish.”Not precisely Jewish, if you’re going to be a stickler about it, but more like, you know, Jewish-style (as in kosher-style delis).Sampras told the London-based Jewish Chronicle that his father, Sherwin, also known as Sam, was Jewish.Sam, in turn, had a Jewish mother but a Greek father — hence, the family name Sampras.However, Pete told the Jewish Chronicle that at his parents’ behest, “I was raised as a Greek Orthodox and I went to a Greek Orthodox church.” He has never been inside a synagogue.The Jewish Chronicle revealed earlier this year that Oscar-winning film star Gwyneth Paltrow is descended from the Paltrowitch dynasty of Russian rabbis.— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor