The Shmooze

Meet the Israeli Behind Hollywood’s Superheroes

By Michael Kaminer

Getty Images

Hollywood’s newest superhero is an Israeli émigré whose powers include an uncanny cheapness “that has become the stuff of lore.”

The Los Angeles Times just profiled Ike Perlmutter, the chief executive of publisher Marvel Comics, and now one of the largest shareholders in Disney after the conglomerate bought his company.

As the Times notes, superheroes are big business in Hollywood, accounting for three of the top-grossing films in the U.S. this year; two of them, “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider Man,” were inspired by Marvel characters. The third, “The Dark Knight Rises,” arose from DC’s Batman franchise.

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Why Can’t You Play ‘Jew’ in Words With Friends?

By Hinda Mandell

An Open Letter

To: Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga
From: Hinda Mandell, Words with Friends user

Dear Mr. Pincus,

I have a gripe: Don’t worry — it has nothing to do with Farmville.

I’m writing because, when I play the smartphone app Words with Friends, I feel bad about myself — and not just because, when my pal plays “INCEPTS,” I hit back with “THE.” (Never mind that I’ve also had to visit dictionary.com to look up the definition of words like “INCEPTS,” despite having a Ph.D.)

No, I feel bad about myself because, when I attempt to play J-E-W in Words with Friends, a box pops up on my iPhone screen to inform me, “Sorry, jew is not an acceptable word.” I have to hit the “OK” button — indicating consent — in order to continue playing.

Not cool, Pincus. Not cool.

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Get the Official ‘Old Jews Telling Jokes’ Tattoo

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy Dan Okrent

For a self-proclaimed Old Jew, Daniel Okrent is looking pretty tough these days.

The creator of Off-Broadway hit Old Jews Telling Jokes is sporting a new, baseball-sized tattoo featuring the pastrami-sandwich-shaped logo of his show.

The tattoo, on Okrent’s right bicep, was officially unveiled in a photo circulated today by Eric Spiegelman, whose “Old Jews Telling Jokes” website inspired the revue.

Okrent — the first public editor of The New York Times, distinguished historian, and creator of Rotisserie Baseball fantasy league — got the tattoo in Provincetown in early June from artist Kris Smith of Coastline Tattoos. Smith’s online portfolio now showcases the fresh tattoo, along with Okrent’s shaved arm and hairy back.

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Rashida Jones Apologizes for Travolta Gay Joke

By Samantha Malone

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During a recent interview while promoting her new movie, “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” Shmooze favorite Rashida Jones got a bit too excited about celebrities coming out of the closet. While discussing her mild obsession with singer Frank Ocean, who recently declared that he is bisexual, Jones joked that John Travolta should just come out already. While her intentions were probably honorable (for the most part) the Parks and Recreation actress hit on a touchy subject for the “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” megastar.

“How many masseurs have to come forward? Let’s do this!” the actress, quipped, alluding to lawsuits filed this year by two masseurs who accused Travolta of sexual battery. The first lawsuit was dropped, and the second dismissed. Travolta has been married to Kelly Preston since 1991 and the couple has three children, including their eldest son Jett, who tragically died in 2009 from a seizure while the family was on vacation in The Bahamas.

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Canadian Mogul Turns To Austrian Politics

By Michael Kaminer

Wikimedia Commons

Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, who founded the Magna International auto parts empire, is moving into politics in a big way — but not in his adopted homeland.

Stronach is about to announce the formation of a new political party in his native Austria that will aim “for the nation’s exit from the Eurozone,” the Toronto Star reports.

Stronach, who turns 80 next month, wants to shake up Austria, and has taken the current government to task for “cronyism and corruption.”

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David Rakoff’s ‘Talmudic Shrug’

By Kristi Goldade

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On the “This American Life” website, Ira Glass wrote a short but heartfelt blog post about David Rakoff, who died last week. He also posted a couple of favorite videos, including one featuring Rakoff at the show’s cinema event last May.

In what would be Rakoff’s last performance onstage, he addressed his illness, life without the use of his left arm and the fact of mortality in a way that was both poignant and darkly funny.

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'Kosher' Swimwear On the Rise

By Margaret Eby

Getty Images
1894: A Victorian woman dressed for the beach.

Just when it seemed that bathing suits couldn’t get much smaller, modesty struck back — and now it seems like the old-fashioned, leave-something-to-the-imagination look has become the new itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikini. Thanks to a stream of new buyers, many of them searching for more coverage than the average swimsuit can provide, fashion-forward conservative suits are flooding the market.

The New York Daily News reports that four-piece swimsuits — long-sleeved dresses made of synthetic fabric, some complete with headscarves — are allowing young girls to be appropriate and still get in their beach time.

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Go For a Hike: Israel Trail Named Top 'Epic' Hike

By JTA

The Israel National Trail was named one of the World’s Best Hikes by National Geographic magazine.

The trail, which extends up to 620 miles from southern to northern Israel, was named one of the 20 top hikes in the Epic Trails section.

It is joined on the list by such trails as the International Appalachian Trail; Yoshida Trail, Mount Fuji, Japan; Great Himalaya Trail, Nepal; and the Continental Divide Trail, United States.

The magazine says the Israel National Trail is best for “Long-distance hikers with a love of both ancient and contemporary history.”

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Patrick Stewart Shoots Film in Israel

By JTA

British actor Patrick Stewart arrived in Israel to appear in a film by Israeli director Reshef Levi.

Stewart, a Shakespearean actor known for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” arrived in Israel on Aug. 9 and will spend about three weeks in the Jewish state.

Stewart will play a disgraced, eccentric British lord in the heist comedy “Hunting Elephants,” in which three Israeli senior citizens help a 12-year-old boy hatch a plan to rob a bank in order to save his family home.

He will replace British actor John Cleese, who reportedly withdrew from the project due to heart trouble.


ADL to Joan Rivers: Costco Isn't the Nazis

By Simi Lampert

getty images
Joan Rivers

The Anti-Defamation League called out Joan Rivers out on her comparison between Costco and Nazi Germany, three days after the comedian made a public display outside a Los Angeles Costco store.

After Costco made the decision not to carry her book, “I Hate Everything…Starting with Me,” Rivers protested a local store by chaining herself to one of its shopping carts and shouting from a bullhorn.

In an interview outside the store, Rivers said: “People should have the right to have the literature they want. This is the beginning of Nazi Germany.”

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Jewish Mobster To Retire in Luxury

By Michael Kaminer

Peter Shone via Wikimedia Commons

Victims and cops are fuming that a “legendary” Jewish gangster has been sprung from jail after a “surprise” parole decision that will “allow him to live out his final days in a posh gated community in Florida,” the NY Daily News reports.

Though 86-year-old “mob hit man” Harold Konigsberg was released in June, news of his freedom surfaced only this week. Konigsberg had spent nearly five decades in upstate New York’s maximum-security Mohawk Prison for a gangland murder. Retired NYPD detective and veteran mob buster Joseph Coffey told the News it’s a “disgrace” that Konigsberg is free. “I knew him well and he was the worst of the worst,” Coffey said. “He enjoyed killing and enjoyed getting paid for it. He was a nasty bastard and he should have gotten the (electric) chair.”

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Adam Yauch's Will Bans Use of His Music in Ads

By Michael Kaminer

Getty Images

If you’d hoped to hear “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” in a coffee commercial, you’re out of luck.

Rolling Stone reports this week that a will left by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch , who died in May of cancer at age 47, prohibits the use of his music in ads. The will was filed Tuesday in Manhattan Surrogate court. “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes,” reads a copy obtained by Rolling Stone. The phrase “or any music or any artistic property created by me” was added in handwriting.

The will also names Yauch’s wife, Dechen, as the executor of his estate and leaves his $6.4 million to Dechen and their daughter, Tenzin Losel.

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MTV Wants 'True Life' Mama's Boy

By JTA

MTV is searching for a Jewish mama’s boy for an episode of “True Life.”

The show is looking for someone aged 16 to 28 who consistenly chooses his mother over his girlfriend. The episode will be called “True Life: I’m Dating a Mama’s Boy.”

“We really hope we can find a Jewish mama’s boy to feature, and we’ve already been searching far and wide,” David Abelson, the show’s producer, told JTA. “So far we have contacted Hillel houses across the country, JCCs and Jewish summer camps … but the search continues.”

Those interested in being considered should contact casting@triplethreattv.com and include recent photos.

“True Life” also is searching for Internet addicts, those who have lost trust with their parents and people preparing for the end of the world, among others.


Mulder and Scully Together at Last?

By Hannah Rubin

Getty Images
Could it be?

“X-Files” nerds, get your Kleenex out.

Rumors have surfaced that former “X-Files” co-stars David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully) are not only dating… but have moved in together.

According to CelebrityDirtyLaundry.com, Anderson and her two kids have moved into Duchovny’s abode. Sounds like some type of Cali-fornication to us!

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Joan Rivers ‘Occupies’ Costco

By Kristi Goldade

Getty Images

In yet another Occupy iteration, this week Joan Rivers staged a protest at a Burbank Costco, complete with a megaphone and an entourage of assistants.

“Costco, who sells condoms by the pallet,” she shouted, “who sells Paula Deen books and — which is not good for their customers’ health — they decided to ban my book. This is a First Amendment violation.”

Apparently the wholesale giant found swear words on the back cover of her latest book, “I Hate Everyone…Starting With Me,” too offensive to peddle. So Rivers stormed the store, chained herself to a shopping cart and shouted about the injustice.

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Another Helping of ‘Fried Chicken and Latkes’

By Samantha Malone

Getty Images

She’s back for more: Singer, actress and comedian Rain Pryor, whom we met back in 2009,, is currently performing her one-woman show, “Fried Chicken and Latkes,” at New York’s Actors Temple Theater. It’s no secret that Pryor is the daughter of outspoken comedian Richard Pryor and Jewish dancer Shirley Bonus, and her dual black-Jewish identity is an essential part of her shtick. In her stand-up show Pryor shares anecdotes from her unusual upbringing peppering her stories with Yiddishisms like “meshugah” and “kibitz amongst yourselves.” She also sings a couple of original songs.

In the run-up to the New York opening of the show on August 6, Pryor and fellow comedian Kelly Carlin (daughter of George) were interviewed together for a New York Times piece about going into the family business. The two women are friends, though Pryor warned: “I don’t trust laughs from other comedians. I trust laughs from audiences.”

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On Lena Dunham’s Wacky New Yorker Video

By Blair Thornburgh

YouTube

Who better to herald the next lurching step in the death march of print media than Lena Dunham? The 25-year-old writer-slash-director-slash-star of “Girls” also wrote, directed and starred in a five-minute web video introduction to the publication’s “head-spinning” new portable portal, where a bizarro, slacks-clad version of herself named “Lanny Donhom” (?) takes to a fake talk show and uses host Jon Hamm as interlocutor to elucidate crucial questions like “what is an iPhone?”

In a clip-within-the-clip, Dunham goes “Devil Wears Prada” as a fictional New Yorker editor and berates a bewildered Alex Karpovsky on how the app will put each week’s worth of articles, reviews, and cultural goings-on at the fingertips of iPhone subscribers. (Apparently, skipping straight to the cartoons has never been easier. How handy!)

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Bar Refaeli On Yet Another Magazine Cover

By Kristi Goldade

Getty Images

In the latest stop of her pageantry tour as Maxim’s #1 “Top 100” girl, Bar Refaeli appears in a tiny black bikini on the cover of the magazine’s September issue, which also features a racy photo spread and interview for readers hungry to learn more about the Israeli supermodel. And boy, are they hungry! A People magazine guide advises mortals on how to successfully ask her out; the Global Grind exclaims “Holy abs!” and frat boys everywhere thank their good fortune.

In the interview for the September issue, Refaeli lays out her likes — (“a nice smile with beautiful teeth”), dislikes (“when guys act too cool for school,”), obsessions (Twitter, among others) and best asset—“My stomach is hard, and I’m very proud of it.”

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What Will Aly Raisman Do Next?

By Hannah Rubin

Getty Images

Hear ye, hear ye: Aly Raisman, our little engine that could, just won a gold! She’s the first U.S. woman to ever win an Olympic gold for a floor exercise. And what did she do her flips and twists to? That’s right, our favorite Jewish folk tune, “Hava Nagila.”

Leaping and flipping in style, Raisman showed up all her competitors in a rhinestone leotard replete with the stars and stripes of the country she was so proud to support.

Ninety minutes before being crowned with the gold, Raisman was on the medal stand for another: a bronze for her individual balance beam routine.

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Shaq and Salma Hit the JCC

By Simi Lampert

getty images
Shaquille O’Neal

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal paid a visit to the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore in Marblehead, Mass. on Monday.

The 7-foot-1 superstar was in town shooting promotional scenes for his upcoming Adam Sandler film, Grown Ups 2.

The sports giant visited with the center’s basketball commissioner, posed for a few pics, and turned a humble basketball into a collector’s item with a swipe of his Sharpie’d signature.

Shaq wasn’t the only star to grace the JCC with his presence, either. His more attractive (though comparatively diminutive) co-star Salma Hayek was reportedly around the center Friday night. That was just a few days after a nearby pitstop with Sandler for some fro-yo and fan photos.

Shaq, Salma, and Sandler will appear on the big screen in 2013.


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