June 26, 2019

A Peek Into the Wild Career of Rhonda Shear

Rhonda Shear. Photo courtesy of Jeff Abraham

People may remember Rhonda Shear from “USA Up All Night,” a cult-classic show she hosted. Or they may have seen her modeling in Playboy, guest starring in various TV shows and movies or selling her line of lingerie on the Home Shopping Network.

Now, Shear has written a book documenting her wild ride of a career. “Up All Night: From Hollywood Bombshell to Lingerie Mogul, Life Lessons From an Accidental Feminist” details Shear’s journey from beauty pageant contestant to owner of a global enterprise, revealing her
life’s ups and downs. On Feb. 11, Shear will sign her book at Barnes & Noble at
the Grove.

“I had this wonderfully eclectic life that has led me in many directions,” Shear said. “I was always told I was too this or too that, or not to do this or to do that. I wanted to share with everyone that not only will you hear ‘no,’ but you can still persevere and get ahead.”

Shear, a New Orleans native, was raised in a Reform Jewish household. Although she said she was never bat mitzvahed, she did go to Sunday school and had a confirmation. Then, when she was in her teens, she started to enter beauty pageants. “I became Jewish Miss Louisiana. I wanted to get experience so I could do future things like acting,” she said.

At 22, Shear was accepted to law school but decided to come to Los Angeles instead. She enrolled in acting classes and landed roles in “Spaceballs,” “Happy Days,” “Dallas” and “Married … With Children.”

In “Up All Night,” Shear, 63, writes about the sexual harassment she encountered in Hollywood. Once, she was asked to meet a producer from Universal at his home in Palm Springs.

Another producer called her parents and said if she slept with him, he’d help her become a star, Shear said. “He got me one audition for a soap opera and threatened me, saying, ‘I’m never getting you another audition if you don’t sleep with me. I’ll blackball you.’ I believed him.”

At that age, Shear said, “You’re scared. This is your career and your dreams and one person is telling you, ‘If you don’t sleep with me, I’m going to take away all your education and training and everything you’ve ever wanted.’ I hope there is more awareness of that.”

At 22, Shear was accepted to law school but decided to come to Los Angeles instead.

Eventually, in 1990, Shear got a steady gig hosting “USA Up All Night,” a comedy and variety program on the USA network. It ran from 1989 to 1998 and aired from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

“To keep the attention of people watching at the time, I made the character very sexy and over the top,” said Shear, who made many of the outfits she wore on the show.

A few years after the show ended, she came up with the idea for the Ahh Bra, a wire-free, seamless pullover bra. She marketed it on HSN and to date has sold more than 35 million units worldwide.

Although Shear still takes acting roles, she auditions from her home in Florida, where she lives with her husband of 17 years, Van Fagan. The two were childhood sweethearts, and reconnected when Fagan reached out to Shear through Classmates.com in 2000.

Although she was in a long-term relationship with a comedian, she agreed to meet with Fagan. They instantly fell in love again and got married 15 days later. “I never dreamed that after dating producers and Hollywood types that I’d end up with the boy from down the block,” Shear said. “He is perfect.”

Together, Shear and Fagan have five dogs, and she is stepmom to his children, who are 33 and 31.

To promote “Up All Night,” Shear is doing stand-up again in cities around the country. “Even though I have this wonderful intimate brand, it’s still good to have other things on the side, too,” Shear said. “It keeps life exciting and I still have that childlike wonderment. Life is never boring.”

Jenna Jameson Receives Death Threats After Expressing Outrage Over New Trans Playmate

When Jenna Jameson was converting to Orthodox Judaism, she chronicled her adventures on Twitter.

Last week, when the Iran Deal was being discussed, again she took to Twitter with the hashtag #IStandwithIsrael. Regarding abortion, she also posted, siding with Conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro.

And when Playboy announced that the November centerfold was going to feature its first transgender Playmate, a French model named Ines Rau, she took to Twitter once again.

Later, Jameson, 43, told Fox News, “I just think it’s a ridiculous attempt by Playboy to stay relevant. It is a foolish decision that alienates its consumer base.”

Her responses were not well-received, to say the least – even inciting death threats against the former playmate and her daughter via Instagram, according to Jameson.

One user responded, “So many LGBTQ people have been fans of you & actually looked up to you & your empire. That’s sad you would be so judgmental.”

“Just because I don’t agree with a trans person being in Playboy doesn’t mean I’m ‘transphobic,'” said Jameson.

Playboy, however, was not surprised that controversy would erupt over their landmark decision.

The magazine responded with their own set of tweets, drawing parallels between Letters to the Editor from 1965 -when they featured their first African American playmate, Jennifer Jackson- to reactions on social media about Ines Rau.

“It’s the right thing to do. We’re at a moment where gender roles are evolving,” Cooper Hefner told The New York Times last week.

7 Jewish Playboy playmates from 62 years of nudity

Sixty Playboy bunnies celebrating the magazine’s 60th anniversary in Los Angeles on Jan. 16, 2014. Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Playboy

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died Wednesday at 91. This article was originally published when Playboy announced in 2015 that its magazine would no longer feature completely nude models. It scrapped that policy in February.

This post is safe for work.

(JTA) — All those who claim to read Playboy “for the articles” might now actually mean it.

On Tuesday, Playboy announced that starting in March, its magazine will no longer feature nude models. It will, however, still have “sexy, seductive pictorials of the world’s most beautiful women,” according to a news release. But for the publication that changed the way sexuality was viewed in America, it certainly is the end of an era.

In reporting on the shift, The New York Times explained how the instant availability of explicit online pornography has hastened Playboy’s decline: “Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.”

The magazine, founded by Hugh Hefner in 1953, has seen its circulation drop from approximately 5.6 million in 1975 to about 800,000 today.

The Playboy website eliminated nudity in August 2014 and saw a fourfold increase in traffic.

Playboy’s pages were never exactly full of members of the tribe, but below are seven Jewish women who appeared nude in the iconic magazine.

Cindy Fuller (May 1959)

Fuller is often called Playboy’s first Jewish Playmate of the Month, or the model featured in the magazine’s centerfold poster with a biography and several accompanying nude photos. But this is impossible to fully confirm since Playboy never tracked the religion of its models.

Susan Bernard (December 1966)

Bernard said she was not quite 18 years old when she posed naked in front of a Christmas tree in 1966 (something she talked about in an interview 30 years later). She went on to marry Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jason Miller.

Sally Sheffield (May 1969)

Sheffield spent eight months on an Israeli kibbutz, where she said she artificially inseminated hens. In her Playboy profile, Sheffield praised the integrity of Moshe Dayan, who at the time of her photo shoot was Israel’s minister of defense.

Barbi Benton (March 1970, December 1973, January 1975, December 1985)

Born Barbara Klein, Benton appeared in four Playboy issues but never as a centerfold playmate. She was best known as being Hefner’s girlfriend for most of the 1970s, but she was also a successful recording artist. Her 1975 single “Brass Knuckles” made it to No. 5 on the Billboard country music chart.

Nikki Ziering (September 1997)

Ziering, nee Schieler, converted to Judaism just before appearing in Playboy. She joined the tribe to marry “Beverly Hills, 90210” actor Ian Ziering, with whom she had a daughter before divorcing in 2002. She has since participated in several celebrity reality TV shows and acted in films such as “National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers.”

Lindsey Vuolo (November 2001)

When Vuolo told her Jewish parents that she was going to pose nude for Playboy, they told her to “just make sure you’re home for Passover.” She told Playboy that a 2-week Israel exchange program she took part in was one of the most meaningful experiences of her life. Just after posing, Vuolo famously debated Orthodox Rabbi Shumley Boteach, author of the best-selling book “Kosher Sex,” arguing against his claim that she had been exploited by Playboy for money.

Anita Marks (September 2002)

Marks posed for Playboy in the middle of her career as a professional female football player. The University of South Florida graduate is now a sports radio host for the likes of CBS and ESPN.

Kirk Douglas’ underground tunnel to the Playboy Mansion is no April Fool’s joke

In recent years, Kirk Douglas has been in the news for having his second and third bar mitzvahs (at ages 83 and 95 respectively), publishing a book of poetry and for his grandson’s brush with anti-Semitism.

This story is a little less G-rated.

On Monday, Playboy revealed that secret underground tunnels were built in the 1970s to connect the Playboy mansion to the houses of a select group of A-list actors – which included Kirk Douglas and fellow Jewish actor James Caan.

A Playboy editor who was looking for photos in their archive stumbled upon images of underground mansion walkways. Next came the discovery of a trove of “old photos, plans and blueprints” in a secret basement area of the Playboy Mansion. And then came the realization that the actors involved in this construction project – Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty rounded out the list — were so famous in the 1970s that this might not have been such a far-fetched idea.

It’s also worth noting that Playboy published this information on March 30, well before April Fool’s Day, so we are inclined to believe it.

Not surprisingly, none of the actors commented on this developing story.

However, Caan, 75, who stayed with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner at his legendary abode several times throughout the ’70s, has said in the past that the mansion was the “greatest nightclub in the world.”

Douglas, who is 98, has been married to his second wife Anne since 1954. Maybe he visited the Playboy mansion through his secret tunnel just to hang out with Hugh Hefner.

Hebrew Playboy coming to Israel

A Hebrew version of Playboy magazine is coming to Israel.

Attorney Daniel Pomerantz, an Israeli immigrant from Chicago, has negotiated the rights for the Israeli version of the men's magazine, Haaretz reported. There is no launch date yet but eventually it will be available in print and online.

“We went to Hefner’s estate with the Israeli team to learn from the Playboy experts,” said Pomerantz, speaking of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. “Hefner was very excited that there was a word [for bunny] in Hebrew – it proved that there is a cultural link between the Playboy brand and Israeli culture.”

The magazine will have articles from international versions of Playboy translated into Hebrew, and also will feature Israeli writers. The nude models featured also will be Israeli.

Pomerantz said the magazine will be “sexy” but “not about sex.”

“It will be inspiring and broadcast quality and beauty,” he said. “For me this is an opportunity to show the world the nice side of Israel, the culture here.”

The Israeli version will cover leisure areas for men such as gadgets, style and food, as well as investigative and feature articles on culture, sports, politics and economics.

Circulation of Playboy, which was founded in 1953, has dropped in recent years, to 1.5 million last year, amid increased competition.

German Jewish activist voted sexiest female politician

A 25-year-old Jewish woman has been voted Germany's sexiest female politician.

Marina Weisband, 25, a leading member of the “Pirate Party Germany,” took first place in a Playboy online poll with 29 percent of the votes. According to the Bild Zeitung newspaper, 1,000 people took part in the poll.

Coming in second was the Left Party politician Sahra Wagenknecht, with 28 percent of the vote.

Weisband came to Germany with her family from Ukraine in 1994, in the wave of Jewish emigration following the fall of the Berlin Wall and. the collapse of the Soviet Union. She joined the Pirate Party – a progressive liberal party that promotes Internet freedom – in 2009 and served as its executive director from May 2011 to April 2012. During her tenure, she reportedly took on the issue of anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism among some party members.

Weisband now is pursuing a PhD in psychology. She has not ruled out a return to political activism but will not run as a candidate for the Bundestag this year.

The Bild newspaper notes that Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, age 58, got only 3 percent of the Playboy vote.

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