Jews in the News: Dave Franco, Ben Stiller and Barry Manilow

At the Movies: Opens Friday, Feb. 12

“How to Be Single” doesn’t sound like ground-breaking fare: it’s a bunch of lightly connected stories that follow about a dozen unmarried New York City singles as they look for love and/or hook-ups. Still, it’s usually interesting to see how well a familiar story is told and a romantic comedy, with a good cast, is a good choice near Valentine's Day. The cast of “Single” includes the talented and funny ALISON BRIE, 33, who, in real life, is engaged to a sweet guy-- DAVE FRANCO, 30. Look for Dakota “50 Shades of Grey” Johnson in a star role---I guess we’ll find out if she can be funny.

“Zoolander 2” is a sequel to the 2001 film that featured BEN STILLER, now 50, as a dim-witted, but good-hearted high fashion model who was drawn into a web of political assassinations. Like the original, the sequel is a wild satire of the fashion industry and spy thrillers. In the sequel, Interpol recruits Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson), another top model, to infiltrate a clique of high fashion guys believed to be behind the killing of famous musicians (the biggest baddie is played by Will Ferrell). A lot of (real) music biggies, like Justin Bieber, have cameos. Sad to say, Ben’s father, JERRY STILLER, who played the hilarious agent Marty Ballstein in the original, isn’t in the sequel. It appears that Jerry, now 88, has unofficially retired. Ben’s mother, ANNE MEARA, died in 2015.

“Zoo 2” was directed by Ben Stiller and the screenplay is by Stiller, JOHN HAMBURG, 45 (who co-wrote the original) and NICK STOLLER, 39. Stoller’s credits include directing the hits “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Neighbors”.  His father-in-law is well-known novelist NICHOLAS DELBANCO, 73. CARLY SIMON, now 70, recently disclosed that her huge hit, “You’re So Vain”, was about multiple people and the guy (in the song) wearing “an apricot scarf” was Delbanco, whom she was involved with in the ‘60s. No one saw that “credit” coming—most thought the line was about Mick Jagger’s scarf.

“Vinyl” on HBO; Time Travel on Hulu

"Vinyl", which begins on Feb. 14, is about the world of rock and roll in the 1970s and it’s probably the most highly anticipated HBO series since “Game of Thrones”. The star, Bobby Cannavale (“Boardwalk Empire”), can be a great actor in the right role—and this looks to be such a role. He plays a record exec trying to revive a label. PAUL BEN-VICTOR, 50 (“The Wire”), is a regular cast member. He plays Maury Gold, a slick record company owner. Also, it appears that Italian-American actor Max Cassella plays a Jewish character and another (not Jewish) Italian-American actor, Ray Romano, may also be playing a regular Jewish character.  Finally, look for ANDREW “Dice” CLAY, 58, in a recurring role as Frank "Buck" Rogers, a cocaine-fueled owner of a chain of radio stations.

Starting on Tuesday, Feb. 16, is the eight episode series, “11.22.63”. Based on a Stephen King novel, it stars JAMES FRANCO, 37, as a teacher who goes back into the past (1960) to try and prevent JFK’s murder. However, he gets too attached to the life he makes in the past.

Jewish Hearts

I thought with Valentine’s Day this weekend, I’d do something different and suggest how to turn into a Jewish holiday—first, start off with giving your tootsie a Tootsie Roll (created by LEO HIRSHFELDER in 1886—the same Jewish family has owned the company since the 1930s and Tootsie products are kosher). Possibly follow a nice meal with some Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (founded by BEN COHEN and JERRY GREENFIELD, both 64).  Of course, romantic songs should accompany a Valentine’s feast and its aftermath. Here are ten such tunes by Jewish songwriters, five classics and five more modern—check Youtube for versions---my suggested singer follows names of composer(s) of classic tunes. Modern songs are all sung by the songwriter---“My Funny Valentine”, by RICHARD RODGERS and LORENZ HART (Frank Sinatra); “The Way You Look Tonight”, by JEROME KERN and DOROTHY FIELDS (Rod Stewart); “S Wonderful” by GEORGE and IRA GERSHWIN (Fred Astaire); “Stormy Weather” by HAROLD ARLEN (Lena Horne); “Tonight” from West Side Story, by LEONARD BERNSTEIN and STEPHEN SONDHEIM (movie version); “Wedding Bell Blues” (an upbeat song) by the late LAURA NYRO; “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” by BOB DYLAN; “Anticipation” by CARLY SIMON;  “Your Body is a Wonderland” by JOHN MAYER; and “Hold On, We’re Going Home” by DRAKE.

Manilow and Koz Play Florida---Maybe One Last Time

Last week, the Sun Sentinel newspaper had a very nice profile of BARRY MANILOW, 72, and smooth jazz sax player DAVE KOZ, 52. They were set to play (Feb. 5) an arena in Sunrise, Florida. That arena replaced the Sunrise Musical Theater, which closed in 2002. Manilow, who played the old theater's last concert quipped to the closing night audience, "It was an honor to be the last performer ever in the Sunrise Musical Theater. I am going to be forever known as the last Jew to leave the building."

Their joint concert was called, "One Last Time", and the title may reference the fact that Manilow may be ending his 40-year touring career. It’s a nice, well-written piece and here's a link to it:


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