Jews in the News: Beanie Feldstein, Ben Platt and Peggy Lipton

At the Movies: Flying High, One way or another

Opening May 24 is the teen comedy “Booksmart”. It centers on Amy (BEANIE FELDSTEIN, 25) and Molly (Kaitlyn Dever), best friends and high school seniors. They decide to break-out of their bookish rut by going to a wild graduation party. But they don’t know where it is. They accidentally go, first, to a party on a yacht hosted by a rich classmate (SKYLER GISONDO, 22). At this party they are accidentally drugged. They then go to another classmate’s (NOAH GALVIN, 24) “wrong party” before they finally make it to the “right party”. A lot of weird stuff happens there, but it all comes out fine in the end.  LISA KUDROW, 55, has a supporting role as Amy’s mom.

Also opening on the 24th is “Aladdin,” a live-action re-make of the hit 1992 Disney animated film of the same name. Canadian actor Mena Massoud, an Egyptian Coptic Christian (like Rami Malek), plays Aladdin and Will Smith plays the Genie. The score (music other than the songs) was written by ALAN MENKEN, 69. He also wrote the score for the 1992 film and co-wrote the original version songs with the late HOWARD ASHMAN and Tim Rice. Menken wrote two new songs for the re-make with the Oscar-winning (“La La Land”) team of BENJ PASEK, 33, and Justin Paul.

Platt All Over the Place

Broadway star BEN PLATT, 25, who won the Tony in 2017 for best actor in a musical (“Dear Evan Hansen”), is now on a limited tour in which he is promoting his debut solo album, “Sing to Me.” It consists of 12 original songs, all written by Platt. Many of the tunes are soulful pop ballads detailing Platt’s journey as an openly gay man searching for love. Platt came out publicly this year. He came out as gay to his parents when he was 12. He told recent concert crowd he told his parents, on the phone, when he was in Israel on a Birthright trip.

Last February, it was announced that Platt would co-star in “The Politician,” an upcoming Netflix series. It’s described as a “music-driven” satirical comedy about a wealthy politician from Santa Barbara. The series is being produced by the same three guys who produced the hit musical series “Glee”. One of those producers is BRAD FALCHUK, 48, who married GWYNETH PALTROW, 46, last year and Paltrow is reportedly in talks to be in the show. BARBRA STREISAND, 77, is also reportedly considering appearing in “The Politician.”

On Peggy Lipton

PEGGY LIPTON, best known as the pretty, willowy blonde star of the ‘60s series “The Mod Squad,” died on May 11, age 72, from cancer. Over the years, I’ve found that most Jews express a bit of delight when they find out that Lipton is/was Jewish. Of course, Jews come in all colors and types. But there’s no denying that most of the pretty, willowy blondes who got, and still get, a disproportionate share of high-profile roles, aren’t tribe members. In other respects, Lipton defied stereotypes. She was mostly raised in a ritzy, heavily Jewish Long Island suburb. But her parents were much more ‘arty’ than most of their neighbors. Her mother was an accomplished painter. After her family moved to Los Angeles, Lipton tried her hand at acting and quickly succeeded. But she made the still unusual choice of retiring from acting in 1974 to raise a family. She shocked many by marrying African-American music legend Quincy Jones and surprised others when she successfully returned to TV in 1992 (“Twin Peaks”).

Many years ago, there were exaggerated reports that Lipton was “into” the whole gaggle of hippie type religious things. The reality was that she raised her two daughters (actresses RASHIDA JONES, now 43, and KIDADA JONES, now 45) in Reform Judaism and they went to Hebrew school. Rashida has been particularly vocal about identifying as a Jew and Lipton must have been gratified when Rashida gave birth, last year, to her first grandchild, ISIAIAH JONES KOENIG. His father is EZRA KOENIG, 34, the leader of the popular band Vampire Weekend.

In my next column, I’ll have a similar item about Doris Day, who also died recently. I’ll cover her Jewish connections. I may also have another item about “Game of Thrones”. But, as I write this, the series finale has not aired. I think this item will be influenced by the ultimate fate of an important character—and I’ll report on Madonna’s concert in Israel, now scheduled to take place on Saturday evening, May 18.


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