Jews in the News: Bebe Neuwirth, Richard Schiff and Mikael Dolsten

Bad Wake-Up; Ryder’s Godfather; Covid-19, Fictional and Real News

“The Flight Attendant”, an 8-episode HBO Max series, begins streaming on Nov. 26 (2 episodes). Kaley Cuoco (“Big Bang Theory”) stars as Cassie, a flight attendant who wakes up in the “wrong” hotel with the body of a dead man next to her—she has no idea how this all happened. ZOSIA MAMET, 32, (“Girls”), has a big role as Annie, an attorney who is Cassie’s best friend. BEBE NEUWIRTH, 61, (Lilith on “Cheers”) has a large recurring role as Diana, a highly respected senior partner in the law firm where Annie works. She is a mentor to Annie.

The documentary “My Psychedelic Love Story” begins streaming on Showtime on Sunday, Nov. 29 (9PM). In the mid-‘60s, Dr. Timothy Leary became what many called “the high priest of LSD.” He was a clinical psychologist at Harvard when he began doing LSD experiments. Fired by Harvard in 1962, he continued his fervent pro-LSD advocacy and became a major media figure. In 1968, he was arrested on various charges and got a 10-year jail sentence. A radical group broke him out of jail, but he was re-captured in 1972. In prison, he turned FBI informer and he got paroled early in 1976. The film focuses on his time on the run with Joanna Harcourt-Smith, who is interviewed. Was she a CIA plant or just a rich young woman in love? The film was directed ERROL MORRIS, 74, who always makes good films (“The Thin Blue Line” and “The Fog of War”). Fun fact: MICHAEL HOROWITZ, 82, the father of WINONA RYDER, 49, worked for a time as Leary’s archivist. Leary was Winona’s informal godfather.

As I write this, actor RICHARD SCHIFF, 65, is in the hospital battling Covid-19. Reports say his condition is improving. Schiff had a big role in “The West Wing” (Toby Ziegler, White House Communications Director) and he has a big role in “The Good Doctor” (Dr. Glassman). His (real-life) wife, actress Sheila Kelley, who plays his wife on “The Good Doctor,” has revealed that she has Covid-19, too, as does their son. Ironically, the new season of “The Good Doctor” began with two episodes about the impact of Covid-19 on the hospital that Glassman once headed-up. These episodes found Glassman stewing because he couldn’t leave his house because of his age and because he’s a cancer survivor. (The new “winter” season of “Doctor” is only 5 episodes. All episodes were/will be first shown on ABC on Monday, at 10PM. Catch-up on-demand or on Hulu).

The Nov.16 episode “Good Doctor” episode began with a brief statement that this episode (and ones following) posits a world in which Covid-19 has been beat. The episode’s drama was mostly about a group of doctors applying for six prestigious hospital resident positions. Dr. Asher Wolke is ultimately selected. During the episode, we learn that Wolke grew up in a Hasidic community, the son of a rabbi.  However, he left when he was 18. He had decided he didn’t believe in God and he knew he was gay. NOAH GALVIN, 26, plays Wolke. Galvin, the son of a Christian father and a Jewish mother, grew-up exposed to both faiths, but identifies as Jewish as an adult. In 2017, he replaced BEN PLATT in the title role in the hit Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen". In May, 2020 he and Platt announced they were a couple. On Nov. 15, Platt, 27, revealed he contracted Covid-19 last March, but has completely recovered.

If you haven’t already, do read the JTA article (Nov. 16) about Pfizer’s chief scientist, Dr. MIKAEL DOLSTEN, 62 (‘Google’ Dolsten and JTA and you’ll find it). Of course, the focus of the piece is Pfizer’s development of a Covid-19 vaccine that, in early studies, is 95% effective (as in the Moderna Company vaccine. As I previously wrote, their vaccine team’s “point man” is Israeli-American scientist TAL ZAKS). Like Zaks, Dr. Dolsten is an immigrant. He was born and raised in Sweden (Jewish population, about 30,000). He excelled while working for Swedish companies and was recruited by international pharmaceutical companies. This led to a posting in America, where eventually (2009) he became a Pfizer employee. He and his Swedish Jewish wife, also a physician, were happy to settle in America. The piece also confirmed what I suspected----Pfizer’s CEO, Dr. ALBERT BOURLA, 59, is a Greek (Sephardic) Jew, born and raised in Thessaloniki (“Salonika”). I just came across a new piece in the Greek-American press about him and his family, which I will share with you in my next column.


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