Jews in the News: Aaron Sorkin, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Chicago 7, Something Weird, More

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”, an original Netflix film, begins streaming on Oct. 16. It opened in a few theaters on Sept. 28 and has received mostly great reviews. The film was directed and written by AARON SORKIN, 59 (“A Few Good Men”, “The West Wing”). The 1968 Democratic Convention was held in Chicago, then run with an iron hand by Mayor Richard Daley. He was determined that no anti-Vietnam war demonstrators would get near the convention hall. Police, National Guardsmen, and private guards got carte blanche to beat and/or arrest demonstrators (and even bystanders) anywhere near the convention hall. All this was later called “a police riot” by a blue-ribbon, non-partisan commission. Nonetheless, the Nixon Justice Dept. made the political decision to charge (1969) a group of anti-war figures with conspiracy-to-riot. Here are some Jewish sidelights to the trial: (1) Three of the defendants were Jewish: ABBIE HOFFMAN (SACHA BARON COHEN, 48), JERRY RUBIN, and LEE WEINER (NOAH ROBBINS, 30). The two main defense lawyers, WILLIAM KUNSTLER and LEONARD WEINGLASS (BEN SHENKMAN 51) were Jewish. The trial judge, JULIUS HOFFMAN, was Jewish. (I don’t know if co-prosecutor Richard Schultz, who is still alive, is Jewish. He is played by JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, 39); (2) Abbie joked during the trial that he was Judge Hoffman’s illegitimate son. He was more serious when he cried out in court: "You [Judge Hoffman] are a 'shande fur de Goyim’ ["disgrace in front of the Gentiles"]. You would have served Hitler better."; (4) Judge Hoffman’s trial conduct was so biased that the contempt-of-court jail sentences he handed out were thrown out on appeal. The convictions for conspiracy-to-riot were reversed (partially because of the Judge’s bias).  (5) Weiner and co-defendant John Froines were almost unknown before the trial and they were the only 2 not convicted on the riot charge. Weiner, now 81, later worked for the Anti-Defamation League and was active in protests on behalf of Soviet Jewry; (6) A close relative of mine was a Convention demonstrator. The first day he was in Chicago, MIKE WALLACE went up to him in a coffee shop, yanked his beard, and said, “What are you kids doing here?”  A day or so later, Wallace and Dan Rather were seriously assaulted by security guards on the floor of the Convention. Why? Not clear—but it seems like they had orders to hit anybody who was not exactly where they expected them to be.

I wondered how the Proud Boys, the all-male, far-right violent group that featured prominently in the first Presidential debate, got its name. I found out that it was named by Gavin McInnees, the group’s co-founder. To quote the Southern Poverty Law Center, “McInnes plays a duplicitous rhetorical game: rejecting white nationalism and, in particular, the term alt-right while espousing some of its central tenets.”  I think it’s fair to call McInnes an anti-Semite, an Islamophobe, a homophobe, a racist, and an anti-feminist. Many of his statements and actions clearly place him in all these categories. 

 I was surprised to find out that the Proud Boys name comes from the song “Proud of Your Boy.” It was originally written for “Aladdin”, the 1992 animated Disney musical, but wasn’t included in that film.  The tune got a cult following in the mid-‘90s and it was included in the 2011 Broadway stage version. Aladdin sings the song and, in very simple terms, he expresses his wish that his mother would someday be proud of him. McInness heard the song and he came to the bizarre conclusion that Aladdin was apologizing for being a boy(!)—which he thought was wrong. From that weird beginning, there is a now a major hate group named “kind of” after a song written by two Jews (composer/lyricist ALAN MENKEN, 71, and the late lyricist HOWARD ASHMAN, who was gay). “Proud” was first sung on Broadway by ADAM JACOBS, 40. He’s a bigot’s nightmare: a Jewish father and a Filipino mother. 

More Ashman: I recently discovered that last August the Disney Plus channel began streaming “Howard, A Documentary”.  This critically acclaimed new film explains why Ashman was much more than a great lyricist. To quote the “Vox” film review, he was the “force behind the resurgence [of] Disney animation…a golden age of animated movies from 1989 to 1992 that included “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Aladdin”.  Also on this channel—“The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story”—a great doc (2009) about the Jewish songwriters of “Mary Poppins”, “Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang,” The Jungle Book,” and more.


Add Comment