The Shmooze

Gloria Steinem to Cameo on 'The Good Wife'

By Anne Cohen

Move over, Alicia Florrick — another badass lady is coming to “The Good Wife.”

Activist and author Gloria Steinem will be making a cameo appearance on the show’s sixth season, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

Steinem will play herself and face-off with Julianna Margulies’ character in the third episode of the upcoming season.

Season six promised to be one of the most star-heavy in the show’s history: David Hyde Pierce, Taye Diggs, Steven Pasquale and Connie Nielsen are also set to make appearances. Previous seasons have seen guest stars like Bill Maher, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and current NYC mayor Bill de Blasio.

Steinem, a “Good Wife” fan, has only made two other cameos, including one in the “The First Wives Club” in 1996 and on a 1995 episode of “The Larry Sanders Show.”

In an appearance on Wednesday’s “Live! With Kelly and Michael”, Margulies admitted that that she was starstruck when she ran into Steinem on set. “I made a fool of myself and then had to email her and had to apologize,” she admitted.

Don’t worry Julianna — everyone is a fool where Gloria Steinem is concerned.

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Melissa Rivers Thanks Fans For Support

By Reuters

Getty Images

Melissa Rivers, the only daughter of legendary comedian Joan Rivers, who died two weeks ago following complications from an outpatient throat procedure, said her mother would have been overwhelmed by the depth of love people have shown for her.

In her first statement since Rivers’ death on Sept. 4, Melissa and her teenage son, Cooper, thanked fans for the many cards, flowers, messages and condolences they have received from around the world and through social media.

“We are forever grateful for your kindness and support in continuing to honor my mother’s legacy, and for remembering the joy and laugher that she brought to so many,” she said in a message posted on the website WhoSay.

Rivers, 81, was rushed to a New York hospital on Aug. 28 after she stopped breathing during a procedure at a Manhattan clinic. She was put on life support and died a week later.

The cause of her death is still unknown pending further tests and the State Department of Health is investigating Yorkville Endoscopy, the client where she was treated.

Rivers, who was known for her raspy voice, classic put downs and numerous cosmetic surgeries, was a pioneer for women in comedy. During a career that spanned more than 50 years, she worked as a comedy sketch writer, stand-up comedian, actress, talk show host and reality TV star.

More recently she hosted the cable TV show “Fashion Police,” commenting on the red carpet choice of Hollywood celebrities. Melissa Rivers will take part in special tribute show on Friday honoring her mother.

“Fashion Police: Celebrating Joan,” a 90-minute show, will include behind-the-scenes footage of Rivers and cast members and outtakes with celebrity guests.

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Mayim Bialik Hates 'Frozen,' Jewish Girls Weep

By Anne Cohen

Oh Mayim.

Mayim, Mayim, Mayim.

Why?

In a post written for her personal blog on Kveller, Mayim Bialik has disavowed the frosty fairytale and instant cult classic that captured all our hearts this year. Yes — Mayim Bialik hates “Frozen.”

In “Why My Sons and I Hate the Movie ‘Frozen,’ the “Big Bang Theory” star and (former) favorite Jewess explains her reasons. Here they are below, with some added commentary by yours truly:

1) The Lack of Female Agency

Sure, it’s sort of hidden, but the search for a man/love/Prince is still the reigning plot line in the movie, as it is with pretty much all movies for young people which are animated. The sister’s desire to marry this guy she just met, and the other sister getting mad at her — we still have a plot about the identification of a woman being based on her desire and search to meet a man … I’ve had just enough already with this finding a man business in most every kids’ movie.”

OK. Fair enough, the plot ends on a love story. But the reason that “Frozen” has garnered such positive praise is that the search for a man plays is secondary to the love between two strong-willed and powerful sisters. Being awkward, impatient, waking up with drool on your face — these are all seen as endearing (and just, well normal) aspects of life that a girl should embrace rather than hide. Anna is every girl who has made a bad decision about a man. It’s only fair that she gets her happy ending at the end.

While I don’t love the fact that there has to be a love interest in just about every movie for it to be profitable, it’s not something that will just suddenly disappear overnight. “Frozen” is one step on that path.

2) Man-bashing

“What happens in Frozen? The Prince/hero turns out to be a scheming villain. He pretended to love her and then he double crosses her and she gets the lesson taught to her not to trust those nasty scheming conniving men. Because you know, men can’t be trusted? Meh.

So, just so I understand — we’re upset that the movie centers around finding a man but also outraged that said man turns out to be an a**hole? Telling young girls that not every Prince Charming that glances their way will turn out to be that great seems like a reasonable life lesson to me. That being said, let’s not forget Kristof, that shaggy, socially inept, adorable lug of a guy that Anna ends up with at the end. There is hope for all of us.

3) Absurdly tiny waists

“My biggest problem with this movie was the way the female characters are drawn and animated,” the 38-year-old star concluded. “The male characters look like cartoon men. They have some exaggerated features, sure. But by and large, they look like they have the proportions of human beings. Not so with our lead ladies. They have ginormous eyes. Like really ridiculously big. Teeny-tiny ski slope noses … Barbie doll proportions of their bodies in general: tiny waists, ample busts, and huge heads. They look like dolls. They don’t look like the same species as the male characters even! What’s up with that?!”

This one I can get behind. Disney princesses, much like Barbie, are known for their ridiculous proportions. Case-in-point: Princess Jasmine. How can she even breathe?

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Joan Rivers' Doctor Took Selfie During Surgery

By Anne cohen

Getty Images

Well this is a new low.

It seems that Joan Rivers’ doctor took a selfie with the late comedian’s unconscious body while she was under anesthesia. The 81-year-old was at Manhattan’s Yorkville Endoscopy clinic for a scheduled endoscopy by gastroenterologist Dr. Lawrence Cohen. Once that procedure ended, a biopsy was done on Rivers’ vocal cords without her consent by another doctor, according to a source in the clinic. That procedure led to the heart attack that killed her.

Though Cohen has since been let go from the clinic, the doctor responsible for the biopsy has not yet been identified.

Teary-tributes are still pouring out for Rivers, who died on August 29. Just yesterday, Jerry Seinfeld revealed that Rivers was to be a guest on the new season of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”:

“I just came across this heartbreaking text on my phone from August 19th. I had asked Joan Rivers to be our lead guest on the new season of Comedians in Cars, and she was thrilled. Then we got a call saying she was going in for a medical procedure and needed to postpone.” He continued: “I would have loved to have shown another side of her. I wanted to tell her how much I admire all she had accomplished, especially in the latter stages of her career. She was one of the greats. I’ll miss her.”

Fellow comedian Billy Eichner, star of “Billy on the Street,” wrote a moving essay about Rivers in the September 19/26 of Entertainment Weekly:

I’ll remember going to Joan and Melissa’s Passover seder at Melissa’s house in L.A. last year. As she led us through the traditional Passover rituals, Joan sprinkled in a few jokes about Lady Gaga amid the Hebrew prayers. It’s important to note that this was the only seder I’d ever been to where waiters in black tie served you the matzo, and certainly the only one I’d ever been to where I was seated between Rod Stewart’s manager and Lesley Ann Warren.

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Babs Is Back on 'Tonight Show' — 51 Years Later

By Anne Cohen

Yesterday marked Barbara Streisand’s big return to the “Tonight Show.”

Why is this a big deal? Well, the last time Babs appeared on the show (with Johnny Carson as host), Kennedy was president, America had never heard of the Beatles and the Berlin Wall was still something new. In 1963, and the singer was just 21 years old, with two fresh grammies under her belt for her first album — “The Barbra Streisand Album.”

51 years later, the host is Jimmy Fallon, and Babs, well, is still very much Babs. The two celebrated Streisand’s new album, “Partners,” by singing a medley of duets, with Fallon channeling Elvis Presley, Blake Shelton and John Legend.

He even tried to sneak a kiss.

Check out the clip below:

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Another Offensive Sweatshirt, Courtesy of Urban Outfitters

By Hody Nemes

Urban Outfitters has done it again. The (once) hip clothing giant took flack this week after listing an eyebrow-raising product for sale: a Kent State sweatshirt with a blood-spatter design.

The sweatshirt seems to be a poorly-conceived nod to the Kent State shootings of 1970, in which Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on a crowd of students protesting the Vietnam war, killing four. Three of the students killed that day — Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, and Jeffrey Miller — were Jewish, and Kent State’s Hillel rabbi led early efforts to memorialize the shootings.

The price tag? Try $130.

As part of its “vintage” collection, Urban Outfitters only made one of the sweatshirts available for purchase on its website, and the item is currently listed as “sold out.” But that hasn’t stopped the criticism from rolling in.

Kent State University described the sweatshirt’s sale as “beyond poor taste” and invited Urban Outfitters’ executives to visit its campus memorial to the shootings, according to the Washington Post. The company has since apologized, but denied that the shirt was an allusion to the Kent State shootings.

This is not the first time Urban Outfitters has proven just how badly its staff needs sensitivity training. Black leaders condemned its 2003 parody of Monopoly, “Ghettopoly,” which included game cards that read, “You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50.” That same year, the clothing chain released a shirt with words, “Everyone loves a Jewish girl,” surrounded by dollar signs and shopping bags.

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That Time Drake Was in 'Harry Potter'

By Anne Cohen

When I was in 5th grade, I had a deep dark secret. Upon turning 11, I fully expected to receive a letter by owl post, summoning me to join my class at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Judging by the picture Drake posted to Instagram this weekend, it seems I wasn’t the only one.

The Jewish Canadian rapper captioned this little gem: “Me at Hogwarts scheming on Hermoine #DrakeOMalfoy #CantStandMuggles”

But Drake — come on: It’s HerMIOne, not HerMOIne.

Swish and flick on out of here.

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Amy Winehouse Statue Unveiled in London

By Anne Cohen

Mitch Winehouse with the statue of his daughter, singer Amy Winehouse // Getty Images

Amy Winehouse can once again be seen hanging around Camden, north London.

A life-size bronze statue of the late singer was unveiled on Sunday, three years after the Winehouse’s death from alcohol poisoning, on what would have been her 31st birthday.

Her father, Mitch Winehouse, called on all her fans to join in on the ceremony:

The statue, designed by artist Scott Eaton, immortalizes Winehouse in a short, strapless dress, with a Star of David necklace around her neck, and a real red rose tucked into her signature beehive hairstyle.

“It’s a day of incredibly mixed emotions,” Mitch told The Guardian. “They don’t put statues up for people who are with us anymore so it reinforces the fact that physically she’s gone but spiritually she’ll never leave us. I feel sad, very, very sad. We shouldn’t be here but we are, this is the reality and we’ve just got to make the most of it. So this statue is part of making the most of it. Getting people to come here, spend some time with Amy and put a flower in her hair and remember her in a very positive way. That for me is wonderful.”

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Here's What Dr. Ruth Thinks of The Apple Watch

By Anne Cohen

No one is immune to the lure of the Apple Watch. Not even Dr. Ruth.

The Jewish sex therapist took to Twitter to give potential customers a valuable piece of advice:

She’s not kidding. As Mic points out, people can’t seem to put down their mobile devices long enough for — well, you know:

  • A July 2013 survey of British women found that that 62% of women have interrupted sexual intercourse to check their cell phone. Some 48% of men admitted to doing the same.

  • A March 2014 survey by condom maker Durex found that 15% of those surveyed “would answer the phone or read a text while otherwise engaged in a sexual act.”

  • The same Durex survey found that 5% of British respondents admitted to browsing Facebook while having sex.

Listen to Dr. Ruth. She knows best.

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READ: Melissa Rivers' Letter To Her Mother

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Joan Rivers got the kind of glamorous send-off that only she could inspire. And like the best dramatic productions, it was a tear-jerker.

As we reported, the invitation-only service, held at New York City’s Emanu-El Temple on Sunday saw a procession of stars — including Hugh Jackman (who sang — of course.), Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, and Whoopi Goldberg — come to honor the late comedian.

Howard Stern’s incredibly raunchy eulogy has already made headlines — but now, the Hollywood Reporter reports that Joan’s daughter Melissa also spoke at the service, reading out a letter which will be published in an upcoming book, “A Letter to My Mom,” set for release in April.

Get those tissues ready…

Mom:

I received the note that you slipped under my bedroom door last night. I was very excited to read it, thinking that it would contain amazing, loving advice that you wanted to share with me. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and saw that it began with the salutation, “Dear Landlord.” I have reviewed your complaints and address them below:

While I appreciate your desire to “upgrade” your accommodations to a larger space, I cannot, in good conscience, move [my 13-year-old son] Cooper into the laundry room. I do agree that it will teach him a life lesson about fluffing and folding, but since I don’t foresee him having a future in dry cleaning, I must say no.

Also, I know you are a true creative genius (and I am in awe of the depth of your instincts), but breaking down a wall without my permission is not an appropriate way to express that creativity. It is not only a boundary violation but a building-code violation as well. Additionally, the repairman can’t get here until next week, so your expansion plan will have to be put on hold.

Re: Your fellow “tenant” (your word), Cooper. While I trust you with him, it is not O.K. for you to undermine my rules. It is not O.K. that you let him have chips and ice cream for dinner. It is not O.K. that you let him skip school to go to the movies. And it is really not O.K. that the movie was Last Tango in Paris.

As for your taking his friends to a “gentlemen’s club,” I accepted your rationale that it was an educational experience for the boys — and you are right, he is the most popular kid in school right now — but I’d prefer he not learn biology from those “gentlemen” and their ladies, Bambi, Trixie and Kitten. And just because I yelled at you, I do not appreciate your claim that I have created a hostile living environment.

While I’m glad to see you’re socializing, you must refill the hot tub after your parties. In fact, you need to tone down the parties altogether. Imagine my surprise when I saw the photos you posted on Facebook of your friends frolicking topless in the hot tub.

I think it’s great that you’re entertaining more often, but I can’t keep fielding complaints from the neighbors about your noisy party games like Ring Around the Walker or naked Duck, Duck Caregiver.

I’m more than happy to have you use the house for social gatherings, but you cannot rent it out, advertise as “party central” or hand out T-shirts that say “F— Jimmy Buffett.”

In closing, I hope I have satisfactorily answered your complaints and queries. I love having you live with me, and I am grateful for every minute Cooper and I have with you. You are an inspiration. You are also 30 days late with the rent.

Much love,

Melissa

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Sarah Silverman To Host 'SNL' — On Yom Kippur?

By Anne Cohen

Sarah Silverman, looking like she’s hungry for an Emmy // Getty Images

By now, you may have heard that Chris Pratt will host the “Saturday Night Live” premiere on September 27.

Now, I loved “Guardians of the Galaxy,” as much as the next gal, but there’s another name on that host list that’s worth mentioning. I’m speaking, of course, about Sarah Silverman, who is returning to the SNL stage for first time since 1994.

Our favorite raunchy Jewess is set to host the season’s second episode, which will air October 4th. But wait a second, isn’t that night of Yom Kippur? (Uh oh)

Really Sarah? First a cross on W. Kamau Bell’s talk show, “Totally Biased,” and now this!

In all fairness, since SNL airs after sundown, she’s probably safe. But it should be interesting to see where the comedy goes after a whole day of fasting.

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Mel Brooks's 11-Finger Hollywood Handprint

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

When he’s not watching “Downton Abbey” with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks keeps busy by pranking future generations.

The comedian finally cemented his Hollywood legacy on Monday afternoon during the Hollywood Cement Ceremony outside Mann’s Chinese Theater (“Blazing Saddles!”). The event also marked the 40th anniversary of “Young Frankenstein.” Dressed as only Mel Brooks can be, in a white suit and floral tie, the 88-year-old wore a prosthetic finger on his left hand, proving that life imitates art.

Basically, 100 years from now, people will walk by and remark: “Wow, there’s Mel Brooks. He had 11 fingers, you know.” Genius Mel. Genius.

Brooks later tweeted about the event:

Mazel tov, Mel! Keep the laughs coming.

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Cutest Maccabeat Goes Solo

By Rachel Delia Benaim

Noah ‘Noey’ Jacobson, 24, part owner and member of The Maccabeats, launched his solo career yesterday when he posted a medley covering Clean Bandits Rather Be and Nico & Vinz’s hit single “Am I Wrong.”

“I’ve been singing with the Maccabeats for five years,” he said. “At some point I said to myself, ‘I’m happiest when I’m on stage, when I’m engaging with an audience — why not consider pursuing music as a more serious option’”?

Jacobson’s cover is just a taste of what’s to come. “I have original music ready,” he said. His choice to release a cover as his first song was completely strategic. “I think it’s hard for the average listener to tap into original songs right away,” he said.

“I wanted to capitalize as much as possible on some people who might know me from Maccabeats, and show them, ‘Hey, come along for this ride, here’s a song you know and love.’”

In under twenty-four hours, the music video has already exceeded 1,600 hits.

This figure, impressive for any budding artist, is a bit of an adjustment for Jacobson. “It’s weird coming from Maccabeats where you’re guaranteed 100,000 views on basically anything you put out,” he admitted. “So it’s weird going back to rock bottom and trying to build up.”

“But that’s part of the fun, that challenge,” he added.

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Of Frat Bros and Bagels

By Anne Cohen

Wikimedia Commons

Some people fight with their fists. Some use their words. And others, like these bros from Oxford, Ohio’s Miami University Phi Tau fraternity, use a bag of bagels.

According to the Daily Dot, 6 of Phi Tau’s most upstanding gentlemen were in the middle of allegedly breaking into the house of campus rivals Kappa Alpha, when they were on camera by a local bouncer.

What followed may go down in history as the Great Bagel Caper of 2014 — or that time 6 frat bros chased a guy down the street beating him with a sleeve of frozen bagels.

The bouncer, one TriicepsBrah (!!!) took to Reddit to tell his side of the story:

They followed me for 3 blocks trying to grab me and get my phone. Said they would kill me trying to punch and smacking me with a bag of begals [sic] etc. After everything is over with my phone inconveniently runs out of power. So my boss plugs it into his computer and copied the video. We spoke to the owners of the house and it was clear that the video would be given to them as well as the cops.”

Guys, come on — that’s just a waste of good bagels. Make brunch, not war.

Watch the whole thing below. If anything, it’ll just make you glad you’re not in college anymore (NSFW — when frat boys use their words, things get ugly).

{h/t Heeb]

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Mazel Tov, Fran Drescher!

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

The Nanny is married — to the man who created email.

Fran Drescher, who now stars in TV Land’s “Happily Divorced,” wed Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai at their home on the beach, People Magazine reported.

The bride wore Badgely Mischka, the groom wore Ralph Lauren. According to People, the ceremony was small, with only family and close friends in attendance.

Ayyadurai, 50, holds the patent for email (!). The two met a little over a year ago during a talk hosted by Deepak Chopra. Drescher was previously married to current producing partner Peter Marc Jacobson. The two divorced in 1999.

“Fran heard my talk and we fell in love, and we’ve been together since that talk,” Ayyadurai told the Huffington Post in late August. “Every day is a celebration with Fran. Every day is almost a romantic hangout with her. We’re always laughing, always enjoying ourselves.”

Drescher recently shared this photo of the two of them with the caption: “Be happy b well. B loving.”

Aren’t they cute? Mazel tov!

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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!

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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.”

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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.”

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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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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.

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