Not-So-Nice Jewish Boy
When Israeli producers came to America to audition Jewish men to star in “Nice Jewish Boy,” their upcoming Bachelor-type reality show, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. After all, who better than me — a commitment-phobic, ardently secular, anxious, heavily medicated, pale glass of short Jewish water — to represent the American way?
This could be a chance for me to make a real difference in Israeli-American relations. I began to fantasize about my very own harem of glistening Israeli chicks in sweaty army fatigues, and all that we could do to and for one another in the name of world diplomacy. I’d learn invaluable lessons that only these gorgeous Israelis could teach me: how to shoot an Uzi, how to chain smoke and how to have zero respect for someone’s personal space. I, on the other hand, would pass on such valuable American skills as: driving a block away to Starbucks to spend $3 on a cup of coffee, how to say the words “excuse me” and, most importantly, how to apply underarm deodorant.
So, after my initial inquiry and some e-mail exchanges with the producer, I received a phone call from the show’s production coordinator in Israel at 6 a.m. No. You heard that right. Six. In the morning.
So anyway, in my groggy, disoriented state, the production coordinator (who we’ll call “Galit”) gave me my flight information. Coming to, I finally asked Galit, “So, who’s picking me up from the airport, and where will I be staying?”
There was dead air on the other end of the line. Then Galit responded: “Emmmmm, you can take a taxi, no? And, emmm…. We cannot put you up. OK?”
The thought of being stranded in Queens at 1 a.m. had me suddenly wide awake. Galit sensed my panic, and said that she was going to check with the producers, and that she would call me back in a half hour (read: 6:30 a.m.). Before getting off the phone with me, however, she asked if I could call some people in New York and see if they wouldn’t mind putting me up. I told her that I’d call everyone I knew. She hung up. I went back to sleep.
A half hour later, the phone rang. It was Galit: “Did you find anyone to put you up?”
I deadpanned, “Nope. I called 20 of my closest New York friends. Everyone’s all booked up for the summer.”
This clearly went over her head as she pushed on: “Not to worry, because I am a magic worker! I got you a hotel to stay! I work magic, no?”
Now we were talking! Clearly, all that needed to have happened was a little negotiation on my part. It looked like my American capitalist negotiation skills had trumped her primitive shuk haggling.
Galit said cheerfully, “We’ll put you up for one night at the Howard Johnson. This is good, yes?”
Emmm, no! Any hotel that is more famous for its flapjacks than it is for its, well … hotel, I’m gonna have a problem with. I don’t care how good their breakfast is — 11 hours of flying for six hours in New York was a deal that I was not going to make. There was some more dead air on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” I asked.
And then, out of the blue, Galit said six words that absolutely floored me: “C’mon, what angle can we work here?”
Angle! What angle can we work here? I was appalled. How about the angle of human decency? Or, an angle that doesn’t involve maple syrup and butter? I told Galit that either they were going to fly me out, pick me up and put me up for two full days, in a non-pancake-themed hotel, or I wasn’t coming. Period.
Well, my good-old American tenacity worked, because she finally acquiesced. Well sort of. Because when I landed at JFK on Friday night, there, of course, was no one to pick me up. The next morning, after showering, shaving, gelling, and sucking in my gut, I was off to meet the producers of the show.
The questions were probing and personal, and mainly focused on my past relationships. Here is a quick sample:
Israeli Producers: What sorts of things do you do to relax?
Me: I like to drink a little.
Israeli Producers: (Blank Looks)
Me: Um, well, okay, more than a little. Oh yeah, and I frequently like to get in touch with myself….
Israeli Producers: (More blank looks. And then….) What’s the most expensive gift you’ve bought one of your past girlfriends?
Me: You’re supposed to buy them gifts?
Israeli Producers: (Additional blank looks.)
Me: Does dinner count as a ‘gift?’
Israeli Producers: (See above.)
Me: (Slightly uncomfortable, and then taking a bold swing.) I gave them the gift of … the joy of being in my company?
That’s about where they wrapped up my audition. The next day, I flew home to L.A. with a promise from the producers that they’d let me know the following week if I made the cut. A month has passed since, and I still haven’t received any 6 a.m. telephone calls. Not that I’m waiting by the phone for an answer or anything. I mean, who’d want to be on some stupid reality TV show where 20 women fight over you? Not me, that’s for sure!
God, I’m pathetic.
Anyway, a week ago, I read in the Jerusalem Post that a “nice Jewish boy” had finally been chosen. Apparently, his name is Ari Goldman, and he lives in Manhattan where he runs a highly successful vintage comics enterprise. In other words, I lost out to a guy who collects comic books for a living. I always knew I’d rue the day my mom threw out my Green Lantern collection. I hope you’re happy, mom. The Green Lantern could have gotten me some serious tuchus.
Jonathan Kesselman created and directed “The Hebrew Hammer.”