Jews in the News: Amy Schummer, Barbara Streisand and Steven Spielberg

The Pelvis and Tricky Dick

In 1970, Elvis Presley met with President Nixon at the White House. Nixon consented to the hastily scheduled meeting in the hope that Presley’s celebrity would help him with young people. Presley’s motivation seems mostly to get Nixon to make him a Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Bureau honorary officer so he could get a Bureau badge and add it to his big collection of law enforcement badges. The meeting of the uber-stiff Nixon and the uber-loose Presley has long been fodder for comics and, in 1997, a pretty good indie film about the meeting was released (“Elvis Meets Nixon”). Opening on Friday, April 22, is another re-telling of the story: “Elvis & Nixon”.  Kevin Spacey (Nixon) and Michael Shannon (Elvis), co-star. Good film festival buzz led Amazon to buy “Elvis & Nixon” and they’ll stream the film after its theater run. The screenplay is by JOEY SAGAL, 59, and HANALA SAGAL, 55ish. They also have small parts in the flick. Joey is the son of the late director BORIS SAGAL (“Masada”) and the brother of actress KATEY SAGAL, 62. Hanala, who was briefly married to Joey, is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She had a tough childhood, fled to Los Angeles from Montreal, and re-invented herself as popular fitness expert on Los Angeles TV. Her recent autobiography is serious despite the shocking title: “My Parents Went Through the Holocaust and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt".

Sanders in the Saddle

Political reporter MARK HALPERIN, 51, is all over the place this election year. The son of well known foreign policy expert MORTON HALPERIN, 77, he is a frequent analyst on NBC news; a regular contributor to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC; a contributor to “Time” magazine; one of the three principals of the Showtime series “Circus” (about the current election); and the co-host of “With All Due Respect,” a Bloomberg network weekday series he co-hosts with John Heilemann. I was amused by a recent segment on “Due Respect” which promised to tell us something about a presidential candidate we did not know. Halperin said that he heard that Sanders liked horse riding. The camera then cut to a hotel lobby where Jane Sanders, Bernie’s wife, was seated. She said: “Yes, Bernie and I both like to ride horses. We do so on vacation.” I think Bernie, the Brooklyn cowboy, should show another side of himself. Just imagine Sanders entering those jam packed rallies on horseback--maybe a palomino or mustang for those upcoming Western state primaries.

Worth Checking Out

AMY SCHUMER, 34, is the producer of the Comedy Central special, “Amy Schumer Presents Rachel Feinstein: Only Whores Wear Purple.” Feinstein, 30ish, has long been a stand-up comedian and was a finalist in the seventh season of “Last Comic Standing”.  She also appeared in several skits on “Inside Amy Schumer.”  In 2012, she played a festival of Jewish culture in Manitoba, Canada, and was interviewed by the CBC, who asked her if there is a Jewish style of humor. She replied: “My dad is Jewish but my mom converted and her side of the family is more WASPy. I think I get my sense of humor from my Dad and his side. They all have a darker, more, flippant sarcastic way of talking.” (Airs first on Saturday, April 23, at 11PM)

Casting Notes

BARBRA STREISAND,71 ,will apparently fulfill her long time desire to play the meaty role of Mama Rose in a big-screen re-make of “Gypsy”. Universal bowed out last year, but it looks like the film production is back-on-track. BARRY LEVINSON, 74, has been tapped as the director and Streisand is a producer as well as helping to develop the script. It will be great to see Streisand belt-out “Everything is Coming Up Roses”.

You might have heard that STEVEN SPIELBERG, 71, will direct “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara.” The Mortara story is a shocking one and still reflects terribly in the Catholic church. Nobody but Spielberg could make a big budget film about the true story of the kidnapping of a six-year-old Italian Jewish child by Papal authorities in 1857 on the grounds that a Catholic housemaid had secretly baptized him as an infant. I do question Spielberg’s decision to cast Mark Rylance as the Pope who was ultimately responsible for stealing the child. Rylance signed a public statement calling for a “cultural boycott” of Israel. The signers said they “will not accept any professional invitations from Israel”. Well, apparently you can star in a film about anti-Semitism and boycott Israel, too. More on this subject in a latter column.


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