Posted by Danielle Berrin
Emma Forrest read her pretty prose to a small crowd surrounded by books; her cadence flushed with a crisp English accent, her voice so soft it alluded to the vulnerability of a woman with a secret.
As her book proves, she isn’t alone in her reservoir of hidden passions, and that is precisely the point. Many women save the contents of their interior selves for semi-strangers they know they can trust—the other women who, by nourishing their exterior, penetrate the core—as Emma says, “the intimate strangers who work with the surface and get to the depths.” These women are the aestheticians of a woman’s world: therapists, hairstylists, manicurists, facialists and most notably, bikini waxers. In her editorial debut “Damage Control,” a collection of essays, women reveal that the relationships cultivated during beauty maintenance are as important as beauty itself.
As a preface to her reading at Book Soup, Emma wrote on her website:
‘Damage Control’ is my first go as editor and also at publishing non-fiction. People magazine just called the book “provocative,” so I promise to wear either red shoes or red lipstick.
She wore red lipstick, and a purple sun-dress loosely hugging her curves. She looked as provocative as the piece she read, a story of heartbreak driving her into the arms of a Manhattan tattoo artist. She needed to talk. She needed to be touched. She never knew a needle could feel so delicate…
The book itself is a kind of confession, a substitute receptacle in which women spill their guts. Francesca Lia Block told the audience the reading would be difficult for her because her story was so personal. In it, she revealed a deep shame over her appearance and the botched plastic surgeries that worsened her self-concept.
It is in those moments of pain, when a woman is messy underneath, that she craves a little ‘lift,’ a touch of color, or a new ‘do. When her appearance improves, her emotions follow suit. Or do they?
And what is wounding all these women? The pressure? The knives and needles? The cruel lovers and neglecting fathers? Whatever it is, the idea of “beauty,” of being attractive and ageless, has become a mechanism through which women confront (and project) their innermost demons.
An anonymous makeup artist who works at a strip club wrote, “Sometimes, the only peace in a woman’s day is the twenty-minutes when she’s getting her toes done or her fingernails done. The only time she has when someone else is completely focusing on her. One of those rare opportunities when someone’s looking her in the eyes and seeing what she needs.”
So, what do we need? A wax or a pluck—or a new approach to healing our hurt.
8.18.08 at 2:26 pm | Hollywood producer/talent manager Joan Hyler. . .
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8.14.08 at 6:37 pm | In town to promote her new book, House Speaker. . .
7.18.08 at 3:03 pm | The new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San. . .
6.25.08 at 10:36 am | Jina, our Calendar intern, is heading to an. . .
6.24.08 at 11:18 am | A clandestine love affair at a girls seminary. . .
July 27, 2007 | 11:10 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
My 18-year-old sister, Shirel, recently returned from a Birthright trip and joined 7,500 alumni in the greater Los Angeles area. The all expense paid group excursion to the Holy Land, though widely shared, is still highly personal and for many, intensely spiritual. Here, in her own words, is Shirel’s experience:
Three days back from Israel and it already seems like forever. Today is uneventful and slow, at least compared to the last 10 days of the birthright trip I went on. I was so hesitant to go at first. I was scared that I wouldnât make friends or that it would be too hard away from home, my parents, and my boyfriend, but half an hour into the trip (at the airport) I knew that it couldnât possibly turn out to be a mistake. The vast majority of people were from Orange County, allowing them to share the same colleges, lifestyle and acquaintances, and I sometimes felt a little bit like an outsider being from Los Angeles. But being with 40 people for 10 days, it was impossible not to end up all mingling and having fun together. I walked out with four or five good friends that I hope to stay in touch with for a really long time.
The days were jam-packed with amazing things to do. We saw everything from the Golan Heights to the ancient city of Tzefat. Kayaking in the Jordan River was incredible and refreshing. Any chance we got to cool down from Israelâs summer heat, we did. We all took a dip. We visited independence hall, walked around Jaffa and got to explore the flea market independently. This was one of the best moments. For once I got to feel integrated with Israelis. I felt like I was on my own bargaining and living the lifestyle like everyone else, not feeling like a tourist.
We were joined by eight Israeli soldiers our age that traveled with us for a few days. We got to learn how they live and the cultural differences between Americans and Israelis. We floated in the Dead Sea, climbed Masada and slept in a Bedouin tent. At night things continued to heat up. We went to bars and night clubs. We drank, partied, created a stronger bond with each other and snapped away with our digital cameras. Once the sun rose we were back on the bus traveling to Jerusalem and getting ready for Shabbat services.
By far the best thing about this trip was finally seeing the Kotel (the western wall). At first I thought it would just be fun like everything else on the trip. We would go, I would put a note in the wall, touch it and snap a few photos. I was wrong. Of course, I did all that, but it wasnât like everything else on the trip. For me it was the most beautiful thing ever. The moment I touched the wall tears streamed down my face. I still canât explain why or what it was but it was just a feeling of someone being there with me. It was the closest I ever felt to God.
Being a group of 18-25-year-olds, sometimes it was hard not to feel like we were on MTVâs The Real World, but then again who wouldn’t want to be on that show? Itâs insanely difficult not to have a wonderful time on this trip. I not only had fun with people my age, and ate amazing food, but I also connected with Israel and Judaism more than ever. I got to see what we fought for, how important a land of our own is and how beautiful Israel truly is.
July 26, 2007 | 5:49 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Turns out, our adulated editor-in-chief may have a thing or two to say about dating after all. In an excerpt from this week’s editorial about Jewish philanthropy at the Playboy Mansion, Rob notes what he thinks comprises a cute Jewish bunny:
After I left, I was told, Hef came down to the courts for a moment, accompanied by two fully clothed aspiring models/actresses. But there were plenty of attractive women if, like me, you find smart, successful and charitable middle-aged Jewish women totally hot.
For most Jewish gals, smart and successful does not an attractive appearance make. Hence, a little self-charity begs stylists, beauticians and yoga instructors to ensure women get noticed for wisdom and not wrinkles. It’s called “Damage Control” and it’s happening tonight—a reading reveals beauty secrets and boils—at Book Soup.
July 26, 2007 | 2:41 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
On Tuesday night, I peeled myself away from a satisfying read of Daniel Mendelsohn’s “The Lost” to satiate my appetite for community connection on a holiday. Though appropriate material for erev Tisha B’Av, a tinge of curiosity as to what JConnectLA and Birthright had in store prompted me to drag myself out of Bolechow, Ukraine to attend “A Time to Cry” at the Museum of Tolerance.
After navigating the winding pathways of a museum under construction, I found my way into a small, dark theater and plopped into a seat as the film began. While Kevin Costner narrated, I scanned the room, checking out the (hip) crowd and counting heads. Twenty-three…twenty-four…twenty-five, as the ingression of a few grungy looking youngsters tip-toed in even later than myself. A mere twenty-five? Blogger Luke Ford reported attending along with a crowd of 200. Wouldn’t I have noticed an exodus of 175 people? To clarify the discrepancy, I emailed JConnectLA’s program director Michal. Her records reflect a count of 150. Math was never my strong suit but something here doesn’t add up. (***NOTE: Apparently, my tardiness precluded me from knowing or even noticing that there was another theatre, quite full, and I was in the overflow room.)
Truth be told, I was less bothered by the thin turnout than the documentary “Ever Again.” The Museum’s own Moriah Films presented a disturbing collection of anti-Semitic incidents and propaganda currently consuming Europe. The more than two-hour documentary depicted an apocalyptic message for the Jews: lots of people in Europe hate us and daily plot our demise.
I drove home downtrodden. Was I upset because I had to listen to my “Dances With Wolves” hero document distaste for my people and for me? Or was it more unsettling to consider the effect of such a repetitious recounting in propagating the hatred the Museum of Tolerance is trying to suppress?
Regardless, from “The Lost” to the ludicrous, this Tisha B’Av made me realize that no matter who seeks our destruction, no matter what is lost from the physical world, we retain our memory—even if it’s only twenty-five Jews remembering together.
July 25, 2007 | 12:47 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Those sultry brown eyes. That glowing brown skin. The sexy brown mane. That last name! Despite all the apparent identifying traits, “On The Lot” host Adrianna Costa is NOT Latina. She’s white…and Jewish…and grew up in the valley.
According to Wikipedia, 26-year-old Adrianna’s real last name is Heber and one of the categories she’s listed under is American Jews. Because anyone can write a Wikipedia entry, they are not always a credible source. So I did a bit of my own research.
I emailed a friend, Jesse Gabriel, who grew up in the same Agoura Hills neighborhood as Adrianna. Although he doesn’t remember her (how can you forget a beauty like that?), he asked a few high school friends about the now famous Jewish girl next door, and this is what he dug up (his words exactly as emailed to me yesterday morning):
1) The family belongs to Temple Etz Chaim in Thousand Oaks.
2) She changed her name because she looks Latina (this is only speculative on the part of Jesse’s friends).
3) She is Avi Rutschman’s cousin.
The last piece of info is important because the Wikipedia entry cites an article by Avi Rutschman, therefore verifying the entry’s accuracy. Avi also happens to be the son of my beloved high school teacher/counselor/mentor and the person who started me on the journalism path by (gently) pushing me to write for the school paper (thanks Mr. Rutschman!!!).
The questions still remain: why did Adrianna change her name? why is she marketing herself as a Latina, or at least encouraging people to assume she is? what’s wrong with the name Heber? sure, it’s a single letter away from Hebrew, but what’s wrong with being a Heeb from the Conejo Valley?
I’m sure Jesse Gabriel, the proudest Jew I know, and the rest of the way-out-there largely Jewish valley community is wondering some of the same things.
July 24, 2007 | 2:19 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Every Jew loves a good Italian restaurant. How lucky for Los Angeles then, that a true taste of Puglia has planted itself on the corner of Melrose and Highland—in not one incarnation, but two: a pipin’ pizzeria and an opulent osteria. A collaboration between chef Mario Batali, his longtime business partner and wine producer, Joe Bastianich along with Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery, Mozza has quickly become the hottest ticket in town.
With reservations booked a month out, I figured my sister and I could try our luck at the “pizza bar” where we could ogle the funghi misti with fontina, taleggio & thyme during its exodus from the oven. But a chance encounter with Mr. Bastianich landed us a table for two at the recently opened Osteria, where we dined on buricotta over sweet toast, layered with grilled artichokes and sprinkled with currants, followed by linguine tossed in olive oil with a cracked black pepper bite.
Three desserts later, we were introduced to general manager David Rosoff, an endearing 40-year-old gentleman with many mouths to feed. Intrigued by the Jew entrusted with pleasing the Hollywood palate, I asked David to garnish this entry with some personal tidbits:
I grew up: in the San Fernando Valley but fled to the city at a young age
At my Bar Mitzvah: I played drums publicly for the first time
The best thing about L.A. is: The multi-cultural cuisine
On Sunday morning: I read the paper, teach European football (soccer), then have tacos and beer at the Farmers Market (âLoteriaâ) followed by film at the Laemmle or Arclight
Best item on the Mozza menu is: Clam Pizza (Pizzeria) / Octopus (Osteria)
Future plans: Turn the city on to Amaro (the regional liquor/herb based beverages made throughout Italy)
Alright ladies, so he’s not kosher; still, I’m sure Mama’s proud of her multi-talented, Mozza-managing member of the tribe.
July 23, 2007 | 11:55 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
It’s American Idol for filmmakers—a highly competitive, strut-your-stuff television show that provides amateur filmmakers with the tools, toys and teachers that comprise a mini-film school. Okay, it’s better than American Idol, because there are a million greenbacks involved and no one cares what you’re wearing or what your eating habits are. What compels the “On The Lot” audience is whether or not these aspiring auteurs can entertain Hollywood-style.
Last week, we ventured out to CBS Studios in Studio City for a behind-the-scenes look at the struggling series. When we arrived, we found a long line of audience members waiting in the hot sun for their ticket to “action film” night. After waiting in the green room while the audience was seated, we were escorted into a glowing theatre lit with flashing marquees, wall-to-wall movie posters plugging contestants’ films and an energized emcee touting movie trivia for Starbucks cards.
Just before showtime, regular judges Carrie Fisher (actress, “Star Wars”) and Garry Marshall (director, “Pretty Woman”), along with guest judge Antoine Fuqua (director, “Training Day”) stepped into the spotlight, but were quickly swarmed by makeup artists and soon upstaged by host Adrianna Costa, who traipsed about in 6-inch clunkers and a teeny-tiny disco dress that pushed out enough cleavage to boost saggy ratings. The scintillating get-up was almost enough to distract people from noticing she read verbatim from teleprompters and feigned flirtation with the all-male cast of contestants while urging “America” to call in their votes to the box office.
Five filmmakers, neatly dressed according to their personal style, sat to the side of the stage while screening their action flick and then went front and center to face the judges’ gavels. The audience booed Fisher’s harsh critiques and laughed aloud at Marshall’s kooky witticisms. Fuqua commended the filmmakers for focusing on wild chases, skateboard rides and running rampant instead of depending on violence to drive the narrative.
As the crowd took their exit, we caught up with Adam Stein (who was sitting out this round, but you can catch him screen his romantic comedy Tuesday, July 24). He obliged us with a snapshot, but was reluctant to speak with us since interaction with the outside world is forbidden. It’s probably better for morale since ratings are so low, but even if “America” isn’t watching, the industry certainly is.
July 20, 2007 | 3:28 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Every aspiring Jewish filmmaker could learn a lesson or two from Steven, but how many of them will actually feel the warmth of his wing around their shoulder? Adam Stein hopes he’ll be the one chosen for that golden opportunity.
The 29-year-old USC film school graduate is one of the ten remaining finalists (and the last Jew standing) on the Fox reality show “On The Lot” where up-and-coming filmmakers compete for a $1 million development deal with DreamWorks. Every week, the directors are given a budget, scripts, actors, and all the toys Hollywood has to offer in order to make a 2-4 minute movie that fits a pre-determined genre.
As is customary in reality tv land, the participants are cut off from the outside world until after the grand finale. I got to speak with Adam Stein on the phone (they wouldn’t allow an in-person interview). Here’s a personal look at what he had to say about the experience:
“I never thought I would be on a reality show.” Does anyone ever expect to be on one? If you have applied to be on numerous shows but have never been selected, please email me - it would make a GREAT story!
“I was a literature major at Harvard. I felt pressured to do something more responsible, so I applied to law school.” Adam quickly figured out law was not his calling. Mama Stein must have been livid at the time, but I bet she’s thrilled to see her little boy on TV every Monday and Tuesday night.
“I haven’t met Spielberg yet.” Though Spielberg is co-creater and co-executive producer of “On The Lot,” he’s been busy filming “Indiana Jones 4” and hasn’t had the time to throw even a feather at anyone on the Fox lot in Studio City.
“We all live together and we’re pretty close. The girls cook for us all the time.” Last week the only two women left were booted off the lot. Poor skinny Adam, who will feed him now?
“The hardest part about all this is being away from friends and family and my girlfriend.” The contestants have no internet, no phones, no television, and no interaction with people other than the production staff.
“There’s so many Jews in LA! What a strong community!” Adam is from Miami, where apparently the Jews are strong, but not in number.
“We aren’t supposed to know ratings or anything like that, but I don’t think the show is doing that well.” No, it definitely is not. “But I think the industry is watching and that’s what’s important.” Way to stay positive Adam!
“Later in my career, I would definitely want to do more serious socially-conscious films like Steven Spielberg’s ‘Munich’ and ‘Schindler’s List’.” For now, Adam is focusing on being entertaining. See for yourself…