Jews in the News: Barry Blaustein, Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash

America, 2; Bash, Blitzer, & Tapper, Sammy & Daughter

“Coming to America: 2”, the much-anticipated sequel to the monster 1988 film hit, begins streaming on Amazon Prime on Mar. 5. The sequel has Eddie Murphy again playing Akem, the heir to the throne of Zamunda, an African country. As his father, the King, lays dying, Akem learns that he has an unknown-to-him son in New York City. 

The dying king is played by James Earl Jones, who just turned 90. To paraphrase ARTHUR MILLER’s words in “Death of a Salesman”: “Attention must be paid” when a great actor and role model like Jones turns 90. Here’s two “Jewish nuggets”: (1) a quick Google search reveals that he attended a 2002 benefit for the UJA-Federation of New York (I suspect there are other such benefits I did not find)—and (2) He played the African American chauffeur who became the best friend of a white, Southern Jewish woman in hit London (2011) and Broadway (2015) revivals of “Driving Miss Daisy”, the famous play (and film).

Back to the plot: The King urges Akem to go to New York and bring this son (and heir) back to Zamunda. After his father’s death, King Akem, with his aide, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), travel to New York and are shocked to learn that Akem’s son is a savvy street hustler.

The original film and the sequel were written by Murray, David Sheffield, and BARRY BLAUSTEIN, 65. The latter two were “SNL” staff writers while Murphy was starring on the show (1980-83). They also helped write “The Nutty Professor” (1996), a hit re-make of a JERRY LEWIS movie that also starred Murphy. 

March is the last month in which WOLF BLITZER, 74, will hold the title of “lead political anchor” of CNN. Starting April 1, JAKE TAPPER, 51, will assume that title. Also on April 1, Blitzer’s daily CNN program, “The Situation Room”, will be reduced from two hours to one. “The Lead with Jake Tapper” will expand to two hours. Meanwhile, Tapper has already begun to share his Sunday program, “The State of the Union”, with correspondent DANA BASH, 49. They host on alternate weeks.

All three have strong Jewish backgrounds. Blitzer is the son of Auschwitz survivors and became fluent in Hebrew while working for the “Jerusalem Post”. Tapper is a Jewish Day School grad and a Camp Ramah attendee. His mother, like his (only) wife, are Jews-by-Choice and he was married by his sister-in-law, a Conservative rabbi.

Bash’s mother has a masters degree in Jewish studies. As of 2015, her only child, then 3, was in a Jewish pre-school. She was formerly married to JEREMY BASH, the son of a Conservative rabbi, and CNN correspondent JOHN KING, 59, who converted to Judaism before marrying Bash.

It occurred to me that if “SNL” ever revives “Hanukkah Harry” (see Youtube), a fantasy character who brings presents to Jewish kids—Harry could name his reindeer “Bash, Blitzer, and Tapper”. Just sounds right somehow. If the current (Jewish) Sec. of State joins CNN after retirement, they could change the line-up to Bash, Blinken, Blitzer, and Tapper.

By the way, reindeer only became “Christian/Xmas” in the 19thC. However, like all deer, they have been “potentially” kosher for thousands of years and many quite ancient Jewish scholars put kosher animals on a higher spiritual plane than non-kosher ones.

A few weeks ago, I came across a publicity release from last October that said that a bio-pic about SAMMY DAVIS, Jr. (1925-1990) was in the works, and that the film would be based on a 2014 memoir, “Sammy Davis, Jr.: A Personal Journey with My Father", by TRACEY DAVIS. The release noted that Tracey Davis said she was “thrilled” by the announcement.

I recently got a library copy of the book, a lavish production with great photos. Tracey writes about some of her family’s Jewish ties and she includes the full text of a moving statement that a rabbi made as he presided over the 1960 inter-racial wedding of her father to Swedish-born actress MAY BRITT, now 86 (both converted to Judaism before the wedding).

Tracey said her mother always celebrated Shabbos on Friday night, but, sadly, her father was rarely there because he was “always” working. She added that his work schedule, and not a lack of love, caused her parents to divorce in 1968.

Last week, I looked up Tracey and was shocked to learn she died on Nov. 20, age 59, following an unspecified “short illness”. She is survived by her four children, three brothers, and her mother.


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