The Jewishness of RuPaul’s Drag Race


There’s a certain, Je ne sais quois, “Jewiness” about RuPaul’s Drag Race (think America’s Next Top Model, but for drag queens).

Last night at the 2017 Emmys, RuPaul’s Drag Race (which just celebrated its ninth season) may have lost Best Reality-Competition Series to The Voice, but it didn’t go home empty-handed, nabbing Best Reality Host and Outstanding Costumes – to name a couple.

RuPaul (AKA Mama Ru) occasionally sports a Star of David necklace (as seen in this screenshot, supplied by Jewcy) on the reality competition. “RuPaul is obsessed with Jews, obsessed with Yiddish,” said Michelle Visage, a judge on Drag Race and RuPaul’s right-hand woman. Visage added that during the show’s eighth season, RuPaul kept an English-to-Yiddish dictionary underneath his chair for reference when he wanted to incorporate some Yiddishkeit into his schtick.

Visage, who was adopted at four months old and raised by Jewish parents – Arlene and Marty, met RuPaul while clubbing in New York City; they’ve been best friends ever since. With a bigger-than-life personality, Visage is famous for her ability to call out the drek and state the truth, even if it ain’t pretty. “I am that tough love auntie,” she told the Journal, attributing her “saying it like it is” attitude to her Brooklyn-born mother Arlene.

“And true story, when I met my biological mother, I was 25 years old. I told her I was raised by Jews and she said, ‘I am so happy, I was praying you’d be adopted by a Jewish family.’” 

Watch the interview below:

 

Last month, Visage announced that she’ll be a judge on the first season of Ireland’s Got Talent, which will air in January 2018. Of course, she’ll continue judging on Drag Race (season 10 will be her eighth season).

RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine winner Sasha Velour (Alexander Hedges Steinberg) also happens to be Jewish. “Whenever there’s a Jew, it’s an automatic identity,” said Visage. “I love it when it becomes part of their [drag] identity. It’s mishpucha.

Israeli inspiration for ‘Homeland’ is must-see TV


Devotees of the Emmy-winning Showtime drama series “Homeland” might be aware that it was adapted from the Israeli series “Prisoners of War” (“Hatufim”), and that both were created by writer-producer-director Gideon Raff. 

On Oct. 24 at 10 p.m., the original — which focuses on three POWs who bear the physical and mental scars of 17 years of torture in captivity — will begin airing on KCET (viewers can log on to

Barbara Walters bids farewell after 53-year career


Pioneering journalist Barbara Walters, who paved the way for women in television news and was the first female to co-anchor a network evening news program, retired on Friday after an illustrious 53-year career.

The 84-year-old TV newswoman bid farewell on “The View,” the morning talk show she created in 1997 during a career that spanned events ranging from President Richard Nixon's historic journey to China in 1972 to interviews with several generations of celebrities and world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama.

Walters, whose work won several Emmy awards, joked that she would now have time to have Botox and may be available for supermarket openings. On a serious note, she added that she was proudest of how more women are now reporting the news.

“If I did anything to help that happen that is my legacy,” she said. “Who knows what the future brings? Maybe instead of goodbye, I should say a bientot, which in French means see you later.”

A roster of women journalists joined Walters on the show to praise her achievements. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also appeared, as did actor Michael Douglas and TV host and media company owner Oprah Winfrey.

“Like everyone else I want to thank you for being a pioneer, in everything that word means,” Winfrey told Walters. “It means being the first … to knock down the door, to break down the barrier, to pave the road that we all walk on.”

The show culminated a week of events including a get-together in New York that included former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, director Woody Allen and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

The news building of the ABC television network, a unit of Walt Disney Co., was named in her honor. Present and past co-hosts of “The View” reunited to toast her on Thursday. ABC will also air a news special about her story on Friday evening.

Walters revealed her plans to retire a year earlier saying it was her decision. The announcement followed some health problems, including a concussion after fainting and hitting her head, chickenpox and open heart surgery in 2010.

Walters has interviewed every U.S. president since Richard Nixon and world leaders including Cuba's Fidel Castro, Britain's Margaret Thatcher and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. She was famous for her probing style, getting that important first interview with newsmakers.

She was also known for a lisp that prompted the famous “Baba Wawa” parody by the late comedian Gilda Radner on the “Saturday Night Live,” comedy show.

Walters was hired as a researcher and writer on NBC's “Today” show in 1961 before becoming a co-host in 1974. She moved to ABC in 1976 and was a also correspondent on the network's news magazine show “20/20.” Walters also hosted specials and a yearly show about her 10 most fascinating people.

Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by David Gregorio

The 2013 (Jewish) Emmy nominees


The 2013 Emmy nominations are in!  We won’t bore you with the whole long list, but we will share this compact yet impressive group of Jewish nominees. Here goes.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA

Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

Lena Dunham, “Girls”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE

Michael Douglas, “Behind The Candelabra”

Tune into CBS on September 22 at 8 p.m. to see who goes home with a shiny statue. (And to see who’s wearing what, of course.)

“Homeland,” based on Israeli series, wins best drama Emmy


The television drama “Homeland,” which is based on the Israeli series “Hatufim,” was named the year's best drama series at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards.

“Homeland” also won Emmys for best actress – Claire Danes, and best actor – Damian Lewis, as well as for best writing. “Hatufim” creator, Israeli Gideon Raff, won the best writing award along with Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. The cast of “Homeland” was in Israel in May to film parts of the second season.

The Emmy Awards were held Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Homeland's win prevented “Mad Men” from winning its fifth straight best drama Emmy.

“Modern Family” took the Emmy for best comedy series.

The list of nominees had included several Jewish stars.  Jewish filmmaker and actress Lena Dunham was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Hannah Horvath on the HBO series “Girls.” The show also was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series and was inspired by Dunham’s experiences as a Jewish young woman living in New York City.

Larry David, who is best known as one of the creators of the TV show “Seinfeld,” was nominated as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The show also was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Mayim Bialik was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role as Amy Farrah Fowler on the CBS show “Big Bang Theory.” The show also was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Max Greenfield, an American actor known for his roles on “Veronica Mars,” “Ugly Betty” and “Modern Men,” was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Schmidt in the Fox series “New Girl.”

Remembering Marvin Hamlisch: One singular sensation… and what he did for love


It was early 1989, and TV producer Terre Blair called her mother with the exciting news.  “I’m engaged”, she announced.  “I’m getting married to Marvin Hamlisch!”  “Marvin Hamlisch?” the prospective mother-in-law replied.  “You mean the boxer from Las Vegas?”  “No, Mom.  That’s Marvin Hagler,” Terre laughed.  “Marvin Hamlisch is a composer;  he writes songs, and he tours.”  “Just what this family needs,” said Mom.  “An out-of-work songwriter.”

Actually, by the time Hamlisch was 31, he had accomplished as much and certainly won more awards than most composers do in an entire lifetime.  But the Pulitzer Prize and Tony award, as well as three Oscars and four Grammys, are part of his past.  “I don’t know whether it’s my Type A personality, or the way I was raised, or what it is,” mused Hamlisch, “but there’s something in me that tends to only look forward, and not back.”

A clear example of that occurred after his wedding to Terre, which was attended by Liza Minelli, Carly Simon, Ann-Margret, and Roberta Flack, who serenaded the couple with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” “I have a house on Long Island, and when I was single, my office there had most of my memorabilia in it.  When I got married,” recalled Hamlisch, “I decided to take down all the awards, all the photos, and just have a picture of my wife there and a nice little reproduction from the Museum of Art.  So when I’m sitting there, looking at the piano, I’m not thinking about what I should have done, what I could have done, what I had done… I’m just thinking in terms of, now what can I do?” 

The composer also believes all the acclaim can put a crimp in the creative process.  “You never start out focused on trying to win an award or have something become famous.  You just start out wanting to write something good, and I think what happens, unfortunately, is that the trappings of celebrity get in the way.”  Hamlisch also has a new-found perspective on fame and fortune.  “You know, when you’re a bachelor for 45 years, as I was, the things that make you happy tend to be entwined with the things that you do.  If you do a good movie or have a hit song, you go, ‘Ooh, I’m happy!’  Any kind of happiness on its own, like walking along the ocean, or looking at a good piece of art, is never as good as the three Oscars.”

“But when I got married,” he continued, “all that stuff went into another category, so the three Oscars are real fine, but that’s a professional happiness.  That doesn’t beat the happiness of waking up to your wife or sitting in the office with her or walking and talking with her or just thinking about her.  Separating the music world from the ‘world world’ allowed me to get back to how I was when I started all this.  And that’s what you have to do, I think, in order to do well.  You have to always go back to how it was.”

How it was, for the writer of “The Way We Were,” was a Manhattan childhood that included being the youngest student ever admitted to the Juilliard School of Music.  While still in college, he began working on Broadway shows, and composed the Lesley Gore hit “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.”  Hamlisch’s burgeoning career truly soared when he scored a series of films, including “Take The Money And Run,” “The Way We Were,” and “The Sting.”

In 1974, Hamlisch began a year-long tour as accompanist and straight man to the legendary and, at the time, elderly Groucho Marx.  “He was the grandfather I never had, a nice old Jewish man, not at all grouchy.  A real sweetheart of a guy.  But he was getting a little senile, and he used to tell the same joke over and over.  He would say, ‘I bought an anklet for this girl, and I had it inscribed.’  I would ask, ‘What did it say?’  He would answer, ‘Heaven’s above.’ “  Was this joke told onstage or off?  “Anywhere.  Always.  Constantly.”

During that tour, Hamlisch composed the score for “A Chorus Line”.  The day before the play received its first New York press reviews in 1975, he approached its director/choreographer, Michael Bennett.  “I asked him, what happens if we were wrong about the show, if it’s not as good as we think it is?  Michael looked at me and said, ‘Have you done your best?’  I said yes.  He said, ‘Do you think you’ve wasted any time?’  I said no.  He asked, ‘Is there anything up there you’re ashamed of?’  I said no.  He said, ‘That’s all you can do.’”  The Pulitzer, Tony, and a record run on the Great White Way confirmed the duo’s belief that they had a winner.

Hamlisch is busy these days with commercial projects, but he seems more enthused with a symphonic work called “The Anatomy of Peace,” inspired by a book of that name.  “I’m grappling with some big issues right now,” he says.

Fame and fortune has granted Marvin Hamlisch that opportunity, but to him, that aspect of his career is secondary.  “You’re going to think this is really hokey,” he confided, “but I really don’t care if people remember I wrote ‘The Way We Were.’  I mean, hopefully, they’ll play it at a Bar Mitzvah here or there;  that’s fine with me.  But I just hope people connect me somehow with music that had a kind of integrity, and that was melodic.  That’s all I care about.  Forget awards, forget accolades.  I started all this to write good music, and I just want to keep doing that.”


Steve North is a broadcast journalist with CBS News.

Composer Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68


Composer Marvin Hamlisch, who earned critical acclaim and popularity for a prolific output of dozens of motion-picture scores and shows including “The Way We Were,” “The Sting” and “A Chorus Line,” has died in Los Angeles. He was 68.

Hamlisch collapsed after a brief illness and died on Monday, a family spokesman said in a statement. The spokesman gave no more details.

The composer and conductor was the creative force behind more than 40 film scores, including original compositions and musical adaptations such as his arrangement of ragtime composer Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” in the 1973 film “The Sting.”

[From the archive: ‘Chorus Line’ composer’s music still has a kick]

He won two Oscars for best score and best song for “The Way We Were,” also released in 1973, which starred Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. Hamlisch first worked with Streisand as a rehearsal pianist for “Funny Girl.”

His other film scores included “Sophie’s Choice,” “Ordinary People,” “The Swimmer,” “Three Men and a Baby,” “Ice Castles,” “Take the Money and Run” and “Bananas.” His latest effort was for a film based on the life of pianist Liberace.

On Broadway, he won a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize for the 1975 musical “A Chorus Line,” which at the time became the most successful show on the Great White Way. He had been working on a new Broadway musical called “Gotta Dance.”

Hamlisch earned the rare distinction of winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards.

At the time of his death, he held the position of principal pops conductor for several symphony orchestras across the United States and was scheduled to conduct the New York Philharmonic in this year’s New Year’s Eve concert.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.

Reporting by Christine Kearney; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Matthew Lewis

Al Jazeera Gaza coverage earns Emmy nomination


The Al Jazeera English news channel was nominated for an International Emmy for its coverage of the Gaza War.

The Emmy nominations were announced Wednesday by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Al Jazeera received a nod in the news category for its coverage of both sides of Israel’s monthlong war against Hamas that began in December 2008.

Its competition in the category is Sky News, for its coverage of Pakistan; Russian Television, for its coverage of a visit by President Obama; Brazil’s TV Globo, for coverage of a blackout that affected 60 million people.

Freshman Israeli filmmaker earns three Emmy nods


Arranging a telephone interview with Israeli documentary filmmaker Hilla Medalia requires the scheduling dexterity of a flight attendant: She is constantly en route to someplace else — making movies, promoting various projects and generally wheeling and dealing. And the sense is that it’s not about to get any easier. Medalia’s debut work, “To Die in Jerusalem,” has garnered three Emmy nominations — best documentary, best score and outstanding achievement in investigative journalism.

The Emmys will air live from the Nokia Theatre on Sept. 21 on ABC.

“This is the stuff of dreams,” the filmmaker exclaimed. “To be nominated for an Emmy is one of the highest accolades in my industry.”

Medilia’s film, which earned her a Peabody Award and first place at the International Human Rights Film Festival in Paris, tells the story of two women: one the mother of a Palestinian suicide bomber and the other the mother of a young Israeli girl killed in the same attack.

For Medalia, the attention means more people will see her films, which is the main point.

“For me, the power of film is in the amount of people that can potentially watch what you produce,” she said. “It’s when I understood this that I decided that my role as a filmmaker was to focus on projects that have a social conscience.”

Medalia’s journey to becoming a filmmaker began courtesy of her athletic prowess. During the course of a fairly typical Israeli childhood, she became a teen track star. A subsequent stint in the Israel Defense Forces, with the special status of “athlete of excellence,” was a springboard to an athletic scholarship to study film at the University of Southern Illinois.

“University was great because I was in the middle of nowhere, which meant there was nothing to do but study and train,” Medalia said. “The freedom you have is wonderful; if you want to shoot something, you just take a camera and shoot.”

Her master’s submission, “Daughters of Abraham,” earned her a prestigious Angelus Student Film Festival award and would later become the basis of the Emmy-nominated “To Die in Jerusalem.”

After finishing school, Medalia moved to New York to learn the ropes. Her journey up the filmmaking ladder included the rookie tasks of carrying lights and being an assistant director on a horror film. But Medalia’s biggest break came with working with fellow Israeli filmmaker Danny Menkin on his award-winning film, “39 Pounds of Love.”

“It was a great way to learn the business inside out, because I was involved in so many aspects,” she said. “In the end, I helped raise finance and distribute the finished product, so it also schooled me in the business end of the industry.”

The involvement in and subsequent successful theatrical release of Menkin’s film gave Medalia the confidence to begin work on “To Die in Jerusalem.” She raised the bulk of the funding on her own and traveled repeatedly to Tel Aviv over a period of two years to complete the film. At the rough-cut stage, Medalia achieved every documentary filmmaker’s dream: a pre-sale to HBO.

The journey since has launched Medalia’s career. She has traveled tirelessly with the film to numerous festivals and screenings, from Hong Kong to Cape Town and Edinburgh.

“It’s been an incredible experience professionally,” she said. “I’ve met so many people in the industry, learned so much.”

The results are more than evident: Medalia currently has two projects in the works.

The first, “After the Storm,” focuses on a group of teens in post-Katrina New Orleans who stage a musical in a resurrected community center. The film focuses on the lives of the kids, their schools, homes, struggles and hopes as they attempt to make sense of New Orleans after the disaster. For Medalia, the process has been incredibly moving.

“On one hand, it’s been very difficult because of the conditions there, even though we shot two years after the hurricane,” she explained. “But in another sense, it is very inspiring to see that despite everything that has happened, they are moving forward. It’s a very special place.”

Rosie O’Donnell was impressed enough by Medalia and her venture that she joined the project as executive producer.

Medalia’s other work in progress is a joint project with Israeli producer Itai Horstock, which tells the story of returned soldier-musician Kobi Vitman, who battles Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and ultimately deals with it through writing and staging a rock opera on the subject.

“It talks about things we prefer not to address: namely, the effect of war on society and on soldiers,” she said.

Medalia sees a commonality in all her projects.

“I like personal stories, not just stories about people,” the filmmaker explained. “It’s much more appealing for me than doing things from a historical or purely narrative angle.”

Given all the recognition, it would seem that Medalia is on to something.


The trailer

Jill Soloway says comedy and tragedy go together


In Jill Soloway’s collection of essays, “Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants,” the Emmy-nominated writer and co-executive producer of HBO’s “Six Feet Under” recalls the time she lost her virginity at 17 to a 36-year-old with a golden chai dangling from his neck.

“I was running from the bathroom back to his bed,” she writes, “leaving slivers of myself everywhere: The girl who wanted to be here; the girl who didn’t want to be here; the girl who thought the whole thing was exciting; that he was an idiot; that his apartment was tacky, yet sexy; that I was turned on; that I wasn’t; that this was fun; that it wasn’t.”

However traumatizing the experience was then, she jokes about it now.
“If you can laugh with your friends over something, you own it,” said Soloway, lounging in jeans and a T-shirt in her Silver Lake home. “I don’t think it’s a contradiction to find painfulness funny.”

On Sunday, Sept. 17, Soloway will explore the ways comedy and tragedy fit together by moderating a discussion, “Laughter in the Rain: Mining Humor from Pain,” at the West Hollywood Book Fair. She will lead a conversation with Tania Katan, author of “My One-Night Stand With Cancer: A Memoir”; Brett Paesel, author of “Mommies Who Drink: Sex, Drugs, and Other Distant Memories of an Ordinary Mom,” and Tom Reynolds, who wrote “I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You’ve Ever Heard.”

Soloway said she would ask questions that plague her as a writer. “Has anyone [else] found themselves doing things they otherwise wouldn’t do because they’re writing a book?” Soloway wants to know.

“Years of my life were lived knowing that I’d get a book out of them one day,” Soloway confessed.

And what do these authors do when family and friends get upset at the way the book portrays them? Soloway used pseudonyms in her collection, and when people called her, irate or humiliated, she apologized.

Also, how do other writers deal with having spilled their innermost thoughts and secrets onto the page, for all to see? Soloway comforts herself in this regard by considering that readers may be shocked by some revelation — but only for a moment. Some other newsworthy item in this information age will surely distract them, she reasons.

Plus, the point of writing is to make oneself known, Soloway said. “All writing is propaganda for the self.”

One aspect of herself that Soloway reveals in her book, due out in paperback next month (published by Free Press), is that she, a self-described “Jewess,” feels a sisterly solidarity with Monica Lewinsky, as well as Chandra Levy, the murdered intern rumored to have had an affair with former California Rep. Gary Condit.

When Soloway wrote this chapter of the book – the book that critics and readers have called “hilarious,” “funny” and “fun-filled,” the chapter in which she contemplates why Jewish women are “so sexy” — she was crying. In fact, she cries whenever she reads the chapter.

“It’s this idea that Jewish women are sacrificed; that they can’t win,” she said, trying to explain what was so upsetting.

There it is: comedy and tragedy rolled into one. A story, perhaps, the way one should be told.

“If it’s just funny, who cares; if it’s just sad, who cares,” Soloway said. “But if it’s both,” she added, “then it’s about being human.”

Jill Soloway will moderate “Laughter in the Rain: Mining Humor from Pain” from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. at The Mixed Bag Pavilion at the West Hollywood Book Fair.

I Ate the Whole Thing!


I Ate the Whole Thing!

Rap music and matzah balls? Hey, Jews can rap. Just ask the group, Chutzpah, which showed up in full rapping gear for the weighing of the 26-pound-matzah ball at Canter’s Deli last week to celebrate the DVD release of “When Do We Eat?” The weights and measures officials arrived in uniform to record the official weight to send to Guinness, and guests and regulars ogled the giant treat. Not exactly like grandma used to make, but in this case bigger was better.

The matzah ball weigh-in was all part of the 75th anniversary celebration for the legendary L.A. deli, with Assemblyman Paul Koretz doing the honors of presenting an official proclamation from the state of California. Alan Canter, representing the second generation of family ownership, accepted the honor; he has spent practically his whole life keeping Canter’s one of Southern California’s most beloved and long-lasting dining establishments.

Koretz saluted the restaurant for its many years of great food, legendary service and extensive community involvement.

Two longstanding employees, head waitress Jean Cocchiaro and manager and main sandwich man George Karkabasis — considered by many to be the fastest and best sandwichmaker in town — were also surprised with certificates of commendation.

Together, they have worked at Canter’s for more than 100 years! Jacqueline, Gary and Mark Canter were on hand to celebrate their family’s famous fressing history with Dad, Alan.

The Canters reminisced about old times with Koretz, noting the table where Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller sat on Friday nights, the visits from sports stars like Wilt Chamberlain and Hank Aaron, the joking of regulars like Jack Benny and Buddy Hackett.

Solidarity Brother

Responding to the crisis in Israel, Rabbi Eli Herscher, senior rabbi of Stephen S. Wise Temple, and the synagogue’s director of education, Metuka Benjamin, quickly organized a solidarity mission to Israel. The group of 21 congregants met with high-level military and political leadership for a crisis update, visited military bases directly involved in the conflict and experienced first-hand the mobilization of essential services for Israelis in the north who were directly affected by this war. Herscher and Benjamin led the temple’s leadership as they brought gifts to wounded soldiers at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. They also visited a summer camp organized by the Joint Distribution Committee to serve children affected by the bombings in the Haifa area and met with handicapped Israelis who were evacuated to hotels in the center of the country. The temple has scheduled three other Israel missions for the coming year and raised $1.4 million dollars toward meeting Israel’s immediate crisis needs.

Zev on the Mount

Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries named Bob Zev director of marketing. Zev, who has a bachelor’s from CSUN and an MBA from USC, has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience serving as the vice president of marketing for a financial institution.

Zev grew up in Los Angeles, became a bar mitzvah at Sinai Temple, and attended Hillel Hebrew Academy, Hebrew High School, Camp Ramah and spent a year in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

‘Lost’ in the Art World

Even though Jack Bender didn’t win the best director Emmy Sunday night for his work on “Lost,” he was very much a winner at the premiere of his one-man show, “Found” at the Timothy Yarger Fine Art Gallery in Beverly Hills on Aug. 26. The exhibition was a “lost and found” of sorts for Bender’s friends, colleagues and admirers, who all converged onto the swanky gallery floors to view his colorful, explosive mixed-media paintings and, of course, to socialize.

The paintings could hardly be viewed through the talkative crowd of well-dressed art lovers, gallery clients and Bender’s circle of friends, who were sipping vodka-based cocktails named in Bender’s honor, such as “On a Bender” and “Castaway.” Across from “The Hatch Painting,” made famous for its appearance in “Lost,” students from View Park Prep in South L.A. played smooth jazz for the guests.

Among the celebs present to gush over Bender’s artwork were actress Blythe Danner; Jacqueline Bisset; J.J. Abrams, creator of “Lost”; Carlton Cuse, “Lost” producer; “Lost” star Evangeline Lily (who plays Kate) and “Sex and the City” actor Evan Handler (Charlotte’s Jewish husband).

“I don’t know how he did all of these,” Danner enthused to Entertainment Tonight, at the gallery.

Works exhibited are those he completed during breaks from filming “Lost” in Hawaii these past two years. Bender has been painting ever since he was a teen.Lilly, however, wasn’t surprised by Bender’s creative output on display: “It’s an expression and extension of himself,” she told The Journal in the gallery’s backroom, where Bender shared exhibition space with Chagall and Picasso. “He’s very spontaneous as a director and doesn’t like to premeditate things.”Bender summed up the evening: “It’s wonderful to be in this extraordinary environment. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a long ride.”

— Orit Arfa, Contributing Writer

Beit T’Shuvah’s New President Honored

Brindell Gottlieb recently opened her home to celebrate Nancy Mishkin as the new president of Beit T’Shuvah. Mishkin’s two-year term with the Westside congregation and rehabilitation center began in July. The annual Steps to Recovery Gala on Jan. 28, 2007, honoring Ron Herman, Dr. Susan Krevoy and Diane Licht, will be the first event highlighting Mishkin’s presidency. Beit T’Shuvah’s mission is to insure the physical, emotional and spiritual health of individuals and families within a supportive Jewish community. For more information, call (310) 204-5200, ext. 211.

Jack Bender: ‘Lost’ and ‘Found’


Just as he has in so many past years, TV veteran Jack Bender will attend the Emmy Awards this Sunday. He’s nominated again this year in the category of Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for his work on the hit ABC show “Lost,” for which he is also an executive producer. But after some 25 years working in television, Bender has finally gone public with his other occupation.

This weekend also marks the opening of his first major art exhibition, titled “Jack Bender FOUND,” at Timothy Yarger Fine Art, a gallery in Beverly Hills.

The themes of “lost and found,” of seeking and finding, and of faith, play a major role in “Lost,” a drama about a group of plane-crash survivors stranded on a mysterious island. But these are equally apt themes for Bender personally. He is the husband of a rabbinical student, but says his own faith is not as easily defined. And he is an artist who describes his work, both behind the camera and on canvas, as having a life of its own.

“If you’re good at directing, you let life happen,” he says, and similarly, “you have to let the painting have its voice.”

Bender tends to work quickly on his paintings, favoring bold colors and brush strokes, layering on paint as well as objects, such as Perrier bottle caps, blue jeans and vintage photographs.

In many cases, he is commenting on American society. But Bender also explains that in most of his pieces, “it’s not as much of an intellectual statement as a visceral one.”

He goes for raw emotion, creating pieces that conjure artists from Basquiat to Gauguin or Picasso.

One of his works, “Jazz Man” will be auctioned off at Saturday’s opening reception, with proceeds benefiting Friends of Washington Prep Foundation, an organization that supports and develops arts programming at George Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles.

“It’s a remarkable place…. They have taken guns out of kids’ hands and given them instruments,” Bender said.

Also scheduled at the opening is a performance by The View Park Prep Jazz Combo, and one more highlight.

Bender’s “The Hatch Painting” is a mural that was featured on “Lost” last season, and has been the subject of much chat room conversation by show groupies attempting to decode its many symbols. Fans can see it in person at the gallery, but as far as secrets hidden within the work, Bender offers only this: “There are definitely Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs in the forest there. So people should come see it.”

The 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on NBC, Sun., Aug. 27, at 8 p.m.

The opening reception for “Jack Bender: FOUND” takes place Sat., Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m. 329 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 278-4400.

Power Begets Madness in ‘Steps’


As Stanley Milgram’s fake, electrical-shock experiments showed several decades ago, many of us, when put into a position of power, may end up wielding our newfound authority with a tinge of sadism.

Michael Halperin, who wrote “All Steps Necessary,” a new Holocaust-themed play being staged by the Inkwell Theater, concurs with Milgram. Taking place just after Kristallnacht, his play dramatizes a meeting of Nazi leaders and their formal response to the fallout from the pogrom.

“When people get that much power, the danger is you become part of the mechanism, even believing that kind of philosophy,” says Halperin, who has written a number of books on screenwriting as well as several plays. He says of Goebbels, Goering and Gen. Heydrich, “They act like monsters, but they’re human beings.”

Elliot Shoenman, artistic director of the Inkwell, came across the transcript of this meeting of Nazi brass as he was doing research for “Nobody’s Business,” a new book he has written about his father, a Holocaust survivor who later took his life. Shoenman, who won an Emmy for his work on “The Cosby Show,” then commissioned Halperin to write the play, a one-act set in one space: Goering’s living room.

The play may be set in Goering’s living room, but, in many ways, Goebbels is the star. Where the other officials are dressed in formal military attire or suits, Goebbels arrives looking like Bugsy Siegel, equal parts gangster and matinee idol, with his jauntily tilted fedora, leather jacket perched on his shoulders and camel coat underneath. He can’t be bored with the economic consequences of Kristallnacht, chiding his fellow Nazis, “Goddamn it, I didn’t come here to discuss insurance.”

If Goebbels, played with great charisma by Michael Oberlander, can not deign to discuss matters of commerce, the rest of the Nazis are consumed with monetary matters, a grand irony, given the Nazi claim that Jews are obsessed with money.

Halperin and director Jim Ortlieb do a nice job of revealing little secrets about each one of the men in the room: Goebbels’ affair with a Czech actress, Goering’s preferential treatment toward his favorite Jews, Heydrich’s rumored Jewish lineage. The playwright pits these men against one another with discrete French scenes in different corners of the room, such as the pastry table and the wine area. On occasion, discussions occur behind closed double-doors.

If the different pols have their own agenda, they are united in the manner by which they refer to their enemy. To them, he is always “the Jew.” No one speaks with more contempt of the Jew than Oberlander’s Goebbels, the only Nazi adorned with a swastika armband. The actor, who is Jewish and whose parents are Holocaust survivors, smirks with utter disdain when he says, “The Jew has no temperament for battle,” reminding us once again of Milgram’s experiment and the sadism lurking in each of us.

“All Steps Necessary” plays now through June 4 at 2100 Square Feet, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. $20 (adults) $15 (seniors) 8 p.m. (Fridays and Saturdays) 2 p.m. (Sundays). For tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or visit

Ex-Movie Exec Isn’t Silent About Films


Roger Mayer lounges in the living room of his house on Benedict Canyon Road, a comfortable two-story clapboard structure in Beverly Hills. His dress is conservative, yet casual — dark pants, dark shoes, light-gray shirt and what appear to be horn-rimmed glasses — but he sports no tie, as per industry custom. He relaxes with his arms behind his neck, occasionally pressing his foot against the coffee table.

The newly minted octogenarian, who looks at least 10 years younger, effortlessly recalls dates, numbers and deals from decades ago. For instance, when it is suggested that Turner acquired the MGM library and pre-1950 Warner Bros. library in 1986, he points out that the deal also included the entire RKO library.

In 2005, Mayer won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Oscar, which honored his years of public service, particularly in the realm of film preservation. After a distinguished 53-year career in the film business, Mayer has reason to rest easily.

Even though he retired last year after 19 years as president of Turner Entertainment, Mayer remains active, heading the National Film Preservation Foundation and co-chairing the 17th annual Silent Film Gala to be held June 3 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will perform accompaniment to two classic Harold Lloyd films from the silent era, “Ask Father,” a one-reel comedy, and “Safety Last,” a film known to cinephiles for the famous image of Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock on a building.

Mayer, whose New York accent comes through primarily when pronouncing his native town, “New Yawk,” was born in the Big Apple in 1926, the year before the first talkie. He does not remember going to see silent pictures in his childhood.

What he did see were Broadway musicals. He had a “maiden” aunt who sought his company for such outings. He loved the Broadway shows so much that he considered working in legitimate theater after he graduated from Yale in 1948. He spent that summer in Abington, Va., at the Barter Theater, so named because of its origin during the Depression, when theatergoers would exchange things “like a ham,” he said, for a ticket. He was not an actor but rather an assistant stage manager, “painting scenes, handing animals to the actors through the holes in the scenery,” he said.

After the summer, he decided to become a lawyer. Although there was a Jewish quota at Yale, he did not experience any real prejudice there; in fact, Yale’s provost gave him a scholarship for 50 percent of his tuition, after his father died in his freshman year.

After graduating from law school in 1951, Mayer moved to Los Angeles. The only real prejudice he encountered was when he tried to get a job at an L.A. law firm. All of the downtown firms turned him down; a partner at one actually said to him, “We’d love to hire you, but we just don’t hire Jews.”

Mayer sold pajamas at the May Co. and studied for the bar. Then, a lawyer at one firm suggested that he try getting a job at Columbia Pictures, a client. He worked there for nine years, primarily doing contract and copyright law before joining MGM.

Despite the seeming pedigree of his name, Mayer is not related to Louis B. Mayer, who had headed MGM. At the time Roger Mayer became assistant general manager of MGM in 1961, Louis B. Mayer, who had been fired a few years earlier, was engaged in a proxy fight against the company.

“I had to convince people I wasn’t related to him,” said Mayer, who has a modesty about him, despite his recent Oscar. He also has an Emmy as executive producer of “Judy Garland: By Myself.” Both awards rest discreetly out of sight on the mantel in the den.

Mayer has no entourage, no servants in his home. He doesn’t put on airs.

He doesn’t even particularly want to talk about himself as much as he wants to promote the Silent Film Gala and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which he called, “one of the cultural icons of Los Angeles that kind of gets lost in the shuffle.”

Maybe, Mayer is a little like the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, an underrated talent, overshadowed by more glamorous types. He has always felt more comfortable around the set designers, musicians and composers than the actors, many of whom he calls “self-absorbed.” Perhaps, this down-to-earth quality is a function of his many years as a behind-the-scenes executive, whose bailiwick was not creative matters but rather physical production at MGM and Turner Entertainment.

Describing a typical workday, Mayer said, “On an average day at MGM, there would be 4,000 people on the lot, and all of them would report to me, except the actors, the directors, the producers and the writers. But that’s 3,500 people.”

At MGM, Mayer met Ray Klune, a legendary executive who had been the production manager on “Gone With the Wind” and headed up physical production for David O. Selznick, Louis B. Mayer and Howard Hughes. Klune showed him the concrete vaults that contained the film negatives on MGM’s 200 acre-lot, then based in Culver City; he said to the young executive, “One of your jobs is to make sure we have proper security for the vaults and that these things aren’t deteriorating.”

“I found out that the security was great, but that in the summer, in the 100-degree heat, the film was deteriorating,” said Mayer, who then instituted a film preservation program at MGM that included the first air-conditioned, refrigerated vaults.

He found his calling and, after more than 40 years of leading efforts to restore film, Mayer received his Oscar, following an introduction from director Martin Scorsese, well-known for his own dedication to film preservation.

“I was never out of work in 53 years in the motion picture industry. Either they didn’t know what I was doing, or I was doing something right,” Mayer said with a smile.

The 17th annual Silent Film Gala, featuring two Harold Lloyd films and accompaniment from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, will be held at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Saturday, June 3, at 8 p.m. (213) 622-7001, Ext. 275.

Â

Stan Burns


Stan Burns, an Emmy Award-winning comedy writer, died of heart failure Nov. 5 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital. He was 79.

Born in 1923 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Burns was the original writer of "The Tonight Show" starring Steve Allen and later became the original writer for "The Steve Allen Show." He relocated to California in 1960 when the show moved West and remained Allen’s principal writer throughout his career.

Burns wrote for many popular variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s, including "The Smothers Brothers," "The Flip Wilson Show" (for which he received an Emmy nomination), "The Milton Berle Show," "Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts" and "The Carol Burnett Show," for which he earned an Emmy Award for the 1971-72 season.

Among his television writing credits, Burns co-authored "The World Book of Jewish Records," and co-created, with partner Mike Marmer, the show "Lancelot Link/Secret Chimp" and the film, "Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen."

He is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughters, Laurie and Bonnie; son-in-law, Martin Green; and grandchildren, Adam, Josh and Megan.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation, 22212 Ventura Blvd., Suite 300, Woodland Hills, CA 91364. — Staff Report

Emmy ‘Loves’ TV Tribemembers


When Brad Garrett accepted his best supporting actor Emmy on Sunday, Sept. 22, the irony was thick as a Sicilian pizza — or a deli sandwich. The 6-foot-8-inch Jewish actor plays Ray Romano’s sullen cop brother, Robert, on the CBS hit "Everybody Loves Raymond," featuring the sitcom world’s favorite Italian American family. But Garrett (born Gerstenfeld), a rabbi’s son, drew huge laughs when he joked, "I just hope that this award breaks down the door for Jewish people who are trying to get into showbusiness."

Doris Roberts, meanwhile, claimed her second best supporting actress Emmy in a row for playing Garrett’s overbearing TV mom. (One of her other gigs is performing staged readings at the Westside Jewish Community Center.)

So with the very Jewish Roberts as matriarch of the fictional Barone family and Garrett as her live-at-home son, are the characters Crypto-Jews instead of Italian? The answer is, they’re kind of both. While the show was built around comedian Romano, series creator Phil Rosenthal also based the characters on his Jewish relatives.

Also, B.Z. Goldberg and Justine Shapiro, won the Emmy for best documentary for "Promises," a film featuring conversations with Israeli and Palestinian children. The film, which appeared on PBS, portrays the Middle East conflict through the thoughts and views of seven Israeli and Palestinian children.

Doris Roberts’ can be seen in a staged play reading of "Door to Door" on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Valley Cities JCC, and Sunday Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. at Westside JCC. For tickets, call (818) 786-6310 (Valley Cities) or (323) 938-2531, ext. 2225 (Westside).

Wings


I never thought I’d find myself in any place called “The Winner’sRoom,” mingling with soap opera stars and clutching a huge gold statue.

But there I was. Well, that’s where my body was, though some other partof me was hovering above the Century Plaza Hotel, just watching myself theway you watch an awards show on TV.

After I heard the first syllable of “Win Ben Stein’s Money” — the showfor which I was nominated for an Emmy as a writer — I went into some kind ofshock. It wasn’t bad shock, like “cover her with a blanket she’s losingblood.” It was a whole new kind of stunned, a blast of morphine-like euphoriathat shot from my stomach out through my limbs.

A wide spotlight landed on the Ben Stein writing team and my numb feet,teetering in brand new $29.99 pumps, had to take me to the podium. As ourelected speaker, Gary, struggled to thank the requisite producers, I stoodbehind him and gripped the prop Emmy, hoping my bra strap wasn’t showing.When he finished, I leaned into the microphone and said stupidly, “Thankseverybody.”

We were ushered down a hallway, where Gary was so shaken he had to takea knee.

“You okay?” I asked, helping him up.
“I just can’t believe it,” he responded, his eyes big and his legsshaking. I called my mom on someone’s cell phone, I hugged everyone in sight,and next thing I knew, I was in the Winner’s Room, picking up my very ownEmmy, posing for pictures with the weighty golden lady.
“Wings out,” people kept saying. “Those golden wings are sharp.”

Someone far more spiritually advanced may have gleaned a deeper meaningfrom that message, but I just adjusted the statue in my arms, dutifully.

I’m not trying to be self-effacing when I tell you that I have never,ever, been a winner at anything.

When I got the call last month that we were nominated, I felt prettydarn good for a couple days. But life has a way of turning on you, doesn’tit? My car died. I didn’t get a job I wanted. I had to charge my rent. Mydate, an ex-boyfriend, suddenly remembered he had a prior commitment to gohiking with his brother in Hawaii the weekend of the Emmy’s.

Great, I thought. I’ll be sitting next to an empty chair in a dress fromthe mall I’ll just have to return the next day because I’m the loneliest,brokest Emmy nominee in town.

“You’ll have a good time by yourself,” the ex said, shrugging it off.What I heard was, “It’s just the technical awards. It’s just the DaytimeEmmys. It’s not even televised.”

My good feelings faded. I told the ex-boyfriend to take another kind ofhike. I cried at the thought of myself sitting there alone, no one to comfortme if I lost or squeeze my hand if I won. I cried that deep kind of cry thathits you when you first wake up, that cry that sops up all the old painfulexperiences from your past and wrings them into your present. I got in myemotional time machine and felt sad for every time in life I ever feltabandoned. I got out of hand.

“Snap out of it,” said my therapist. Well, he didn’t put it like thatbut I’m translating from therapease.

So I did. I hauled myself to the used car lot and bought a car. Justafter I put a down payment on an old Taurus, I got a call for a new job,starting immediately. I splurged on my dream dress, a black, jerseywrap-around from Lura Starr that won’t be going back. An old friend fromcollege offered to accompany me and I was all set.

At the reception following the show, I walked around with my award anda glass of champagne, drawing stares. I wished I could mill around that hotellobby forever, experiencing the unfamiliar end of the envy equation.

My date was perfect company in his rented tux and freshly washed car,telling me when my lipstick was smeared, refilling my drink, making easyconversation with my co-workers. The thing about platonic dates, however, isthat like rented tuxes, they aren’t really yours.

He dropped me off at the end of the night and I clomped up the stairs tomy house and propped the Emmy up on the coffee table. I sat in thesemi-darkness, smoking and staring at her pointy golden wings, the arch ofher back.

I poured myself a mood cocktail, equal parts gratitude, pride andloneliness.

“Wings out,” I said to myself, for no reason at all, and Emmy and Isettled in to watch Saturday Night Live together.

Teresa Strasser is an Emmy-winning twentysomething writer for the Journal.

Celebrating Israel’s50th


The peace process is stalled, pluralism issues remain unresolved and the Netanyahu government is in turmoil. But organizers of a major, star-studded 50th anniversary tribute to Israel later this year are focusing their attention on celebration, not contention. Indeed, a rare in-gathering of major Hollywood celebrities, Jewish communal officals and organizational leaders has come together to mark Israel’s first half century. &’009;

First among the planned events is “America Salutes Israel at 50,” scheduled to take place April 14 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The producers of the Academy and Emmy awards shows, Gil Cates and Don Mischer, respectively, are teaming up for the first time to produce what is promised to be a Hollywood-style, entertainment extravaganza that will be broadcast on CBS April 15 to millions in the United States and around the globe. Hosted by actor Kevin Costner, it will feature other well-known stars — for the moment unannounced. The Jewish Federation and Simon Wiesenthal Center have joined together in the effort to make the event a resounding success.

During a kickoff sales meeting last week at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, speakers did not completely ignore the troubled state of current Israeli politics. Extravagant plans for an official jubilee celebration in Israel have been stymied by lack of funds and internal wrangling.

But in Los Angeles, organizers are more sanguine about the festivities. “We all know what is going on in Israel,” said honorary co-chair Lew Wasserman, former chairman of MCA Universal and a major Jewish philanthropist. “I think it’s vital that people in Israel know that they still have the support of the rest of the world.”

“With all the things that separate the Jewish people, we can use a 50th anniversary to bring us together in celebrating the accomplishments of the Israeli state,” added Herb Gelfand, president of the Federation and the other honorary co-chair of the Los Angeles at 50 celebration.

“It’s important to remind ourselves what Israel has done for world Jewry,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Details of the evening at the Shrine are somewhat sketchy. Costner, who isn’t Jewish, is expected to have a crossover appeal to non-Jews. “M*A*S*H” creator Larry Gelbart is the show’s head writer. The lineup of stars isn’t set yet and won’t be for a while, said Mischer, whose credits include the opening ceremonies for the 1996 Olympic Games and gala events surrounding the hand-over of Hong Kong last year. Mischer said the show’s roster would include major names in film, television and music. “It should be an All-American show.”

Other plans for the two-hour event include: a satellite link-up with Israel, film clips of highlights from Israel’s first 50 years and possibly a pre-taped musical performance from Masada. “We’re going to party for Israel,” added Cates, who has produced seven Academy Awards shows and more than 25 films. “It’s going to be a very emotional event that should make us feel proud to participate and to be Jews.”

Two other Hollywood veterans, Merv Adelson and Marvin Josephson, are overseeing the CBS special and many other events in conjunction with Israel’s 50th. Both were appointed to serve as international co-chairs of the 50th celebration, at the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but have denied that politics is a factor in their involvement. “I didn’t give a single shekel or dollar to Bibi, the Likud or Labor,” Josephson, chairman of the powerhouse talent and literary agency, ICM, told The Jerusalem Report recently. “I am not Likud or Labor. I’m interested in Israel.”

“I truly believe this will be the most important event of the 50th outside of Israel,” said Adelson, speaking via speaker phone to the Four Seasons gathering. The show transcends politics and “who is on the left and who is on the right,” added the former chairman and CEO of Lorimar Pictures. “This is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the greatest friend America has.”

The overall budget for the event is about $6 million. CBS is paying $3 million for the broadcast, with the other $3 million being raised by the jubilee committee, headed by Adelson and Josephson. Los Angeles’ share is about $1 million, which is expected to be raised by sales of the 6,000 Shrine seats and to the gala that will follow, as well as by sales of ads in the tribute journal. The Wiesenthal and Federation have agreed that any extra dollars raised will be used to send children to Israel.

The tribute book, expected to run over 50 pages, will include decade and “mega-event” pages outlining key moments in Israel’s history, as well as personal eyewitness accounts of people who played a role in that history. The pages will be sponsored at $5,000 per page, with $10,000 as the price for the two-page decade and mega-event spreads. Eyewitness tales of Israel’s first 50 years are being sought.

Tickets to the Shrine event will range from $18 (block sales only), $25 and $100 general seating (available through Ticketmaster) to $1,000 for VIP tickets which will entitle the ticket holders to sit in a special area, and admission to a gala reception after the show. The reception menu will be created by Jewish cookbook author Judy Zeidler in partnership with Terry Bell, former Federation president and general campaign chair. Since the event occurs in the middle of Passover, the meal will include a charoset tasting and a variety of other Pesach entrees and desserts.


Gearing Up for 50


The peace process is stalled, pluralism issues remain unresolved and the Netanyahu government is in turmoil. But organizers of a major, star-studded 50th anniversary tribute to Israel later this year are focusing their attention on celebration, not contention. Indeed, a rare in-gathering of major Hollywood celebrities, Jewish communal officals and organizational leaders has come together to mark Israel’s first half century. &’009;

First among the planned events is “America Salutes Israel at 50,” scheduled to take place April 14 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The producers of the Academy and Emmy awards shows, Gil Cates and Don Mischer, respectively, are teaming up for the first time to produce what is promised to be a Hollywood-style, entertainment extravaganza that will be broadcast on CBS April 15 to millions in the United States and around the globe. Hosted by actor Kevin Costner, it will feature other well-known stars — for the moment unannounced. The Jewish Federation and Simon Wiesenthal Center have joined together in the effort to make the event a resounding success.

During a kickoff sales meeting last week at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, speakers did not completely ignore the troubled state of current Israeli politics. Extravagant plans for an official jubilee celebration in Israel have been stymied by lack of funds and internal wrangling.

But in Los Angeles, organizers are more sanguine about the festivities. “We all know what is going on in Israel,” said honorary co-chair Lew Wasserman, former chairman of MCA Universal and a major Jewish philanthropist. “I think it’s vital that people in Israel know that they still have the support of the rest of the world.”

“With all the things that separate the Jewish people, we can use a 50th anniversary to bring us together in celebrating the accomplishments of the Israeli state,” added Herb Gelfand, president of the Federation and the other honorary co-chair of the Los Angeles at 50 celebration.

“It’s important to remind ourselves what Israel has done for world Jewry,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Details of the evening at the Shrine are somewhat sketchy. Costner, who isn’t Jewish, is expected to have a crossover appeal to non-Jews. “M*A*S*H” creator Larry Gelbart is the show’s head writer. The lineup of stars isn’t set yet and won’t be for a while, said Mischer, whose credits include the opening ceremonies for the 1996 Olympic Games and gala events surrounding the hand-over of Hong Kong last year. Mischer said the show’s roster would include major names in film, television and music. “It should be an All-American show.”

Other plans for the two-hour event include: a satellite link-up with Israel, film clips of highlights from Israel’s first 50 years and possibly a pre-taped musical performance from Masada. “We’re going to party for Israel,” added Cates, who has produced seven Academy Awards shows and more than 25 films. “It’s going to be a very emotional event that should make us feel proud to participate and to be Jews.”

Two other Hollywood veterans, Merv Adelson and Marvin Josephson, are overseeing the CBS special and many other events in conjunction with Israel’s 50th. Both were appointed to serve as international co-chairs of the 50th celebration, at the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but have denied that politics is a factor in their involvement. “I didn’t give a single shekel or dollar to Bibi, the Likud or Labor,” Josephson, chairman of the powerhouse talent and literary agency, ICM, told The Jerusalem Report recently. “I am not Likud or Labor. I’m interested in Israel.”

“I truly believe this will be the most important event of the 50th outside of Israel,” said Adelson, speaking via speaker phone to the Four Seasons gathering. The show transcends politics and “who is on the left and who is on the right,” added the former chairman and CEO of Lorimar Pictures. “This is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the greatest friend America has.”

The overall budget for the event is about $6 million. CBS is paying $3 million for the broadcast, with the other $3 million being raised by the jubilee committee, headed by Adelson and Josephson. Los Angeles’ share is about $1 million, which is expected to be raised by sales of the 6,000 Shrine seats and to the gala that will follow, as well as by sales of ads in the tribute journal. The Wiesenthal and Federation have agreed that any extra dollars raised will be used to send children to Israel.

The tribute book, expected to run over 50 pages, will include decade and “mega-event” pages outlining key moments in Israel’s history, as well as personal eyewitness accounts of people who played a role in that history. The pages will be sponsored at $5,000 per page, with $10,000 as the price for the two-page decade and mega-event spreads. Eyewitness tales of Israel’s first 50 years are being sought.

Tickets to the Shrine event will range from $18 (block sales only), $25 and $100 general seating (available through Ticketmaster) to $1,000 for VIP tickets which will entitle the ticket holders to sit in a special area, and admission to a gala reception after the show. The reception menu will be created by Jewish cookbook author Judy Zeidler in partnership with Terry Bell, former Federation president and general campaign chair. Since the event occurs in the middle of Passover, the meal will include a charoset tasting and a variety of other Pesach entrees and desserts.

+