The Shmooze

The (Jewish) Ryan Seacrest of Japan

By Gabe Friedman

Wikimedia Commons

Marty Friedman was known throughout the 90s as the guitarist for the chart-topping heavy metal band Megadeth. His mop of curly hair and virtuosic playing gained him a following, and he has been called one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

However, as a new Rolling Stone story details, Friedman has found unlikely fame in Japan, where he moved in the early 2000s. He quit Megadeth, took up playing for Japanese rock and J-Pop groups, and soon became featured on a variety of Japanese television shows. He has hosted programs called “Mr. Heavy Metal” and “Rock Fujiyama,” and has logged an estimated 600 TV appearances.

Clay Marshall, the manager of Friedman’s record label in the U.S., tells people that Friedman is the “Ryan Seacrest of Japan.”

“He’s a cultural celebrity over there,” Marshall says.

Why the sudden, unexpected move and second life as Japanese cultural icon? Friedman told Rolling Stone that he prefers Japanese music for its complexity.

“It all comes down to the music,” he says. “That’s why I’m here. As much as I love Japan, I would not be living 7,000 miles away from my family and friends in America if it weren’t for the great music. If you look at the Top 10 on the charts here, I can pick any day of the week and nine of those songs, I would definitely say ‘I dig that a lot.’ In America, I would be very lucky if there was one song in that Top 10 that I would enjoy.”

Read more at Rolling Stone.

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LISTEN: Leonard Cohen's Latest Single

By Anne Cohen

Eighty-shmeighty. Leonard Cohen isn’t letting his upcoming milestone birthday slow him down.

He of the raspy voice and smooth melodies is reportedly set to release his 13th album in the next couple weeks, titled “Popular Problems” (because we haven’t had enough of those lately…). To get you in the mood, here’s a preview of the first track, “Almost Like The Blues.”

Happy listening!

[h/t Tablet]

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Jewish Celebrities Take The Ice Bucket Challenge

By Rachel X. Landes

By now you’ve probably heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The deal is, if you get nominated, you have to pour ice water over your head or donate $100 to ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research. This disease, which eventually results in paralysis and death, affects approximately 30,000 Americans.

Watch as our favorite Jewish celebrities take on the challenge!

Robert Downey Jr.

Nominated by: Bob Iger
Nominated: Chris Hemsworth


Adam Levine

Skip to 1:43 for the good stuff. He’s even wearing a white shirt as he gets dunked.
Nominated: Nick Lachey, Kevin Richardson, Joey Fatone, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Jason Segel, Mark Ruffalo and RDJ


Emmy Rossum

Nominated by: Dorie Golkin Smith
Nominated: Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank


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Lauren Bacall's Style Is Getting A Museum Exhibit

By Anne Cohen

Before Beyonce, there was Lauren Bacall.

The countless odes and elegies to the late actress, who died last week at age 89, have all but confirmed her place as Hollywood Golden Age’s queen of cool.

And now, we hear her impeccable style (which a “To Have or Have Not” obsessed tween may or may not have tried to imitate at one point — unsuccessfully) is getting its own retrospective.

The Cut reports that the museum at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology will soon unveil an exhibit showcasing Bacall’s (nee Betty Joan Persky, in the Bronx) wardrobe. Preparations for the show were reportedly underway before the announcement of Bacall’s death by the Bogart estate last Tuesday night

According to the Associated Press, the show will focus on her 1950s-60s style, and highlight contributions from the star’s five favorite designers: Norman Norell, Marc Bohan for Dior, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, and Emanuel Ungaro.

Designer Isaac Mizrahi best summed up her combination of sass, smarts and style in the April 2001 issue of InStyle. Remarking on her 1979 Oscars appearance, he quipped:

“Wearing a 50-year-old Fortuny dress proved how smart Lauren Bacall was,” he said. “A smart Jewish girl from the Bronx who knew Norell as well as Loehmann’s. She’s our reference for what smart looks like. Look up ‘smart’ in the dictionary — you’ll find her picture.”

A nice Jewish girl in haute couture? We’re there!

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Lauren Bacall Remembered — On And Off Screen

By Masha Leon

Actress Lauren Bacall, who died on August 13 at 89, was an early presence in my life. As a pre-teen in 1944 Montreal I saw Bacall (nee Betty Perske) in “To Have and To Hold” never dreaming that she would one day grace my columns in The Forward!

My classmates at the Workmen’s Circle School ecstatically whispered, “She’s Jewish!” and we competed in imitating the future Hollywood legend’s film character’s now iconic seductive come-on to [future husband] Humphrey Bogart “just put your lips together and blow!”

I first met Bacall at the February 2, 1998 Theatre Hall of Fame Ceremony at The Gershwin Theatre, at which set and costume designer Tony Walton said of honoree Bacall: “Through flu, flood and torn cartilage, Betty — ‘The Look,’ ‘ The Legend’ — never missed a single performance during the five-year run of ‘Applause,’ the two-year run of ‘Cactus Flower’ and ‘Woman of the Year.’

Masha Leon and Lauren Bacall // Photo by Karen Leon

A stunning Bacall in a black and white ensemble said “I fell in love with the theater as a child and lost 15 years in California…. Once I was offered a play by Garson Kanin and Bogie (husband Bogart] snapped, ‘My wife stays in California with me!’ After Bogie died I came back to New York.” Then with classic Bacall edge, she concluded: “I never believe in awards. When they start giving them to you, you’re about to croak. I think I’ll go home and die.”

At the February 7, 1999 Playhouse luncheon honoring Gregory Peck, Bacall sat in front of me with Peck’s wife Veronique. When I gently tapped her shoulder to say “Hello,” she reacted as though seared by a hot poker and ready to lash out, recognized me with a throaty “Hello.” Asked who his favorite leading lady was, Peck said, “Betty Bacall.” Bacall stood up. “With all respect to your wife,” Bacall told the audience “his favorite co-star was Ava Gardner.” “How dare you say that!” Peck shot back. “We won’t go into that,” purred Bacall.

At the November 24, 2003 American Legacy Foundation publicizing smoking-related illnesses dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street, honoree Kirk Douglas” recalled, “I met Lauren Bacall when she was a beautiful 16-year old. I was a poor boy. I had no raincoat. Her uncle gave me an overcoat that I wore for two years. How did I thank her? I tried to seduce her on a rooftop in Greenwich Village. I didn’t succeed, but we have become great friends since then. He accepted the award from Bacall — whose hand he kissed with a grand flourish.

At the January 31, 2005 Drama League Tribute to songwriting giants Betty Comden and Adolph Green, composer Charles Strouse first kissed a shocked Lauren Bacall’s hand and then kissed her on the lips.

My last Bacall encounter was at the January 29, 2009 Legion of Honor Ceremony honoring Sidney Lumet at the French Consulate’s Cultural Center. He got kissed on both cheeks — a la francaise — by Bacall who, still glamorous, held her own amidst the stellar roster of celebrities that included Liam Neeson, Sean Connery and Alan Alda.

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Robin Williams' Most Jewish Moments

By Rachel X. Landes

Robin Williams wasn’t Jewish. But he was close.

Though raised Episcopalian in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (his mother was a Christian Scientist), the comedian had an affinity for Jews which shaped and even defined many of the roles he took on. He used Yiddish, danced a mean hora and did a killer Barbra Streisand impression.

With his death — in the words of Steve Martin (also not Jewish — but, come on) — we have lost a “mensch, a great talent and genuine soul.”

Let’s take a look at Robin WIlliams most Jewish moments.

1) Mrs. Doubtfire: Robin does “Fiddler”


2) The Crazy Ones: “Rabbi Robin” hosts a bar mitzvah



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Jewish Celebrities Mourn Robin Williams

By Anne Cohen

Robin Williams was my childhood. From “Mrs. Doubtfire” to “Hook,” to “Aladdin,” to “Jumanji,” I can’t even keep track of all the moments of glee and laughter that he bestowed on countless of fans. Since hearing about his apparent suicide at the age of 63 last night, I still catch myself remembering snippets of dialogue, fleeting scenes that cause a rush of warm memories.

And I’m far from alone. It’s been extremely moving to read the rush of tributes and responses to Williams. Here are some of the best from Jewish celebrities whose lives — like mine, and so many others — he touched:

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Wanted: Israeli Soldiers' Sperm

By Hody Nemes

Getty Images

Soldiers serving in combat units in the Israel Defense Forces are now being asked to make another sacrifice: donating their sperm.

Israeli parents seeking sperm donors at the Rambam Medical Center have shown a noticeable preference for the sperm of combat soldiers in the wake of the Gaza conflict.

In recent weeks, nearly half of the women seeking sperm at Rambam’s sperm bank have requested the sperm of combat soldiers, according to a statement by the sperm bank.

“Women seeking sperm donors build an ideal profile in their head of the father of their future child,” said Dina Aminpour, head of the Rambam Medical Center’s sperm bank. “The Gaza military operation and the tales of the bravery of the IDF soldiers served to clarify the personality traits which were important to those requesting donations.”

But the patriotism isn’t the reason parents are flocking to combat soldiers’ sperm; the soldiers’ genetics play a role, too. Women assume that combat soldiers will be “fit, healthy, resilient and determined, among several other important attributes,” according to Aminpour.

When it comes to recruiting donors, Israeli sperm banks often feel like they’re swimming upstream. The sperm bank at Rambam Medical Center, the largest hospital in northern Israel, is facing a major shortage of donors, and reported having only 10 donors as of last month.

Only 10% of potential donors qualify for the sperm bank, thanks in part to low sperm quality, according to Dr. Shachar Kol, director of Rambam’s artificial insemination clinic. The sperm bank is using the news of spike in demand for combat soldiers’ to put out a call for more donors. “[T]he center itself is suffering from a shortage in quality donations, and is desperately looking to recruit more men to donate,” the sperm bank said in its announcement.

It wouldn’t be the first time the sperm bank has taken a clever approach to recruiting donors. About three years ago, it teamed up with a local graphic design school to produce snazzy advertisements aimed at male college students.

The results were both humorous and shocking. “Think you’re God’s gift to women? Prove it,” one ad reads. Another shows a box of tissues, along with the phrase “It’s in your hands.” In a third, the words “Giving sperm: it’s a lot more pleasant than giving blood,” appear next to a winking baby.

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Which 'Harry Potter' Movie Does Daniel Radcliffe Hate?

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

If you were under the age of 17 when Harry Potter received his Hogwarts acceptance letter, chances are, you have a favorite (“Deathly Hallows”) and least favorite movie adaptation (“Prisoner of Azkaban”). Turns out, Daniel Radcliffe does too. He hates “Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth installment of the blockbuster franchise.

“I never liked watching myself on film, but I do make myself sit through it,” he told the Daily Mail. “I think it comes from not actually realizing I didn’t have to go to my own premieres and watch the film. That’s something I’ve only just realized you don’t have to do. I always went along and sat with everyone else watching the movie. And that’s why it’s hard to watch a film like ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,’ because I’m just not very good in it. I hate it. My acting is very one-note and I can see I got complacent and what I was trying to do just didn’t come across. My best film is [‘Order of the Phoenix’] because I can see a progression.”

According to The Huffington Post, it’s not the first time that Radcliffe has been down on “Half-Blood Prince,” or as he must think of it: “The One With Angsty Lonely Harry. “

“I do think people responded to the fact that there was kissing and hormones and all that kind of stuff,” he told MTV in 2009. “It’s a very lonely film and kind of a hard film for Harry, whereas Ron’s just happy because he’s getting his rocks off with Lavender now. […] If you take out the romantic storyline, it’s pretty much two and a half hours of me looking lonely. That’s all that’s left.”

Radcliffe, is currently starring in “What If,” a romantic comedy starring fellow member of the tribe ( and director Elia Kazan’s granddaughter) Zoe Kazan.

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Maggie Gyllenhaal Just Learned Her Real (Jewish) Name

By Rachel X. Landes

Getty Images

Meet Margalit Gyllenhaal. You probably know her as Maggie.

The actress revealed in an interview with ABC that she didn’t learn her full name until she was 35. In case you were wondering, Margalit means ‘pearl’ in Hebrew.

How does that happen? Well, after marrying to Peter Sarsgaard 2009, Gyllenhaal says she wanted to change her name in her personal life (professionally, she stayed “Gyllenhaal”). When she started the process last year, she found she needed proof of her birth (as one does). After much searching, her parents finally found her birth certificate and magically remembered what they actually named their daughter. Which was not Maggie, to everybody’s surprise.

“They didn’t remember,” Maggie said in an interview with ABC News. “My mother still insists my name is not Margalit.”

Still, her Wikipedia article does not lie — it now lists her full name as Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal.


ABC News | More ABC News Videos

[h/t Jewcy]

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'Hello Gaw-geous' — Barbra Streisand Joins Instagram

By Rachel X. Landes

To all those Barbra Streisand fans out there (which should be everybody) you can now follow our favorite Funny Girl on Instagram!

Yes, Babs has finally joined the latest celeb craze and joined Instragram. She’s already posted one picture, a posed shot with her adorable pooch, Samantha.

I happened came across “Funny Girl” on Turner Classic Movies last Sunday afternoon and watched it for the first time in about twelve years. When I was a little, it was one of the twenty or so VHS’s that my parents had stacked next to the television.

Columbia Pictures/Giphy

After re-watching it, and laughing uproariously through the pregnant bride shtick that Fanny Brice planned for her opening night at Zeigfield Follies, I have since decided that everyone who has not seen “Funny Girl” recently is seriously missing out.

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A Brief (And Violent) History of The Middle East

By Gabe Friedman

Sometimes history is so absurd that it’s funny.

“This Land is Mine,” an animated short film about the history of Israel by cartoonist and animator Nina Paley, has resurfaced in the wake of the latest war in Gaza. The short displays all of the tribes, empires, and countries that have claimed the region at some point in history killing each other in chronological order. The result – set to an exaggerated, Frank Sinatra-style theme song – is a ruthless but hilarious historical timeline of the fate of one of the world’s most contested regions.

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Jack Antonoff Takes a Break From Fun. For Solo Record —  With Yoko Ono

By Gabe Friedman


Jack Antonoff, lead guitarist in Fun. and boyfriend of Lena Dunham, has taken a short break from his Grammy Award-winning band to write and record a solo album. The record, entitled “Strange Desire,” was released in July and features Yoko Ono. Dunham directed the music video for the album’s first single, “I Wanna Get Better.”

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Antonoff explains that he found writing music on his own to be interesting and totally “aesthetically different” than the process of writing with Fun. Most notably, Antonoff sings on his solo record, something he has not done since he fronted his first band Steel Train.

He described working with Yoko Ono as predictably bizarre.

“She went in and started screaming and grunting and making album noises,” Antonoff said. “I basically took this 20-minute file of her doing all this stuff, got in bed and started cutting it all up.”

Despite all this, Fun. fans should not be worried – the band is gearing up to write and record a new album.

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Dana International: 'Europe Has No Lessons To Teach Israel'

By Yanir Dekel

Facebook/Exodays

Dana International made quite a splash this weekend at the Gay Pride in Amsterdam, when the Israeli transgender singing sensation lifted a cardboard sign in the shape of the Ten Commandments.

The sight of the Israeli singer, perched atop the Pride’s first Jewish boat, caused anti-Israel protestors to shout. But Dana, not one for shyness, answered back. Grabbing the microphone, she answered that the Jewish people are people who believe in love, in peace and in respect for all human beings.

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Daniel Radcliffe On Life Post-'Harry Potter'

By Piya Sinha-Roy

Getty Images

(Reuters) — From boy wizard Harry Potter to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, actor Daniel Radcliffe has taken on a wide range of fantasy and period roles, but he finally steps into the real world with his latest film.

In the romantic comedy “What If,” out in U.S. theaters on Friday, Radcliffe plays Wallace, a young man damaged by previous romances who becomes enamored with a girl already in a steady relationship.

The 25-year-old British actor talked to Reuters about leaving “Potter” behind and proving his critics wrong.

Q: You have taken on action, fantasy and horror, but never a romantic comedy. What drew you to “What If”?

A: I had never done a contemporary project that was set in the world we are in that we recognize, I’ve never done that. “Potter” was in its own fantasy world and everything else I’ve done has been period films, so I’ve wanted to play somebody contemporary for a long time.

Q: What did playing Wallace allow you to explore?

A: This is the first time I’ve ever played a character that’s quite close to myself, not in terms of the decisions he makes or the way he goes about things, but just in terms of his sense of humor and his speed of thought.

I used to worry that playing myself, or that not playing somebody that different from myself, would make people think of “Harry Potter.” And then I realized I hadn’t been playing myself at all in “Harry Potter.” I was playing a very different, much sterner character than I am myself. So I think I let a bit of that embarrassment go, and it definitely made it easier.

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Ayelet Waldman Takes On 'Those Scumbag Kardashian Pigs'

By Anne Cohen

Ayelet Waldman is on the rampage.

The writer took to Twitter and Facebook yesterday in a rant against “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” the cartoon game app put out by — you guessed it — Kim Kardashian. According to Waldman, the app bypassed parental controls on her computer, allowing her 11-year-old to lose $120 trying to keep up with the Kardashians.

Waldman, who is married to fellow author Michael Chabon, had some choice words for the alliteration-friendly family:

Let’s take a step back here. Is it really Kim Kardashian’s fault that Waldman’s 11-year-old son has access to A) credit card information and B) an unsupervised computer? Kim has created a game — ie. a commercial enterprise. People pay money to play. 11-year-olds make bad decisions. It’s usually the parent’s responsibility to prevent those poor judgment calls, no?

As Leah Finnegan at Gawker eloquently put it:

Hmmm. Who is really at fault here? The “vile scumbag Kardashian pigs and their app designers” for creating a fun game? Waldman’s poor, weeping son who evidently does not understand the value of a dollar? The mysterious person who linked her son’s Apple account to a credit card?

In Waldman’s defense, she does make clear that parental controls were in place on the computer used by her son (also, who knew that Michael Chabon was some sort of tech wiz?)

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Why Mayim Bialik Supports Israel

By Anne Cohen

Mayim Bialik has been active on social media since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, sending thoughts and prayers to her friends and family in Israel.

But in a personal piece posted on her Kveller blog on Thurday, the “Big Bang Theory” explained her decision to send money to the Israel Defense Forces. The list is simple and to the point:

  1. I need to feel like I’m doing something.

  2. No matter what your politics are, soldiers sent into war zones deserve to be protected from enemy fire.

  3. Every soldier is someone’s son or daughter. Every single one.

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Jewish Harry Potter Raises Galleons For Gaza War

By Hody Nemes

Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?

Jewish Israelis have claimed the wizard wonder boy and his legacy on the “Jewish Harry Potter” Facebook page, which has over 10,000 likes. Beneath a profile picture of a yarmulke-clad Harry, users crack jokes about Israeli politics and Jewish religious life through the lens of the Potter series.

Lately, the site’s creators have used the Hershel — I mean Harry — books to process and satirize the war going on around them. Here are their most memorable Jewish Harry Potter memes, ones really worth storing in your pensieve:

1) Chambers of Secrets

Under the heading “A blow to the Death Eaters,” Snape informs Voldemort of an operational setback in their war with the wizarding establishment.

Snape: “Bad news, my lord: the I.D.F. has discovered the tunnel between Borgin & Burkes and Hogwarts.”


2) Hamas’ Peculiar Demands

One user made a list of ceasefire demands promulgated by a little known terrorist group, the Al-Qessem Brigades (punning on the hebrew words for “Kassam rocket” and “magic”).

“We will accept a ceasefire on the following conditions:
A) All our prisoners in Azakaban will be released.
B) Slytherin, under the leadership of Severus Snape, will henceforth run Hogwarts.
C) Voldemort will be appointed Minister of Magic.”


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Joan Rivers Has Advice for Israel: Nose Jobs

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Joan Rivers is trading in her “Fashion Police” badge for some international relations credentials.

The comedian, who just last week was seen passionately defending Israel to a TMZ reporter, is at it again. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 on Wednesday, Rivers had some words of advice for Israel’s PR team.

“We are doing something very wrong in Israel and we are not doing public relations work,” Rivers told Channel 10’s U.S. correspondent Gil Tamari. “Hamas is so smart, they are using old pictures of dead children every time we hit a spot that happens to be – yes, a school, but underneath it there are weapons and they say ‘school!’ and it’s killing me because the wrong people, the dumb people are buying into it.”

Asked for advice on how deal with celebrities like Selena Gomez and Rihanna, Rivers said: “I think Israel should start showing dead puppies. And you’ll see these girls turn right around and go, ‘aww, boo hoo.’”

Lovely, Joan. Just lovely.

But wait, there’s more.

The segment ended with Tamari asking Rivers to play “Got To Have It or Make It Stop,” a game made popular on “Fashion Police.”

This particular gem came out of round 1:

“Well I think we should make it stop and I think I know how to make it stop. I think every Palestinian should get a nose job,” she said. “Because once somebody has had a nose job they won’t fight ‘cause they’re scared their new nose would get broken. I think we should send over every great Jewish plastic surgeon doctor, fix their noses, and there will be peace in the Middle East.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Joan Rivers.

Watch the whole segment below (if you dare).

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Andi Dorfman Is Really Over 'Bachelorette' Runner-Up

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Unless you’ve been offline all day, or, you know, have a life beyond the dramatic ups and down of reality television, you may have heard that Andi Dorfman, a.k.a. the Jewish Bachelorette, has made her decision.

The lucky man comes in the form of Josh Murray, a failed baseball player from Atlanta. So basically, Dorfman could have avoided all this hearttache by just trolling her hometown’s sports bars.

But as in every fairy tale ending, there’s a big loser sitting at home crying. And in Andi’s case, that person is Nick Viall, who, as Jezebel pointed out, was less than gracious about not being the chosen one.

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  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
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