The Grammy Awards is THE biggest night of the year for the music industry. For the entire weekend, nominees and celebrities are invited to wine and dine at all kinds of exclusive events. And guess who catered one such VIP luxury lounge AND took home the award for Best Menu of the Year?? Oh yeah baby, yours truly!

And boy did we serve it to them. We’re talking made-to-order latkes, my famous Jewish Sicilian chicken meatballs, and No-Noodle Lasagna from my first ever online cooking course, coming soon!! And for dessert we served McConnell’s sweet cream ice cream (family owned in Santa Barbara by my dear lifelong friend Michael Palmer and his wife Eva) with Meal and a Spiel specialty blood orange olive oil drizzle from Chacewater Winery. YUM. Palettes were singing, hot latkes were flying off the pan, it was beautiful.

Not to mention there was all the schmoozing I got to do with Hollywood’s finest. Like Kandi Burruss from Real Housewives of Atlanta, Stephen Kramer Glickman from the Warner Bros animated film Storks, and many others. Definitely going to pencil in the Grammys for next year.


Kandi Burruss, Songwriter/ Producer/Real Housewife of Atlanta


Two funny Jews: Stephen Kramer Glickman, Storks & Elana Horwich, Miss Meal and a Spiel


Casper Smart, Creative Director


Drew Chadwick, Music Artist


Chetti, Singer/Songwriter/Recording Artist


Pandora Vanderpump, Vanderpump Rules

Drake wins first Grammy

The Jewish Canadian singer Drake won a Grammy Award, his first, for Rap Album of the Year.

Also, the indie pop band fun. won Song of the Year with “We Are Young” and Best New Artist at the 55th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. Its lead singer, Jack Antonoff, is Jewish, and he thanked all the band's fans after fun. won in the latter category.

“We've been touring for 12 years and we haven't made money for a very long time,” he told the crowd, extending a shout-out to girlfriend Lena Dunham.

For Drake, his album “Take Care” brought him the Grammy before the televised portion of the show began. He beat out Lupe Fiasco, Nas, The Roots and Rick Ross.

Drake had been nominated 10 times before breaking through this year. He also was nominated for Best Rap Performance for his song “HYFR” and Best Rap song for “The Motto.”

Fun. also performed at the Grammys, playing its hit “Carry On” during a staged indoor rainstorm at the Staples Center.

In his introduction of the group, actor Neil Patrick Harris said, “As legendary gangsta rap icon Katharine Hepburn once said, 'If you obey all the rules, you don’t have any fun.' “

Other notable Grammy winners were the English folk band Mumford & Sons, who won Album of the Year for “Babel”; Gotye, whose hit “Somebody That I Used to Know” won for Record of the Year; and Adele, who won her seventh Grammy for her live performance of “Set Fire to the Rain.”

John and Paul, still alive

Last week, I started writing a column about John Sullivan, a former drug and alcohol addict who restarted his life, thanks to Beit T’Shuvah. But then I got interrupted by another great story, in a documentary called “Paul Williams: Still Alive,” directed by my friend Steve Kessler. I wasn’t planning to write about the film — until I saw a packed house at the Nuart on Saturday night give it a standing ovation.

What were those filmgoers so crazy about?

My simple theory is that they fell in love with the story of a singer-songwriter, a star of the 1970s and early 1980s whose life unraveled through drugs and alcohol and who is now sober and taking gigs wherever he can, at local Holiday Inns or even music halls in the Philippines.

I found both men’s stories irresistible, so I decided to combine them. What caught my attention in particular is that both Williams and Sullivan hate looking backward.

In the film, Kessler is constantly nudging Williams to look back. As they wander through hotel lobbies and small-town gigs, Kessler tries to get Williams to talk about his glory days, when he was one of the most revered entertainers in the country — picking up Oscars and Grammys and being a regular fixture on “The Tonight Show.”

This is the emotional core of the film: Williams wants to look forward, while Kessler wants to look back. Williams grudgingly humors Kessler, until a breaking point happens at the end (I won’t spoil it by telling you).

Sullivan also humored me and talked about his past (I didn’t give him much choice). He spoke about dropping out of high school at age 16 and spending the next 17 years of his life caught in a downward spiral of drugs, alcohol and petty crimes that often landed him in jail.

There was one episode especially that stood out. It happened about four years ago, while he was in a holding cell at a local courthouse. He had agreed to a deal from the prosecutor to do 16 months for a theft charge. But unbeknownst to him, his brother had appealed to the judge to send Sullivan to a rehabilitation center. The judge gave the brother 10 minutes to find a place that would take Sullivan.

The brother immediately called a friend, who put him in touch with Beit T’Shuvah, a faith-based residential treatment center and full-service congregation that has grown quickly over the past few years.

Beit T’Shuvah took him in, helped him get sober and, eventually, helped him enroll in a graphic design program. Today, Sullivan runs a marketing and design firm, under the auspices of Beit T’Shuvah, called BTS Communications.

Maybe that’s why his eyes light up when he talks about the future. “I have something to look forward to now when I get up,” he told me.

But what on earth could Williams have to look forward to, considering he fell so far from the top of the Hollywood food chain?

This is where Kessler’s film touches a nerve. Williams hates looking back, not because he loves and misses the old Paul Williams who was on top of the world, but because he’s repulsed by that person.

“Look at that guy, so smug and arrogant,” he tells Kessler in the film.

And also, as we learn, so phony. The old Williams, short, chubby and insecure, was obsessed with being “special” and with pleasing others, especially that elite club of Hollywood players, where he was never sure he belonged.

But body language doesn’t lie. The extraordinary thing about Williams today is that he looks genuinely happy. Not just sober and at peace, but happy.

He doesn’t miss the old days. He’s quite happy signing autographs in hotel lobbies and eating his favorite food, squid, with an order of Diet Coke instead of gin. His voice is raspy, but he still gives his all playing to tiny crowds, who adore him. He loves his wife and kids, and he still writes pretty songs (he wrote the song that plays at the end of the film, titled, appropriately, “Still Alive”).

Needless to say, Sullivan doesn’t miss the old days, either. All he wants to talk about now are the new design campaigns he and his team are working on. He’s especially excited about the possibility of creating a branding campaign for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to promote its education-based incarceration programs.

“We’re perfect for this assignment,” Sullivan told me. “Everyone who works at BTS has had a troubled past. We know the value of rehab. We understand the mentality of the convict.”

Williams and Sullivan both abandoned their pasts, although those pasts were sharply different. Sullivan left behind the lost, unproductive life of a small-time criminal addicted to booze and drugs; Williams abandoned the hyper-productive but empty life of a high-flying Hollywood star who filled his emptiness by seeking the approval of others.

In the end, though, they followed a similar journey back to personal redemption: Instead of looking backward or forward, they looked inward.

Sullivan looked inward and discovered he had a talent for art.

Williams looked inward and discovered he had a talent for being human.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at

Whitney Houston, who called Israel visit a ‘spiritual retreat,’ is dead at 48

American pop star Whitney Houston, who reportedly told then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a trip to Israel in 2003 that “I feel at home,” has died at the age of 48.

Houston was discovered dead Saturday afternoon in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., just hours before she was scheduled to appear at a pre-Grammy party. The Grammy Awards, to take place on Sunday evening, will present a tribute to the singer.

In Israel, radio stations played Houston’s music, including her iconic “I Will Always Love You” from the movie “The Bodyguard,” in which she also starred.

Houston and then-husband Bobby Brown visited Israel in 2003 at the invitation of the Black Hebrews, who live in Dimona in Israel’s South, and wore traditional African dress. They were named honorary citizens of the city.

The couple and their daughter spent a week traveling throughout Israel, which included a visit with Sharon in which she made the comment about feeling at home in Israel.

Houston reportedly hoped the visit would help inspire her in creating a Christmas album and called the trip a “spiritual retreat,” according to reports.

No cause of death has been announced. The six-time Grammy winner had battled drug and alcohol addiction.