The Shmooze

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Shuts Down Critics of Rolling Stone Cover

By Anne Cohen

Memo to celebrities: Next time you’re in a media bind, give Julia Louis-Dreyfus a ring-a-ling.

The leading lady of comedy, who appeared on the cover of this month’s Rolling Stone in nothing but a back tattoo of the Constitution (a tribute to her role as Vice President Selina Meyers in “Veep”), was called out for the lack of historical accuracy in her ink.

John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Duh.

Even the National Constitution Center got in on the fun.

But Julia one-upped them all with this:

Come on, guys. This is Elaine we’re talking about. You know better than to mess.


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Watch the Trailer For Zach Braff's 'Wish I Was Here'

By Anne Cohen

Jewish indie fans, rejoice!

The teaser trailer for Zach Braff’s Kickstarter-funded movie, “Wish I Was Here,” is, well, here.

The film tells the story of a father (Braff), who pulls his kids out of Jewish day school after his father (Mandy Patinkin) gets sick and can no longer foot the bill. The movie, reportedly inspired by Braff’s own “very strong Conservative/Orthodox upbringing,” also stars Kate Hudson and Josh Gad.

The trailer doesn’t reveal much, but it promises a movie filled with whimsy (pink wig!), and a “Garden State” redux soundtrack.

What’s that song, you ask? Come on. It wouldn’t be Zach Braff without the Shins.


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What Would Moses Do? You Decide.

By Anne Cohen

WWMD — What would Moses do?

We ask ourselves a lot of questions around Passover. Why not that one? Now, you too can be faced with decisions determining the fate of the entire Jewish people.

The Fountainheads, a musical group out of Israel’s Ein Prat Academy for Leadership (a program for post-army or post-academy students) have released a new interactive video with a Passover-theme.

“Escape From Egypt,” lets you control the Exodus story in real time, creating one of hundreds of different possible story-lines, The video uses technology developed by Interlude, the Israeli startup that recently made waves with their video forBob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.”

“Pesach is the Jewish story,” said Avital Stein, the band’s director. “It’s the story of the Jewish people and there’s so many different details and drama that everyone can relate to today.”

The whole thing is akin to “Choose Your Own Adventure” (Pesach edition}, to the tune of an original score.

Shani Lachmish, Jeff Petroff, Zlil Rubinstein, Orri Dror (base guitar), Tal Michles (lead guitar), Dan Cohen (drums) and Amir Goldberg (keyboard), met during a session at Ein Prat in 2011. Armed with a green screen and their instruments, they put together a Hannukah video and threw it up on Youtube. It got over 40,000 hits.

Since then, they’ve released 10 videos, and have over 5 million combined Youtube hits. Their 2011 Rosh Hashanah song, “Dip Your Apple,” was the most-viewed Youtube video in Israel that year.They’ve played for audiences in Israel, Europe and North America, and wrote the theme-song for “Advanced Search,” a mini-series on Judaism which aired on Israel’s Channel 2.

You can catch the Fountainheads on their fifth world tour — they’ll be making a stop in the U.S. in time for Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, in May.

Until then though, your adventure awaits here.


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Lena Dunham Celebrates Her Sister in Moving Speech

By Anne Cohen

Lena Dunham gave a moving speech on Monday night, when she was honored by the Point Foundation, an organization devoted to helping LGBTQ students overcome obstacles.

Speaking at the New York Public Library, the creator and star of “Girls” thanked her family and her sister, Grace, who came out at age 17.

“I have always felt a strong and emotional connection to members of the LGBTQ community. It was actually a huge disappointment for me, when I came of age and realized that I was sexually attracted to men. So when my sister came out, I thought, ‘Thank God, someone in this family can truly represent my passions and beliefs.’

My sister Grace coming out as a gay woman at age 17 was a huge turning point for me in my understanding of the issues facing LGBTQ people. We were raised in an environment—the art world of downtown Manhattan—where no one hid their sexual orientation, and a common question from four-year-old me was ‘Mom, are those ladies gay together?’ I was always very jealous of any child who had two dads. And because of our parents’ deeply held commitment to acceptance and equality, my sister’s process of coming to terms with her sexuality was as angst-free as anything involving sex can really be. She was assured by the adults in her life that she was not only accepted, but adored for who she is. I am so happy that this is the way she was able to enter the world as a woman and an LGBTQ person.”

According to Vanity Fair, Dunham donated $25,000 to the Point Foundation.


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Israeli Basketball is Pretty Intense

By Anne Cohen

When Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv face off, things get crazy.

That’s the main message we can take away from what happened last night, when Maccabi center Sofoklis Schortsanitis charged into the crowd to try to beat up a Hapoel fan. Madness ensued. Israeli fans raged.

Watch the whole incident below:


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Scarlett Johansson Really Hates Her Nickname

By Anne Cohen

Uh oh. Turns out we’ve all committed a major faux-pas when it comes to Scarlett Johansson. And no, it’s not questioning her political correctness over the SodaStream debacle.

In an interview for the April cover of Glamour, the 29-year-old actress complained that she really, really hates it when the media calls her ScarJo.

“I associate that name with, like, pop stars. ‘It sounds tacky. It’s lazy and flippant … There’s something insulting about it,” she said.

Point taken.

So, on behalf of all media, I want to formally apologize to JLo, JLaw, KStew, the Biebz and anyone else we’ve bestowed a character-saving nickname upon — you know, the age of Twitter and all that.

It’s not the first time Johansson has come out against her moniker. In 2012, she told USA Today: “It’s a laziness … People can’t actually say the whole name? It’s just bizarre … so Cate Blanchett is not, like, ‘CaBla’? Why is that? Why do I have to get stuck with [ScarJo]?”

It’s because we love you. Promise.

Which Jewish celebrity names can we butcher next? I vote for NPort.


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Paul Stanley Calls KISS Members Anti-Semitic

By Anne Cohen

Turns out there was a lot going on behind all that KISS makeup.

In his new memoir, “Face the Music: A Life Exposed,” KISS frontman Paul Stanley (born Stanley Eisen) recounts that band member Ace Frehley had a collection of Nazi memorabilia.

The New York Post also reports that Stanley accuses both Frehley and Peter Criss of resenting himself and Gene Simmons (born Chaim Witz in Israel) for their dominant roles in the creation process (and probably because they’re the only two whose names you remember).

“As a result, the two of them tried to sabotage the band — which, as they saw it, was unfairly manipulated by [us] money-grubbing Jews.”

Stanley added that these accustations of anti-Semitism were “based on years and years of interactions.”

Frehley’s rep. blew off the claims: “Let’s just say that Paul is trying to sell some books,” Frehley’s manager, Dave Frey, told The Huffington Post. “It’s definitely not true.”

For more glam-rock inside dish, check out Stanley’s book, available April 8.


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Peaches Geldof Dies at 25

By Anne Cohen

Peaches Geldof, daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, has been found deadin her home. She was 25.

The police, called to an address in the village of Wrotham, Kent, released a statement saying they were treating the death as “unexplained and sudden.”

Though not Jewish herself, the writer and presenter was married to musician Thomas Cohen, with whom she had two sons, Astala, one, and Phaedra, who will turn one at the end of April. The English heiress was also spotted wearing a magen david at a fashion event in London last week.

“My beloved wife Peaches was adored by myself and her two sons,” Cohen said in a statement.

“I shall bring them up with their mother in their hearts everyday. We shall love her forever.”

Her father, who confirmed her death, added: “We are beyond pain. She was the wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of all of us.”

“What a beautiful child. How is this possible that we will not see her again? How is that bearable?”

Her last tweet, posted Sunday, was a picture of herself as a baby with her mother.


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Buzzfeed, Torah-Style

By Anne Cohen

Have you ever scrolled through Buzzfeed thinking, ‘If only this could be a little more Jewish?”

Someone in the wide netherworld of the Internet has heard your prayers and answered them. The result is BuzzTorah, a spoof of the news site that launched a thousand listicles created by Yeshiva University students.

The website self-describes as a “Torah and Jewish Life website featuring quick and comprehensive content like lists, pictures, GIFs, and short articles. We believe the internet can be a strong tool capable of affecting change and spreading Jewish values.”

Some of the content — like “7 Charosets from Around the World” —  could actually be featured on Buzzfeed, which has been known to publish a Jewish-themed article or two (“35 Signs You Were Raised By a Jewish Mother,”, “32 Things Jewish Girls Can’t Resist, “ and “The Official Ranking of the 51 Hottest Jewish Men in Hollywood,” being recent examples).

But BuzzTorah’s appeal comes from the posts that most average BuzzFeed users wouldn’t quite relate to. “5 Rashis You Don’t Want to Miss This Week,” for example, is touted as “Rashi always has great stuff to say. Here, we choose 5 of his commentaries that you don’t want to miss.”

The Orthodox-geared website ironically gained mass attention when Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, himself a member of the tribe, tweeted out a link on April 4.

Once you’ve delved into Rashi’s mind, you might want to know where he came from. For that, try “15 Ancient Cities of our Sages Revisited”.

Is your mom bugging you about those Skittles you’ve been chowing down on? Show her “9 Greatest Things to Become Kosher in the 21st Century,” (and get some new snack ideas in one fell swoop.)

The list(icle) goes on and on.


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New York Journos Pay Tribute to Ed Koch at Benefit

By Masha Leon

“Mayor Koch believed that mayors were not elected to be president…but to pick up garbage …balance the budget…” said Marcia Kramer, CBS2 New York chief political correspondent and a panelist at the April 3 Tribute to Mayor Edward I. Koch and Benefit for Beit Morasha’s Edward I. Koch Center for Public Policy and Jewish Ethics In Jerusalem.

Held at the Harmonie Club, emcee NBC4 New York Anchor, Chuck Scarborough recapped President Ford’s “Drop Dead!” message to the City and its “1977 riots and death spiral.” Discussion moderator “Maury Povich,” — taking a break from his syndicated “The Maury Show” featuring couples anxiously awaiting results of paternity tests — expounded on Koch’s agile maneuvering “to get elected and save the city.”

“Koch made chutzpah a New York virtue.” joshed NBC4 New York senior correspondent Gabe Pressman. “In the 1970s he was considered a schlemiel…. grew into the job as mayor and was more available than any other mayor.” Pressman also alluded to the “pain in his life”— the suicide of Queensboro President Donald Manes. “It haunted him for a long time…. He was never accused of city corruption but it was on his watch.”

Ido Aharoni and Pat Koch Thaler // Photo by Karen Leon.

N.Y. Post political correspondent Michael Goodwin remembered Koch as “a loyal Democrat to the end [and] I suspect he’d have supported de Blasio but not a lot of his rhetoric.” Also on the panel: Peter Solomon, former deputy mayor of economic policy and development in New York City.

Preceding the dinner and panel discussion, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Ido Aharoni— bracketed by the mayor’s sister Pat Koch Thaler, American Friends chairman of the board Mel Salberg, and Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat — recalled Koch’s “special relationship with Jerusalem’s legendary mayor Teddy Kollek.”

Aharoni acknowledged his “debt to “dear friend” [public relations maven] Howard Rubenstein when he arrived in New York “two months before 9/11” and was told, “the first person I need to meet with and seek advice from was Ed Koch… He was a legend in Israel…. Why would he meet with me? Not only did he take my call, but invited me to his office, interrogated me about my career, my work for Shimon Peres.

Harking back to the prior night’s JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) Annual Gala at The Pierre at which he was the keynote speaker “with Mayor de Blasio present,” Aharoni said, “I grew up in a suburb of Tel Aviv and would pass a street named La Guardia every day. I had no idea who LaGuardia was…. Later I discovered a street named Ed Koch and — of course — there will be something named after [Michael] Bloomberg. So I told Mayor de Blasio that I wish for him one day there’ll be a bridge in Tel Aviv named de Blasio Bridge so that my grandchildren will pass the bridge and know who de Blasio was.

Aharoni concluded: “On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express our profound appreciation of [Koch’s] unwavering support, his friendship and his unconditional love for the State of Israel.”


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Introducing JCrush, the Kosher Tinder

By Anne Cohen

There’s a new Jewish dating app in town. And it’s like Tinder. For Jews.

Launched about a month ago, JCrush uses similar location-tracking technology as Tinder. According to the Jewish Chronicle, the app now boasts over 5,000 users in the U.S., Israel, the U.K. and Australia.

“The global Jewish community lacked a modern tool that specifically catered to its demographic with a way to connect,” founder Sonya Kreizman, 28, told the Jewish Chronicle. “I believe that having an app at your fingertips will revolutionize the way Jewish singles meet.”

According to Kreizman — who developed the app with 38-year-old Israeli entrepreneur Itay Koren — JCrush stands out from the pack of similar dating devices because of its uniquely Jewish features.

When users view a match, they have the following options: Oy Vey! (no way) Maybe, (self-explanatory) or Crush (it’s on).

Referring to the “maybe” option, Kreizman added: “We made that because the Jewish pool is limited. It allows you to go away and think about someone and look around before deciding if you like them.”

Basically, it’s the online equivalent of your mother telling you: “Try it out. What’s the worst that can happen?”

JDate better watch its back.


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Bibi's Matzo Deemed Kosher After All

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s handcrafted shmura matzah thrown out after he so publicly rolled it, patted it and put it in the oven this week?

That’s what several Israeli media outlets are claiming, with some speculating that the Kfar Chabad matzah bakery that hosted the prime minister’s videotaped baking spree trashed his unleavened bread because is not Orthodox.

Not true, say Chabad officials. A New York-based spokesman for Chabad told JTA that not only were Bibi’s matzahs not disposed of, but that they are perfectly kosher and are in a box bound for some lucky person’s seder table. (They’re unmarked, so don’t bother searching for it so you can auction it on eBay.) “One of the guys at the bakery told me, ‘I’d be happy to bring the matzah he baked into my home for Pesach,’” the spokesman, who did not want his name used, said.

The reason for the matzah misinformation?

According to Haaretz, one non-Chabad hared Orthodox media outlet, Kikar Shabat, wrote that “matzo is supposed to be made by people who follow the way of Torah.” That site, in writing about Bibi’s matzah factory visit, referred to him as “the architect of criminal sanctions,” a reference to his support for drafting haredi Orthodox Jews into the Israel Defense Forces.

Adding to the confusion is that according to the Chabad spokesman, some other matzahs from the batch made during Netanyahu’s visit did end up in the garbage can because, what with large number of journalists and photographers crowding around, not all the matzahs met the shmura matzah standard, which requires “that you could account for everything it came into contact with, from harvest to baking.”

That’s the way the matzah crumbles.


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The Israeli Barack Obama

By Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Israel is getting crowded with big-name residents.

In February a Jordanian named Yitzhak Rabin enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces. Now, an African American convert to Judaism in Jerusalem has officially changed his name to Barack Obama, the Times of Israel reports.

A special committee at the Interior Ministry approved Mark Hardie’s request to change his name, and Hardie/Obama’s lawyer is working to have the name legally changed in the United States as well. The newly minted Obama has decided to skip the president’s middle name “Hussein,” however, since it’s not so Jewish.

Hardie moved to Israel in 2000, three years after undergoing an Orthodox conversion, has served in the IDF as well as the U.S. military, and is hoping to become the first African-American Knesset member.

“I decided to go with Barack Obama. I respect the president and I felt like it could be good for Israel to have a Jewish Barack Obama,” he told the Times of Israel.

Who knows what name will turn up next in Israel — Vladimir Putin? Angela Merkel? King Abdullah? (Saddam Hussein is taken.)


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104-Year-Old Savior (Virtually) Drops In

By Masha Leon

A feisty 89-year old Hanna Slome had the 320 guests at the April 1 Museum of Jewish Heritage — a Living Memorial to the Holocaust Spring Luncheon at The Pierre — “ahhing” and laughing as she recounted her survival saga.

I had known Hanna for some forty years but it wasn’t until I spotted her in the 2013 documentary “Nicky’s Family” that I — and the rest of her friends — learned of her history, which she is now sharing with audiences around the country.

In his welcoming remarks, Museum director and CEO David Marwell dubbed the event “the most rewarding of the museum’s calendar.” Luncheon co-chair Patti Kenner launched the event, and to the delight of the guests co-chair Ann Oster informed: “I’ve lost 25 lbs., had my hair done and now have a new boyfriend.” On a somber note she said: “I am Second Generation [and] you are doing a mitzvah being a witness to a Holocaust survivor. You must remember your legacy.”

Following a clip from the film, “Nicky’s Family,” Hanna, who was born in Moravska Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, began: “I did not talk about it for 60 years.” She offered a breakneck speedy overview of the historic canvas of her prewar life. Her father was a lawyer; chairman of the local Maccabbi Sports Club, there was a housekeeper, a grand piano and ski vacations. The family arranged for her and her brother’s escape, but enroute to the U.S., her father and brother learned that Czechoslovakia had been invaded by the Nazis. Hanna stayed behind with her mother.

Karen Leon
Hanna Slome, 89.

“I was lucky to be on ‘Nicky’s List,’” she said. Without seeming to take a breath and getting more laughs than many a comedian, Hanna recounted her past: “I had little education…. I was a good wife and a good mother. When I arrived in London I could not speak English…but I got a badge for swimming the [breast] stroke… I was a good maid…I changed homes… I wanted to go to school…”

En route to America on a merchant marine ship she vowed: “I was not going to be seasick.” She accidentally left her bra on the pillow of a sailor…. who got in trouble. “I went to Jamaica High School. I flunked English and Algebra…. I decided to look for a husband…. He wanted a girl with money…. Took three years to marry me…. We went on a cruise — The Staten Island Ferry.” The audience ate it up!

A surprise bonus was a video greeting to Hanna from her rescuer 104(!) year old Sir Nicholas Winton — a.k.a. “Nicky.”

Among the guests: 102-year-old author/journalist Ruth Gruber, Ruth Westheimer, museum chairman Robert Morgenthau, event co-chair Ingeborg Rennert, Holocaust survivors and museum trustee Fanya Heller, former public advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and a model thin Tovah Feldshuh enroute to Washington, D.C. to reprise her stellar “Golda’s Balcony” role.

The funds raised by the luncheon will help fund free trips to the museum for students


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Regina Spektor Welcomes Baby Boy

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — Mazel tov to Regina Spektor on the birth of her son — on keeping the details and photo evidence away from the prying eyes of the media (although we have to admit we’re dying to see a shot of the munchkin).

The only public proof that the Jewish songstress and her musician husband Jack Dishel recently brought a life into this world is a cheery post from Spektor’s Facebook page.

“Hi everyone! I wanted to let you know that Jack and I have been happily hanging out with our new little son and that all is going great!” she wrote.

If you’re hoping for more info soon, you’ll be disappointed.

“As you may have noticed, we’re pretty private so we won’t be posting any pictures or updates about him….but we can report that he’s super CUTE!!!” she added.


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Making an Exodus Vacation

By Dan Friedman

I was taught that Passover was the time of the year when we lived unleavened lives, not puffed up with self-importance and luxury. “We were slaves in Egypt,” the Seder reminds us, and we should not commit the sin of hubris by forgetting our roots. Given the number of luxury Passover holidays with full “kosher for pesach” board, I guess I was wrong.

From the depths of Florida to the peace of California, the jungles of Costa Rica to the welcoming repatriative arms of Spain, everyone’s making their exodus for Passover. Maybe the intention is to spare the women of the house some cleaning chores but I doubt it. (I’m as feminist as the next person, but it’s the women cleaning the houses — either their own or as professional cleaners). I don’t have an image for the ad that offers “TRAVELING TO FLORIDA FOR PASSOVER? We will drive your Housekeeper there in a beautiful Mercedes Sprinter Passenger Van 2013” but that captures the tone. Here are a few of my favorite ads.


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Muppets and Bar Refaeli Too Racy for Israeli TV

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — A risqué ad featuring Bar Refaeli in bed with a purple, mustachioed Muppet has been banned from running before 10 p.m. in the holy land, Walla!, Israel news website reports. Per a governmental council called The Second Authority for Television and Radio, the ad for local fashion brand Hoodies has “too many sexual insinuations” to be seen during prime time.

The spot opens with a post-coital shot of the Israeli super model and her puppet friend, a guy named Red Orbach, with whom many Israelis are already familiar. For some background on the swarthy Muppet, we turn to The Hollywood Reporter:

The character Red Orbach emerged locally from an all-puppet classic rock group called Red Band and his stereotypical persona is that of an aging 1960s American rocker. This past year, Red Orbach co-hosted late-night The Red & Dvir Show with actor Dvir Benedek on Channel 2’s franchiser ReshetBroadcasting.

Anyway, the purple rocker/TV host/skilled lover goes on to imagine what it would be like to be dating not one, but THREE Refaelis. This involves sexy scenes from a car wash (referred to here as a “Bar wash”), a photo booth and a game of strip poker.

R-rated, weird or both? You decide.


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The JDate Haggadah

By Anne Cohen

Do you want your Seder to be “the talk of the town through the end of 5774?”

Of course you do. And JDate has your back (though you may have to cling to the thought that “all publicity is good publicity”).

For the second year in a row, the online answer to all Jewish mothers’ hopes and dreams has come up with its very own Passover haggadah, available on iTunes and as an iBook, compatible with smartphones and tablets, for the hip Jewish single on the go.

So, how is this haggadah different from all other haggadahs, you may ask? Well…

Read more


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Pat Robertson Says Jews Don't Mow Lawns

By Anne Cohen

Pat Robertson has succeeded where thousands of years of Elders of Zion-style conspiracy theorists have failed.

He’s figured out why Jews are all so darn successful.

It’s simple, the televangelist explained in a recent discussion with Rabbi Daniel Lapin, head of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians — Jews don’t tinker with their cars or mow their own lawns, which leaves them with all the time in the world to pursue their true passion: Polishing diamonds.

Whew. Glad we cleared that up. Now back to counting my gold dubloons.

[h/t Gawker]


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Sorry Guys, No Amy Winehouse Hologram Tour

By Jana Banin

(JTA) — If you thought rumors of a concert tour featuring a hologram version of the late Amy Winehouse seemed too good to be true — or perhaps creepy — you would be correct.

Last week, the UK newspaper The Sun reported that billionaire Alki David was planning to use 3-D computer technology plus an orchestra to bring the singer back to the stage.

The same high-tech method was used to resurrect murdered rapper Tupac Shakur for the Coachella festival in 2012. Unfortunately for Winehouse fans, her dad, Mitch, who controls her image, made it very clear on Twitter they won’t get to watch her perform “live” anytime soon.

Sorry, guys.


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