Will ‘Rappaport’ be Jewish Theatre’s last show?


Nat (an old New York Jewish guy): Hey, Rappaport! I haven’t seen you in ages. How have you been?

Midge (an old New York black guy):  I’m not Rappaport.

Nat: Rappaport, what happened to you? You used to be a short, fat guy, and now you’re a tall, skinny guy.

Midge: I’m not Rappaport.

Nat: Rappaport, you used to be a young guy with a beard, and now you’re an old guy with a mustache.

Midge: I’m not Rappaport.

Nat: Rappaport, how has this happened? You used to be a cowardly little white guy, and now you’re a big imposing black guy.

Midge: I’m not Rappaport.

Nat: And you changed your name, too.

This variation on a hoary vaudeville routine found a new lease on life in the play titled — wait for it — “I’m Not Rappaport.” And even if you saw the movie, with Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis, it’s worth another look, courtesy of the West Coast Jewish Theatre.

Playwright and screenwriter Herb Gardner wrote only a handful of plays in his career, but among them were such memorable and durable hits as “A Thousand Clowns,” “Conversations With My Father” and “The Goodbye People.”

In “Rappaport,” he starts on a light, bantering note in the first act, as Nat and Midge, firmly planted on their favorite bench in Central Park, pass the time in conversation.

The year is 1982, and Nat, an old-leftist and erstwhile admirer of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, does most of the talking.

A man of considerable imagination, Nat spins tales of his days as an undercover agent for Uncle Sam one day, or as a fiery labor leader another day.

Midge, a cantankerous guy to begin with, grows more and more skeptical of Nat’s yarns, but can’t avoid getting involved in Nat’s crazy schemes.

In one of the funniest ones, Nat, dressed up as a Mafia boss, enlists Midge as his “hit man,” to rescue a girl from the foils of a vicious drug dealer.

In the second act, the mood darkens as the two geezers face the indignities of physical decline, of becoming “invisible” to younger generations, and are targeted by thugs and con men.

Particularly tense and touching is a confrontation between Nat and his married daughter, Clara, as the latter tries to harness her father’s strange independent ways by pressing him to enter a retirement home or limit himself to organized activities appropriate for the aged and senile.

Veteran actor Jack Axelrod stands out as Nat, unmistakably Jewish without ever descending into caricature.

Carl Crudup as Midge plays more of a straight man, whose ghetto vernacular is initially difficult to follow, but his flashes of anger and assertiveness redeem his manhood.

Maria Spassoff is particularly effective as Nat’s concerned daughter, who thinks she knows better what’s good for him than the father himself.

The man who keeps the West Coast Jewish Theatre together and going is Howard Teichman — producer, director, fundraiser and just about everything else.

I’ve known Teichman for many years and we usually exchange some light banter during intermissions and after the shows, but this time he was uncharacteristically serious and glum.

“ ‘Rappaport’ may well be the last show we’ll ever put on,” he said, and I checked to see whether he was kidding.

He was not. Even though the pay for actors performing in nonequity theaters (fewer than 99 seats) is pitiable, the expenses of renting a theater and production costs are not covered by ticket sales and private donations, he said.

The problem is not limited to Los Angeles. Jewish theaters across the country are closing, even in New York, Teichman said. The exceptions are Phoenix and Chicago, where the local Jewish federations subsidize the Jewish theaters.

Teichman has made the rounds from the Jewish Federation here to Steven Spielberg’s foundation, without success. He is now appealing to members of the Jewish community to keep the theater alive by sending contributions. Also welcome are volunteers to help backstage on shows, staff the box office or read new plays.

“I’m Not Rappaport,” continues through June 23 at the Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, with performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. For reservations and to contact Teichman, phone (323) 860-6620, e-mail wcjt@sbcglobal.net or visit wcjt.org.

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 casting@triplethreattv.com 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.

Kicking off tour, Madonna shows she’s no lady (Gaga)


Pop superstar Madonna kicked off a new world tour on Thursday wishing peace on the Middle East even as she showcased grim dance routines depicting violence and bloody gunmen among her more colorful numbers.

Madonna, 53, mixed hit songs over three decades in music with tunes from her recent album, “MDNA,” before a packed audience, and she took a sly dig at younger diva, Lady Gaga.

“She’s not me!” Madonna sang at the end of “Express Yourself,” which she had reworked to include a sampling of Lady Gaga’s recent “Born This Way.”

That song from Lady Gaga, who emerged on the pop music scene about four years ago and has enjoyed a huge following in recent years, has been cited by many music fans and critics as being very similar to Madonna’s late 1980s dance club smash.

Since Lady Gaga, 26, released “Born This Way,” fans and music lovers have speculated that a generational challenge was in the works between the two women and comedians have poked fun at any imagined rivalry between the two.

Despite occasional lighthearted touches such as a baton-twirling routine in cheerleader formation and a psychedelic homage to Indian philosophy, the dominant mood at Thursday’s concert in Tel Aviv seemed more grim with a stage shrouded in black and red and costumes that often appeared ominous.

VIRGIN SACRIFICE

“Like a Virgin,” a dance tune that helped propel Madonna to stardom as risqué pop ingénue in the 1980s, was performed as a mournful cabaret with violin accompaniment. At one point, the singer was trussed up and hoisted into the air by four male dancers, then lowered onto a platform as though into a volcano – a virgin sacrifice.

For “Gang Bang,” Madonna wrestled with armed intruders whom she then dispatched with a pistol – their “blood” spattering across an enormous video backdrop. In a routine for “Revolver”, she wielded a Kalashnikov rifle, used by many modern-day insurgents, while one of her dancers favored an Israeli Uzi.

The exertions never sapped her confident singing, though she did become somewhat breathless during remarks to the audience at Ramat Gan stadium on Tel Aviv’s outskirts.

“I chose to start my world tour in Israel for a very specific and important reason. As you know, the Middle East and all the conflicts that have been occurring here for thousands of years – they have to stop,” she said to cheers.

A devotee of Jewish mysticism, Madonna had dubbed the first leg of her 28-country “MDNA” tour the “Peace Concert” and distributed free tickets to some of the Palestinians who attended from the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Among them was a woman named Yasmine, who declined to give her last name in light of Palestinian calls to boycott the Madonna concert and other cultural events in Israel. She offered a mixed assessment of the show.

“I wasn’t a fan of the intro. It was too aggressive and massacre-like,” Yasmine said. “Her (Madonna’s) speech about peace and the mention of Palestine was heartfelt, though.”

Avihay Asseraf, an Israeli who dedicated a Facebook page to Madonna’s visit, was more sanguine about the darker displays.

“That’s how she chose to express herself this time,” he said. “Ultimately this is a show, a spectacle, and it’s all for fun.”

Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

Shatner brings his ‘World’ to L.A.


William Shatner has audiences leaping to their feet and cheering. These are not aging Trekkers at the latest “Star Trek” convention, but theater-goers at New York’s Music Box Theater responding to his one-person show, “Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It …” The octogenarian actor’s latest project has him recounting stories from his professional and personal life, remembering as far back as his childhood in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Jewish immigrant parents.

“There was a large Jewish community in Montreal,” Shatner told me during our phone interview. “But I grew up in the part of town that didn’t have that many Jews, especially at that time, so there was a great deal of feeling of being an outsider. The local shul that we went to was near enough to the house and the public school that I went to, and anti-Semitism had a triangular effect there through the house, the school and the shul.”

Shatner talked about the role his Jewish heritage played in his life, but as with many topics, he found it difficult to suppress his chronic sense of humor: “Judaism was a very large part of my life. I was born Jewish, and the circumcision hurt like hell,” he joked. “It was an original hurt that I never overcame. I was bar mitzvahed and went to shul, every week, with my parents and my uncle, so there was no question about what I was going to do every Saturday morning,” he said. “We kept a somewhat conveniently kosher home, but all in all it was as much cultural as it was religious.”

He described his mother, Anne, as “a nice lady who kept a decent home and made a good wife for my father. If that was a typical Jewish mother, then she was typical.”

In his show, Shatner includes some Jewish-mother jokes. There are also stories about his father, Joseph, who ran a small clothing business on Montreal’s St. Lawrence Street. Shatner recounts his father’s ambition for him to follow in the family business, and his surprise to find his son had a far different calling. “He couldn’t believe it,” Shatner said. “Being an actor was as foreign to him as the far side of the moon.”

As a teenager, Shatner had the opportunity to explore his ambition in its most primal form while working as a counselor at a B’nai B’rith camp in southern Quebec. “I loved to tell stories around the campfire,” Shatner said. “The original storytellers in mankind’s history where around the campfire. And the storyteller, the shaman, would stand in the firelight and the rest of the tribe would listen, whether it was a story or a law or word from God, and that was the original drama.

“I often felt that there was nothing more chilling, more horror striking, than sitting around a campfire telling a ghost story that might be just out of reach of the campfire light. And that kind of feeling is what I seek to evoke in this one-man show.” One of the stories in the show that Shatner called, “a good, fun story that has a great deal of entertainment to it” revolves around a road trip he took from Vancouver to Chicago with a rabbi and his wife and the race to get them to their destination in time for Friday night services.

“Shatner’s World” brings the Canadian actor full circle, back to his roots in live theater. In his 20s, Shatner performed at the Shakespearean Stratford Festival of Canada, playing a wide range of roles, and was once an understudy for Christopher Plummer. He later moved on to the Broadway stage, where he performed in Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine, The Great,” Richard Mason’s “The World of Suzie Wong” and, finally, a 1961 production of “A Shot in the Dark,” with Julie Harris and Walter Matthau. By the late 1950s, Shatner began appearing in a variety of films, including “The Brothers Karamazov” and “Judgment at Nuremberg.” The ambitious actor also found steady work in both live and filmed television dramas, among them “Studio One,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “77 Sunset Strip” and “The Twilight Zone.” In 1966, Shatner won the role that would catapult him to pop-culture icon status — Capt. James T. Kirk on the sci-fi series “Star Trek.” He would go on to work in several other series, most notably “T.J. Hooker” and as egomaniac Denny Crane in David E. Kelly’s genre-mashing lawyer show “Boston Legal. “

Few actors’ careers can match the diversity of Shatner’s. Over the years, he has worked in a multitude of mediums that include his infamous musical recordings, authoring sci-fi novels and comic books, hosting talk shows and doing TV commercials. When asked if there was any creative area left that he would like to work in, he replies dryly, “Sky writing. I hear it’s quite a breeze.” 

“This one-man show has preoccupied me for months, if not years,” he added. “And I have struggled to perfect it. Dreamed about it, had nightmares about it, had great fear about it and struggled with it for the longest time. And only when I heard that the reviews, especially The New York Times, loved it, and the audience rose and cheered, did I, fighting back blubbery tears, acknowledge that maybe the work that I had done was accepted in the manner that I hoped it would be.”

Shatner’s future plans include everything from making documentaries to developing an app and hosting a game show, and he displays no sign of retiring. He explains his need to keep moving forward as a “fear of failure, fear that I’m not good enough, that I’ve got to do more.”
“Shatner’s World” ends its Broadway run on March 4, then hits the road for a 14- city tour, beginning with a performance on March 10 at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.

“My expectation is that when I do this tour, that audiences will like it as much as the New York audiences do here,” he said. “This is my baby — this thing is me, and if you like it, then you like what I’ve done.”


For tickets to “Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It…”visit BroadwayLA.org or call (800) 982-2787. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Pantages box office and all Ticketmaster outlets.

CAP: William Shatner brings his one-man show, “Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It …,” to the Pantages Theatre on March 10.

Two Yiddishe Boys and a Bissel of Berlin


About a dozen years ago, actor Mike Burstyn auditioned in New York for the role of Al Jolson in the national touring company of the musical “Jolson.” While waiting for a decision, he flew home to Los Angeles and on landing at LAX decided to stop by the nearby Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary and visit the grave of the legendary jazz singer.

Burstyn stopped at the statue of Jolson, which shows the singer kneeling and with arms outstretched as if eternally serenading both his mammy and the cars whizzing by on the 405, for some private conversation.

“I had a brief, if one-sided, chat with Jolson, and promised him that if I got the part, I would do him justice,” Burstyn recalled during an interview. “A few days later, I got the role.”

If the sculptured Jolson was good to Burstyn, Burstyn has been good to Jolson ever since. The beat goes on, and Burstyn is again bringing his idol to life in the musical “Jolson at the Winter Garden,” this time at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.

The Winter Garden in New York was the site of some of Jolson’s great Sunday concerts, when actors and musicians from other Broadway shows gathered to hear the master at the height of his career, in the 1920s and ’30s.

It was in 1927 that Jolson made movie history by appearing in the industry’s first talking picture, “The Jazz Singer.” The plot of the path-breaking film resembled Jolson’s own life story as a foreign-born cantor’s son, destined for the same career, who instead became America’s highest-paid and most famous entertainer.

“If you take Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and Elvis Presley and rolled them into one, you’d get an idea of Jolson’s fame in his heyday,” Burstyn enthused.

Burstyn, bursting with energy at 66, was born in New York, the son of Yiddish theater stars Pesach Burstein and Lillian Lux, and was destined for a show biz career from birth.

He made his theatrical debut, in Yiddish, at age 3, heard his first Jolson record at 11 and was instantly smitten. Like legions of earlier fans, he became an instant Jolson impersonator.

As Burstyn grew up into a professional performer, “I came to channel Jolson to the point where old-timers in the audience were sure I was lip-syncing Jolson’s recorded songs, when actually I was doing the singing,” he said.

In his upcoming show, Burstyn will omit one aspect of the Jolson persona — his blackface routines.

“What once was a century-old theatrical convention — Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and Shirley Temple all performed in blackface — would be rightly seen as demeaning stereotyping today,” Burstyn observed.

In a multifaceted career on stage, screen and television, Burstyn has performed in eight languages, and is as well known as an Israel movie star as for his stage roles as Mayer Rothschild, patriarch of the banking family, and gangster Meyer Lansky.

Mike Burstyn poses with an Al Jolson statue at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary. Photo by Cyona Burstyn

The new musical will be a kind of homecoming for Jolson, too. In the decades before Jolson’s death in 1950, he maintained homes in Toluca Lake and Beverly Hills, and later accepted the exalted position of mayor of Encino.

The cast of “Jolson at the Winter Garden” includes actors Jacqueline Bayne, Laura Hodos and Wayne LeGette, a live band and three back-up singers. Bill Castellino is the director, writer and choreographer, and producer Dan Israely (with Zahava Atzmon) was instrumental in getting the show on the road.

Included in the repertoire are such Jolson favorites as “Swanee,” “Toot Toot Tootsie,” “Sonny Boy” and, of course, “My Mammy.”

The show will run Sept. 6-25, with the official opening night Sept. 8 and including Wednesday and weekend matinees, at the El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

For tickets, ranging from $35-$60, call (877) 733-7529 or visit elportaltheatre.com

Also coming up for musical theater fans is “Cabaret” as the season opener for the Reprise Theatre Company at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse.

The John Kander-Fred Ebb classic of nightclubs, Nazis and non-Aryans in early 1930s Berlin runs Sept. 13-25 and includes weekend matinees.

Al Jolson

Director and choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge notes that “Cabaret” is not only a great musical but also serves as a cautionary tale for our time. “It reminds us to pay close attention to what’s going on in our country right now. It’s a show that warns us to keep our eyes open to a very volatile political climate.”

For information and tickets, call (310) 825-2101 or visit reprise.org.
 
Following a recent film on Sholem Aleichem comes a play exploring the works of another great Yiddish writer in “The Stories of Isaac Leib Peretz,” running Sept. 10-Oct. 9 at the Ruby Theatre at The Complex in Hollywood.

Matt Chait is the storyteller (and producer), with violinist Lior Kaminetsky performing the klezmer-flavored musical score.

Call (323) 960-7780 or visit plays411.com/peretz for more details, and read a more extended article on the play in The Journal’s next issue.

Activists heckle actors during performance


Three activists, including an Israeli lawmaker, heckled actors during a performance at a theater in Tel Aviv.

Monday night’s disruption was a protest of the more than 50 Israeli theater professionals who signed a petition in late August saying that they will not perform in the new Ariel cultural center in the West Bank when it opens in November. The activists included Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union Party.

Both the playwright and the director of Monday night’s show at the Cameri Theater signed the petition.

Lead actor Oded Teomi, one of the Cameri’s veteran performers, did not sign the letter and tried to tell this to the hecklers.

“Because of your behavior, maybe we should consider whether there is anything to perform to in Ariel,” he then told the protesters, Haaretz reported. 

The Ariel cultural center, which cost more than $10 million, was built with public funds. Several major Israeli theaters are scheduled to stage productions there this year.

At least 150 Israeli academics and authors, and another 150 American and British television and film professionals, also threw their support behind the boycott.

Ariel is one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks Dec. 27- Jan. 2: Hot Rod Chanukah, Moroccan New Years Eve


SAT | DECEMBER 27

(CHANUKAH BASH)
The week has been loaded with holiday merrymaking, but if you’ve got a drop of energy left, you’ll want to make it last all night long at the Hot Rod Chanukah Party hosted by The Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Division and Birthright ” target=”_blank”>http://www.birthrightisrael.com. Non-alumni may buy tickets at ibakal@alpertjcc.org. circle@circlesocal.org. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.jclla.org.

(CHANUKAH)
Nope, the Chanukah celebrations aren’t over yet. That’s one of the great things about being Jewish, isn’t it? Instead of one night of merriment, the parties just go on and on and on… Jumping right in is the Israel division of The Jewish Federation/ Valley Alliance, which is throwing its own holiday family festival complete with a magician, festive singing, a menorah-lighting ceremony, and — old magazines? Actually, attendees are asked to bring some along to turn them into a menorah. Not to worry, there will be expert magazine-menorah-makers on hand to help with the project. Sun. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Free. The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3206. sbjts@cox.net.

(WOMEN)
JConnect is no stranger to bringing L.A.’s Jewish community together, but this gathering is for women only. As part of their monthly women’s gathering series, guest speaker Tova Hinda Siegel will be discussing “A Light Unto Our Nation: Are WE Women the Guiding Light?” Siegel, a certified midwife and very active in the city’s Jewish community, is in a unique position to discuss women and their relationship to Israel. The conversation will take place over a kosher potluck brunch, so make sure to bring along your favorite dish. Sun. 11:45 a.m. Only cost is your contribution to the potluck. JConnectLA, 1801 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 322, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P to Michal@JConnectLA.com for the exact address of the event. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>Fuel in Studio City into a Moroccan-style lair of rich tapestries, lush cushions and sensuous belly dancers. The feast will not be limited to just your eyes: There will also be a decadent kosher Moroccan buffet by Bazilikum Caterers and Chef Sharon On, a free hookah patio with a variety of sweet flavors and a champagne toast at midnight. Sababa’s loyal DJ duo, Ziv and Titus, will be spinning ’70s, ’80s, hip-hop, dance, house and plenty of hip Israeli crowd-pleasers. Part of the proceeds from this relatively affordable NYE bash (a nod to the struggling economy) will be donated to Yad B’Yad, a nonprofit that provides services to abused children in Israel. 21 and over. Wed. 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. $48 (prepaid via PayPal), $58 (at the door). Club Fuel, 11608 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (310) 657-6650. ” target=”_blank”>http://geffenplayhouse.com; ” target=”_blank”>http://www.elportaltheatre.com.

FRI | JANUARY 2

(SHABBAT LECTURE)
Rabbi YY, as Yehuda Yonah Rubinstein is fondly known, is one of the most requested Jewish speakers in the United Kingdom. There, he is a regular broadcaster on national radio and television and was named one of the top five people in Britain to turn to for advice by the Independent newspaper. He has written innumerable essays and a couple of books, including “Dancing Through Time” and “That’s Life.” Jewish Learning Exchange is hosting this veteran public speaker and teacher with a gift for fusing Torah, modern-day challenges and humor at a special weekend starting tonight. Rubinstein will lead Melava Malka on Saturday night and speak on the subject of what Judaism says about dreams. Guests are asked to specify if they need sleeping accommodations and/or meals. Fri.-Sat. $36. Jewish Learning Exchange, 512 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. Call (323) 857-0923 or e-mail info@jlela.com to register and to receive a detailed schedule. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.tebh.org.

Abstract eye follows Dali in film at LACMA


Even by the standards of today’s overheated art market, few artists have been as excessively hyped and overexposed as Salvador Dali (1904-1989). There are museums dedicated to his work in Florida and Spain, and in London you can “be transported into a world of melting clocks and anthropomorphic sculpture” at Dali Universe. Add to that the endless reproductions in print and poster shops, lawsuits about fakes, and Dali’s own flamboyant personality, which gave him the notoriety we associate with Andy Warhol — indeed, Dali might well have served as a model for Warhol, with a shelf life far exceeding the cliché about 15 minutes worth of fame.

All this has made some of us tire of Dali’s overexposure, with knee-jerk reactions that make us roll our eyes when we note that Dali still serves as the quintessential modern artist for people who don’t like modern art. He is loved for making recognizable images for those who can’t handle abstraction, for those kinky twists that suck you into thinking this is really “far out stuff.” So, of course, there have been many Dali exhibitions at museums hoping to attract blockbuster-sized audiences, and now comes the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “Dali: Painting & Film,” opening Oct. 14.

Yet it looks like LACMA’s Dali blockbuster could make those of us who approach the artist with a sense of exhausted cynicism take a much more serious look at this artist whose work in film interacted with his work as a painter. The exhibition will surely interest those who care about film history, reminding us that the borders between media can be very indistinct for our most creative artists. That’s not news, of course — Leonardo da Vinci long ago taught us that creative genius isn’t easily pigeonholed. But today, technology is at everyone’s fingertips, so we almost feel as if we, too, are capable of making those transformations that turn the Governator from a human being to a fantastic metallic creature and back again, just by sitting at our computers. It’s the museum’s responsibility to ask us to reconsider that arrogant stance, to persuade us that there really is such a thing as an artist’s vision, and that no, we wouldn’t have been able to conceive of doing any such thing on our own.

Early in the last century, when film was a newer medium, many artists were intrigued by its kinetic visual possibilities, and for a fantasist like Dali, the opportunities must have seemed especially rich. After all, artists had long sought to convey various states of mobility in the static media of painting, and even sculpture limited the options. Moreover, we still admire earlier art works for their ability to communicate illusions about our actual experiences of the real world.

To that end, Dali collaborated with his countryman and fellow surrealist, Luis Bu?uel, on groundbreaking films (“Un Chien Andalou,” 1929; “L’Age d’or,” 1930), and the experience informed Dali’s paintings as well. The 1920s were especially rich in these efforts at creative filmmaking, and Sigmund Freud’s explorations and their impact were also still relatively fresh, so the imaginative opportunities were endless. To fully appreciate this exhibition will require watching these films, in addition to viewing the paintings, so plan to spend more time than the usual museum show allotment.

“There is a constant triangulation formed by the flow of film, paintings, and text,” Dawn Ades writes in one of several illuminating essays in the catalog accompanying the exhibition. This reminds us, too, of Dali’s role as a writer — manifestos were fashionable in his day, including statements about art and its relationship to everything else; in Dali’s time, artists played the role of forward-thinking visionaries. We no longer trust that sort of bombast, but we ought to remember that after the horrors of the Great War, artists may have seemed more perspicacious and trustworthy than those who conducted affairs of state.

But Dali was not entirely won over by the new medium; he complained that he didn’t “believe that cinema can ever become an artistic form. It is a secondary form, because too many people are involved in its creation. The only true means of producing a work of art is painting, in which only the eye and the point of the brush are employed.” Imagine what he might have done with Photoshop and all the other toys now at our disposal.

Ever the self-aware showman, Dali was lured to Hollywood in the 1940s, by which time he was already a famous artist and therefore a potential asset to filmmakers. As producer David Selznick wrote in a memo regarding the anticipated contract with Dali for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” (1945), “if we make a deal for the celebrated artist we have in mind … we should not let this leak out in publicity, as I think we can get some sensational breaks on it.” Only Dali’s dream sequence survived in the legendary Ingrid Bergman/Gregory Peck film, but Dali also tried his hand, with limited success, at a number of other Hollywood film projects, including an once-abandoned and now revived Disney animated six-minute short, “Destino” (1946), and the video, “Chaos and Creation” (1960), directed by Philippe Halsman.

The interplay between film and painting makes this exhibition seem particularly well-suited to Los Angeles’ audiences, and will likely reinvigorate respect for Dali’s inventiveness and unique vision, especially among all the local film folks for whom this experience should provide a major series of discoveries.

Tom Freudenheim is a retired museum director who writes about art and cultural issues.

Quarterly calendar


MARCH

Fri., March 16

“Irish Writers Entertain: An Evening in the Company of Irish Writers.” One-man show starring Neil O’Shea. Part of the annual Irish Cultural Festival. Loyola Marymount University (LMU). 7:30 p.m. Free. LMU, Barnelle Black Box, Foley Building, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 338-3051.

Sat., March 17

“Cult of Childhood.” Multiple artists explore the menace and charm of childhood. Opening reception 7-10:30 p.m. Through April 15. Black Maria Gallery, 3137 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 660-9393. www.blackmariagallery.com.

Thu., March 22

Joffrey Ballet Performances. Two dance programs, one featuring live orchestra accompaniment, and the other featuring contemporary music by The Beach Boys, Prince and Motown artists. Choreography by Twyla Tharp, George Ballanchine and four others. Through March 24. $25-$115. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-0711. www.musiccenter.org/dance.

Werner Herzog Tribute and Film Retrospective. Screenings of “Heart of Glass,” “Fitzcarraldo,” “Grizzly Man,” and other films by the German director. Herzog will be discussing his work at some of the programs. American Cinematheque. Through March 25. $7-$10. Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456. www.aerotheatre.com.

Ventura County Jewish Film Festival. Film subjects include the fate of European art during the Third Reich, a French butcher who saves the lives of three Jewish children, the journey of musician Debbie Friedman and a romantic tale of unrequited love. Through March 25. $36 (festival pass), $10-$12 (individual screenings). Regency Theatre Buenaventura 6, 1440 Eastman Ave.; and Temple Beth Torah, 7620 Foothill Blvd., Ventura. (805) 647-4181. www.vcjff.org.

Sun., March 25

“Projectile Poetry.” Hosted by Theresa Antonia, Eric Howard and Carmen Vega, the program features readings by published poets as well as an open mic for newcomers. 3 p.m. Dutton’s Brentwood Books, 11975 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 476-6263. www.duttonsbrentwood.com.

“Requiem.” World premiere of Christopher Rouse’s musical piece, performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and baritone Sanford Sylvan. Conducted by Grant Gershon. 7 p.m. $19-$109. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (800) 787-5262. www.lamc.org.

“Distracted.” Lisa Loomer’s comedy about an 8-year-old boy diagnosed with ADD and the fast paced, overly wired environment that may have caused it. Directed by Leonard Foglia and starring Rita Wilson and Bronson Pinchot. Center Theatre Group. Through April 29. $20-$55. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 628-2772. www.centertheatregroup.org.

Tue., March 27

“Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.” Tony Award-winning dancer stars in a musical production celebrating her 50-year career. Directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele. Through April 1. $25-$75. Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (323) 655-4900. www.wilshiretheatrebeverlyhills.com.

Fri., March 30

Roy Zimmerman’s “Faulty Intelligence.” Singing political satirist takes aim at Saddam, Dick Cheney, creation science and more. 8 p.m. $25. Steinway Hall at Fields Pianos, 12121 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 471-3979.

“California Style: Art and Fashion From the California Historical Society.” Exhibit includes Victorian-era paintings, ball gowns and a re-created private parlor from the 1880s. Through May 27. $3-$9. Autry National Center, Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles. (323) 667-2000. www.autrynationalcenter.org.

APRIL

Thu., April 5

“The Art of Vintage Israeli Travel Posters.” Commemorating Israeli Independence Day, the exhibit displays posters produced by Israeli government tourism agencies as well as national and private transportation companies during the 1950s and 1960s. Through July 8. Free. Skirball Cultural Center, Ruby and Hurd Galleries, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Fri., April 6

John Legend Concert. Special guest Corinne Bailey Rae. 8:15 p.m. $30-$75. Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. (818) 622-4440.

Sat., April 7

“Sleeping Beauty Wakes.” Musical adaptation incorporating deaf and hearing actors signing and singing to the book by Rachel Sheinkin. Also features GrooveLily .Center Theatre Group/Deaf West Theatre. Through May 13. $20-$40. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. (213) 628-2772. www.centertheatregroup.org.

Wed., April 11

“The Elixir of Love.” Gaetano Donizetti’s light-hearted romantic opera is set in a West Texas diner in the 1950s. Opera Pacific. Through April 22. $27-$200. Orange County Performing Arts Center, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. (800) 346-7372. www.operapacific.org.

Thu., April 12

“KCLU Presents Terry Gross.” The host of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” will speak about her experiences interviewing renowned writers, actors, musicians and political figures. Book signing will follow discussion. California Lutheran University. 8 p.m. $15-$50. Fred Kavli Theatre, Countrywide Performing Arts Center, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. (805) 449-2787.

Malibu International Film Festival. Competition festival premiering films from around the world. Opening night party at The Penthouse and awards night at Geoffrey’s Malibu. Through April 16. $10-$100. Aero Theater, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 452-6688. www.malibufilmfestival.com.

Jane Austen Book Club. Series of six book club luncheons discussing Jane Austen novels with UCLA Professor of English Charles Lynn Batten. Novels included. Literary Affairs. 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. May 10, June 14, July 12, Sept. 27, Oct. 25. $375. Beverly Hills Country Club, 3084 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 553-4265. www.literaryaffairs.net.

Fri., April 13

“The Diary of Anne Frank.” Selections from the book performed as an opera and staged in specially prepared areas of parking garages. Featuring Laura Hillman, Schindler’s List survivor. Composed by Grigori Frid. Long Beach Opera. Through April 19. $15-$70. Lincoln Park parking garage, Ocean Boulevard and Pacific Avenue, Long Beach; Sinai Temple parking garage, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (562) 432-5934. www.longbeachopera.org.

Sat., April 14

“Preschool Poetry Jam.” David Prather hosts interactive children’s program with jump rope jingles, Shel Silverstein’s poetry, tumbling boxes, scooters and more. Part of Pillow Theatre Series for 3-6 year olds. Music Center. 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Free. BP Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 972-3379. www.musiccenter.org.

Tue., April 17

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Tish Tones; Java Nagilla!


Saturday the 23rd

Chanukah’s officially over, but it’s not too late to catch Tobey C. Moss Gallery’s exhibition, “Peter Shire — The Creative Synapse: Fantasies, Drawings, Sculptures.” Included among Shire’s maquettes — relating to his public artworks displayed as close as Los Angeles, and as far as Japan — are Judaica pieces like his gouache on paper titled, “Angel and Menorah,” and an aluminum and enamel sculpture called, “Peace Dove Menorah.”

Through Jan. 6. 7321 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 933-5523. www.tobeycmossgallery.com.

Sunday the 24th

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Photographers before the lens as well as behind is the theme of LACMA’s current exhibition, “Masquerade: Role Playing in Self-Portraiture — Photographs from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection.” Curated by the Irmas’ daughter, Deborah Irmas, the show features costumed self-portraits of photographers like Cindy Sherman and Yasumasa Morimura, and explores the way in which masks can reveal truths.

Through Jan. 7. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6000. www.lacma.org.

Friday the 29th

Here’s a new one for ya. Congregation B’nai Emet tries a fresh take on the old Friday night Shabbat service with tonight’s Java Nagilla Shabbat. The catchy title refers to the post-service oneg, which will include a special coffee bar along with requisite desserts. But during the service, the congregation will also learn two new songs written by choir director Irwin Cohen. They want you to be surprised, but we can tell you that one song is a bluesy rendition of a prayer already familiar to you.

4645 E. Industrial St., ‘2C, Simi Valley. (805) 581-3723. www.congreagationbnaiemet.org.

Uri Geller bends self into Israel ‘reality TV’ stardom


Israel is no stranger to reality TV. Knockoffs — or shall we say adaptations — of popular American TV talent shows, like “American Idol” and “The Apprentice,” have become hits. But recently, Israel has developed its own inimitable, highly successful talent contest in which Uri Geller, the famous, controversial, Israeli paranormalist, is seeking an heir.

It’s only natural, Geller said in a telephone interview, that Israel pioneer a contest for mentalists (read “mind readers”).

“I think this field — call it mentalism, parapsychology, real magic, kabbalah, Jewish mysticism — all started here 5,000 years ago, when the Jews left Egypt,” he said. “It’s all riddled in the kabbalah — the mystical letters, the powers, the energy of the universe. People are believers here…. Our race is steeped in mystery attached by a spiritual thread to universe.”

Geller cited Houdini, David Copperfield, David Blaine and even Einstein as examples of Jews who have learned to understand and manipulate natural phenomena.

“The Successor” debuted Nov. 18 to record-breaking ratings. Almost one-third of Israel tuned in to watch Geller judge the nine contestants as they dazzled audiences with their mind-reading, mind-bending powers. The show has attracted international attention and, according to Geller, has sparked interest from producers abroad who are considering adopting its format.

Geller is most famous for bending spoons “with his mind,” a feat that commonly figures into legends, jokes and parodies about him, although the contestants perform more sophisticated stunts on the show. The acts use three local celebrities (always including a pretty actress or model) to perform their sleights of “mind”: drawing images, determining numbers and phrases and even playing songs the celebrities secretly choose in their mind.

The show also marks Geller’s romanticized and widely publicized comeback to Israel. He left in 1972 to pursue a worldwide, profitable — and at times notorious — career as a paranormalist, entertainer and author. Geller immediately signed on to “The Successor” when Keshet Productions approached him with the idea. At the time, he was visiting Israel on a mission for the International Friends of Magen David Adom, which he chairs.

For the next few weeks, he’ll shuttle between Israel and his mansion outside of London for the weekly live tapings, although he recently bought an apartment in Jaffa so he can spend more time in Israel, even when the show is over.

“Spiritually, mentally, psychically, I’m attached to Israel,” Geller said. “I was born here. I’m a sabra. I also have a dream to make the performers become as famous as I am.”

The winner will headline at a tourist hotspot in Macao, China, and receive a secret prize, plus the chance to boast of being Geller’s heir.

“I think they are fantastic, professional entertainers,” Geller said of his potential heirs. “They are riveting, mesmerizing. Each of them has a personality”

Aside from talent, Geller is also looking for charisma, charm, personality and stage presence. Each week a contestant is voted off by viewers at home, but the final choice will be up to Geller.

At the start of each show, Geller demonstrates that he hasn’t lost his own touch. He successfully “mind-read” the image an El Al pilot drew in his cockpit prior to landing (it was a fish) and located a expensive diamond necklace hidden in one of five Chanukah candle boxes.

However, Geller, whose patriotism has been triggered anew by his return, won’t be satisfied with passing just one torch (or shall we say a telekinetically altered spoon): “I would love to take them to Las Vegas as a team and create some kind of a Uri Geller show. I feel like it’s about time that more Israelis become well known and famous around the world, because how many do you know?”

Swingin’ Chanukah with Kenny Ellis; The Klezmatics at the Disney; Three More Tenors


Saturday the 16th

To our knowledge, only one man can claim all of the following titles: writer, director, actor, comedian and Dixieland jazz clarinetist. Artist of all trades Woody Allen focuses tonight on that latter occupation. He and his crew, a.k.a. Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band, perform in a rare large venue appearance at UCLA’s Royce Hall as part of their first North American tour.

8 p.m. $25-$125. Royce Hall, UCLA, Westwood. www.uclalive.org.

Sunday the 17th

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Thursday the 21st

KCRW’s annual Chanukah show lets the light go out


Ruth Seymour, general manager since 1978 of KCRW-FM 89.9, is best known to many listeners for her annual Chanukah program, “Philosophers, Fiddlers & Fools,” which will have its final airing on Dec. 15. But Seymour is not stepping down.

“I’m not retiring,” she says over the phone in her classic New York accent. “I’m retiring the show.”

The Chanukah show has been a staple in Los Angeles, which, before its first airing in 1978, had been missing this classic blend of Yiddishkeit: folk music, readings of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories, memorials to Holocaust victims, Second Avenue “hit parade” songs.

Much has been made of the humble beginnings of KCRW, a station created after World War II to train veterans for careers in radio, which as late as 1978 was located in a middle school in Santa Monica and famously had the oldest transmitter in the West. Seymour has transformed the station into an institution by creating erudite programs like “Bookworm,” an essential half-hour for any literary Los Angeleno; issues-oriented shows like “Which Way, L.A.?” and political debates, such as “Left, Right & Center.”

Her emphasis on literature and politics is fitting, since Seymour grew up in a home of left-wing Jewish intellectuals in the Bronx. She relates a story in which her mother, upon seeing her tending to the plants outside, asked, “Why are you gardening? You could be reading ‘War & Peace.'”

By now, “Philosophers” fans know the story of how Seymour’s college professor, Max Weinreich, told her that “Yiddish is magic. It will outlive history.”

What many may not know is that some years ago, she received a letter in her mailbox with those words written on the outside of the envelope as a teaser. She opened it and found it was from YIVO, the Yiddish institute that focuses on the study of Jewish culture and literature. Apparently, one of YIVO’s employees had lived in Los Angeles and heard Seymour tell the Weinreich story on the air.

Seymour has always contended that the show should be “ephemeral,” out of deference to the Holocaust victims.

“There wasn’t any way to bring them back,” she says, which is why she has never recorded any of her Chanukah programs.

She has often cited the words of Andre Schwarz-Bart, French author of “The Last of the Just,” who wrote that the Holocaust victims disappeared “like the smoke from the chimneys of Auschwitz.”

Although Holocaust survivors have always wanted to preserve the apparatus of and artwork related to the Holocaust, so as to document the severity of the genocide, Seymour sees radio as being inherently “transitory.”

“There just comes a moment in your life when it’s over. The sources dry up. Do I want to psychoanalyze it?” she asked, “No.”

She adds, “It had a prolonged life, a life of its own.” She said she is astonished that it “touched so many people.”

One person who touched her was Schwarz-Bart, who recently died at 78. He spent time in the concentration camps during the war and wrote “The Last of the Just,” which won France’s highest literary honor, the Prix Goncourt, in the late 1950s.

He “literally seems to have survived to write it,” she says, pointing out that he began writing right after the war, when he was in his twenties, and spent
years working on it in a Paris library, since his home did not have heat.

Not surprisingly, Seymour, who has always paid homage to Schwarz-Bart on her Chanukah show, will do so again in her final segment.

Another author whom she intends to acknowledge in her last show is the late Singer, the only Nobel Prize laureate who wrote primarily in Yiddish. She met Singer many times when she was living in New York.

Seymour’s then-husband, poet Jack Hirschman, who wooed her with a letter from Ernest Hemingway, introduced her to Singer. They would get together in a vegetarian restaurant and discuss astronomy and the kabbalah with Singer and his latest girlfriend, never his wife. Singer fancied concentration camp survivors for dates; interestingly, Seymour says that these young women had “dreams [that] would always be amazingly similar to his stories.”

Seymour says she was never a devotee of radio when she was young, even though she is a contemporary of Woody Allen and was raised in the “Radio Days” era of the late 1930s and 1940s. “I landed totally by accident.”

The accident occurred in 1961, when Hirschman was teaching at UCLA, and KPFK-FM 90.7 came calling, asking for tapes of his work. Seymour provided the Pacifica radio station with the tapes and shortly thereafter, was offered the job of heading up the station’s drama department.

More than a decade later, she joined KCRW.

Although she will stop broadcasting her marquee program, she says she will continue to host programs like “Politics of Culture,” and we will still hear her over the air during fundraising drives. As for “Philosophers,” she says, “It was never something that was conceived to go on for 28 years.”

“Philosophers, Fiddlers & Fools” will air for the final time on Friday, Dec. 15, from noon to 3 p.m. on KCRW, 89.9 FM.

Gurus galore, puppet people, jazz giants and Jackie Mason


Saturday the 9th

Get inspired, or at least get a yoga mat, at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Gurus will converge this weekend for the interfaith “Celebration of Oneness,” a two-day event featuring lectures and panels on spiritual matters with speakers ranging from Ariana Huffington to “lifestyle astrologer” Susan Miller to “Celestine Prophesy” prophet James Redfield. Also on the agenda are concerts, an expo hall and film screenings, including Rabbi Ruth Broyde-Sharone’s “God and Allah Need to Talk.”

$15-$65. 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. (866) 706-7279. www.celebrationofoneness.com.

Sunday the 10th

Kids are introduced to the world, and the world of puppets, in this afternoon’s program at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles. Educator and puppeteer Marilyn Price presents “The Wonderful Whirl of Puppets,” an interactive children’s show with global stories, folktales and parables.

3-4 p.m. Free. 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8648.

Monday the 11th

In his need to grasp the human stories behind the black and white faces that stared out of his family’s old photo album, author Daniel Mendelsohn journeyed to the shtetl of Bolechow to learn about the lives of his ancestors who had died in the Holocaust. His search continued over three years and 12 countries, the story of which is documented in his book, “The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million.” The Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles hosts him at the Skirball Cultural Center tonight.

Free (JGSLA members), $5 (nonmembers). 7:30 p.m. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. www.jgsla.org.

Tuesday the 12th

Before they get their gifts, teach them about giving. Kids can help wrap gifts for children in the hospital at a special Chabad Chanukah Program at Sherman Oaks Branch Library this afternoon. A candle making workshop and storytelling are also planned.

Free. 14245 Moorpark St., Sherman Oaks. (818) 205-9716.

Wednesday the 13th

Choice of a Jew generation


If you’re in a bookstore and see a book with two impish-looking guys trying to sneak a light for their cigarettes from a chanukiah, then you’ve happened upon “Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the Chosen People” (Warner).

Yes, the saga of Los Angeles’ longest running original play continues. “Jewtopia,” the play, was first brought to us in 2003 by two unemployed writers/actors who maxed out their credit cards to mount the funny, if somewhat stereotypical, comedy about dating and Jews. It was originally supposed to run for six weeks but was so popular that it extended for another year, then left in 2004 for an off-Broadway run in New York, where it’s still playing to sold-out audiences.
Now Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson, the creators and sometime actors in the play have expanded their “Jewtopia” vision into a book, and they are working on a movie deal as well. The 200-plus page color book, might be mistaken for a coffee table book — except that much of the material inside is not fit for the living room.

Consider, “The Jewish Kama Sutra: An Illustrated Guide to Lovemaking,” because “Jews are certainly not known for their prowess and skills in the bedroom.” Positions include “The Challah,” “The Heimlich,” “The Reader” “The Minyan” and “Bubbe’s Visit” (She cleans while he…oh, don’t ask.)

“It’s to be read in the bathroom only,” jokes Wolfson, who plays Adam Lipschitz, a Jewish guy facing extraordinary parental pressure to marry a Jewish woman.

“I think it should be read at the family seder — it’s a good substitute for the Haggadah,” replies Fogel, who in the show plays Chris O’Connell, a Christian obsessed with meeting a Jewish woman who strikes up a bargain with Adam to help him pass as a Jew if Chris can find Adam a date.

To be sure, there’s more than just sex jokes in “Jewtopia: The Chosen Book…” There’s a chapter on Jewish History, the Holidays (“Celebrate the Bad Times”), Food (“Anyone Have Some Zantac?”) Travel (“Planes, Trains and Diarrhea”) and Conspiracy Theories (“Do Jews Control the World?”) with real, live facts mixed in with, well, bubbemeises, like Moses’ lost diary or the game “Match the Nose to the Jew.”

In a world where it’s hip to be sardonic about Jewish identity (Heeb, Jewcy, Rabbis Daughter) “Jewtopia: The Chosen Book…” is a more idealistic, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jewish Stereotypes” kind of take on our people-sophomoric and sometimes scatological humor by two guys who are clearly having fun.

“We kind of consider ourselves the Trey Parker and Matt Stone of the Jewish world,” Wolfson says, referring to the creators of “South Park.” “Not so much enforcing stereotypes but having fun with them.

So they’re not self-hating Jews?

“We hate ourselves for so many other reasons,” Wolfson says. “There are so many good reasons to hate ourselves aside from being Jewish.”

Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson will be reading from “Jewtopia: The Chosen Book for the Chosen People” on Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes and Noble, 16461 Ventura Blvd., Encino.— Amy Klein, Religion Editor

Will kill for laughs


“Comics, that gifted, exclusive society of professional fools.” — Larry Gelbart in his book, “Laughing Matters”

 
Stand-up comic Mark Schiff is sitting in his tiny office on Pico, near the Museum of Tolerance, talking about the time he played the Knesset.

 
“I pointed to the Chagalls and did the old line: ‘What a dump.'”

 
He kids the Knesset. But Schiff knows from dumps. In 25 years of doing comedy, he’s performed in some real ones. Now he and standup guy/pal Ritch Shydner have collected stories from their fellow pro fools in a book called, “I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics.”

 
“I Killed” features headliners like Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Jonathan Winters and Shelley Berman for the first time telling tales away from the “comedy caravans” and “yuk-yuks” and even yuckier joints they endured while perfecting their craft.

 
“People don’t know much about this life,” says Schiff, wearing a long-sleeved shirt with pictures of Fat Albert and the Cosby kids all over it, as he stuffed books into mailing pouches with co-compiler Shydner. “A lot of my heroes were road guys like Kerouac and Woody Guthrie. These guys would go out for years and never look back. I always came back.”

 
In the book’s foreword, Seinfeld says there are just “four Great Jobs in the world: baseball player, race-car driver, professional surfer or standup comedian.”

 
What? Not rock musician?

 
“He doesn’t like jobs where you have to drag a lot of equipment,” explains Schiff, who tours with Seinfeld. “It’s not a big Jewish job. We don’t like to drag a lot of things. We carry a diamond, we carry a microphone….”

 
And some, like Schiff, after gigging for giggles throughout this great entertainment nation, make it onto “The Tonight Show,” the Promised Land for stand-ups (the book is dedicated to hosts Jack Paar, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson.) Other “road monkeys” never make it out of the bare-wall bars of Moline (“Death of a Joke Salesman,” anybody?), but from Ashville to Anchorage, comedic troubadours are truly brave.

 
“I Killed” reveals the road to laughs sure ain’t paved with pretty. Flop sweating in front of eight people, bunking in trashed out “comedy condos” because brutal club owners skim on accommodations — comedians learn on the job, dancing that fine line between failure (“I died”) and a laugh (“I killed”) all because of the way they emphasize a single syllable sometimes. The camaraderie and competition, self-loathing and loneliness, the disgusting incidents with jazzman Kenny G. It’s all in here. Paul Reiser, Bob Saget, Steven Wright, Lewis Black and Rick Overton, all also featured in the hilarious documentary, “The Aristocrats,” share outrageous adventures. Here is Rita Rudner standing outdoors on a crate doing her act in somebody’s car headlights. Mike Myers chased by wolves. Richard Belzer sucking the gas out of whipped cream bottles before going onstage. All this nonstop “bombing” and “killing.” And all for the greatest of involuntary causes: laughter.

 
Like many successful comedians (Jan Murray, et. al.) Schiff began in the Bronx. He knew he wanted to do comedy at the age of 12 when his parents took him to see Rodney Dangerfield. (“I Killed” is full of funny tales about Dangerfield; he was beloved by fellow performers.) When Schiff started there were only a dozen clubs, but by the mid-’80s, with franchises like The Funny Bone and The Punch Line, the scene exploded, spreading stand up from strip joints to strip malls.

 
“You never know quite what you’re gonna meet on the road,” Schiff says.

 
“Everything from a woman with an axe to a woman who will marry you.”

 
Get the book to read about D.L. Hughley’s hatchet job, but Schiff actually did meet his wife at a comedy club. In San Antonio. (“I Killed” has a Richard Jeni story of playing San Antonio, and a big cowboy comes up and says: “We never seen a New York Jew,” and Jeni says, “I’m not a Jew.” “Close enough,” says the cowboy.)

 
Schiff was in San Antonio for “a one-nighter.” His wife, Nancy? “She was in charge of raising money for the federation there. We exchanged phone numbers and we’re married now 17 years.”

 
The Schiffs have two kids and pray at Young Israel of Century City. Their children go to the Maimonides School. While away on the road, Schiff has searched for minyans in strange towns and said Kaddish for his parents, but says he hasn’t faced overt anti-Semitism.

 
“I’ve run into people that have never met a Jew,” he says. “And they’re interested. I met a woman in Georgia who actually asked me, ‘Is it true about the horns?'”

 
Schiff loves gigging for Jewish audiences. And when he plays an Orthodox venue — as he will in Montreal next month — he includes in the contract, three Shottenstein Talmuds. “The collection is 73 volumes. I’m on my second collection now.”

 
“That’s interesting,” says co-editor Shydner. “I always require that the clubs give me two Dr. Pepper bottle caps and an auto repair manual.”

 
“I Killed, True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics” compiled by Mark Schiff and Ritch Shydner was released this week. Jerry Seinfeld is scheduled to appear on “Late Show With David Letterman” with the book on Nov. 20.

 

Hank Rosenfeld is writing a book with Irving Brecher, who wrote for Milton Berle and the Marx Brothers.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday the 23rd

How to make the holiday meaningful for the kids? Pick up a children’s book recommended by the Ratner Media and Technology Center at the Jewish Educational Center of Cleveland. Sylvia Epstein’s “How the Rosh Hashanah Challah Became Round” and Barbara Diamond Goldin’s “The World’s Birthday” are just two of many that make the list.

To view it in full, visit the Jewish Federation’s Web site, at ” width = 425 vspace = 6 alt=”YofiYah’s Kabbalah Kirtan”>

Jews looking for a spiritual soundtrack for their yoga practice may find it in YofiYah’s “Kabbalah Kirtan” CD. The musician and singer fuses Sikh musical traditions, known as Kirtan, with those of kabbalah. Listeners will hear the familiar words of Jewish prayers like “L’cha Dodi” and “Oseh Shalom,” set to perhaps less familiar Kirtan melodies or “two mystical traditions … united in ecstatic devotion.”

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Thursday the 28th

“Delirium” is the apposite title for Cirque du Soleil’s showcase of musicians, singers, dancers, acrobats and characters on a 130 foot, two-sided stage and 540 feet of projections (equivalent in width of almost four IMAX screens). Prepare yourself for sensory overload this evening, as JDate and the Museum of Tolerance sponsor their night of “Delirium,” which also includes the option of a preshow kosher buffet dinner and special reserve wine tasting, all benefiting the Museum of Tolerance.

6 p.m. (dinner and tasting), 8 p.m. (performance). $250 plus (show and VIP passes to the museum), $500 plus (dinner and tasting, show and VIP passes to the museum). Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2531.

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Raising Bucks With Bunnies


It’d be safe to say that Playboy bunnies are of one world, while fundraising for the Jewish elderly is of quite another. But worlds will collide the night of Aug. 26, when the Guardians of the Jewish Home for the Aging host a benefit in the unlikeliest of venues: the Playboy Mansion.

Sure, the place is the ultimate bachelor pad of Hugh Heffner and his many bunnies. And sure, it’s known for its midsummer night’s dream parties of orgiastic excess. But by planning a much tamer Vegas-style night to raise funds for a different sort of home, the philanthropic organization hopes to catch people’s interest and attention without crossing the line.

“We’ve talked to people that were concerned about it and explained that this isn’t one of those raucous, hedonistic parties that you hear about in Playboy magazine,” explained Sean Besser, vice chair of the Young Men’s Division board.The board planned the original event last September to great response, according to Besser. Plans for this year’s affair include Vegas-style gaming, a poker tournament, food catered by the mansion chef, open bar, raffle prizes, (clothed) Playmate-led tours and access to the mansion’s extensive grounds.Besser said the interest has been just as good this year by both men and women of all ages.

“We’ve been shocked by the diversity of responses,” he said. “There are octogenarians that are coming. One man told me, ‘Its one place I want to go before I die.'”

Saturday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m. $250-$525. Advance reservations required. For information call (310) 479-2468 or visit www.laguardians.com.

— Keren Engelberg, Contributing Writer

Whodunnit? Kander & Ebb

If musical theater were a person, Jerry Herman would be its smile, Oscar Hammerstein II its heart, Stephen Sondheim its wit and John Kander and Fred Ebb its sex appeal. The latter two, who’ve spent their career making titillating shows about seemingly unsexy things — such as prison life in the ’20s (“Chicago”) and Berlin in the ’30s (“Cabaret”) — have brought that talent to “Curtains,” one of their final collaborations prior to Ebb’s death in 2004. The show is having its premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre before heading to Broadway.The murder-mystery musical comedy (with additional lyrics by Rupert Holmes) uses the show-within-a-show device and revolves around a 1950s theater-loving detective, Lt. Frank Cioffi (David Hyde Pierce), who tries to figure out who killed the leading lady of “Robbin’ Hood” during the opening night bows.Both detective and theater aficionado, Cioffi works on the crime, as well as problems plaguing some of the musical numbers in “Robbin’.”

Keen-eyed audience members will note that “Curtains,” which plays through Sept. 10, is very much a love letter to other musicals, with hat-tips to “Oklahoma,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Phantom of the Opera.”The show is filled with some of the best-timed punchlines ever to grace the L.A. stage. Most of those lines are delivered by the show’s two scene stealers: Edward Hibbert as director Christopher Belling, and Debra Monk as producer Carmen Bernstein, who, when her daughter says, “The theater is a temple,” responds: “What? So it should only be filled on Shabbos?”Keep an ear open during Carmen’s number, “It’s a Business,” for one of the only mentions of Yom Kippur in musical theater history.

“Curtains” plays through Sept. 10 at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. $30-$95. For tickets and information on groups call (213) 628-2772 or visit www.centertheatregroup.org.

— Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

Clowning Around


clowns

Dan Berkley always carries two noses. “I always try to have a spare,” he says. “Particularly in a pie fight, it can come off. Doing anything, you’re gonna lose a nose.”

Berkley knows noses. He’s a clown in town with the Ringling Bros. When we met, he’d just jumped off the circus train from Fresno. Applying his makeup off Clown Alley backstage at Staples Center, Berkley explained how a nice boy from “the last exit off the Garden State Parkway” ran away with the Barnum and Bailey and the whole mishagoss.

He didn’t. First he got a degree in physics from a college in Maine. Then he fooled around with Circus Smirkus in Vermont and the Pickle Players in the Bay Area, developing a scientist character along the way. Did I mention he’s smart? Now, at 25, he’s an entertainer in “The Greatest Show on Earth!” (Take that Mandy Patinkin.)

Some of my best friends are clowns. I know that sounds like a line, but it’s true. Jewish clowns, too. Back East, there’s Dr. Meatloaf and Dr. Noodle (aka Stephen Ringold and Ilene Weiss). They’re in the CCU, the “Clown Care Unit” of the Big Apple Circus. Like badchens (Yiddish for clown) for the broken up, they play hospitals instead of weddings.

Here, Berkley takes a header into a pie with 15 other clown pals when an elephant walks into his diner. In a “Smashcar” pit-stop sketch, he reaches the heights — depths? — of pratfalling. Yet, his zany behavior onstage in front of thousands of ooh-ing and ahh-ing children contradicts a yeshiva bocher-level interest Berkley has in his art off-stage.

Berkley knows the difference between a badchen and a kachina (a Hopi clown). He learned some of his craft at the funny feet of the wonderful messugenah clown Avner “the Eccentric” Eisenberg. Avner lives off the coast of Maine and is, if not a ba’al teshuvah then not a bad Baal Shem Tov, using humor as a healing tool for the heart and breath. Berkley learned from Avner (and Bill Irwin and other mentors) that clowning “is an evolutionary art.”

“You’re always trying to come up with something new,” he says. “Of course, there are no new ideas. There’s your take on it.”

Clowning has deep Jewish storytelling roots — notably the cartoon faith of Krusty the Clown on “The Simpsons.” His real name is Herschel Krustofski, and his father, voiced by Jackie Mason, was a rabbi. Berkley remembers a line from the Talmud that Bart Simpson quotes in one episode: “Who shall bring redemption if not the jesters?”

Nicole Feld, circus co-producer with her father, Kenneth Feld, hopes such wisdom is prophetic. Her grandfather, Irvin Feld, first moved the venerable show from tent to arena. This is their 136th year and Feld, 28, wouldn’t say whether Berkley is her favorite clown — “That’s like asking me if I love my mom or my dad more!”

“He brought his college background and his interests in physics to his character,” Feld says. “Dan’s great because he can talk to kids about all kinds of stuff and helps us place the value on education.”

Dan starts by putting on his eyes (white, red, black). He can complete his face in 15 minutes. The latex nose goes on with skin adhesive.

“In the medical industry they use it for colostomy bags and stuff like that,” he says. “It works well. You really don’t wanna lose a nose. Guys that are prone to losing their nose, will paint their own nose red so worst-case scenario, they still have a nose. The nose within. The inner nose.”
Berkley steps away and powders.

“We powder our makeup to set it, keep it from smudging,” he explains. “I bump into somebody, I don’t want to leave my face on their costume.”
He tops off with a two-toned yak wig reminiscent of Sam Jaffee as Dr. Zorba on TV’s “Ben Casey.”

“I use yak hair because it’s tougher,” he says, too young for the reference. “It takes a beating. We beat up everything we use.”

Did you know clowns wear two pairs of boxers? For the final touch, Berkley pokes a tiny black clown dot into his dimpled chin. In floppy two-toned custom-made shoes, he’s ready to meander out — lime-green smock over orange shirt with dark bow tie, green-and-black plaid pants held up by red suspenders — for his pre-show “all access” visit with the early-arriving audience. He has been buffooning since 3 a.m., when he did a Univision appearance (Latino audiences are Ringling’s bread and butter in Los Angeles).

Berkley likes the Wavy Gravy line: “A clown is a poet who is also an orangutan.”
“There are a lot of contradictions in clowning,” Berkley says. “There are no rules. It’s one of those arts where you can do anything. You’re limited by what you can get your hands on sometimes and how much time you have to work on it.
In Staples, I ran into some Israelis I knew. Not to get all “Up With Laughter” about it, but they said Israel could sure use a circus. Leytzan, they told me, is the word for clown in Hebrew. Dan Berkley is very leytzan.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is currently in Anaheim, through Aug. 6. For ticket information, visit see www.ringling.com/schedule/.

Hank Rosenfeld learned in a Ringling Brothers audition “ya gotta have a heart as big as Alaska” to reach the top row.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday the 29th

The most avant-garde comics find a gorgeous forum, once again, with the release of the sixth edition of editor Sammy Harkham’s anthology, “Kramer’s Ergot 6.” Geeks celebrate its release tonight at the Hammer Museum, which features performances by Kites and The Mystical Unionists, films by Paper Rad and a presentation by painter and “Raw” contributor Jerry Moriarty.

9 p.m. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000. ” TARGET=”_blank”>www.tlc.discovery.com.

Monday the 31st

“Look, but don’t touch” is the unspoken challenge to viewers of the Gatov Gallery’s new exhibit, “Soft Art.” On view are the vibrant textile works of Israeli artists Udi Merioz and Johanan Herson, created with a technique employed by only four known artists in the world. Pieces come together by applying brilliant colored textiles onto a soft canvas, and pressing them into one another with a special needle. The gallery at the Alpert JCC hosts the show through Aug. 15.

Open daily, times vary. Free. Alpert JCC, Weinberg Jewish Federation Campus, 3601 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 426-7601.

Tuesday the 1st

Our interest in, and relationships with varied species of the animal kingdom makes up Fahey/Klein Gallery’s new show, “Not All of Man’s Best Friends Are Dogs.” Photographers Richard Avedon, Garry Winogrand, Shelby Lee Adams and Steve Schapiro are a few of the contributors who depict people’s interactions with bird and beast.

10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tues.-Sat.). Through Sept. 2. 148 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 934-2250. ” TARGET=”_blank”>www.yicc.org.

Thursday the 3rd

Multiple loveless affairs, a lustless marriage and in-vitro pregnancy are some of the bigger manifestations of one young woman’s fear of abandonment. Her journey to lead an emotional life appropriate with her age is the subject of Jessica Bern’s one-woman comedy, “Days of Whine and Roses.” It opens today.

8 p.m. (Thursdays). Through Aug. 31. $20 (in advance). Elephant Lab Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles. (323) 960-1056.

Friday the 4th

Neil Simon laughs for all this month. In the Valley, the Secret Rose Theater offers the classic “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.” Simon’s homage to the time in his career spent writing for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” takes us into a 1950s TV writer’s room. Or, head to the 90212 for “Rumors,” in which hilarity ensues when an anniversary party goes awry; the host shoots himself in the head (a flesh wound), his wife goes missing and the guests must entertain themse
lves.

“Laughter”: Through Aug. 20. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. (866) 811-4111.

“Rumors”: Through Sept. 3. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills High Campus. (310) 364-0535.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday
22

Polka gets dotty at the Getty this evening with the last installment of the center’s Summer Sessions series. “21st Century Roots” offers “roots music for the new millennium,” in the form of three groups: Brave Combo, a polka ensemble that mixes music from Mexico, Germany and Japan; Golem, an edgy klezmer rock band; and moira smiley & VOCO, a band that mixes the dance songs of Eastern Europe with Appalachian tunes. International folk dance lessons are also offered.

5:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. (dance lessons). 6:30 p.m. (first music set). Free. Getty Center South Courtyard, Courtyard Stage and Garden Terrace, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-7300.

Sunday
23

Can’t get enough of the man in tights? Head to the Museum of Television and Radio to see Superman as he appeared — in his many forms — on the small screen. For one final week the museum presents a selection of TV shows, including the 1950s “Adventures of Superman”; the steamier 1990s Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher affair, “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”; today’s Superman for the teen and tween set, “Smallville”; the animated 1970s classic “Superfriends” and the newer “Justice League”; as well as the unaired 1961 pilot of “The Adventures of Superboy.”

Through July 30. Noon-5 p.m. (Wed.-Sun.). $5-$10 donations suggested. 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 786-1025.

Monday
24

Beat the summer heat with a refreshingly star-free film festival. Dances With Films enters its ninth year with a host of talent-filled films, sans celebs. Why no familiar faces? Festival co-founder Leslee Scallon explains, “The other festivals are busy programming mostly celebrity oriented films. It’s not that we’re dissing celebrities, we’re just giving films a chance to be seen that are getting squeezed out of the circuit.” Offer your support July 21-27.
$10 (per ticket), $125 (festival pass). Laemmle Fairfax Theatre, 7907 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2929.

Tuesday
25

Young Artists International alights on Los Angeles for its ninth annual International Laureates Festival. The week of classical music concerts features iPalpiti, their orchestral ensemble of 26 musical masters ages 19-30, representing 26 countries. Tonight, a smaller affair at the Ford Theatre features Bassiona Amorosa, a virtuosi sextet of double-bassists from Munich.
July 23-30. Prices and locations vary. (310) 205-0511.


Wednesday
26

Love a Gershwin tune? Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman explore George’s music in tonight’s installment of the Parlor Performances @ Steinway Hall Presents… “Songwriters and Their Songs” series. Hear some of his best-loved pieces, as well as the stories behind them.
8 p.m. $25. Steinway Hall, 12121 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 471-3979.

Thursday 27

Judi Lee Brandwein can’t get no satisfaction, but discusses it this one last night, for your amusement. “Fornicationally Challenged” is the 40-something divorc’e’s one-woman mature-audiences-only comic show. It returns tonight only for a local send-off before its opening at the New York International Fringe Festival.
8 p.m. $20. Santa Monica Playhouse Main Stage, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 394-9779, ext. 1.

Friday
28

Ponder the art of Bonita Helmer in George Billis Gallery’s exhibition of her latest works. The moody, thought-provoking abstract acrylics focus on the interplays of fundamental elements, forcing the viewer to reconsider basic notions such as space and time.
Through Sept. 2. 2716 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 838-3685.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, July 15
Pretty Charlize Theron plays chairwoman for Los Angeles Free Clinic’s ninth annual “Extravaganza for the Senses.” The food and wine event features tastes from some 40 local restaurants — ranging from high-end Angelini Osteria to lower-end but highly tasty Poquito Más — and some 100 wineries. Also on the bill are live music and a silent auction.

6-10 p.m. $90 (general), $200 (VIP). Twentieth Century Fox, 10201 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 330-1670 ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Sunday, July 16
Make some time for “Zero Hour.” West Coast Jewish Theatre’s latest is this one-man show, written by and starring Jim Brochu, as Zero Mostel. The play tells Mostel’s life story, from his youth growing up on New York’s Lower East Side, through his early highs as a stand-up comedian and lows when he was blacklisted, to his ultimate huge success on Broadway.

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sun.). $20-$30. Egyptian Arena Theatre, 1625 N. Las Palmas, Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (323) 595-4849.

 

 

Monday, July 17
Funny girls perform for tonight’s charity benefit, “4 Women For Women,” supporting the Women’s Clinic and Family Counseling Center. Julia Sweeney hosts, with Laraine Newman, Melanie Chartoff, Ann Randolph and Terrie Silverman each offer some comic relief. Also scheduled is a silent auction, special eBay auction of black bras worn by the stars and a kissing booth with “special guest smoochers.”

6:30 p.m. (reception), 8 p.m. (performances). $100. The Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 376-9339. ” target=”_blank”>www.womens-clinic.org.

 

Tuesday, July 18
Jack Rutberg Fine Arts goes big for summer, offering an exhibition of more than 50 major paintings, drawings, original prints and sculpture by heavyweight artists including David Hockney, Ruth Weisberg, Arthur Dove and Marc Chagall. “Summer Selections: Portraits, Places, Perspectives” runs through Sept. 9.

357 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 938-5222. www.jackrutbergfinearts.com” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Wednesday, July 19
An expansive art exhibition can also be viewed, and purchased, at the Workmen’s Circle. “Curating a Better World: 10th Anniversary Show” features donated works from artists who have participated in the Circle’s 62 previous exhibitions over the last 10 years.

Through Aug. 25. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Thursday, July 20
Got a kitschy song in your heart? Head to the Aero Theatre for the first night of its “Can’t Stop the Musicals” series. In this installment, the series pays homage to the guilty pleasures from “an era not normally thought of as rich territory for filmed musicals: the 1970s and 1980s.” Tonight, that translates to a screening of Menahem Golan’s “The Apple.” Head back other nights for “Flashdance,” “Rock ‘N Roll High School,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Tommy,” “Hair” and “All That Jazz.”

July 20-30. 7:30 p.m. $6-$9. Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. (323) 466-3456

Friday, July 21
Gay Men’s Choruses of Los Angeles and Orange County each put on worthy shows this week. On Saturday, July 15, head to the O.C. for Men Alive’s fifth anniversary concert, “Curtains Up! Light the Lights!” The song and dance tribute to Broadway will feature special guest star and Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein. And this weekend, stay local as the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles presents “The Look of Love: The Music of Burt Bacharach.”

“Curtains Up! Light the Lights!” Sat., July 15, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Irvine Barclay Theatre, 424 Campus Drive, Irvine. (866) 636-2548. ” target=”_blank”>www.gmcla.org.


7 Days in the Arts


Saturday, July 8
The Hollywood Palladium’s got the beat tonight. Head there for ’80s retro fun wrapped up in a good cause. Bet Tzedek — The House of Justice presents its annual Justice Ball benefit with headliners The Go-Go’s.

8:30 p.m. $75-$150. Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd. (323) 656-9069. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

 

Sunday, July 9
A midsummer night’s edutainment comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony. Tonight, they perform “Ahava: From Israel with Love” at the Ford Amphitheatre, with Chen Zimbalista on marimba and Alon Reuven on French horn. Explanatory introductions of each piece will be given by conductor Noreen Green.

7:30 p.m. $12-$36. 2850 Cahuenga Blvd., East, Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.

Monday, July 10
TV gets some artistic recognition, thanks to Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). Today FIDM opens its new exhibition, “The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design,” which continues through Sept. 9. On display are highlights from 40 years of television costuming, including clothes worn by Sonny and Cher, Barry Manilow and Carol Burnett, on their shows and specials.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. (daily, except Sundays). Free. FIDM Museum and Galleries on the Park, 919 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 624-1200, ext. 2224.

 

Tuesday, July 11
The sound of music drifts through the air, mixing with that signature zoo scent, this evening. The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association kicks off the first of two “Music in the Zoo” nights. Tonight, hear the Masanga Marimba Ensemble of Zimbabwe, the Scottish Wicked Tinkers, the Mediterranean music of Shaya and Rafi and the Irish Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder. Plus, the animals get a later bedtime of 8 p.m. and “Club Med Circus Performers” monkey around.

Tues., July 11 and 25, 6-9 p.m. Free (children 5 and under), $7-$16. Los Angeles Zoo, Griffith Park. (323) 644-6042. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Wednesday, July 12
Invisible friends get revenge in “Bunbury: A Serious Play for Trivial People.” The play by Tom Jacobson features the never-seen characters of Bunbury (of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”) and Rosaline (of “Romeo and Juliet”), teaming up to sabotage classic literary works. It is performed at the Skirball Cultural Center, and recorded to air on L.A. Theatre Works’ radio theater series, The Play’s the Thing, which broadcasts weekly on public and satellite radio, including 89.3 KPCC.

8 p.m. (July 12-14), 3 pm. (July 15), 4 p.m. (July 16). $25-$45. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P.,
(310) 827-0889.

Thursday, July 13
July gets a little hotter with Stephen Cohen Gallery’s “Summer Skin” exhibition. The group show features nude works, some naughty, some nice, by artists like Diane Arbus, Anthony Friedkin and Horace Bristo. The raciest stuff, by guys like David Levinthal, Larry Clark and Robert Mapplethorpe, can be seen in a separate viewing room.

July 7-Aug. 26. Free. 7358 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 937-5525.

 

Friday, July 14
Literature takes center stage with The New Short Fiction Series, a host of evenings in which actors read from a published work of fiction. This year’s first featured writer is author and poet Carol Schwalberg, whose “The Midnight Lover and Other Stories” will be performed, tonight.

8 p.m. $10. Beverly Hills Public Library Auditorium, 444 N. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 288-2220.

The Circuit


Hoop Dreams
For 16-year-old former Encino resident Marisa Gobuty it’s all about basketball.

Throughout the summer, Gobuty, a 5-foot-7 high school junior point guard, who now lives in Israel and plays for Israel’s National Basketball Team, will be playing for the Southern California-based Finest Basketball Club (FBC), and compete in tournaments across the United States.

Six years ago, she and her family moved to Israel for a short two-year stint. They have lived there ever since. But like in Encino, Gobuty’s love and passion for basketball led her back on to the courts around Tel Aviv, eventually landing a spot on the Israel National team at age 15. She is now one of only 12 team members on Israel’s Segel Zahav, which means Gold Team. It is comprised of the top players in the 16-24 age bracket.

“Living in Israel has been a great learning experience culturally and emotionally,” Gobuty said. “By playing basketball there I’ve also gotten to compete against some of the best in the world playing in European FIBA Championships, as well as having the opportunity to learn about different cultures. But some of my most rewarding moments have been talking to other high school-age teenagers about what it’s like to grow up in a country that is constantly on alert in a war time like state and being able to share my experiences.”

Support Your Students
The West Coast Supporters of Yeshiva University (YU) recently held a dinner at the L.A. home of Esthi and Walter Feinblum. Forty YU supporters attended the event and raised $100,000 for the West Coast Scholarship Drive to ensure that all qualified undergraduate students who wish to attend YU can do so regardless of their financial circumstances.

Love ‘Triangle’
Take one part Jewish mother, one part Italian mama, add a dash of hot-blooded lethario and you have an evening of laughs with Renee Taylor, Lainie Kazan and Joe Bologna at the Brentwood Theatre production of “The Bermuda Avenue Triangle.”

The star-studded opening night featured such icons as Carl Reiner and wife Estelle, Larry Gelbart, Dom DeLuise and Norm Crosby who showed up to support the cast. The farce, written by Taylor and Bologna, addresses the plight of two mothers in their golden years and the daughters who love and endure them.

Lucky Night for JFS
The Regent Beverly Wilshire was filled May 23 as guests mingled and munched on healthy appetizers. The occasion was the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) 13th annual gala fundraising dinner. Husband and wife Deborah Barak and her Dr. Etan Milgrom received the Spirit of Humanity Award, and Connie Mandles was honored with the Anita and Stanley Hirsh Award.

The annual gala brought in $700,000 to help JFS provide vital services to people of all ages, ethnicities and religions. JFS’ nationally recognized programs counsel troubled families and individuals, support the elderly, house the homeless and abused and feed the hungry.

Rob Morrow and David Krumholtz, the stars of the hit CBS series “Numb3rs” were a standout as masters of ceremonies, bringing to the job the sharp and funny relationship they share as the Eppes brothers in their show.

Renee Olstead, 16, a star of the CBS sitcom “Still Standing,” wowed the crowd with sultry jazz standards and an original tune from her upcoming second CD, accompanied by Grammy Award-winning producer David Foster. Foster also coaxed Krumholtz into crooning a respectable version of the Frank Sinatra hit “That’s Life,” to the delight of the crowd.

Founded in 1854, JFS is the oldest and largest social service agency in Los Angeles. JFS is a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation and United Way.

A Call to Action
Noted author and journalist Frank Gaffney Jr. spoke to an overflowing crowd May 30 at Valley Beth Shalom when more than 500 people attended the Republican Jewish Coalition Los Angeles chapter event.

His new book “War Footing and President of the Center for Security Policy America & Israel: How We Can Prevail In The War On Terror” speaks to America’s role in supporting the war on terror. The crowd listened — and noshed — as Gaffney addressed the issue of Iran and its potential threat to Israel and the United States, urging Americans to play a more aggressive role in stopping terror.

Gaffney said threats to Israel are designed to demean the American spirit.

“We need to support our troops by doing more than putting a bumper sticker on our cars,” he said. “We need to ensure they have the resources they need to fight the war. To mobilize the resources of this country’s resources, energies and talents to prevail.”

 

Nation-World Briefs


U.N. Asks Israel to Stop Making Nukes
A U.N. commission recommended that Israel refrain from manufacturing any more nuclear weapons as a step to a nuclear-free Middle East. The United Nation’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by weapons inspector Hans Blix, released its 60 recommendations on Monday. Regarding the Middle East, Blix recommended that most nations commit to not possessing any nuclear weapons. However, with Israel he recommended only that it commit to not manufacturing any more weapons. Israel is highly unlikely to agree to dismantle the 200 warheads it is believed to possess as the region’s sole nuclear power. Israel’s agreement would be a start, Blix said.

State Dept. Blasts Israel for Human Trafficking
Israel is on a U.S. State Department watch list of nations that fail to effectively prevent human trafficking. Israel was classified as being on the Tier Two watch list in the report released Monday. Tier Three is the worst classification, reserved for countries that fail to comply with minimum U.S. standards. Israeli law enforcement has made strides in cracking down on sex trafficking, the report said, but the same was not true of labor trafficking and “the estimated thousands of victims of forced labor were not provided with protection.” It described fees demanded of laborers ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, “a practice that often leads to debt bondage and makes these workers highly vulnerable to forced labor once in Israel,” it said.

FDA Approves Israeli Parkinson’s Drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved an Israeli drug that treats Parkinson’s, a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled shaking and muscle stiffness. Marketed under the name Azilect, this is the first once-daily oral treatment for Parkinson’s to be distributed in the United States; it was developed by Technion professors Moussa Youdim and John Finberg and is being manufactured by Tel Aviv-based generic pharmaceutical giant Teva. The drug is expected to become available by prescription in the United States by July or August.

While not a cure, the drug slows the progression of the disease. Azilect works by blocking the breakdown of dopamine, which tells the body how and when to move.

Parkinson’s currently affects 1 million people in the United States.

“This is a welcome development for the more than 50,000 Americans who are each year diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, ” said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Parkinson’s is a relentless disease with limited treatment options, and each new therapy is an important addition to the physicians’ treatment options.”

However, the FDA is warning that the drug could carry an increased risk of hypertensive crisis — a precursor to a stroke — if taken with tyramine-rich foods (cheese, chocolate, red wine), dietary supplements or cough/cold medicines. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Nazi Papers Declassified
The U.S. government declassified more than 8 million pages of files related to Nazi war crimes. The material including documents relating to the CIA’s employment of suspected Nazi war criminals after World War II. The members of the government’s Interagency Working Group said at a news conference Tuesday that the revelations pointed to the dangers of working with war criminals, as the United States did after World War II. Among other revelations, the papers show that former Nazis employed by the United States were more susceptible to recruitment as double agents by the Soviet Union. Additionally, the papers show that the United States had a strong lead on the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann in 1958, but did not pursue it because of fears that his capture would expose the Nazi past of high-ranking officials in the West German government, which was allied with the United States.

Trump Fires Jewish Contestant
An observant Jew failed in his bid to become Donald Trump’s next apprentice. Lee Bienstock was fired Monday on the season finale of “The Apprentice.” Bienstock and another Jewish contestant, New Jersey’s Dan Brody, observed Rosh Hashanah together early in the season missing the third episode’s task but only Bienstock, who grew up in the New York area, stayed in the show long enough to observe Yom Kippur, missing another task.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

‘Hybrid’ Actor Crafts ‘Everyman’ Show


Is it possible for an everyman to be a leader? Can an everyman be a woman?

Ameenah Kaplan, who calls herself a “hybrid” — the product of an African American mother who converted to Judaism and a Jewish father — is directing, choreographing and co-producing “Everyman for Himself.” Appearing weekends at the Unknown Theatre in Hollywood, the show is a hybrid itself, in that it blends music, dance, theater and capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian dance form that incorporates self-defense maneuvers. Kaplan also wrote and conceived the production and, indeed, thinks of herself as an everyman.

Shaped by Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” Kaplan, 31, grew up in Atlanta, where she was bat mitzvahed and confirmed and where, she says, she would “float into different communities and never really fit into any of them.” As the only non-Christian among blacks, the only black among Jews, she says, “you’d be in a room and nobody sees you.”

Everyman, the title character in her show, played by Michael Gallagher, is both invisible and conspicuously visible. Where the other ensemble players paint their faces and wear togs like members of an African or Indian tribe, Everyman looks like a stiff businessman, donning a tie, starched shirt and long pants.

“Go with the flow,” is one of the adages he reads from a book, yet Everyman never quite fits in. He is singled out by one female character, who engages in a kind of martial arts match with him that is equal parts seduction and boxing.

None of Kaplan’s characters have traditional names; instead, they sport generic titles like Ball Girl, Judge, Bee and Boss. With the beat of African drums playing in the background as the ensemble characters teach Everyman to dance, there is the sense that we are witnessing an ancient ritual among primal beings.

In the production notes, Everyman is billed as a Buster Keaton/Charlie Chaplin “genius/fool”; he appears awkward, a modern man, exposed as if for the first time to the world of conformity that dates back to our days as early Homo sapiens in the Horn of Africa.

“People are essentially primal anyway,” says Kaplan, sitting on a couch in a lounge down the hall from her actors’ rehearsal hall. Wearing a head wrap that conceals her afro, Kaplan says, “We’re all simple and alike at the bottom. My acting training taught us that. Come into the room, get your shoes off and build the actor from the ground up.”

We share more than not, she says, pointing out “the visceral body connections celebrating those things that bring us together — sound, energy, drums, heartbeat, blood flowing.”

Kaplan has the slim, athletic body of a dancer; she has played numerous TV and legitimate theater roles, and sees herself first as an actor. She smiles when asked if she was somewhat conflicted over not playing the lead role herself, but she says that Gallagher embodies Everyman. She also stresses that every actor in the show contributes as much as the others. All of the actors play multiple roles: “The ensemble is the show. There are no supporting roles. No one’s playing crossword puzzles backstage. There are no cigarette breaks.”

One scene flows into the next, each one carrying totemic significance. The smallest prop — whether it’s a book, a jacket, a ball or a handkerchief (a nod perhaps to “Othello”) — becomes a talisman in this primordial landscape, where the characters speak very few words and those they do are often monosyllabic.

Everyman may be more Jesus than Adam. He must choose whether to fight or kill another man. Unlike the others, he is consumed with grief.

“What he’s going through is the human condition,” says Kaplan, whose work ethic really comes through in person. Reluctant to leave her actors for an interview, Kaplan never loses her graciousness and generosity; she has the maturity and seriousness of one who knows that, without her, the play will not proceed. Even during the brief interview, she wants to make sure that the actors are OK. At one point, she tells the stage manager that the actors will need her to be there for the next scene, involving some dance routines that they have not tried before.

As the interview ends, Kaplan, the everyman, springs to her feet with the physicality of Keaton. She will direct her cast without any crossword puzzle or cigarette breaks. She is anything but invisible.

“Everyman for Himself” plays Friday and Saturday nights at Unknown Theater, 1110 Seward St., near Santa Monica Boulevard, through April 29. For tickets and information, call (323) 466-7781.

 

Darfur Seder Raises Awareness, Funds


Alula Tsadik, a lithe black man in dreds, wearing a red-and-black-striped poncholike tallit, pounded his chest and moaned, “Mama,” as he slowly circled the room at UCLA’s Hillel.

His tuneless melody, meant to capture the pain and horror of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, was the first of many performances in last weekend’s Seder for Darfur. The Sunday pre-Passover event was held both to raise awareness and to raise money for Jewish World Watch on behalf of victims.

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child/a long way from home,” the Gwen Wyatt Chorale somberly sang, its singers dispersed throughout the standing-room-only crowd of about 300 people.

“We need for America to speak out and really do something,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one of the many high-powered guests in attendance. “Where to start, of course, is in the faith community.”

Others on hand for the 90-minute program included actor Mare Winningham, Danny Glover, Ed Asner and Forest Whitaker, as well as Jewish community notables, such as Valley Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Harold Schulweis, UCLA Hillel director Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller and singer Debbie Friedman. The event had few speeches; instead, the message was conveyed by readings, music and the firsthand accounts of students from Jewish World Watch who have gone to the Darfur region.

One of them, Lauren Gasparo, told of meeting a man who had just run away from his village, leaving behind his pregnant wife and his four children, ages 3 to 12.

“The Janjaweed will rape and kill my family, and there is nothing I can do,” the man said to her.

A slide show illustrated the crisis, using Ron Haviv’s photos from his “Children of Darfur” exhibit. The slides depicted displaced people, burning refugee camps and emaciated and dead victims of the genocide, which has claimed more than 300,000 people and displaced millions since 2003. Observers say most of the atrocities have been committed by Janjaweed militias, acting with the tacit approval and support of Sudan’s government.

“At every seder it’s our tradition to call, ‘Let all those who are hungry come and eat’ … in Darfur, their voices call out and remind us that in every generation we must see ourselves as if we left Egypt,” Seidler-Feller said. “Why is this seder different from all other seders? What has changed this year? Why are we gathering? Why do we care? Egypt is not a place and slavery is not a condition of the past.”

“Some nations are still ruled by present-day pharaohs,” he said. “Are you a freedom fighter? Then you believe in the Exodus. Today we are all freedom fighters.”

Seder participants were encouraged to use their own Passover seder to motivate their guests to help victims of oppression in Darfur. Inside orange “gift bags” were green postcards to mail to President Bush and contribution envelopes made out to Jewish World Watch, with the address line “Do Not Stand Idly By.”

The L.A.-based Jewish World Watch was formed in 2003 to educate and activate the community to decry genocide, as well as to bring humanitarian relief to victims in the form of water wells, medical clinics and sanitation. The organization has raised some $300,000 since its inception.

The gift bag also contained instructions for making the Passover seder different by adding a fourth matzah to the traditional three: “The Matzah of Hope.”

“We raise this fourth Matzah to remind ourselves that slavery and genocide still exist,” states the accompanying reading, “that people are being bought and sold as property, that ethnic people are being persecuted and slaughtered, that the Divine image within them is yet being denied….”

“We have suffered much for daring to be different. But we do not own suffering,” Asner read. “We live our lives in pursuit of justice…. We must not stand idly by….”

People were encouraged to attend an April 23 rally at the Federal Building in West Los Angeles. On April 30, Jewish World Watch is sponsoring a march on Washington and one in San Francisco, as well.

“It is easy to feel discouraged and say, what can I do?” director Robert Townsend said. “It is not helpless. By joining us today you are making a difference.”

The musical interludes used both traditional seder music — with saxophonist Dave Koz playing “Let My People Go” and Todd Herzog playing the Elijah song — and nonseder music — with Debbie Friedman singing, ” I still believe in people/and I still believe in you…” and Winningham on guitar, singing, “Hard times come again no more.”

Whitaker and Ahavat Shalom’s Cantor Patti Linksy mixed the two forms, as she read the closing “Chad Gad Ya” from the haggadah and the actor-director interspersed readings.

“What has changed? I have changed,” he read. “When will this circle of terror continue? When will this madness stop?”

“Our struggle must not stop,” said the seder’s executive producer, Janice Kaminer-Resnick. Just before the event, she announced, a donor had offered an $18,000 matching grant to the day’s contributions.

Craig Taubman, the writer of the seder, and producer of “Let My People Sing,” the nine-day Passover festival of which this was a part, ended the show on a jaunty note, playing with his band and Laurence Juber.

“Dayeinu,” they sang. Enough!

As people streamed out the door, Kaminer-Resnick announced that she had just received another check for $18,000, bringing the day’s pledges to $100,000.

 

The Ultimate Taste Test


Inside Kosher World, the recent “for-the-trade” food show, you had to remind yourself you were in Anaheim. To my left, two gentlemen negotiated a deal in animated Hebrew. To my right, wine connoisseurs swirled, sniffed and sipped kosher-for-Passover premium varietals from Israel and 11 other countries. Behind me, hungry visitors, beckoned by the intoxicating aromas of smoked meat grilling, speared six varieties of kosher sausage. And at what other trade show would you find a curtained section designated “Davening Area”?

While this was the third year for Kosher World, it was the first time the show joined with the ethnic and halal markets, under the umbrella of the World Ethnic Market.

“These foods are no longer limited today to specialty suppliers or people of a particular religion or ethnicity,” said show director Phyllis Koegel. “They’re now routinely available at major food retailers, restaurants, hotels and food service operations.”

About 40 companies exhibited kosher products, ranging from wines to cheese to meat and halvah, but there also were cashews from Dan-D-Pack, a product of Vietnam; halal beef franks from Midamar, and salted lassi from Gulf & Safa Dairies of Dubai.

As usual at such shows, I sampled far too much, but what don’t you do in the name of research? My first stop was Neshama Gourmet Kosher Foods, for the best sausage I’ve ever tasted. My personal favorite is the exotic Merguez line, made from beef and lamb.

“For the first time our smoked andouille and country apple will be available kosher for Passover,” announced vice president Evelyn Baran.

I sampled salad dressing from Mistral — loved the soy ginger — and the yummiest individually wrapped Kugelettes — sure, there were Traditional Golden Raisin, but could grandma dream up Green Chile and Cheese with Salsa?

Next I visited Raphy’s booth, where samples of baba ghanoush, stuffed eggplant and a host of other delicacies, all produced in Turkey — the watermelon peel preserves are to die for — were dished up with flair.

Only fine wine could top off this “balanced meal,” so I headed for Royal Wine Corp., the world’s largest producer, importer and distributor of kosher wines. “When people hear ‘kosher’ and ‘wine’ in the same breath, they think sweet,” said Dennis Bookbinder, the company’s director of sales. “Our slogan is: ‘We produce and import premium varietal wines that happen to be kosher.’ Today you’ll find world-class kosher wines from $200 a bottle on down.”

Many of the company’s 300 wines from 12 countries regularly garner awards and top ratings from the world’s foremost wine critics and publications. And with Passover around the corner, expect a flood of new kosher wines. Petit Castel from the Judean Hills is considered the finest wine from Israel, Bookbinder said. Baron Herzog Jeunesse, as well as premium wines from Segal’s, Barkan and Carmel, are just a few he recommended to grace the seder table.

This year’s show also included the Natural Products Expo in the same building, “because people tend to associate kosher food with natural and organic,” said show director Koegel.

According to analysts, only 20 percent to 33 percent of kosher foods produced worldwide is consumed by Jews, and this is one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry. So just who is buying the rest? Muslims, Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus and others who follow similar dietary restrictions, for starters. With 20 percent of the population lactose intolerant and millions calling themselves vegetarians of one sort or another, plus countless others who are health conscious, it is easy to see why kosher products have wide appeal. The mad cow disease scare hasn’t hurt either; because of strict cleanliness requirements and butchering procedures, there has never been a case of the disease found in kosher beef.

So, as the motto on a banner said at the first Kosher World: “Bringing kosher to mainstream and mainstream to kosher.” Truer today than ever, I’d say.

Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish: 652 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family” (Workman, September 2006) and can be found on the Web at

A Photojournalist’s Twist on Nazi Image


A visitor to the Getty Center encounters a 1932 photomontage of Hitler, his right arm raised Nazi style. Behind him stands a corpulent German industrialist slipping wads of money into the Fuehrer’s outstretched hand.

The ironic title is “The Meaning of the Hitler Salute: Little Man Asks for Big Gift,” and the picture is part of the small but striking exhibit, “Agitated Images: John Heartfield and German Photomontage, 1920-1938.”

Heartfield was born in Berlin as Helmut Herzfeld to parents who were both ardent socialist activists. They left their four children behind to shift for themselves, when Helmut was 8, and fled Germany to avoid a prison sentence for “blasphemy.”

The boy quickly proved that he had inherited his parents’ rebellious streak. Drafted into the Kaiser’s army at the beginning of World War I, he started out by sending anti-militaristic photomontaged postcards to the front.

In 1916, soldier Helmut Herzfeld expressed his disgust for the war slogan, “May God Punish England,” by anglicizing his name to John Heartfield.

Threatened with transfer to a combat unit, the newly renamed soldier faked a nervous breakdown so successfully that he got a medical discharge.

Was Herzfeld/Heartfield partly Jewish?

Art historian Andres Mario Zervigon of Rutgers University, who curated the exhibition and is writing a book about Heartfield, thinks almost certainly not, though he is still looking into the matter.

But even in this case, Heartfield went against the norm.

“Though he was of German descent, he identified himself as Jewish,” Zervigon said.

Back in civilian life, Heartfield helped found the Dada movement in Germany and began his lifelong membership in the Communist Party.

Initially trained in advertising, he created photomontages to twist standard pictures carried by the mainstream or Nazi press into subversive attacks on the pictured dignitaries.

One of his 1929 exhibits carried the title, “Use Photography as a Weapon,” and the Getty display illustrates what he meant.

Taking a well-known picture of Hitler in the throes of an emotional speech, Heartfield superimposed a chest X-ray, exposing a neatly stacked column of gold coins. The caption reads, “Hitler, the Superman, Swallows Gold and Spouts Tin.” The last two words are German slang for talking nonsense.

One of Heartfield’s favorite targets was the rotund Hermann Goering, mocking him with his own words that “steel makes a nation strong, but butter and lard only makes people fat.”

With Heartfield and his German colleagues in the lead, photomontage became an art form, designed to sell both soap and ideology, which made a strong impression in the United States on the founders of LIFE magazine.

The same style became a major tool for agitprop, especially by the rival Nazis and communists. Heartfield never wavered in his loyalty to the party of Lenin and Stalin and turned out a series of worshipful posters in praise of the Soviet workers paradise.

He also turned to the design of book covers, and his illustrations for the German translations of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and John Dos Passos’ “Three Soldiers” are striking to this day.

Heartfield completed only one book of his own, which he titled, with characteristic irony, “Deutschland, Deutschland Ueber Alles” — then the first line of the German national anthem.

Following the Communist party line, Heartfield could lampoon the Social Democratic leaders of the Weimar Republic as viciously as he did the Nazis, sharpening the enmity between the two left-wing parties that paved the way for the Nazi takeover.

Knowing full well what was in store for him under Nazi rule, Heartfield fled to Czechoslovakia, where he resumed his anti-Nazi fusillade. In honor of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he designed a montage of new Nazi “sports,” including axe swinging for judges and head-rolling for Brown Shirt bullies.

After wartime refuge in England, he returned to East Berlin in 1948, but was greeted with suspicion. For one, the party now denounced photomontage as a “formalist” art form, and communists who had spent time in the West were seen as potential traitors.

But gradually Heartfield was rehabilitated, had a one-man retrospective show in 1957, and died as an honored artist in 1968, at the age of 77.

The current exhibit brings back, with a sense of immediacy, the fierce political struggles of the Weimar Republic between the two world wars. Now that these hatreds have faded into the past, Heartfield remains as one of the innovative minds that ushered in the golden age of photojournalism.

“Agitated Images,” continues through June 25 at the Research Institute Gallery of the Getty Center. Admission is free, parking is $7, and no reservations are required. For more information, call (310) 440-7300 or visit www.getty.edu.

 

‘Design’-ing Woman Comes to Town


“Kosher by Design,” (ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, $32.99) “Kosher by Design Entertains” ($34.99) and “Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen” ($22.99) by Susie Fishbein.

With the frenzied anticipation generally reserved for the appearance of a rock star — or at the very least, Oprah — the Orthodox community of Los Angeles is abuzz with excitement: Susie is coming!

“Susie” is Susie Fishbein, the effervescent author of the “Kosher by Design” cookbooks, who has turned kosher cooking on its proverbial ear. And no wonder she bubbles over. According to Gedaliah Zlotowitz, Mesorah’s vice-president of sales and marketing, more than 160,000 copies have sold with no end in sight.

Fishbein will be making three exclusive appearances this month in Los Angeles (see box), and those lucky enough to get a reservation will watch, kvell and sample as their idol cooks.

“Susie Fishbein has done for Jewish cooking what [rabbi and author] Aryeh Kaplan did for beginning Judaism,” said Rabbi Shimon Kraft of the 613 Mitzvah Store on Pico Boulevard. “They’re buying her cookbooks en masse. She’s a genius at editing and putting everything all together.”

“Our patrons are meshugah for her books,” echoed Abigail Yasgur, director of the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles. “We have over 30,000 resources here, and the most precious part of our collection is Jewish cookbooks. Hers circulate so robustly. They’re fabulous.”

Just what is this revolution in kosher cooking that Fishbein has spawned? As food columnist, cooking instructor and dinnerware designer Debby Segura explained, “Lots of people used to feel tied to a few kosher cookbooks, but so much has happened in kosher food over the last 20 years that just wasn’t being reflected, and if it was, it was too complicated. Susie gives you food styling, kosher tips, kitchen tips. But the big deal about Susie’s recipes is they work.”

Risa Moskowitz, who chairs the event for Emek, added, “When I booked the event, everyone said, ‘Oh my gosh, I live by her cookbooks!’ There wasn’t one person who said ‘Who?’ People who aren’t kosher don’t realize what’s possible for us now, the variety of foods and the way to prepare them. They think kosher means dried-out, salted meat. Her books have had a tremendous impact.”

Toras Emes chair Sara Leah Beinstock agreed: “These are the ultimate kosher cookbooks. There’s nothing close to them on the market. Her recipes are easy to follow, and the food is appetizing and delicious. It’s very exciting to have gourmet Jewish cookbooks.”

Fishbein, an Orthodox Jew and mother of four children ages 3 to 11, understands that today’s observant Jews want to prepare many of the same exciting dishes found on restaurant menus and serve them with style. Those who grew up on Grandma’s Shabbos brisket now embrace her Rack of Lamb with Fig-Port-Shallot Sauce.

“Kosher food doesn’t have to be simple or bland,” noted Fishbein by phone from her New Jersey home. “Just about every ingredient is available out there kosher.”

The luscious table settings and presentation ideas that party planner Renee Erreich and Fishbein created for these books — and that photographer John Uher shot — fairly leap off the pages. But everything is doable.

“The food looks intimidating, but the recipes are not,” Fishbein said. “It’s not about putting on a show. These are recipes the family will want to eat over and over.” And they do. So popular are these dishes that guests recognize them on each other’s Shabbat tables.

Routinely dubbed the Jewish Martha Stewart, Fishbein squirms at the comparison.

“I’m flattered, but it’s not really accurate,” she said. “Martha Stewart is all about a lifestyle. If you want beautiful flowers, you plant them and this is how you do it. We’re busy. We have kids. We have jobs. We’re in and out of the kitchen trying to make fabulous meals. I take shortcuts she would never take. I’m about cutting to the chase to accomplish our goals.”

Beloria Fink, whose sister will be driving from San Diego to join her for the Emek event, observed, “Susie can take a simple recipe and it looks extravagant and elegant, like you’ve really knocked yourself out. She’s taken the bland, traditional Shabbos meal and turned it into elegant cuisine. She shows you how to set a beautiful table for each holiday so you can create a legacy for your own children.”

“Kosher by Design” marries food to holiday traditions in new ways that resonate with those seeking a deeper Jewish experience for their families.

“When I think back to Passover in my childhood,” Fishbein reflected, “I remember my cousin Jeff scrubbing the maror, my aunt cutting sheets of egg noodles and Grandma Mollie making chremslach, because 10 minutes shouldn’t go by without her feeding us something. These memories are like yesterday. It’s a happy place for me. I want that for my kids.”

To accomplish this Fishbein went way beyond “It’s Rosh Hashanah, let’s have honey.” Case in point: Pomegranate Chicken. “I tell my kids, ‘You know why I made this dish, you guys? Pomegranate has 613 seeds corresponding to the 613 mitzvot in the Torah.’ Maybe it’s not my grandmother’s chicken, but it’s incredibly appropriate.”

Similarly, envelope-shaped Won Ton Wrapped Chicken appetizers for Purim are edible reminders of the lots (purim) Haman drew to select the date for the Jews’ extinction.

For Simchat Torah she incorporates the tradition of eating rolled foods to mimic Torah scrolls.

“I thought stuffed cabbage was overdone,” Fishbein noted, “but I’ve got this awesome Chicken Negemaki. Chicken is rolled around scallion and red pepper strips and tied like a scroll with a blanched scallion. True, God never told us to eat Chicken Negemaki, but he didn’t tell us to eat stuffed cabbage either.”

With “Kosher by Design Entertains,” Fishbein moved on to celebrations — a housewarming, dinner for two, an engagement party — nine in all, with spectacular menus and extravagant serving ideas along with the simple, yet elegant recipes she had become famous for.

Now “Kosher by Design Kids in the Kitchen” offers the dishes kids like to eat — and cook — clearly explained, beautifully photographed and coded for difficulty with one, two or three chefs hats (see story p. 49).

How does Fishbein herself explain the hoopla surrounding her books?

“I think I hit a nerve in the community,” she said. “People clearly have had a creative passion in them that was waiting to be unleashed. I’ve unleashed their inner cook.”

Rack of Lamb with Fig-Port-Shallot Sauce

From “Kosher by Design” by Susie Fishbein.

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried minced thyme
2 shallots
2 racks of baby lamb chops, 8-9 chops per rack; have butcher French the bones
1 cup port wine, divided
8 fresh Mission figs or 6 dried figs, cut into quarters
1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 450 F. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process 2 tablespoons olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and shallots 30-45 seconds or until thick paste forms. Rub herb paste into lamb.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium oven-proof skillet. Add lamb, fat side down, and cook over high heat 5 minutes. Turn lamb and cook an additional minute so that both sides are brown.

Add 1/2 cup port to skillet. Place skillet in the oven and roast 18 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven. Place lamb on a platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Add remaining 1/2 cup port and figs to skillet. Bring to a simmer. Use a spatula to loosen brown bits from pan. Add stock and simmer 3-4 minutes. Sauce will thicken to a nice amber color. Pour sauce over lamb and serve.

Makes four servings.

Additional recipes can be found at ” target=”_blank”>www.cookingjewish.com.

Susie Fishbein will appear in private homes on:

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