December 12, 2018

Collins’ “Survivor” and Rudner’s Laugh Stop

Collins’ “Survivor”

After 76 years, Harold Collins is finally getting theretrospective he deserves. The product of a passionate andwell-trained artist, Collins’ sculpture, paintings, murals andbronzes are on display through Oct. 8 at the Long Beach JewishCommunity Center. The opening of his “Sixty Years of Art” exhibitiondrew more visitors to the center than any other gallery event.

His Judaica-themed pieces, whether of Moses or Zechariah orHolocaust survivors, seem to strain from within with a propheticpassion. His more universal works, such as “Animal Fantasies” or”Lovers,” display a kind and sensuous embrace of life and nature.

“Most of what I do is about social justice, peace, universalthemes,” Collins tells Up Front.

Born in New York, Collins began sketching at age 5, encouraged bya grandfather who recognized his talent. After attending Cooper UnionArt School on a full four-year scholarship, he shipped off for armyservice, participating in the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach.

Upon returning stateside, he tried his hand as a commercial artistbut soon gave that up to get a master’s in art education from NewYork University. Collins has taught and made art for most of sixdecades now. His works are in the permanent collections of theSkirball Cultural Center’s museum, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’sMuseum of Tolerance and several synagogues, churches, hospitals,universities and restaurants.

Call (562) 426-7601 for more information. — Robert Eshman,Associate Editor

Collins’ “Surfer”

Rudner’s Laugh Stop

Comedian Rita Rudner won’t tell any of her Jewish jokes. She’ssaving them for her Sept. 25 performance at a benefit luncheon forthe Julia Ann Singer Center at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, she tells UpFront.

Actually, Rudner is not known for Jewish humor. She has made awinning career with her daft, demure, wide-eyed, spacey observationsabout life’s banal grotesqueries, all delivered with the sweet voiceof a little girl lost. Her tiny, wicked smile punctuates punch linesabout the absurdities of diets, cosmetics, banks and, most often, thegender gap.

“When you want to break up with a man,” she advises women, “don’tsay, ‘This isn’t working out’ or ‘I don’t want to see you again.’Just say: ‘I love you. I want to marry you. I want to have yourchildren.’ Sometimes they leave skid marks.”

Rudner decided to do the Singer benefit luncheon after touring thecenter, which is in Cheviot Hills. She was impressed by the81-year-old outpatient facility that helps abused, emotionallydisturbed and learning-disabled children and their families rebuildtheir lives. She learned about the innovative therapeutic school forchildren, met counselors in the family therapy program and vowed todo what she could to help.

What the 41-year-old comic will not joke about at theluncheon is her real mother (she’s made up a fake one for her act),because that topic is not funny. Her mother died of cancer whenRudner was 13, and her attorney father “worked all the time” to paythe accrued medical bills. An only child, she found herself alonemuch of the time, rarely the focus of attention — and “that’s onereason I was drawn to show business,” she told Parade magazine.

The teen-age Rudner immersed herself in her ballet dancing,performing in ballet companies, but, at home, the memories of hermother’s illness remained too vivid. After graduating high school atthe age of 15, she gave her father an ultimatum: Either he would lether seek her fortune in New York or she would run away.

Several months later, she landed her first job, dancing in theroad company of “Zorba,” and Rudner went on to work in Broadway showsand TV commercials, announcing “to the country that I have bad breathand problem perspiration,” she quips. By the early 1980s, her careerwas stagnating, and she turned to stand-up comedy on a lark.

At the time, there were few female comic role models, save theself-deprecating Phyllis Diller variety. Rudner, for her part,studied the recordings of George Burns and Jack Benny, quietly tooknotes during other comics’ acts, and, before long, she was lamentingher love life onstage. “My last boyfriend was very noncommittal,” sheonce remarked. “We were playing tennis one afternoon, and he couldn’teven say, ’30-love.'”

Yet Rudner’s story has an happily-ever-after ending. She marriedBritish producer Martin Bergman and rose to the top of her field,frequently appearing on “Late Night with David Letterman” and infilms co-written with her husband.

But, no, she doesn’t do Jewish jokes for mainstream audiences.”You don’t talk Torah and get laughs in Vegas,” she says. “There, badtoupees are more prevalent than yarmulkes.”

For tickets and information about the luncheon, call (310)202-0669. — Naomi Pfefferman, Senior Writer