By any medium necessary, Dr. Drew, celebrity M.D., treats America’s ailments

Dr. Drew Pinsky is a busy, busy man. 

Hurriedly walking into his office in the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard for an interview, Pinsky offered a quick greeting, sat down at his desk, typed away on his computer and recorded an audio introduction for that evening’s upcoming HLN cable broadcast of “Dr. Drew on Call.”

“A man is tased by police as two terrified children watch from the backseat,” Pinsky said, speaking energetically into a digital recorder. “Let’s get started!”

And with that, he turned his attention to the interview, sort of — he alternated between responding directly to questions and turning to his computer, perhaps a symptom of his being a workaholic. Since his medical school days at USC in the 1980s, Pinsky seemingly has held multiple jobs at any given time. 

At the time of the interview last fall, the number was six: two television shows, “Dr. Drew on Call” and MTV’s reality show “Teen Mom Reunion Special”; his nationally syndicated radio show, “Loveline,” which takes calls from young adults seeking advice on topics like relationships, sex and drug addiction; “The Dr. Drew Podcast,” a weekly show hosted by Carolla Digital, a podcast network in Glendale created by comedian Adam Carolla, who used to co-host “Loveline” with Pinsky and who collaborates with him on “The Adam and Dr. Drew Show” podcast; and finally, but not to be overlooked, Pinsky’s general medicine practice in Pasadena. 

Since then, the number of Pinsky’s jobs has risen to seven, thanks to the Jan. 20 launch on TalkRadio 790 KABC of “Dr. Drew Midday Live With Mike Catherwood,” yet another radio program that gives listeners access to Pinsky’s advice on relationships, medicine and addiction.

Oh, and he’s married and has two boys and a girl — triplets! — in college.

Born and raised in Pasadena, Pinsky attended Hebrew school once a week until around third grade, when, he said, his parents “jumped ship” religiously and more or less abandoned having a Jewish home. Pinsky characterized his extended family, though, as “very Jewish.”

While Pinsky’s regular appearances in the media put him on par in the public eye with the likes of Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Mehmet Oz, his path to medicine easily could have been sidetracked — by him. 

While at Amherst College in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Pinsky knew he had a knack for medicine, but he said he rejected it and dabbled in music and theater instead. During those years, as he said on one of his podcasts, he even struggled with some of the issues that listeners regularly call in about, such as anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Eventually, he “vigorously” returned to studying medicine, getting a medical degree from USC and completing his residency at LAC+USC Medical Center and Huntington Memorial Hospital. 

Pinsky’s foray into public life began in medical school when he appeared on KROQ-FM’s “Ask a Surgeon” segment on Sunday evenings, which eventually morphed into “Loveline”, the show that went national in 1995 and paired Pinsky with Carolla, who left in 2005. 

Pinsky’s media footprint only expanded after that. He was an on-camera doctor and therapist for the first season of the CBS reality series “Big Brother,” and hosted “Strictly Sex With Dr. Drew” and “Strictly Dr. Drew” on Discovery Health Channel. Later, he was the lead doctor on “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew” and “Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew” on VH1.

However sincere Pinsky’s motives, he has his critics. A New York Times Magazine feature on Pinsky in 2009 addressed whether “Celebrity Rehab” is therapy or tabloid, “potentially exploitation in denial.” But as he responded to writer Chris Norris, “I was never motivated to do these appearances by fame, but to explain the medical facts behind stories so distorted by media ignorance.”

In a way, his interest in drug rehab mirrors his path to medicine in general — initial rejection followed by a passionate embrace. He said when he first learned about the 12-step recovery method, his reaction was: “What is that goofy s**t that they do in those rooms? Those 12 steps on the wall — what a bunch of B.S.”

But eventually, seeing some people go from rock bottom to what he termed a “flourishing existence,” Pinsky began to take the program seriously, incorporating it with the team of rehab medical professionals he works with on and off camera. He said his team focuses on people with severe cases of addiction who are at the point where they will die if they don’t enter treatment.

“This is going to sound grandiose, but other than my team, other than a team like mine, people don’t understand how to deal with these people,” Pinsky said. “A properly selective case for me, in my opinion, would not be treated other than the way I would treat it.” 

In 2013, he experienced a medical crisis of his own and of a much different sort — prostate cancer. It was discovered after his wife, Susan, encouraged him to get a physical following several bouts of sickness, including a severe flu.

“I went kicking and screaming the whole way,” Pinsky said. 

Doctors first misdiagnosed him with prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) until a biopsy revealed a low-grade tumor that required surgery, which was performed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Although Pinsky’s recovery took months, he only missed one or two weeks of “Loveline,” then broadcast from his home, while also taking patient calls and working on a book.

Cancer-free since June 2013, Pinsky joined the board of the Prostate Cancer Foundation in September 2014 to help raise awareness. His urologist during his fight with prostate cancer, Dr. Stuart Holden, is the organization’s medical director.

On television, radio, podcast and even in interviews, Pinsky rarely touches on politics. But he does philosophize on social trends that he thinks help mold the people who call into his show with addiction problems and psychological or psychiatric issues. 

Pinsky’s theory is that a “trauma epidemic” — neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence — afflicting the United States has created more Americans suffering from narcissistic disorders, emotional imbalances and feelings of emptiness. That leads people to seek comfort or escape in drugs, alcohol and fame.

“If you look at other periods of history that have had those kinds of trends, the fix becomes a revolution, people act out,” Pinsky said. “I think the fix is just restoring our family health and focusing on child rearing and focusing on what’s important — basic values and gratitude.”

Pinsky’s topics of discussion — often edgy and risque — combined with his quick on-air medical and psychological analyses and advice have brought him fame and money along the way. But, as he told the Journal, he’s much more interested in completing a task than becoming a cultural icon:

“I view myself as willing to take risks to get the job done, and by getting the job done, I mean reach an audience that may or may not want to hear what I have to say.”


Correction (4/2, 6:00 p.m.): The Pinskys' triplets are two boys and a girl, not three boys.

In defense of Hitler, by Tila Tequila

If your memory of C-list phenomenon Tila Tequila is hazy at best, the former star of the MTV reality show “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila” and, natch, a sex tape, is out to change that. Or — more likely — she’s simply gone off the deep end of a pool nestled deep within the borders of Crazytown.

As reported by Tablet, Tequila yesterday posted to Facebook a shot of herself decked out in a sexy Nazi costume, standing against the picturesque backdrop of a photo of Auschwitz. A shocking and bizarre creative choice in general, but even more so from someone who right around this time last year was talking about becoming a Jew.  Not an Orthodox Jew, of course, because that would be, in the words of someone who refers to herself as Hitila (get it, Hitler plus Tila? You just smush those two names together and you get Hitila) “too hardcore.”

While the photo has since been taken down, a blog post intended to bust all of those terrible Hitler myths remains out there for the world to consume. In “Why I Sympathize with Hitler Part 1: True History Unveiled,” Tequila attempts to set things straight: “Here is a man who was not a coward, stood up for his country in a DESPERATE TIME OF NEED (unlike all of our cowardly leaders), and yet not only did he try his best to help his country and people get out of what was a time of depression, economic collapse, high unemployment, amongst many other things… he lost the war AND was painted out to be a monster after his death.”

Not that she has anything against the people belonging to the tribe she may or may not have converted to.

“I am not going to sit here and say that I hate Jewish people because that is not the case nor is this about Jews,” Tequila clarifies. “It is about Hitler and his side of the story that was never told since he was not the victor. However, those of you with a closed mind can think I am being anti-Semite all you want because I already told you that I am not, nor will I repeat myself again.”

Funny, because just last week, alongside a link to a report about the death of reality TV director James Marcus Howe, she shared this gentle and not at all anti-Semitic sentiment: “GOD SEE’S YOU DIRTY F[******] KIKES WORKING FOR THE SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN AND I HAVE RETURNED AS HIS MESSENGER! TAKE HEED NOW BITCHES!”

As the story unfolds we hope to find answers to many important questions, such as whether Tequila is dressed in last year’s Purim costume, if she high-fived herself in the mirror when she came up with her genius name hybrid, and if the Singaporean-born sorta star has ever wondered how the Fuhrer would have felt about her non Aryan-ness.

MTV’s ‘True Life’ seeking a Jewish mama’s boy

MTV is searching for a Jewish mama’s boy for an episode of “True Life.”

The show is looking for someone aged 16 to 28 who consistently chooses his mother over his girlfriend. The episode will be called “True Life: I’m Dating a Mama’s Boy.”

“We really hope we can find a Jewish mama’s boy to feature, and we’ve already been searching far and wide,” David Abelson, the show’s producer, told JTA. “So far we have contacted Hillel houses across the country, JCCs and Jewish summer camps … but the search continues.”

Those interested in being considered should contact and include recent photos.

“True Life” also is searching for Internet addicts, those who have lost trust with their parents and people preparing for the end of the world, among others.

MUSIC VIDEO: Tom Lehrer — ‘I’m spending Chanukah in Santa Monica’

A Tom Lehrer oldie turned into a video by a fan


MUSIC VIDEO: ‘All I want for Christmas is Jews’

Relax—it’s comedy

Approximate lyrics:

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is…

I wont ask for much this Christmas
I dont even wish for snow
Just want a Jew who runs show business
Speilberg, Stiller Ari Gold
I will make a list and send it
Of my choices for St. Nick
Seinfeld, Zach Braff and Jon Stewart
Are the boys with a big schtick.
Cause I just want them here tonight
Holding on to me so tight
Ill take Zac Efron too
all I want for Christmas is Jews.

Menorah lights are shining
So brightly everywhere
And the big box office
Makes Jews millionaires
They may have killed our savior
Thats not the best behavior
Thats ok he rose again three days later
and now Im an active J-dater

Oh I dont want a lot for Christmas
Gentile boys are such a bore
Goldman, Weissman, Cohen, Levy
These are names that I adore
Oh I just want a chosen one
Hebrew boys are so much fun
Make my wish come true
Baby all I want for Christmas is


Comedy trio HotBox is behind the video:

Style: Stand-Up
Joined: February 07, 2007
Last Sign In: 2 hours ago
Videos Watched: 586
Subscribers: 48
Channel Views: 2,469

HOT BOX is a comedy variety show starring stand-up comedians Julia Lillis, Claudia Maittlen-Harris and Melissa McQueen. The show is kind of like that Rosie O’Donnell variety show… only funny. And fewer fat chicks. We’ve got sketches, stand-up, videos, singing (off key), dancing (out of sync)…

Basically, there is so much awesome stuff in a Hot Box show that we better watch out or we might get hijacked by Somali pirates.

You may have seen/heard HOT BOX at/on…
– 2008 Edinburgh Fringe
– 2008 Los Angeles Comedy Festival
– 2006 New York Underground Comedy Festival
– National Lampoon Radio
– Maxim Radio
– drinking at a bar near you


MUSIC VIDEO: Captain SmartyPants — ‘The Driedel Song’

Captain Smartypants, a Seattle Men’s Chorus Ensemble, makes the Yuletide fun in Home For the Holidays. Visit the Seattle Channel website for more great shows like this.


MUSIC VIDEO: ‘Chanukah, O Chanukah’ (extra kvelling version)

We don’t know anything about YouTube user Birdman445 except that she posted the most kvell-worthy version of ‘Chanukah, O Chanukah’ we’ve ever seen.

Kvell on!

Malibu camp offers respite and community for kids with HIV

It's nearly dusk at Camp Pacific Heartland in Malibu and teenager Stephon Cooperawls sits beside me, watching the summer sun sink into the sea. All the other campers are in the dining room having dinner, but Cooperawls has a story to tell, and this is the only place he feels safe talking about it.

“I first got involved with camp when I was 7 years old. I didn't know I had it when I was 7. I was living with a foster parent, and she just brought me here,” Cooperawls began.

“As I got older, I started to have a clue, wondering 'Why am I here?' and 'Why am I taking meds?' and 'Why am I going to the hospital?' It all just added up, and one day, my father came to me and said, 'Stephon, I just want to tell you something: You have HIV.'”

Cooperawls, a 17-year-old African American, was born with HIV. And like many of the children between the ages of 6 and 20 who have passed through Camp Pacific Heartland or its sister arts camp, Camp Hollywood Heart, he is battling what is considered one of the greatest epidemics of our time.

Cooperawls is both infected and affected by the disease: his biological father died of AIDS, and his mother, who abandoned him as an infant, is also infected.

“When I found out I had it, I always thought I was just going to up and die one day, but I've learned that you're not going to die. You die when it's your time to go,” he said.

But nobody is going anywhere this week. Nestled high in the Malibu Mountains at Wilshire Boulevard Temple's Gindling Hilltop Camp, Cooperawls and the other campers enjoy what many call the best week of their lives. It is the one week of the year when they are free from judgment in a place where they can swim and use the bathrooms without any erroneous worrying about disease transmission, and where they make new friends with whom they can share their secret.

It is an empowering and life-altering experience for each camper, but it has also transformed the life of David Gale, the Hollywood executive whose quest for meaning brought Camp Heartland to Southern California.

“Every one of us asks what our purpose is in life,” Gale said, reflecting on what this experience has meant to him.

“Very often, it's your career, maybe your family, but for me it's been, 'How can I make an impact on people in the world?' But this is not a one-sided exchange. These kids have made me appreciate the value of life.”

Having grown up with Crohn's disease, itself a serious illness, Gale shares a unique kinship with the hundreds of children he helps. An otherwise unassuming individual, today dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with a digital camera hanging from his neck, his sensitivity to the kids' condition is visceral and palpable. At camp, Gale is not one of the top executives at MTV, he's just “David,” and he doesn't really want to talk about his professional success. He wants this story to be about the kids.

Working in an industry characterized by tough personalities and superficial values, Gale's genuine modesty is rare. Inasmuch as his talent and ambition have earned him considerable success (he is a Stanford graduate and also holds a law degree from New York University), the vice president of MTV new media and specialty films has coupled his personal achievements with giving to others. He believes lasting happiness results from three things: doing what you love, contact with people you love and philanthropic giving.

“There's not even close to enough of that happening in Hollywood. That's why there are so many unhappy people despite their success — because they're not giving, they're taking, they're demanding, they're insisting — and they judge their success in life based on the box office, based on their power, their deals and who knows them,” Gale said.

“This camp, this organization [Hollywood Heart] gives me true happiness. I get back so much more in ways that are impossible to quantify, in ways I couldn't get from anything material or anything else I've ever done,” he said.

Gale's desire to give was the result of a tremendous loss. When his mother was dying of cancer, he saw the outpouring of community support coming from her synagogue, which inspired his own involvement with Wilshire Boulevard Temple. And it was 15 years ago, when he sat on the social action committee, that Gale, now 50, realized he could do more than chair the synagogue's food pantry.

At the time, Gale was vice president of MTV Films, a division he created and through which he produced a bevy of hits, including, “Election,” “Jackass,” “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Varsity Blues.” During his 11 years at the helm, MTV Films grossed more than $1 billion at the box office and garnered their first Academy Award nomination (for “Election,” which Gale says, is the film that makes him most proud). Without any personal tie, he was struck by the horrors of the rising AIDS epidemic and immediately decided to start a camp for HIV/AIDS-infected youth.

“I love the movies I've made and I'm very proud of them, but it's just a credit, whereas something that's extremely deep and meaningful and lasting is truly the thing that I would want people to remember me for. Not my movies,” he said.

As fulfilling as philanthropy is, Gale is quick to point out that his commercial success has significantly enabled his ability to give.

“I could not have started this charity without my success and without my connections,” he said plainly. For starters, although Wilshire Boulevard Temple did not wish to directly sponsor the camp project, they offered Gale use of their camp facilities in Malibu at a greatly reduced rate.

With access to money and powerful industry connections, Gale could offer financial support for a camp, but with the demands of his job, did not have the ability to program his dream from scratch.

Enter Neil Willenson, a fellow Jew from Wisconsin who had already established a camp for at-risk kids but without a permanent home yet.

Willenson's journey began when he read a disturbing article in his local paper titled “AIDS Hysteria” about 5-year-old Nile Sandeen, who contracted HIV from his mother and suffered cruel abuse at the hands of his community. Through his friendship with Sandeen, Willenson discovered that the stigma of the disease and the many misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS often caused more emotional suffering than the disease itself.

“The scourge of paranoia is worse than HIV,” said Willenson, 37, the founder of Camp Heartland. “HIV may be the most manageable part of their lives.”

In 1993, Camp Heartland's inaugural summer, Willenson welcomed 72 kids from 20 states to a one-week, cost-free retreat at a leased campsite in Milwaukee where there was hiking, horseback riding and archery. The following summer, he received a call from Gale, who took a red-eye to visit Willenson's Camp Heartland. By the summer of 1995, Gale and Willenson launched Camp Pacific Heartland, the West Coast version of Willenson's concept, funded through Gale's efforts and with the goal of recruiting at least 50 percent of its campers from Southern California.

The night I visit is “MTV Night” at camp, and the speakers are blaring Madonna. All 60 kids are breathless with anticipation over who this year's surprise celebrity guest will be. Gale's connections in Hollywood have produced a gaggle of celebrities here over the years, including Chris Tucker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Brandy and David Arquette.

When Wilmer Valderrama of “That '70s Show” arrives, he joins his screaming, adoring fans for a late-night dance party.

A 7-year-old girl gasps, “He's handsome! He's everything!”

She could be talking about Hollywood writer/director John Gatins, one of Hollywood Heart's most passionate advocates and a current board member, who is visiting tonight just for fun.

Gatins, who wrote “Coach Carter,” will return for Camp Hollywood Heart (the arts camp for Heartland graduates ages 16-20) to teach a writing workshop. He says he charts his life by this camp and that it inspired him to have children (he has three, ages 7, 5 and 18 months). Just prior to the release of his first feature film, “Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story,” DreamWorks gave him special permission to screen it at the camp.

“The night that I showed my movie here, I remember driving down that long, crazy hill to leave, and I just started laughing, and then I started kind of weeping, thinking, 'Wow I've never had such an amazing audience,'” Gatins recalled, almost tearfully.

“You work in the business, and everything is about the business. Everything is about, like, 'How did it play?' 'Will it work?' 'How do you sell it?' And to hear 100 kids laugh in the situations they're in, I sent DreamWorks an e-mail the next day that said, 'Look, I just have to tell you that I had an experience last night that for the first time my work felt meaningful on a level it never has.'”

It can’t happen here

A coalition of black and Mormon leaders have begun laying the groundwork for a 2012 California ballot initiative that would ban Jews from marrying Jews.

Flush from the passage of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state, the leaders say they want to extend the ban to Jews whose emphasis on in-marriage, they say, contravenes Scripture and promotes intolerance and segregation.

“In-marriage is against Scripture,” said one organizer. “We are all God’s children. It sends a message that one group’s blood is too good to mix with another group’s blood.”

“What are we,” the organizer added, “chopped liver?”

Defending what is bound to be a controversial measure, the organizer said strong support for the passage of Proposition 8 in the black, Latino and Mormon religious communities proved that, in four years, more “so-called civil rights” could be reshaped by popular will.

As evidence, he cited pro-Proposition 8 statements from Dr. Frederick K.C. Price, who leads the 22,000-member Crenshaw Christian Center.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Price on behalf of Proposition 8. “Let us stand with God in saying the definition of marriage must not change.”

At the urging of their church leaders, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon Church, donated an estimated $22 million to promote Proposition 8 and backed Web sites urging voters to support it.

A letter sent to Mormon bishops and signed by church President Thomas S. Monson and his two top counselors called on Mormons to donate “means and time” to the ballot measure.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children,” Monson wrote.

The authors of the anti-Jewish marriage initiative say when leaders believe they have Scripture on their side, they can get their followers to fix any flaws in any constitution.

“People choose to remain gay, and people choose to remain Jewish,” said an organizer. “Why should the majority of us be forced to honor that choice?”

The Jewish prohibition against intermarriage is commonly attributed to a biblical passage, Deuteronomy 7:3: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.”

But one church leader said they have an entirely different interpretation of this passage.

“It only applies to Hitties and Amorites,” he said, “and I don’t see a lot of them around.”

By his calculation, the Torah only prohibits intermarriage if the children that result from such a union are turned away from their Jewish faith.

“Moses married Tziporra, who was the daughter of a Midianite priest,” said the preacher. “Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, was a convert. Queen Esther, who saved the Jews from Haman in the Purim story, was married to the Persian, non-Jewish King Ahashverus.”

“Don’t tell me the Bible doesn’t understand intermarriage.”

Asked whether he wasn’t simply asking voters to impose their interpretation of the Bible on a minority group, one black church leader countered, “Well, what do you think we did with Proposition 8?”

The organizer admitted that the initiative to ban Jewish-Jewish marriage was the first step toward other initiatives to ban kosher slaughter and ritual circumcision, two widespread Jewish practices that the Christian gospel does not follow.

Defending this plan, one organizer cited Pastor Beverly Crawford of Bible Enrichment Fellowship International’s defense of her support for Proposition 8: She wasn’t saying no to gays, she told the press, but “yes to God” and doing what “the Lord Jesus Christ” would do.

“We think the same rule should apply to all laws, not just marriage laws,” said one organizer. “We’re not saying no to Jews. We’re saying yes to Jesus.”

Organizers know they will face a tough battle — but just among Jews. Some 78 percent of Jewish voters in Los Angeles opposed the ban on gay marriage, and just 8 percent supported Proposition 8, according to exit polling by the Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University.

Meanwhile, a relative handful of Mormon, black and Catholic leaders stood against their churches on Proposition 8. Contacted by The Journal, these leaders said their position was rooted in Scripture and the principle of the separation of church and state. They said they hoped their small example would convince more of their church members to oppose future attempts to curtail civil rights.

But Proposition 8’s supporters said they feel the wind at their backs, and they are going forward with their next initiative. Asked how he could possibly succeed in denying the civil rights of a minority based on one narrow interpretation of the Bible, one organizer summed up the feelings of the Jewish-Jewish marriage opponents.

“We did it once,” he said. “We can do it again.”

Yes, this is satire. No such proposition is in the works, or even a gleam in any group’s eye. The Jews have not been singled out for discrimination, just homosexuals. So why worry?

Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention: ‘It can’t happen here!’

HaDag Nachash: Atypical Israel band hip-hops to Hollywood

Adam Sandler, a.k.a. Israeli Mossad super-agent Zohan, saunters through the streets of Tel Aviv gyrating his cut-off-jeans-clad hips, delighting Israeli beachgoers with an exaggerated display of hacky-sack skills and putting on a super-human show of strength in a game of tug-of-war as a bikini-clad beauty perches on his shoulders.

The soundtrack playing throughout this opening sequence of “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” is the hip-hop/funk “Ma She Ba Ba” by one of Israel’s top bands, Hadag Nahash.

Later, as Zohan faces his Arab nemesis, The Phantom, the band charges up a fast-paced chase scene with the rapid beat of “Hine Ani Ba.” The catchy track, which translates to “Here I Come,” repeats during the closing credits and is featured prominently in the film’s trailers.

So how did a song released in 2006 by a 12-year-old Israeli band become the theme song of a major Hollywood release?

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MUSIC VIDEO: Hannah Friedman: ‘Oh, Obama’

Writer (and singer) Hannah Friedman stayed up all night to bring us this song.

MUSIC VIDEO: Oy, McCainia! (to the tune of ‘Rumania Rumania’)

The classic Yiddish folk song ‘Rumania, Rumania’ provides the inspiration for this pro-Obama music video

MUSIC VIDEO: Hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari Obama video — ‘Stand With Me’

From the YouTube page:

Miri Ben-Ari, a Grammy Award-Winning violinist, originally from Israel, dedicates her rendition of the National Anthem titled Stand With Me, a music video in support of the Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Barack Obama.

Supported by Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons and fashion designer Marc Eckó, Ben-Ari introduces a new musical approach to capture the spirit of the American people before the 2008 Election Day while hoping to influence fans among the Jewish community.

Ben-Ari states At this time of economic crisis, we need leadership that can bring change to our country while capturing the essence of the American Dream. Coming to America as a new immigrant, poor and without my family helped me to better understand and appreciate the American dream.

Directed by: Kenzo Hakuta & Miri Ben-Ari
Exec. Producer: Howard Mark Offenhutter


JDub throws off the label and opts for change

Golem live (‘Romania, Romania!’) at the Knitting Factory in NYC June 2007

JDub was never supposed to be just a record label, and as JDub records celebrates its fifth anniversary with a free concert on July 27 downtown at California Plaza, it is more clear than ever that the organization’s founders have greater ambitions than merely putting out good Jewish CDs.

Aaron Bisman, who co-founded the label with Jacob Harris when the duo were finishing college in New York, readily admits those ambitions.

“We believed there were legs for the idea behind the label,” Bisman says, his eyes alight with the passion of someone who after a half-decade is still excited by what he is doing. “We wanted to change attitudes about Jewish music and culture. We wanted to create something for young Jews, our contemporaries, to create spaces and music that would make them want to be there.”

And it wasn’t about making money. What sets JDub apart from other Jewish music purveyors is their not-for-profit status, which allows them to seek grants and work closely with other Jewish nonprofits. The Six Points Fellowship program, a partnership among the label, Avoda Arts and the Foundation for Jewish Culture, substantially funded by UJA-Federation of New York, is a good example.

“We wanted to bring together artists who had never done a specifically Jewish project before,” Bisman says.

The two-year fellowship program provides 12 artists with a living stipend, financial project support, professional development workshops and ongoing peer- and professional-led learning opportunities.

The vision has already begun to bear fruit. Having built a strong foundation in New York, Bisman and Harris have begun the slow, hard work of expanding their outreach to Los Angeles and other cities with a substantial Jewish presence. They have already cleared a major hurdle, receiving a “Cutting Edge” grant of $250,000 from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. In the long run, the idea is to create spaces and events for young Jews, whether affiliated or not, with the goal of making Jewish culture cool.

“They have figured out a way to allow their contemporaries to find a way to comfortably express themselves,” says Marvin Schotland, CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation. “It’s another way in a complex environment to test what will attract other people to get comfortable with their identity and to take some step beyond showing up at a concert. JDub has the capacity to get them to show up at a concert, but they’re interested in doing more than that, and they are interested in connecting with other participants in the Jewish community. We believe this initiative will have a major impact on the Jewish community in Los Angeles.”

Of course, no one is expecting an overnight transformation of Los Angeles’ diverse, diffuse Jewish community. JDub’s program is designed to build gradually, creating links between self-identified Jews in the arts communities, the Jewish communal world and audiences. And somewhere along the road, JDub also hopes to nurture new bands and performers to sign to their label.

In the very short term, the July 27 concert is a useful launching pad for JDub in Los Angeles, highlighting two of their bands — Golem, a hard-driving klezmer-punk-gypsy fusion, and Soulico, a powerful crew of Israeli DJs whose guests for this performance will include the Ethiopian-Israeli MCs of Axum and Sagol 59, the grand old man of Israeli hip-hop. In its sheer atypicality, the double-bill is typical of JDub, Bisman says.

“Both [bands] help us fill in the picture of the diversity of the world of Jewish music we’ve always been striving for,” he says. “Eastern European Jewish — and non-Jewish — folk tunes played as rock and punk, led by an amateur female ethnomusicologist, and an Israeli DJ crew building original hip-hop out of Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms.”

Not coincidentally, both groups have new CDs scheduled for release in early 2009. (Hey, we said they weren’t just a record label.)

“New York has been our base of support and our home,” Bisman says. “But our plan is to grow as a national organization, to find artists and funding outside New York City.”

Schotland is optimistic.

“For us, while the art is significant, it’s the vision they have for the utilization of the art to provide a way for young Jewish adults to identify with their Jewish identity [that] was most impressive about their proposal,” he says. “The proof of the pudding will be five years from now.”

Golem, Soulico, with Sagol 59 and Axum as guest artists, and Slivovitz and Soul will be performing free at Grand Performances (California Plaza, Waterfront Stage) on Sunday, July 27 at 7 p.m.

Melding world’s sounds, Ben Ari seeks harmony

The heavy metal band that could

In April 1982, Steve “Lips” Kudlow, front man of the heavy metal band Anvil, appeared on the cover of a British music tabloid wearing studded leather and wielding a chainsaw with a dildo between his teeth.

The image (and the accompanying story) stunned a British teenager, Sacha Gervasi, who attended Anvil’s concert at London’s legendary Marquee club and was “riveted by this lunatic front man jumping about in a bondage harness, playing slide guitar with a marital aide.” Over the next few years, Gervasi worked as a roadie for the band, which Kudlow and his best friend, drummer Robb Reiner, had founded while growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in Toronto.

Two decades later, Gervasi revisited the bandmates to shoot the documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” which has been selected as the centerpiece film among some 230 features, shorts and music videos to screen at the Los Angeles Film Festival, June 19-29. The movie describes the years the band inspired future metal royalty, such as Metallica and Slayer, whose members appear on camera; it recounts Anvil’s descent into obscurity in the mid-1980s and the founders’ struggle to keep rocking, even while holding down day jobs, into middle age.

Along the way, Kudlow and Reiner embark upon a grossly mismanaged Eastern European tour (a fight breaks out when one club manager attempts to pay them in goulash), they reunite with a top metal producer for their 13th album and finally perform a triumphant “return” concert in Japan.

Critics have lauded the documentary as “a real-life ‘This is Spinal Tap,'” (although drummer Reiner is not to be confused with that mockumentary’s director, Rob Reiner). A Rolling Stone headline asked whether “Anvil!” is the year’s “great rock movie,” and Variety called it “an underdog saga even nonmetalheads will root for.”

“On one level, the film is about these funny metal guys playing music into their 50s, but on another, it’s about best friends with a vision they’ve never given up,” Gervasi said.

Kudlow and Reiner — who alternatively appear close or at one another’s throats — are a study in opposites. The likeable but high-strung Kudlow is the son of a Polish immigrant tailor who frowned on his rock ‘n’ roll fantasies. Kudlow told The Journal he went through with his bar mitzvah just so he could buy a guitar with the gift money, but his dad barred him from playing music at home. The taciturn Reiner, meanwhile, is the son of a Hungarian-born Auschwitz survivor — a jeweler who not only encouraged his son’s music, but paid $25,000 to finance Anvil’s first album.

Sascha Gervasi, the director of “Anvil! The story of Anvil” joins Jian Ghomeshi in Studio Q

“My dad saw his own father die three days before the camp was liberated,” Reiner said from his Toronto home. “After what he had been through, he only wanted to see his children happy.”

Kudlow introduced himself to Robb after hearing drum riffs blasting from Reiner’s home, and the teenagers began rehearsing daily in Robb’s basement. “Steve dropped out of school as soon as he met Robb,” Kudlow’s mother complains in the film.

Gervasi angered his own parents — especially his father, an Oxford economics professor — by declining a history fellowship to Harvard University to pursue a career as a heavy metal drummer. Eventually he gave that up to attend King’s College in London, UCLA’s film school and to pursue a career in screenwriting, penning 2004’s “The Terminal” for Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in 2000.

The following year, Gervasi was surfing the net late at night when he suddenly wondered what had happened to his friends from Anvil. “I assumed that they had either broken up or killed each other,” he said. Instead, he discovered through the band’s Web site that “Anvil had released nine more albums since I had last spoken to them, and I hadn’t ever heard of a single one.” He promptly e-mailed Kudlow, who flew out to Los Angeles for a social visit.

The idea for the film hit Gervasi during that visit — specifically, on the day he took Kudlow to meet his mentor, Steven Zaillian, the screenwriter of “Schindler’s List.”

“Lips [Kudlow] was talking in a very animated way about his latest album or tour, and I told Steven, ‘He never gave up, and his passion is exactly as I remember from when I was a kid. He still believes Anvil can make it.’ I found that remarkable and said, ‘There might be a film here.'”

Gervasi mortgaged his home to shoot 320 hours of film from 2005 to 2007 — much of it following Anvil’s miserable Eastern European tour. On that trip, the frustrated Kudlow sometimes vented his anger at Reiner, who quit the band several times in response.

Yet they stayed best friends: “I think that Robb and Lips are both outsiders in a way,” Gervasi said of their camaraderie. “Steve has always been the black sheep of his family; his siblings include a doctor and an accountant. And Robb, I think, was quite damaged by his father’s Holocaust experience, even though [the elder Reiner] was supportive and rarely talked about the camps.”

Their interactions at times are so reminiscent of “Spinal Tap” that Gervasi’s cinematographer pulled him aside — during the goulash incident — to ask whether the bandmates were actually actors. “Once Lips ran offstage and was kneeling in pain with his hands down his trousers,” Gervasi said. “He’d sung so hard that his hemorrhoids had popped out. Then he ran back onstage and sang a song.”

“We decided not to put that incident in the film — although I must say it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen — because we didn’t want to ridicule these middle-aged guys who were still trying to rock like 20-year-olds,” he added.

“Through everything, they continued following their dream. And that’s what makes their story so compelling.”

“Anvil” will screen June 26 at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, after which the band will perform in person.

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MUSIC VIDEO Brandon Walker Harris — ‘Chinese Food on Christmas’

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Israeli TV commercial for HDTV

This Israeli television commercial for HDTV has kippot spinning all over Ha’Aretz!

MUSIC VIDEO: Gad Elbaz and Alon de Loco in ‘Ha layla ze haz’man’ — ‘Tonight’s the Night’

Two Israeli cliques— cool kids and Yeshiva students—somehow manage to ‘just get along’ in this hiphop music video from rappers Gad Elbaz and Alon de Loco in ‘Ha layla ze haz’man’—‘Tonight’s the Night’

MUSIC VIDEO: Leah (Obama Girl) Kauffman — ‘Perfected: The Ann Coulter Song’

Jews need to be ‘perfected,’ says right-wing darling Ann Coulter.

Not so fast, sings Leah ‘Obama Girl’ Kauffman in ‘Perfected: The Ann Coulter Song’—a YouTube hit music video

Black Eyed Peas and the Commitments rock the walls of Jerusalem

Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie might have been knocked off the Egged bus billboards advertising the group’s show at the Jerusalem Rocks! Festival because of her immodest dress, but the crowd enthusiastically welcomed her on Sunday night.

“I heard that in the advertising for this event, they cut me out of the picture, maybe because I wear stuff like this,” she said, pointing to her cropped top that showed off her well-toned abdomen. “I hope I didn’t offend anybody, I just like to look a little glamorous.”

That she did, even when she was at the Western Wall stuffing a note in one of the cracks — “I’m not gonna tell you what I wrote”; floating in the Dead Sea on Saturday, where she “exfoliated”; and in church in the Old City on Sunday. But beyond looking glamorous, belting out tunes with the Black Eyed Peas and prancing across the stage, Fergie and the rest of the band, including front man, and band members and Taboo, wanted to make it clear how much they love Israel.

“We’re missing the MTV Awards for this because we feel it’s a very important ’cause … this is the Holy Land,” said Fergie, who took the award for Female Artist of the Year in absentia.

“I love Is-ra-el,” sang to the tune of “Hotel California.” “I’m moving to Israel, I’m in paradise.”

It was the Black Eyed Peas’ second concert in Israel, having performed in Tel Aviv last summer. But it was their first time performing in Jerusalem, where they headlined Jerusalem Rocks! a nonprofit international music festival celebrating peace and unity.

The Sept. 9 festival opened with Israeli hip-hop group Hadag Nachash and Palestinian hip-hop band D.A.M. performing together, followed by Ireland’s The Commitments and then Arrested Development, a progressive hip-hop act known for early 1990s hits like “Tennessee” and “People Everyday.”

The Black Eyed Peas and Arrested Development were enthusiastic about Jerusalem Rocks! from the start, said producer Carmi Wurtman, who has created several music festivals in Israel, including the One Shekel Festival, which brings 20,000 people from poor communities to see Israeli performers for the price of just one shekel.

“We knew we had to get a headliner, and once we had the Black Eyed Peas on board, everything else began to trickle down,” he said. “I’ve been listening to Arrested Development for a long time, and they always had a positive message. And that’s how Hadag Nachash fit in, because they have a strong Jerusalem message.”

The Commitments followed. Given their Dublin background and experience of the Irish conflict, it made sense to invite them to a peace festival in Israel. The lineup originally included more Israeli bands, but the festival changed venues at the last minute from Teddy Stadium to Sultan’s Pool, and was shortened by an hour, Wurtman explained. The estimated 6,000- to 7,000-person crowd would have seemed too small for Teddy Stadium, so the show was moved to the outdoor venue Sultan’s Pool, adjacent to the walls of the Old City.

“We would have been happier if there were more people,” Wurtman said. “Then again, this was more of a park festival than a sit-down festival. We learned a lot from this experience.”

While the festival was a nonprofit event, co-sponsored by the Jerusalem Foundation, Digital Israel, festival co-founder Jeff Pulver and several other donors, Wurtman said that there was “consumer confusion on this project.” Ticket prices were first set at NIS 390 ($95) per ticket, which ended up being too high for most Jerusalemites. Prices were later lowered to NIS 200 ($50) per ticket, but even then the tickets never sold out.

Still, said Jacob Ner-David, one of the festival co-founders, the festival was a success in helping change Jerusalem’s image and bringing together international artists to Jerusalem.

“Revival of the dead is not an easy thing,” he quipped, referring to the many years since Jerusalem has hosted any kind of rock concert or festival. “We’re a lot smarter now.”

The members of Arrested Development came to Jerusalem four days before the concert, spending time touring as well as experiencing a traditional Shabbat dinner at the home of Ner-David. On Saturday night, they, along with members of the Black Eyed Peas, were hosted in East Jerusalem, where they smoked water pipes, ate grilled meat — the local specialty — and heard local rappers as well as oud players.

“The artists all had a great time; they said it was the single best experience they ever had,” Wurtman said. “They got Jerusalem hospitality.”

As Arrested Development co-founder Speech put it, “This is the single best experience we’ve ever had on the road. Performing in Israel has been the fulfilling of a dream.”

Blogger Jeff Pulver reports on the concert

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There’s a last ray of sunlight,
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MUSIC VIDEO: Cockney Melody, Yiddish Ditty (British home movie) 43 secs.

VIDEO: Paula Abdul talks about being Jewish

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Socalled music, mythic characters, legal pugilism, Kirk again, open casting call

Saturday the 9th

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The Greek myth of Orpheus and his wife Eurydice is a tale about love, life and death. When Eurydice dies, her bereaved husband follows her down to the underworld, the realm of Hades, and with his angelic singing, convinces the god of death to return Eurydice to the world of the living. The only condition is that Orpheus not look back at his wife as they make their way home. At the last minute, he violates the rule and his wife fades away. “Sliding Into Hades” is playwright Aaron Henne’s modern exploration of the myth, dealing with our own attitudes toward mortality.

Thurs.-Sun., through June 17. $12 (under 25), $22.50 (weeknight), $25 (weekend). Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 477-2055. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ alt=”Robert Shapiro”>

Radio personality and serial bad boy Danny Bonaduce will go head-to-head with high-profile attorney Robert Shapiro (see photo) in a charity boxing match this evening. The “Sports Sweepstakes” fundraiser benefiting Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services promises to be quite punchy — with Monty Hall of “Let’s Make a Deal,” Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord, fabulous prizes and three sanctioned bouts. I’ve got my money on Bonaduce — the former “Partridge Family” member destroyed fellow child stars Donny Osmond and Barry Williams (a Brady) in previous charity boxing events.

5:30 p.m. $1,250. Beverly Hilton, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 996-1188.

Tuesday the 12th

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Wednesday the 13th

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Thursday the 14th

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Friday the 15th

After eating a large Shabbat meal you often want to do nothing more than sit back and be entertained. And entertained you shall be by Barry J. Hershey’s “Casting About,” a documentary chronicling the agony, frustration and hilarity of casting calls, told from the perspective of a filmmaker. In the vein of “American Idol,” footage includes interviews, monologues and audition sessions with more than 350 actresses trying out for a dramatic role.

Various show times. $7-$10. Laemmle Music Hall 3, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 274-6869.

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