The Shmooze

Penn State Axes Neil Diamond's 'Sweet Caroline'

By Seth Berkman

Getty Images
Neil Diamond

Penn State University officials are removing Neil Diamond’s hit, “Sweet Caroline,” from their in-game rotation at sporting events, according to the New York Daily News. The song includes the popular lyrics, “Hands, touchin’ hands/Reachin’ out/touchin’ me/touchin’ you,” which could be viewed as inappropriate in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Sandusky was an assistant football coach under Joe Paterno at Penn State for 31 seasons. Last June, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts and will most likely receive a life sentence in prison.

However, Penn State officials said the lyrics were not the reason for the nix. Greg J. Myford, Penn State’s associate athletic director of business relations & communications, said in a statement, “‘Sweet Caroline’ has been brought up in recent years as to whether or not it should remain a part of the playlist. We hear from fans each year on whether or not we should continue it, given that it happens to be played in so many other professional and collegiate venues and has no real origination here at Penn State.”

For reasons not fully understood, during the last decade, Neil Diamond has become a playlist staple in stadiums across the United States. “Sweet Caroline,” which was released in 1969, is best known for its sing-along during the middle of the eighth inning at Boston Red Sox games, but there are also popular renditions sung at college football games across the country.

In 2007, Diamond said the song was inspired by Caroline Kennedy.


Natalie Portman Stumps for Obama in Black

By Simi Lampert

Natalie Portman stumped for President Obama on Saturday at the Nevada Women’s Summit, where she spoke about the president’s commitment to women’s rights.

Portman has a history of flexing her political muscle. In 2008, she defended Hillary Clinton against sexist barbs and then made phone calls for Democratic nominee, Obama. Four years before that, Portman took up John Kerry’s campaign as a cause.

In case you’re wondering what Portman wore while discussing politics (a collared blouse and pants), what color they were (matching black), or what Babble’s famecrawler thought of it (“uber-cute”), you can easily find that with a quick Google search.

But if you actually want to know what she said, scroll all the way down and click on the British Daily Mail article which goes into detail about her remarks. “The president has proven that he is a strong advocate for women and a defender of the issues that are important to women and their families, from affordable health care to fair pay and quality public education,” she said according to the Daily Mail.


Art Shamsky Named Israel Hardball 'Ambassador'

By Seth Berkman

Art Shamsky

Facing the likes of David Wright, David Ortiz, and Robinson Cano, Israel would need a miracle to win the 2013 World Baseball Classic. But they’ll have the right man on their side.

Retired Mets great Art Shamsky will go to bat as Ambassador for Baseball in Israel.

Shamsky was a key member of the 1969 “Miracle” Mets, who won the World Series in only their eighth season as a franchise. Prior to 1969, the Mets were a model of futility, with a combined record of 394-737. They never finished above ninth place in the National League.

Shamsky hit .538 in the 1969 World Series, as the Amazin’s topped the Baltimore Orioles in five games.

Shamsky was also the manager of the Modi’in Miracle for the 2007 Israel Baseball League season, and led the team to the championship game. A member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Shamsky has been a leading advocate for the growth of the game in Israel, and will watch the national team try and quality for the World Baseball Classic beginning September 19 in Jupiter, Fla.

The team is managed by former major leaguer Brad Ausmus, and includes other former players Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler.


Toni Braxton's Jewish Grandma

By Michael Kaminer

Getty Images
Toni Braxton

Could Braxton Family Values include observing Shabbos?

R & B hitmaker Toni Braxton, whose family stars in its eponymous WEtv series, has revealed she has Jewish roots.

In an interview with The New York Times, the Grammy winner said she’s “still surprised by the revelation that her grandmother was Jewish.”

“I didn’t understand it as a kid – ‘My grandma eats differently than we do sometimes,’” she told the Times. During Braxton’s Broadway run in Beauty and the Beast, the singer recalled, “my grandma said something about ‘the sun’s going down, and I should be in,’ and I was like, ‘Grandma, what are you, Jewish?’ I mean, I knew she was Caucasian.”

Braxton holds her own religious convictions. In a 2009 interview with Sister2Sister magazine, the avowedly Christian singer explained that she and Alec Mazo would clash about his atheism behind the scenes during the hit ABC show Dancing with the Stars.

“He was a nice guy (but) I’m a Christian and he’s an atheist,” she told Sister2Sister. “He’d say things and I would say things. Some days I felt sorry for him.”

No word about whether she’ll consider embracing her Hebraic side.


Cursing the GOP in Yiddish

By Michael Kaminer

yiddishcursesforrepublicanjews.com

May your son the doctor introduce you to his fiancée, Bristol Palin.

May your child give his bar mitzvah speech on the genius of Ayn Rand.

May your insurance company decide constipation is a pre-existing condition.

It’s not clear who’s behind these Yiddish Curses for Republican Jews. But in just three days, the online phenomenon has attracted more than 5,000 Facebook “likes”, a thousand Twitter followers, and — presumably — some lucre for Barack Obama, whose campaign gets a nod with a “Donate to a Mensch” link.

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Date Night: Kunis and Kutcher at the Ballpark

By Eileen Reynolds

Here’s more evidence to fuel speculations that Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher are a couple (if there is indeed anything left to speculate about): The two were spotted together at Wednesday’s L.A. Dodgers game.

Actually, “spotted” makes the whole thing sound more mysterious than it was: The pair made it into the game’s television broadcast, the relevant 23-second clip of which has been making the rounds on gossip sites this morning. In it, Kunis and Kutcher can be spotted chowing down on concession-stand pretzels and hotdogs. (The Shmooze will kindly assume those are kosher all-beef franks.)

Word has it that Kunis’s parents were also in attendance. Anyone looking for scandal won’t find it here: A ballgame with your folks is pretty much as wholesome as dating gets.

The video, for those who must see to believe:


Harvey Weinstein Marked for Death?

By Blair Thornburgh

Getty Images

Investigators say Hollywood heavy-hitter Harvey Weinstein was one of several targets of death threats and extortion attempts from an aspiring actor, the New York Post reports.

Federal agents arrested 25-year-old West Hollywood resident Vivek Shah on Aug. 10 at his parents’ home in Schaumburg, Ill., on the charge of sending threatening interstate communications to the movie mogul and four other business magnates around the country.

According to an August 10 affidavit, Weinstein, identified only as a “Connecticut resident and co-founder of a film studio,” received letters earlier this summer that “contained a threat to kill named members of the recipient’s family unless a large sum of money was wired to an offshore bank account.”

Other alleged victims included Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder of Groupon, and Florida oil exec Terry Pegula, co-owner of the Buffalo Sabres.

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Israeli Startup Launches Facebook Death Contest

By Michael Kaminer

YouTube

Israelis are nothing if not practical. So maybe it’s no surprise that an Israeli startup’s behind a new app that sends private messages to one’s dearly beloved after death — or that the Facebook app’s creators are offering a chance at worldwide fame to the (un)lucky participant who dies first.

According to social media digest Mashable, the IfIDie app’s first user with the good fortune to expire after a buffer period of a few months “will have their message shared with the If I Die app community and media outlets.” The app’s tagline: “What will you leave behind?”

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Mayim Bialik Will Not "Bedazzle" Her Splint

By Blair Thornburgh

Getty Images

Modesty maven Mayim Bialik had bit of formalwear good fortune this week. The 36-year-old “aspiring Modern Orthodox” sitcom star made a big bang on the red carpet for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Performers Peer Group Reception with a lovely, lacey, long-sleeved gray gown that covered all the requisite parts: arms, legs, and the splint from her serious car accident just a few days earlier.

“We had already planned on a long sleeve dress,” Bialik told People.com. “I’m a modest dresser anyway. There are not many dresses that cover your fingertips though so it might take a little of expanding the fabric, trying to get this contraption in a sleek black,” she added, referring to the splint on her left thumb, which was nearly severed when a carful of tourists crashed into her on Los Angeles’ Hollywood Boulevard last Wednesday.

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Natalie Portman’s Nude Shoot Benefits Charity

By Blair Thornburgh

Courtesy Dior

Needless to say, a naked Natalie Portman is naturally noteworthy. The 31-year-old newlywed has gone (tastefully) nude in a new campaign for Dior beauty (because what better way to promote a new line of lipcolor than by removing all sartorial surplus?).

The Israeli-born, Harvard-educated, and all-around awesome actress has been snapped in the buff before for Dior to hawk their Miss Cherie fragrance. But when (now former) Dior designer John Galliano hurled anti-Semitic remarks in a Paris bar early last year, Ms. Portman came out condemning him and quit the company, saying that “as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”

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Check Out This Hand-Drawn Drake Comic

By Margaret Eby

Sean T. Collins and Andrew White

Drake’s angsty lyrics and bravado laced with sadness have garnered him more than a legion of fans.

Now he has his very own comic book — a superhero story of sorts by Sean T. Collins and Andrew White. On the tumblr “Hottest Chick in the Game,” you can read all of Collins and White’s lengthy, bizarrely gorgeous graphic art about the rapper.

In it, Drake attempts to have his long-repeated wish to go back before all the fame and glamor to the simple days of, um, starring on the teen show “Degrassi.” It includes guest appearances from a Cleopatra-like Illuminati Beyonce, a wheelchair-bound Rihanna, and Lil Wayne, who acts as a kind of shadowy therapist.

But perhaps the best cameo is the enigmatic Blue Ivy, slightly grown. Her rebuff to Drake’s time experiments? No can do. “You’re in the game, silly.”


Video: Vintage 1992 Bar Mitzvah Dance

By Hannah Rubin

YouTube

Imagine bar mitzvah season in the year 1992: a time of frilly dresses, balloon arches and Paul Rudd emceeing in Doc Martens and a yellow tuxedo. Now cut to Shaun Sperling’s bar mitzvah.

With Madonna’s face embroidered onto the back of his white button down, Sperling strutted out onto his bar-mitzvah’s wood paneled dance floor — with his fingers snapping and his tie flung over his shoulder. What followed was a nearly six-minute dance routine to Madonna’s “Vogue” — replete with twirls, shimmying, waving arms, and, of course, voguing.

The video-taped performance, which was released on the internet earlier this week, has gone viral — accruing more than 57,000 hits in the past few days. New York magazine’s Vulture listed it in their top viral videos of the week.

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Drake Hit With $16 Million Lawsuit

By Blair Thornburgh

Getty Images

Chris Brown and Drake, the sparring pair of musicians as synonymous with “feud” as Capulet and Montague or Hatfield and McCoy, has just received that most American of official recognitions: a lawsuit. W.i.P., the New York nightclub where the two entertainers had a doozy of a dust-up earlier this summer, is suing Brown and Drake (ne Aubrey Drake Graham) for “compensatory and punitive damages” to the tune of $16 million, according to E! Online. Neither has been arrested for the incident, which occurred around 4 a.m. on June 14 over a romantic rivalry involving R&B singer Rihanna, but the club insists that the guys should’ve known their “notoriety and celebrity would ensure that their acts had far-reaching and devastating effects.” Yikes.

The 8-page lawsuit levied against Brown and Drake and the 40-some “John Does” in their entourages uses amusingly staid legalese to describe the early-morning fracas, beginning as “some or all of Defendants proceeded to become intoxicated” and ending when “shattering the handles of bottles of spirits to use as makeshift knives […] Defendants filled an already packed nightclub full of flying glass shrapnel,” as “terrorized patrons ran for cover […] using banquettes and tables as improvised shields.”

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Jewish Fighter Goes to Cage

By Elliot Olshansky

courtesy of sherdog.com
Sarah Kaufman

Jewish boxing fans haven’t exactly been starved for the heirs to Benny Leonard and Barney Ross.

From Zab Judah’s reigns as welterweight and light welterweight champion to Yuri Foreman’s championship success in the light middleweight division, Jewish boxers have risen to prominence again in recent years. However, as mixed martial arts and the UFC supplant boxing as the combat sport of choice - at least in the U.S. - prominent Jewish names are harder to find.

On Saturday night, though, one will be in the spotlight: Sarah Kaufman.

Kaufman, a 26-year-old native of Victoria, British Columbia, will challenge for the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Championship on Saturday night, when she meets Ronda Rousey for the title at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, with the fight being broadcast live on Showtime (10 p.m. ET).

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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

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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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