In our Image
The stars were out again last Tuesday. In the wake of the Emmys, Jewish celebrities, community leaders and entertainment industry people gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, to honor their peers at the second annual Jewish Image Awards in Film and Television (JIA), sponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (NFJC).
“We see few images of Jewish people in the media, so it’s important to celebrate positive images,” said former Saturday Night Live regular Laraine Newman, who had played a rabbi’s wife opposite Richard Lewis for several episodes of “7th Heaven.”
Newman presented the JIA to Brenda Lilly, Hollis Rich and Stan Rogow for best TV series, which this year went to the now-canceled ABC Family show “State of Grace.” Other presenters included Mimi Rogers, Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) , Jennifer Westfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”), KTLA’s Sam Rubin and Shiri Appleby (“Swimfan”).
Hosting the event was a slimmer-than-usual Jeffrey Tambor, who began the night by noting that with the current state of the world, “I know the one thing going through your mind is — isn’t he thinner?”
But unlike that “other” awards ceremony earlier in the week, the Image Awards were not the typical three-hour self-congratulatory schmoozefest. They kept the show down to two hours. And while there were plenty of “do you know so-and-sos” and business card exchanges during cocktail hour, a feeling that this was more important than the usual Hollywood affair permeated the room as people settled in for the actual ceremony.
Brad Garrett might have joked two nights earlier, when he won an Emmy for his portrayal of Robert on “Raymond,” that he hoped, “This award breaks down the door for Jewish people who are trying to get into show business,” but as far as portrayals of Jewish characters on television were concerned, Roberts, coming off her third Emmy win (her second for her role on “Everybody Loves Raymond”) half-seriously joked about being a Jewish actress too often cast as an Italian.
Dinah Manoff struck a similar chord in accepting her award with “State of Grace” co-stars Erica Yohn and Alia Shawkat for their portrayals of three generations of Jewish women. When reading for the part, she told the audience, it had been the first time she wasn’t asked to be less Jewish.
The two honorees of the evening happened to be executives at competing cable channels. Early into the evening, Sheila Nevins received the MorningStar Commission’s Woman of Inspiration Award for her work as executive vice president of original programming for HBO. (The award will be renamed the Marlene Adler Marks Woman of Inspiration Award next year in honor of the recently deceased Jewish Journal senior columnist.) Rounding out the night, Rogers presented Jerry Offsay, president of programming for Showtime Networks, with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
A screening of a clip montage from the various programs Nevins helped create ran the gamut from “One Survivor’s Story” to “G-String Divas.” With the lights back up, Nevins joked as she accepted her award, “In case you’re wondering about the stripper in that, she was Jewish.” On a more serious note, Nevins also spoke of her encounters with anti-Semitism and bigotry as reasons why she was proud to be accepting the award.
Offsay was humbled by his lifetime achievement award, telling the audience, “I’m just a Reform lawyer who took a job as a writer.” Writer job aside, Offsay, who joined Showtime in January 1994, was responsible for bringing movies like “The Believer” and “Varian’s War” to the channel. He thanked the NFJC for choosing him over people he thought more deserving, like Barbra Streisand or Neil Simon, and named his eight years as president as partial cause for his strong track record. As he put it, he’s had a lot of “at bats.”
Other awards went to writer John Orloff for his screenplay of “Band of Brothers” episode 9, about the liberation of a concentration camp; Amir Bar-Lev and Jonathan Crosby for their documentary film “Fighter”; Richard Dreyfuss, Eli Wallach and Eric Ian Goldberg for their portrayals of three generations of Jewish men in “The Education of Max Bickford”; Tovah Feldshuh for her role in the film “Kissing Jessica Stein”; Hank Azaria for his role in the film “Uprising”; and Justine Shapiro for her documentary “Promises.”
Tambor closed out the evening by straying from the teleprompter. Moved by the evening’s speeches and company, he asked everyone to lift a glass, as he led the audience in a simple toast of “L’Chaim.” — Keren Engelberg, Contributing Writer
Amanda Maddahi, a junior at Harvard Westlake School in North Hollywood, participated in the Pan American Games for Karate in Caracas, Venezuela, where she was one of four American competitors to win a gold medal. Maddahi competed in the 16 to 17 year-old female kumite (sparring) division. Six hundred representatives from 14 countries participated in the games. Maddahi and her family are active members of Sinai Temple in Westwood.
Michael Chabon, author of the Pulitzer-winning “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” has been tapped by Sony Pictures to write “The Amazing Spider-Man,” the sequel to 2002’s biggest grossing film, “Spider-Man.” In a February, “Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi told The Journal that he was enjoying “Kavalier & Clay,” a novel set in the Jewish immigrant landscape of the comic book industry’s nascent years, while working post-production on “Spider-Man.”
The Winner Is…
Several entertainment industry talents that have recently graced The Journal’s pages picked up Emmy Awards last week. In addition to “Everybody Loves Raymond’s” Doris Roberts and Brad Garrett (see story in The Journal’s Sept. 27 Up Front section), Steven Spielberg picked up an a best miniseries score for his “Band of Brothers.” And Joel Surnow, with co-creator Robert Cochran, won for best writing for a drama series for “24.”
Things gone wild
The Skirball Cultural Center kicked off “Where The Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak in His Own Words and Pictures” with a whimsical opening filled with childlike wonder. The exhibit, spotlighting the beloved children’s book author/illustrator, features something for young and old alike.
For the little ones, there’s the sheer splendor of interactive set pieces, such as the Night Kitchen from “In The Night Kitchen” (1970) and a giant bowl of chicken soup for kids to dive into, a la Sendak’s 1962 favorite “Chicken Soup With Rice.”
For the older kids and grown-ups, there’s the sheer virtuosity of the pencils, rough and pen-and-ink illustrations that Sendak created for his various projects. Interspersed with his artwork are letters and project ideas torn from Sendak’s sketchbooks, from which the viewer gains insight into the internal and external circumstances that influenced his work.
“There Must Be More To Life” (1967) reflects the loss of Sendak’s mother, Sadie, who was dying of cancer, as well as his aging Sealyham terrier, Jennie, also afflicted with the disease.
“‘Outside Over There’  became my exorcism of the Lindbergh case,” Sendak writes in another section.
There are also family pictures of his Eastern European Jewish immigrant relatives, who, in some cases, served as inspiration, such as with his illustrations for Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Zlateh the Goat & Other Stories,” where the characters were based on “the sweet faces of Peshka, Yankif, Zolma, Esther, Geetle, Malka and all the others.” Sendak lost many relatives on his father’s side in the Shoah.
“My parents were so proud that my name was linked to Singer’s illustrious name,” Sendak commented on the project.
Among those posing in the pictures are Sendak’s brother Jack, with whom he collaborated on “Circus Girl,” and their father Philip, whose story, “In Grandpa’s House” (1985), Sendak illustrated, inspired by photos of Polish synagogues destroyed by the Nazis. Also hanging at the show: original art from “The Miami Giant” (1995), a parody of Miami Jews authored by Arthur Yorinks.
Sticking to the childhood theme, the opening party offered chicken soup with rice, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches and cupcakes, to the delight of Deputy Consul General Zvi Vapni of the Consulate General of Israel, who brought his 5-year-old son, Nitia, and Assemblyman Paul Koretz’s Chief of Staff Scott Svonkin and wife Jennifer, who arrived with baby daughter Rose in tow.
The Skirball Cultural Center’s exhibit, “Where The Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak in His Own Words and Pictures,” continues through Jan. 5. For exhibit information, call (310) 440-4500 or visit www.skirball.org .