Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Part fundraiser, part pop concert and part celebration, the “Live For Sderot” gala last night at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills was quite the scene. Allow me to elaborate…
Only fifteen minutes after the doors were opened, hordes of people were already crowding the entryway to the theater - picking up tickets at will call, schmoozing, bottlenecking at the front door, where metal detectors and security guards were checking everyone airport-style.
“Do I have to take off my shoes?” cracked one guy.
Large Israeli flags decorated the balcony. Paparazzi snapped photos of Sylvester Stallone, Mayim Bialik and Maria Conchita Alonzo on the red carpet.
Around 8 p.m. the lights in the lobby were dimmed to signal the start of the show. Hardly anyone budged. They continued to enjoy conversations and cocktails well into the hour. It was nearly 9 p.m. before the 1900 seats filled up and even after the theater had gone dark, late-comers continued to stream in casually - Israelis most likely.
For the next two hours, local dignitaries, politicians, speakers, B-list celebrities and musicians trotted onto the stage, declaring their solidarity with the people of Sderot. It was a long line-up and a bit long-winded, so I’ll spare you the details and give just a quick recap.
Contrary to rumors that Paula Abdul volunteered to host the night, Noa Tishby, an Israeli model and actress, acted as MC instead. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said “Shalom” and a few more nice words in support of Israel. Rabbi David Wolpe led the audience in the “She’echianu.” Valerie Harper from “Golda’s Balcony,” stage actor Mike Burstyn, and the kid from Jerry McGuire (“the human head weighs eight pounds”) were a few of the modest celebrities who took part in the show. Consul General Jacob Dayan spoke a little too forcefully but with evident passion; lover of Jews Jon Voight expressed his dedication to Israel, saying that “the Jews are a gift to all of humanity;” and Eli Tene, the co-chair of the Israeli Leadership Club, which funded the entire “Live for Sderot” project, had his time at the mike.
Wait, there was more.
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barak Obama each recorded statements addressing the situation in Sderot as well as Israel’s 60th anniversary of independence. Hillary was articulate as always. Obama was booed loudly, much to my surprise. And McCain, who received roaring cheers, pronounced Sderot “sharat” and seemed to be having trouble making eye contact with the camera.
The Star Spangled Banner was sung, then the tikvah by an incredible young lady whose name I can’t remember. Then a duet was sung by another set of unknown singers, accompanied by a gospel choir. Miri Ben-Ari, the hip hop violinist, performed two songs, said a few words and then, finally, Ninette Tayeb, the headliner strolled onto the stage.Beautiful and talented, Ninette sang an odd assortment of English cover songs, Hebrew songs, the very first song she wrote in English, up-beat tunes, quiet ballads and a prayer-turned-song that succeeded in getting a very hushed audience to come to life. A mega-starlette in her home country, Ninette was noticeably nervous on stage and mumbled in Hebrew at one point, “why are you guys even listening to me.”
What was memorable about the evening, however, was not the star-power or the musical performances. It was the resounding message of support for Sderot, repeated over and over again, in many ways and by many different kinds of people: politicians, Israelis, Americans, religious leaders, celebrities, and community members.
The most poignant moment of the entire affair was when one of the teenagers from Sderot spoke on behalf of the delegation of children who came to L.A to tell their stories.
Clearly nervous and visibly emotional, he said, “I don’t know for how long I will have to endure this reality, but I do know that I will never be alone. Here, I found you. Here, I found a family.”
The crowd stood in a prolonged, thunderous ovation, nearly moved to tears; moved to internalize the plight of Sderot. Which was precisely the point of “Live for Sderot.”
(Sylvester Stallone photo courtesy of Chris Hatcher/PR Photos)
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February 26, 2008 | 1:30 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Israel’s macho men appear redemptive in light of recent musings about the country’s sassy starlets.
Not to ignite a battle of the sexes here, but a new TMZ video called “Send in the Jews” showcases strapping Israeli soldiers parlaying their military training into a booming business.
Nevermind that their security skills are serving the likes of American floozies like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Nicole Richie - these IDF veterans with counter-terrorism expertise are sought after specialists when high-profile celebs want someone watching their back.
Although TMZ’s depiction of the handsome Hebrews is partly a mockumentary, how could we not feel a tinge of Zionist pride seeing Israel’s saviors in action?
Whether guarding the border or girding Britney, these guys are using their strengths to keep people safe and secure.
P.S. Look out for a cameo by Dikla’s darling, David (with the buzz cut and the shades)
February 25, 2008 | 3:02 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
I hate to bash my own people, but I have been quite disconcerted by Israeli women in the media limelight recently.
Bar Refaeli, who was the subject of several blog posts over the past few months, is an arrogant air head with no sense of loyalty to her country and a personality that’s as bland as she is beautiful.
Quoting from the Sports Illustrated Q&A: Refaeli’s favorite thing to do on a rainy day: “stay in bed and watch movies.” If she had nothing important to do tomorrow, she would “go to bed, watch some TV and sleep.” If she had $10 to spend right now, she would “go to the movies.”
How dull can you be?
Then there’s Ninette Tayeb, Israel’s reigning diva. Tayeb won Israel’s version of American Idol in 2003 and has become one of the most beloved celebrities in the country. She is the headliner for the Israeli Consulate’s “Live For Sderot” Feb. 26 concert, which raises funds for the children of the rocket-riddled town near the Gaza Strip and kicks off the Israel at 60 celebrations in Los Angeles.
I wrote a Jewish Journal article about the concert, which is also Tayeb’s U.S. debut, but could not get an interview with the pop icon.
I had to submit my questions, via the Israeli Consulate, to her PR people for approval, who were then supposed to set up a phone interview. Days went by and I heard nothing from Tayeb’s camp. Then at the last minute, a day after my deadline, I got word from the Consulate that Tayeb was sick and was “saving her voice for the concert.”
She managed, in the throes of her illness, to answer two of the six questions I asked, neither one of which was a riveting response worthy of a smart, successful Israeli superstar who is looking to make an impression on a discerning L.A. audience.
Last, and certainly the most disappointing of the Israeli women I’ve recently come across is “hip hop violinist” Miri Ben-Ari, who we’ve blogged about in the past in glowing terms. A stunning performer, she surprised me with her brusque manner in a phone interview about the “Live For Sderot” concert, at which she will be performing the opening song.
“I really don’t have time for this,” she said as soon as her publicist connected us. “This interview was not part of my schedule today.” Nice to talk to you too, Miri.
Then, when I asked her what she has been up to in the last few weeks, she retorted abruptly, “You know, you should really get a copy of my updated bio from my publicist and read what I’ve done for yourself.”
When asked if she had ever worked with Ninette Tayeb before, she snapped, “No, I’m not really familiar with her work. She’s an Israeli artist, right?” Unless Ben-Ari has been locked in a sound-proof studio since 2003, there is no way she has never heard of Tayeb. Every Israeli knows who she is - the now bald-headed singer and actress is everywhere!
Perhaps the answer lies in another one of her tart remarks: “I’m based in New York. I’m an American artist.” Really? Last time I read your bio, you were born and raised in Israel.
As international representatives of my country, I expect these women to be bright not just beautiful. Kind-hearted, not just talented. Proud, of their heritage and not just their own commercial success.
Am I asking for too much, ladies?
February 21, 2008 | 11:24 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
It appears my previous post detailing my adventures at the Magic Castle has stirred up some distress with the performer I âassisted,â Bruce Gold. Who knew my fear of the stage would materialize into an offended magician? Just to clarify, I had a great time at the Castle. It is a place of mystery and fun, not a torture chamber or breeding ground for villains.
Gold is a charming entertainer (with a good Jewish mother), who could not have predicted that my paralyzing stage fright would be the subject of a public blog post, which was meant only to poke fun at myself.
When writing an opinion piece, you run the risk of offending people, but that was not my intention. I hope all is well on the stage and on the page.
February 19, 2008 | 10:30 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The supermodel and ex-arm candy of Leonardo DiCaprio was reunited with her native soil, where she was photographed in the lewd at Caesarea and the Dead Sea for a 50-image online gallery.
The feisty femme made headlines recently for suing Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot for publishing an interview in which she declared her pride at dodging the draft, “I donât regret not enlisting because it paid off big time…Why is it good to die for our country? What, isnât it better to live in New York?”
The statement strikes as a bit odd considering she absconded from Israel not for New York, but for Los Angeles, where she says she is quite happy.
In a Q&A with SI, she reveals what she thinks is sexy, who she was in a past life and what she’d do with a million dollars:
The one thing I’m absolutely obsessed with lately is: Gadgets! New cell phones; I walk around with three phones because I have all the new ones, and I can’t choose which I prefer.
On a quiet, rainy day I usually: Stay in bed and watch movies. I don’t like the winter because I don’t like staying in. I’m not at my best during the winter.
The sexiest thing a man has ever done for me is: I don’t think that when men try to do something sexy, it’s sexy! I think sexy is when you don’t try!
And the sexiest thing I’ve ever done for a man is: The same, when girls try to be sexy it’s not sexy to me. I feel that a girl is the most sexy when she is confident with herself. So if I want to be sexy I try to show confidence.
In a past life I was: I would like to think that I was someone who changed the world and had a big impact on humanity. I really don’t believe in a past life or future life. I believe in what I see, feel, do ... here and now and I try to enjoy every minute of it.
If I had to spend $1 million right now, I would: It depends. If I have enough I will give it to charity. Otherwise I would invest it in real estate.
The one place I’ve seen that I’ll never forget is: Cuba. The people there and how happy they are. They were playing music and dancing in the streets. Those moments will stay in my head for years. I realized there and then that simplicity is the best way to be.
I won’t date a man if he: Is married! Also, if it takes him longer to get ready than me.
My favorite time to be naked is: In the shower.
When it comes to nudity, most people don’t know that I: Think it is unnecessary within my industry.
If I could be anything but a model, I would be: Right now, it would be a student.
If I could be anywhere else in the world right now, I would be: I don’t want to be anywhere else. I am in L.A. right now and I love it!
To impress a cute man at a bar, I would: Ignore him.
Where’s your hometown?: Hod Hasharon, Israel
Where’s the one place you have to go when you’re in your hometown?: The falafel place! It’s a small tiny room where they make the best falafel in the world!
February 17, 2008 | 10:34 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Aaron Kemp proves once again that he’s got the best connections in town. Here’s his “insider” perspective, in words and photos, of the 2008 Grammys. From schmoozing in a skybox to hobnobbing backstage and cavorting at the after-party, Mr. Kemp brings it all to life with self-mocking wit and delicious detail:
I was fortunate enough to attend this yearâs 50th Anniversary Telecast of the Grammys. Perched high atop the LA Staples center in a luxury skybox, we gazed down from leather seats on a musical spectacle that was equal parts ceremony and show-stopping musical circus. True, you are somewhat removed from the action in a skybox, but what you lose in immediacy you more than make up for in amenities.
The glass-encased suite is filled with such an outrageous buffet of catered gourmet delicacies, it would make King Solomon blush, if only it were Kosher. Three rows of plush seats greet you at the front, flanked by a kitchenette and bar. Towards the rear, lush couches face a private flatscreen projecting all the action from the main stage. I sit next to Douglas Adams, the man who designed the showâs special effects and am so in awe of the production by the second number, I shake the manâs hand as vigorously as if he were a rockstar himself.
Backstage, the air is tense, but Iâm not nervous. After all, I do have an âall accessâ pass. It is then that I learn the real truth. There are two backstages. More accurately, there are two âGreen Rooms.â One actually called âThe Green Roomâ (where non-celebrities go) and the real one, kept so secret and hidden from mortal men that neither the words âGreenâ nor âRoomâ appear in its title.
Looking far more important than I actually am, I am summoned towards this secret celebrity sanctuary by the cordial doorman. However, itâs so well hidden I neither see it, nor pick up on the invitation. Realizing my error, I momentarily return to find an aggressive, cleavage-baring woman blocking my entry with her clipboard. She points down the hall and says tactfully, yet forcefully, âSir, the GREEN room is over there!â (translation: hit the road you non-celebrity!)
I console myself in the other Green Room with Stuie Wax (founder of âThe Happy Minyanâ) and Eytan G. (âThe Jewish Rapperâ). âHey,â I tell them, âThis is where the Jewish Community Celebrities get to hangâ¦â We giggle and make toasts with bottled water. Sir George Martin, world famous Beatles producer stumbles inside. Someone from his entourage whispers in his ear and he instantly retreats. (If I had to venture a guess it was probably ânon-celebrities!â)
Afterwards, thousands swell through the entryway of the LA Convention center for a lavish after-party. Cirque Du Soleil Troop members, their skin painted white, dance all around us in various costumes. Some perform with fire on raised platforms, others dressed in tunics, freeze completely as living statutes.
Various elaborate backdrops and props from other times and places surround us on all sides: scattered trellises and pillars from ancient Rome, a gigantic wall painted to resemble the Paris Opera House. And of course, catering by the âRockstarâ of the culinary world himselfâ¦Wolfgang Puck.
If this werenât enough, there is a giant stage with live music throughout the evening. The first act was a Jessica Simpson-like performer named Natasha Bedingfield, followed by headliner Cyndi Lauper (who at one point actually climbed on top of her amplifiers and writhed on her back like a snake).
As I walk through the crowd, supermodel Naomi Campbell makes extended eye contact with meâit seems an invitation to approach. However, she throws phones in anger and isnât Jewish, so I look down and keep walking. I reconsider, but have a feeling that if I return the âwoman with the clipboardâ will materialize and block my path.
February 14, 2008 | 11:15 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
If you don’t know about the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) in Israel, it’s time to increase your green I.Q. Located on Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava Valley near the Jordanian and Egyptian borders, AIES is an environmental leader encouraging cooperation between Israelis and their neighbors to create peaceful and sustainable development both within Israel and globally.
Every year AIES sponsors a 300-mile bike ride, “Cycling in Solidarity for Peace, Partnership and Environmental Protection” from Jerusalem to Eilat to raise money for the organization’s efforts. (Imagine the views!) Last year green riders included Americans, Australians, Jewish and Arab Israelis and Jordanians, who united for a common cause and raised $875,000 for education and advocacy.
This year, Los Angeles has reason to be proud: Angelino Michael Rosen is prepping his hamstrings and calves for the five-day ride and has raised nearly $9,000 to date.
Funds from the bike ride support environmental agencies worldwide, including Hazon, a non-profit that works with local volunteers to build their own community supported agricultural projects. The Los Angeles CSA will run out of Sinai Temple offering local and organic produce.
When I know more details, so will you!
To learn more about the 2008 Arava Institute Hazon Bike Ride in Israel, come to a parlor meeting tonight (Feb. 14) with Nigel Savage, executive director of Hazon at Michael Rosen’s home. 1155 Alvira Street, Los Angeles. (212) 644-2332.
February 13, 2008 | 11:30 am
Posted by Celia Soudry
Celia Soudry, The Jewish Journal Calendar intern, dressed in her finest cocktail attire and headed to an exclusive magician’s club on Mon., Feb. 4 for a night of trickery and humiliation. Here’s her account:
Resembling a fortress from Franklin Avenue, Hollywoodâs Magic Castle has a mystifying charm, reminiscent of a haunted house or a grand Victorian mansion. Built in 1908, the Castle, which patrons can only enter if invited by a member, has nearly 5,000 members and a devout following.
Strolling into the Palace of Mystery within the Academy of Magical Arts headquarters, I was lead through windy hallways adorned with hundreds of pictures of famous magicians. I could smell mystery in the air, but never could I have imagined the events about to unfold.
What brought me to the Castle, Mr. Balloon Man the magician, was a far cry from what stood out in my mind as I left the Transylvanian abode. Performer Bruce Gold would change all that for me. During a dinner of steak tips and fried artichoke hearts (they were the only appetizers on the menu that a fellow journalist and I could afford), I mentioned my fear of public speaking and being thrust into the spotlight. Little did I know that my biggest fear was to became reality only minutes later.
Entering one of the magic show rooms, I strategically buried myself in the fourth row so I would not be called on. During the performance, Gold scoured the room for an unsuspecting victim to join his act. As I squirmed in my seat, avoiding eye contact, I felt someone hovering over me. âAre you a professional magicianâs assistant?â Gold asked. I did not answer. He smirked, hollering, âItâs a yes or no question!â I muttered back, âNo?â
Already feeling humiliated in front of my coworker and a room full of strangers, I grudgingly agreed to be his assistant, despite the fact that I desperately needed to use the ladies room after my two glasses of chardonnay. Once dragged on stage, all I remember are lights shining in my eyes, picking a two of diamonds from a deck of cards, a piece of toast flying out of the toaster with my card number and suit burned onto it, people laughing and a polaroid picture being snapped of me. The picture looks normal enough, but I certainly donât feel the same about magic shows.
Prior to this incident was the performance of hysterically funny and quirky Argentinean Jew, Hillel Gitter, better known as Mr. Balloon Man, who has blown up on the stages of Jay Leno, Regis Philbin and Ripleyâs Believe It Or Not, among others. I was not the only one in the crowd mesmerized by Gitterâs ability to perform a magic act while inside a massive balloon. Smoking, making a bird appear and disappear, Gitterâs act was truly unique.
When asked how he breathes inside the balloon, Gitter said, âVery carefully.â Out of all the magicians, Gitter was the most energetic, bouncing around the stage with his unruly grey curls floundering about.
Gitterâs act, which is as much a bizarre comedy routine as a magic show is one I would definitely go back to see. Luckily for me, he already has an assistant—his charming wife Leticia.