Jews in the News: Adam Pally, Drake and Michael Chabon

At the Movies: Opens August 10

“Dogs Days” is a romantic comedy that seems appropriately titled. It’s a breezy little movie that doesn’t tax your mind during the summer heat. We are all familiar, now, with the ensemble anthology film—a bunch of strangers have something in common (a holiday they all celebrate, etc.) and eventually their respective storylines join up. “Days” gimmick is that the main characters are all Los Angeles dog owners.  Humans and dogs run into each other, lives intertwine, and some things change. The large cast includes ADAM PALLY, 36 (“The Mindy Project”) as one of the ‘main’ dog owners. Pally recently told a Canadian interviewer that he was grateful to appear in a movie that his young children could see with him. Pally, and his wife DANIELA LIBEN PALLY, 37 (his high school sweetheart), have three children (two boys, age 6, and age 1; and a girl, age 5).  Their younger son is named DRAKE.  I’d love to know if the name was inspired by the Jewish rapper DRAKE, 36.  His latest double album, “Scorpion,” is breaking just about every sales record.

Over in Berkeley

By coincidence, several inter-related items about past or present residents of Berkeley, California came to the fore this week.  I’ll try, in the next year, to replicate this “odd event” in the city or state you live in.

The series, “Star Trek: Discovery,” on the CBS All-Access streaming service, has turned into a pretty big hit. The 2nd season of “Discovery” begins next January and to keep viewer interest fresh, CBS commissioned four, 15-minute mini- \episodes (called “Short Treks”) that will premiere this fall.  The mini-episode “Calypso” was written by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist MICHAEL CHABON, 55. “Calypso” follows a man who finds himself alone on a deserted space ship.

Chabon has lived in Berkeley since 1997 and he set his major novel “Telegraph Avenue” (2012), in Berkeley. He shares his Berkeley home with his wife, writer and former lawyer AYELET WALDMAN, 53, and their four children. Like Chabon, Waldman’s novels frequently have Jewish characters and themes and they both have written essays on Jewish subjects.

Waldman was in the news last week soon after Henry Louis Gates, the host of the PBS celebrity ancestry show, “Finding Your Roots,” disclosed (July 31) that House Speaker Paul Ryan, a practicing Catholic, has some remote Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (about 3% of his DNA). Gates let this drop during a news conference promoting the 5th season of his show, which premieres in January.

On Aug. 1, Ryan tweeted: “Guess I have to start saying L’Chaim, too.”  Waldman, a political progressive like her husband, responded to the “Roots” news a few hours after Ryan. In a tweet that was widely reported, Waldman wrote: “I'm sorry but no, we don't want him.”   Also weighing in was Stephen Colbert, a practicing Catholic like Ryan, and a progressive like Waldman. He joked on-air: “Haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?”

The 5th “Roots” season will have 25 guests. Three are Jewish: Berkeley native ANDY SAMBERG, 39; comedian SARAH SILVERMAN, 47; and Facebook Chief Operating Officer SHERYL SANDBERG, 48. Also, comedian Seth Meyers, whose paternal grandfather was Jewish, is a guest. But it’s unclear if his Jewish ancestry will be a focus of his episode.

Samberg is the subject of this intriguing teaser in the official “Roots” press release: “Highlights include a search for Andy Samberg's biological grandparents…”. I gather, from this release, that either Andy’s (Jewish) mother or his (Jewish) father was adopted. My educated guess, based on a lot of “clues”, is that it was his mother who was adopted and I won’t be that surprised if she’s “biologically Jewish.”

Finally, the Berkeley saga ends with the late Raymond Burr of “Perry Mason” and “Ironside” fame. I recently stumbled on a Burr biography and learned that: 1) While born in Canada, he was a Berkeley High School grad (2) While not Jewish; he gave big money to Jewish charities for decades. Why? No one knew, exactly. Perhaps being a life-long closeted gay man made him simpatico to the Jewish people (?) 3) Even his biographer didn’t understand why “Ironside” became the most popular TV show in Israel in the early 1970s. (Was his charity being rewarded by some divine hand?). Everybody in Israel knew he was when he visited, for a week, in 1976. He played a wheelchair bound detective in “Ironside” and he spent most of his time in Israel visiting with wounded soldiers and the disabled.


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