The Shmooze

Trading Garment Industry Tales With Steven Fischler

By Masha Leon

When Steven Fischler producer with director with Joel Sucher of Pacific Street Films’ documentary “Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center” contacted me about reviewing his film, I mentioned that in the 1950s I had worked for Michael Saphier Associates Inc. which designed the Koret of California showroom in the (then new) 1407 Broadway building central in his film.

What followed was a nostalgic trading stories session.

Revisting his years of fund-raising, Fischler mused: “[the film] became more historical than current…the documentary took on a life of its own…. We started with history, immigrant Jews of the late 1950s, the difference between Midwest fashion, New York fashion, the size of lapels…” He rattled off names of manufacturers and fashion houses including “Leslie Fay“ who invented the petite line (to which I am eternally indebted). “It evolved from the uniforms made for the WACS…he took sizing forms from the Army’s shorter women…. sent it to Filenes in Boston. Petites sold out immediately and he knew here was a new line!.”

Dressing America

“We decided not to make a film about designers… but shifted focus to the people who really care and run the industry.” Included in the film’s historical overview of the 125 years’ history of Jews and the garment industry in America, and personality profiles there are clips from the 1932 film “Uncle Moses” with its sweatshop domain and union rumblings. It brought to mind the commercial jingle “Look for the union label.”

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Was Jack the Ripper a Jew?

By Ami Eden

(JTA) – When I first saw the headline — “Jack the Ripper identified through DNA traces: sleuth” — I joked to myself: Don’t let it be a Jew.

Well, joke’s on me. Courtesy of AFP:

But after extracting DNA from a shawl recovered from the scene of one of the killings, which matched relatives of both the victim and one of the suspects, Jack the Ripper sleuth Russell Edwards claims the identity of the murderer is now beyond doubt.

He says the infamous killer is Aaron Kosminski, a Jewish emigre from Poland, who worked as a barber.

What a shande!


Gwyneth Paltrow Is Converting to Judaism

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

Gwyneth Paltrow is reportedly converting to Judaism, the Daily Mail reports.

Sources say that the 41-year-old actress has developed an interest in Kabbalah and that her desire to raise her kids in the Jewish faith may have contributed to her split with Coldplay singer Chris Martin earlier this year.

In 2011, Paltrow appeared on the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” where she was told that she was descended from a line of influential Eastern European rabbis. How’s that for a wake-up call?

Paltrow is also close friends with Michael Berg, a co-director of the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles, which gives spirituality lessons to other celebrities such as Madonna and Lindsay Lohan.

This news does not come as a total surprise, since Paltrow’s father was Jewish and one of her sons is named Moses. The Daily Mail notes that Paltrow described herself as a “Jewish princess” in an interview with The Guardian five years ago.


Scarlett Johansson Gives Birth To Baby Girl

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Mazel tov, ScarJo!

Scarlett Johansson and fiancé Romain Dauriac have welcomed their first child - a baby girl named Rose Dorothy.

According to People Magazine, the baby’s middle name is an homage to Johansson’s grandmother, whom she called “the first Francophone in my family,” back in February, referring to her French fiancé.

News that the 29-year-old actress (and SodaStream spokeswoman) was expecting broke only six months after her engagement to 31-year-old journalist.

According to her publicist, both “mother and daughter are doing well.”


Joan Rivers, Jewish Irreverent Comedian, Gone At 81

By Masha Leon

I first met Joan Rivers — who died at 81 on September 4th —  as a zaftig comedienne in a fringed black dress as she warmed up the audience at an April 1966 Virginia Graham TV Show on which I was a guest along with Gloria de Haven. A few months later we met at the Polish folk art store Cepelia on W. 57th Street where she was trying on a sequined vest that is part of a Crakow folk costume. “Will it do for black tie? “ she asked me. “Only if you’re willing to dance the Krakowiak in high heels,” I replied.

Without scruples as to whom she might insult, she kept her fans roaring. At an October 9, 1990 airing of her TV show she offered plastic surgery to a lucky few and asked guest Larry Hagman, aka J.R. Ewing of “Dallas” if he had had “anything done.” Without blinking an eye, Hagman replied, “When I was young I had a bris.” A rarely dumfounded Rivers exclaimed: “But you are not Jewish! “Not necessarily,” he said. “I live in New York.”

At the December 30, 1990 “If you’re indicted you are invited” party hosted by Leona Helmsley for Cindy Adams’ husband Joey Adams’ 80th birthday party attended by among others Imelda Marcos, Marla Maples, Donald Trump, NYC mayors Abe Beame, John Lindsay and David Dinkins, a very bony Rivers trumpeted: “If I had known that so many felons would be here, I would have worn a striped dress.”

Joan Rivers and Masha Leon // Photo by Karen Leon

Her almost unprintable monologue at a 1991 Concord gig on gynecology/plumbing ended with “a definition of a Jewish porno film was “one minute of sex and nine minutes of guilt” had the huge room roaring. And as the Concord’s July 4, 1995 headliner, she was at the height of her irreverent brilliance with such side-splitters as: “If God wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.” As for “balabostehood” (super housewifery) she said “I spit on cooking and cleaning — no man comes home and exclaims, ‘Oh, sweetheart, look how immaculate the floor is, then says, “lie down bitch!” As for her favorite foil — intellectual girls — ”No man will put his hand up your dress looking for a library card.” Undeterred by good taste and sensitivities, she got a mixed reception—and roars- with “Anyone who would want John Kennedy Jr. as a lawyer would use Ted Kennedy as a chauffeur.”

Award recipient at the 2006 National Osteoporosis Foundation Silhouette Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria which also honored HRH the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla Parker Bowles), River cautioned: “Stress those bones….Eat your dinner. The fatter you are the less likely you are to have osteoporosis.” Designated by NOF as their ambassador, Rivers joshed that her “bones were clicking like dolphins.” Ranting at having “a disease I can’t spell,” she mused: “I always thought if I ever get an award it would be for plastic surgery.”

Every time I see a Yorkie Terrier in a carrier or on a leash or in someone’s arms, I think back to the long ago elevator ride with Rivers as we descended in a elevator decorated with a huge poster announcing her dog’s “bark mitzvah.” In her arms, her Yorkie, Spike, a miniature yarmulke balanced on his head.

Nominated for a Tony Award for her one-woman socko performance in the 1994 “Sally Marr and Her Escorts” there was wall-to-wall applause for her bravura performance as Lenny Bruce’s mother. At the post opening night performance (which was for the benefit of American Friends of Assaf Harofeh Hospital) I asked Joan how she managed two daily TV shows plus a solo stand-up emotionally wrenching performances a week. A fragile looking Joan smiled and replied: “I take care of myself.”


READ: Melissa Rivers' Statement About Her Mother

By Anne Cohen

Joan Rivers, Jewish queen of sass, is sadly no longer with us.

The 81-year-old comedian passed away on Thursday after a week in the hospital — she went into cardiac arrest last week during surgery. Her daughter Melissa, who flew to New York with her son Cooper to care for her mother, has released a statement thanking fans for their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

YOU CAN IMAGINE HER AND ROBIN LAUGHING IN HEAVEN. It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers. She passed peacefully at 1:17pm surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother.

Cooper and I have found ourselves humbled by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers we have received from around the world. They have been heard and appreciated.

My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.

Robin and Joan…That is just not okay.


Hockey Team Will Honor Seinfeld's Puffy Shirt

By Gabe Friedman

The memory of Jerry Seinfeld’s legendary puffy shirt lives on in the unlikeliest of ways.

On November 16, the Bakersfield Condors, a minor league hockey team affiliated with the Edmonton Oilers, will celebrate “Seinfeld”’s 25th anniversary by wearing jerseys based on the iconic apparel.

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DMV Will Revoke Brooklyn 'HAMMAS' License Plate

By Anne Cohen

NY1

Someone in Brooklyn is driving around in a car with a “HAMMAS” license plate.

The slightly misspelled nod to Hamas was spotted on black Dodge that was parked in Bay Ridge Wednesday and had a Palestinian flag spread across the windshield, NY1 reports.

Even more disturbing however, is the message that the owner opted to add under the garish yellow plate. “ALQASSM” can be seen spelled out in red letters, which we can only assume refers to the Al Quassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing responsible for multiple attacks on Israeli civilians.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is in the process of revoking the license plate, which it admits should never have been issued.

“We are pulling this plate off the road as patently offensive,” Jackie McGinnis of the state DMV said in a statement. “The group represented by the name on the plate is also on the list of entities designated by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization.”


Joan Rivers' Most Jewish Comedy Moments

By Elissa Strauss

Getty Images

In the world of brassy, chutzpadik funny ladies, nobody has done it better and longer than Joan Rivers. The lady is a legend, a trailblazer, who made way for the candid, feminist humor of women like Sarah Silverman and Amy Schumer and a whole generation of female comics who have the courage to get up on the stage and tell it like it is. As a woman, that is.

As we mourn Joan Rivers, we thought that it couldn’t hurt to revisit some classic moments in the comedian’s life. Because what better way is there to express our Joan love than to laugh at her jokes.

1) Joan on single girls and sexual double-standards. In 1967.

“The whole society is not for single girls. A man, he’s single, he’s so lucky. A boy on a date, all he has to be is clean and able to pick up a check and he is a winner.”


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Mandy Patinkin, Prime Minister of Israel?

By Hody Nemes

Watch out, Netanyahu. You’ve got company.

Mandy Patinkin, star of the hit TV series “Homeland,” announced Tuesday night that he wants to be Israel’s next prime minister. Patinkin delivered the news while promoting the new season of “Homeland” on the set of the “Colbert Report.”

“I am going to tear a page out of your book…and I’m going to enter myself to be possibly elected as the new prime minister of Israel,” Patinkin told host Stephen Colbert, who himself launched a failed bid for president in 2008. He said plans to run in order to “balance my participation in this world for however long I might have left to be in it.”

Patinkin, who is known for his dovish views on Israel, invited the ostensibly hawkish Colbert to become his security advisor. “The combination of the two might calm the region into, on occasion, laughing at itself,” said the man better known as revenge-obsessed Inigo Montoya.

Check it out for yourself here:


Rebecca Minkoff Is Making Fashion Week Digital

By Anne Cohen

Courtesy of Rebecca Minkoff

Who says tech can’t look good?

Rebecca Minkoff sees no contradiction. The 33-year-old designer is reportedly set to debut wearable tech at her New York Fashion Week show on Friday. The accessories, developed in collaboration with Case-Mate, include a $120 bracelet that alerts you to incoming calls and messages (for when you’re out for drinks and need to discreetly check on that crucial text) and a $60 cuff that can double up as a mobile charger.

Minkoff isn’t the first to try her hand as fashion-first tech — as The Cut points out, Diane von Furstenberg (DVF), Ralph Lauren, and Tory Burch have already gone down that road. But Minkoff’s commitment to the digital space goes beyond cool accessories. Last year, the Jewish designer gave her fans unprecedented access to what goes on behind the scenes as a fashion show by using a streaming app called Keek. This year, she’s upping the ante, and giving budding fashionistas the chance to pick the looks that will make it onto the runway.

On September 2, Minkoff posted a picture of two looks on Instagram with the caption: “It’s up to you! Tell us which look from our Spring ‘15 collection should walk the runway at New York Fashion Week on Friday by voting “printed” or “indigo” in the comments section. Voting closes at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, September 3. Note: Only votes containing “printed” or “indigo” will be counted. Get to it and vote for your favorite look! #RMSPRING #nyfw”

If a look doesn’t get the votes, it’s out of the running (and the runway). To see the final picks, catch the show live on rebeccaminkoff.com on September 5 at 3 p.m. EST.

As for the wearable tech, mark your calendars: the bracelets, as well as new iPhone cases and other mobile knick knacks, should be available in stores this fall and around the holiday season.

Spouses, take note: These make the perfect Hannukah gift.


WATCH: Adam Levine As Michael Jackson Singing 'Sesame Street'

By Anne Cohen

Adam Levine just proved he’s more than just your fantasy Jewish boyfriend.

In an appearance on “The Tonight Show,” the “Voice” coach and Maroon 5 lead singer played a round of “Wheel of Musical Impressions” with Jimmy Fallon.

The rules are as follows: Each participant must impersonate a singer interpreting a random song (not from their repertoire} — think Frank Sinatra singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

Fallon’s Bob Dylan singing “Rude” almost won our hearts but Adam Levine really takes the prize with his impression of Michael Jackson belting out the “Sesame Street” theme song.

Since no words can adequately describe the performance, check out the segment for yourself:


Fleeting Jewish Fragments In 'The Notebook'

By Masha Leon

To my knowledge, there seem to be only two Hungarian films that address the plight of the country’s Jews during the Holocaust.

One is the 1983 gem “Revolt of Job.” Now, there’s the puzzling macabre “The Notebook” (“Le Grand Cahier”) which hints at Hungarian Jews’— one scene shows the Jewish population of a small rural town being taunted by their Hungarian neighbors, another, filmed by an overhead camera, shows men, women and children being herded through a narrow street passage — suggesting cattle being driven to slaughter.

With a cast of characters out of a Grand Guignol theatre piece, one of the few people in the film to show kindness to the film’s central characters — real life twin brothers Andras and Laszlo Gyemant — is the town’s Jewish shoemaker. Improbably another is a menshlich — and possibly a pedophile — Nazi officer.

Sony Pictures Classic

It’s WWII, and the boys have been brought by their loving, doting, cosmopolitan mother to their peasant grandmother for safekeeping. A huge grotesque apparition brilliantly acted by Piroska Molnar she singlehandedly manages a farm set on a bleak barren landscape. You recoil — yet can’t take your eyes off the screen — as in a modern day version of the Hansel & Gretel fairytale, the grandmother — aka “The Witch” — works the boys to within a breath of death. Still, the boys, as they had been joined in utero by an umbilical cord, continue to cling to one another training themselves to withstand the often hard-to-witness brutality at the hands of the townsfolk and others. Each day they write everything down in their notebook.

In a rare emotional display they exact brutal revenge for the murder of the Jewish shoemaker who had shown them kindness. Based on Agota Kristol’’s best- seller “The Notebook” (Le Grand Cahier) I was stunned by director Janos Szasz’s merciless j’accuse showcasing the brutality of his country and landsmen. Perhaps it is intended to validate what I have heard many a Hungarian survivor aver, “I will never again set foot in Hungary!”

In “Revolt of Job” it is a Christian child adopted from an orphanage by an elderly barren Jewish couple — in exchange for two cows —who, in the end, witnesses his adopted parents taken away by Hungarian authorities to what was understood to be their death. In “The Notebook” the ultimate cruel twist is the grotesque grandmother who wins the allegiance of the boys when their mother and later father — separately — –return to reclaim them, holding onto them for her own reasons.

Grippingly filmed by Christian Berger there is no resolution or answers at the end when the twins make an unexpected final decision about their post war future.


Lena Dunham On Leaked Celebrity Photos: Don't Blame the Victim

By Anne Cohen

Lena Dunham has a word of advice on how to handle conversations around the nude celebrity photos leaked over the weekend: don’t blame the victim.

In an acid tweet, the “Girls” star compared remarks like “don’t take nude pics if you don’t want them online” to dismissive attitudes about rape.

On Sunday, a 4chan user posed revealing and nude photos supposedly hacked from the iCloud accounts of female celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Lea Michele.

While some have wisely pointed out that this huge breach of privacy is akin to a sex crime, media outlets from People Magazine to CNN have referred to the incident as a “scandal,” a term which places responsibility squarely on the victims’ shoulders.

On Monday, Dunham sent out a slew of tweets denouncing the language used to describe the leak, and called on people to stop sharing the images:

Preach!


Joan Rivers Still on Life Support, Daughter Says

By Anne Cohen

Joan and Melissa Rivers // Getty Images

Melissa Rivers has confirmed that her mother and “Fashion Police” co-host Joan Rivers is still on life support.

“On behalf of my mother and our family, we are extremely grateful for all the love and support we’ve received. At this time, she does remain on life support,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement.

The 81-year-old lady of comedy was placed in a medically-induced coma at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York after she stopped breathing during a minor throat procedure on August 28. Though she remains on life support, she is apparently making some small but positive steps towards recovery.

“It’s a slow process, but she’s on the road to recovery,” a source told E! News. “She’s getting better. Don’t believe all this ridiculous speculation.”

Melissa Rivers, who flew to New York with her 13-year-old son Cooper, has thanked Rivers’ fans for their support during this difficult time.

“Thank you for your continued love and support,” she said in a statement released Sunday. “We are keeping our fingers crossed.”

“She is a rock. She is calmer than I’ve ever seen her,” the same source said of 46-year-old Melissa. “All these reports about doomsday are not true. She is her mother’s daughter and she’s tough as nails. She’s the person keeping everyone together.”

According to a friend, Joan was laughing about “going in for a little procedure” on the night before the operation.

What a fighter. Get better — we miss you.


That Time Jon Stewart Went to Cairo To Make A Movie

By Maia Efrem

Late night funnyman Jon Stewart did something unheard of last summer, he took three months off from America’s favorite fake news program, his insanely popular “The Daily Show,” to direct a movie he wrote in Egypt.

Here’s the first glimpse of “Rosewater,” a movie about the imprisonment of Iranian Canadian reporter Maziar Bahari during the 2009 Iranian elections.

The movie is scheduled to be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and will hit theaters on November 7.


Lady Gaga Greets Tel Aviv Fans With 'Shalom' Video

By JTA

Lady Gaga issued a short video in advance of her performance in Tel Aviv, greeting her fans with “Shalom.”

“Shalom, Israel,” the American pop star said in the 10-second video. “I’m so excited to perform my new tour in Tel Aviv.”

The performer’s manager announced Sunday that the Sept. 13 concert would go on as planned, despite cancellations by other high-profile performers due to the Gaza conflict and its aftermath.

The video, which reportedly has gone viral online elicited angry responses from some of her Arab fans, Al Arabiya News reported.

Fans in social media platforms called her “disgusting,” “devilish” and insensitive, in response to the video. The date for the concert in Yarkon Park, part of her “artRave: The ARTPOP Ball” international tour, is listed on Lady Gaga’s official website.

Tickets remain on sale and tens of thousands of Israeli fans are expected to attend.

Neil Young, The Backstreet Boys, America and Lana Del Rey are among the stars who canceled performances this summer due to Israel’s conflict with Gaza.

Lady Gaga performed in Tel Aviv in August 2009, despite of attempts by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to have her cancel.


Sam Kass and Alex Wagner Tie Knot

By Gabe Friedman

Getty Images

Sam Kass – the Obama family’s personal chef and President Barack Obama’s senior policy advisor – is a lucky man. When he gets married on Saturday to Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC’s “Now With Alex Wagner,” he will have some special guests: the president and the first lady.

Kass is a longtime friend of the Obamas who became their personal chef in 2005, when Barack Obama was a freshman senator in Illinois. Since then, he has become a Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy and the director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” fitness campaign. He regularly appears on television and travels constantly to promote the “Let’s Move!” initiative.

The chef and health food advocate grew up in a Jewish family in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago. He trained in restaurants around the world, from Europe to Mexico, and began his own private cooking company.

Kass and Wagner got engaged last year and were named the political “it-couple” of the year by Vogue.


Chelsea's Last Show on Chelsea Lately

By Rachel X. Landes

Oh Chelsea Handler, how everyone will miss you on E! Or, at least, what appeared to be half of Hollywood will miss you.

Last night, Chelsea hosted the last episode of her talk show, Chelsea Lately, which started seven years ago back in 2007. And of course she left with a bang (and a couple of laughs). She pulled out all the stops to bring dozens of big Hollywood names to her studio to offer their goodbyes.

Mary McCormack, Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock, who appeared on Chelsea’s first-ever episode of Chelsea Lately, all came back (with helpful name cards for anyone who has been living under a rock).

They each read her speeches in a mini Chelsea Handler roast (disguised as an intervention) where they criticized everything about Chelsea, from her poor personal hygiene to her lack of “cool.” Chelsea just sat there and took it all with a smile.

“Never once have you let your job get in the way of your drinking problem,” Mary said earnestly.

Jennifer bemoaned to Chelsea, “My security guard caught you douching with Listerine on camera!”

“I learned something important today. You’re not funny. You’re not cool,” Sandra said before she brought out Chelsea’s ex-fling, 50 Cent.

For the final segment, Chelsea brought together the likes of Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne, Gerard Butler, Tim Gunn, Josh Gad (of Frozen fame) and Fergie to sing her a farewell ballad.

Yes, even Tim Gunn sings.

The song is full of witty rhymes like, “There was that time when she tried to quit before/ but then Tiger Woods started texting all those whores!”

Among the non-singing celebrities, see if you can spot Alison Janney, Anna Farris, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and Tim Allen.

Alanis Morissette sang, “She never held back her strong point of view/ She offended blacks, Asians and the Jews.”

Watch the whole song below:

Chelsea left E! to star in her own Netflix show, as of yet untitled, which you can watch in early 2016!


Zara Pulls Striped 'Holocaust' Shirt

By JTA

The international clothing chain Zara has apologized for offering for sale a blue and white striped shirt with a six –pointed yellow star on the chest.

The shirt, for toddler boys, is identified on the Zara Israel website as a “striped sheriff t-shirt,” but Israelis on social media have called it everything from poor taste to anti-Semitic.

The yellow star has the word sheriff cut out in small letters.

The company has removed the stock from its warehouses and plans to destroy it, according to the Israeli business daily Globes. The shirt also was available on Zara’s French, Albanian and Swedish websites.

“We express our sincere apologies for any hurt to our customers’ feelings,” the company said in a statement.

The shirt remained on the Zara Israel internet site as of early Wednesday afternoon.

In September 2007, Zara removed a handbag with swastikas embroidered in it. The handbags were manufactured in India and inspired by commonly used Hindu symbols, which include the swastika.

In 2009, the Spanish retailer removed Christmas trees from the windows of its stores in Israel after complaints from customers.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Anti-Defamation League made a statement about the shirt.

“The shirt emblazoned with the yellow star is in poor taste and is deeply offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors. To anyone who knows their history, this kind of imagery should be off-limits. We welcome Zara’s recognition of the shirt’s potentially offensive imagery and removal from sale,” said ADL National Director and Holocaust survivor, Abe Foxman.


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