Jews in the News: Billy Crystal, Sean Penn and Emma Forest

Celebs Behaving Badly or Wanting To
, 66, writing for the March issue of the AARP Bulletin, recounts he met legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite while working as a theater usher in the late 1960s. Excited to see the famous man, Crystal rushed-up to his seat and asked Cronkite if he could do anything for him. “Uncle” Walter replied, “Well, you could start by taking that f-ucking flashlight out of my face.” Twenty years later, Crystal met Cronkite at another event and reminded him of the incident. Cronkite replied, “That was you? I’ve felt bad about that for years!”
In a recent San Francisco stage interview, Dick Cavett prefaced a JACK BENNY story by noting that Benny was perhaps the nicest man in show business: he was kind to everyone, loyal to old friends, and he paid his writers very well. Then Cavett recalled how he was a staff writer for the Tonight Show in the early 1960s and Benny was a guest. They chanced to ride down on the same elevator, which was supposed to be for celebs and staff only, but some audience members slipped on it. These “regular folks” pestered Benny with stupid questions like, “Are you really cheap?”  and [seriously asked] “Do you still have a bank vault in your basement?”
Benny politely answered until the elevator stopped and emptied.  Cavett then asked Benny, “You must have heard these stupid questions a million times. Don’t you hate them?”  Benny said, “Yeah, sometimes I do want to tell them to go f-ck themselves.” (If the super-nice Benny was oft tempted to “lose-it”, you can understand why the normally nice Cronkite lost his temper).
At the Movies: Opening Friday, March 20
SEAN PENN, 54, stars in “The Gunman” as a former Special Forces soldier and military contractor who is suffering from PTSD and tries to reconnect with his long time love, but must go on the run across Europe to clear his name. Co-stars include Javier Bardem. Sadly, this action film has received mostly negative advance reviews. Probably more exciting would be an action oriented film about how Penn, in real life, used a lot of cloak-and-dagger techniques to help get American businessman JACOB OSTREICHER, 56, out of a Bolivian prison in Dec, 2013 and out of the country. Penn’s role in this escape from unjust imprisonment earned him plaudits from persons far to his political Right, like Rabbi SHUMELY BOTEACH, 48, who last May presented Penn with a “Champion of Jewish Justice” award.
Another alternate reality is found in the sci-fi flick, “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” It’s the second in a trilogy of films based on the popular “Divergent” novels. Appearing in major supporting roles are ZOE KRAVITZ, 26 (Christina) and Ansel Elgort, 20, as Caleb (Despite much looking, I don’t know if Elgort has more than one Jewish grandparent—his father’s father). Kravitz’s parents (singer Lenny Kravitz and actress LISA BONET, 47) each had an African-American parent (Lenny’s mother and Lisa’s father) and a “white” Jewish parent.  Lenny has long defined himself as Christian, and it seems like Bonet follows some “new age” beliefs. Zoe, however, has called herself a secular Jew. (By the way, the author of the “Divergent” novels, Veronica Roth, almost certainly wasn’t born Jewish as some sources say. Her non-Jewish maternal grandparents were, however, in a concentration camp).
New-Ish on TV: All Florida
The Netflix series, “Bloodline,” premieres on March 20 and per their practice, the whole first season is released at once. Here’s the publicity release description: “The Rayburns [are] a contemporary American family who are hard-working pillars of their Florida community. But when black sheep and eldest son, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) comes home for the 45th anniversary of his parents’ hotel, he threatens to expose the Rayburns dark secrets and shameful past.”
Mendelsohn, an Australian, has just one Jewish grand—father’s father.  His wife, however, is fairly famous English Jewish journalist and screenwriter EMMA FORREST, 38, and they have a child. The series was co-created by DANIEL ZELMAN, 47, who was long married to DEBRA MESSING, 46, and he’s the father of her only child.
Starting on March 25 is the Comedy central series “Big Time in Hollywood FL”. It centers two brothers who are deluded, self-proclaimed filmmakers. Their parents, played by Kathy Baker and STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY, 63, kick them out of their house. Toblowsky had recurring roles on “Glee” (Sandy Ryerson) and “Californication” (Stu Beggs)—but he will always be known (best) to me and millions of others as the pestering insurance salesman in “Groundhog Day”.



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