Jews in the News: David Blaine, Winona Ryder and Leonard Cohen

Blaine’s New/Old Tricks

Magician DAVID BLAINE, 43, has a new ABC Special, “Beyond Magic”. It airs Tuesday, Nov. 15. at 10PM. He’ll be returning to the illusions, sleight-of-hand tricks, and “street magic” that first made him famous, and not do the endurance feats he’s recently done. Frankly, I think the endurance stuff (like being encased in ice) got old and sort of weird pretty quickly. The special, which promises us “never-before seen stunts”, features a raft of “amazed” celebrities, including DRAKE, 30, Emma Stone, Johnny Depp, and John Travolta.

Like Drake, Blaine is the son of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father. Like Drake, he was raised by his mother.

Final Statement on Hacksaw Ridge

Well, it looks like “Ridge” is a critical hit. But even positive reviews usually added that its trademark Mel Gibson: a weird mix of combat carnage and “heavy” religion. As I predicted, film star ANDREW GARFIELD, 33, talked to many media outlets and declared what a great guy Mel is. While on Jimmy Kimmel, practically the first words out of Garfield’s mouth were, “I’m proud to be Jewish” before launching into a defense of the Gibson he personally knows. Garfield has got good reviews for his performance and there’s a good chance he’ll snare an Oscar nomination. That’s nice for him.

Less nice is an Oct. 31 interview with the “Fandango” website. It exposes how Garfield is “situationally Jewish”. The first question was about coming from “a Jewish family” and playing two characters “defined by their Christian faith” (in “Ridge” and the movie “Silence”). Garfield replied: “I wasn’t actually raised Jewish. My father is Jewish …but he’s non-practicing and left the faith as a young boy, of his own volition. My [non-Jewish] mom is a kind of pantheist, and my father became an atheist but I think he’s now coming around to some kind of higher power.”

Like Garfield, actress WINONA RYDER, 45, is the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. She has called herself Jewish, but her upbringing was a quasi-pantheistic mix of her mother’s adopted faith, Buddhism, and a bit of everything else. Unlike Garfield, she didn’t get to know the ‘nice’ professional Gibson. Rather, in 1995, she was at Hollywood party that Gibson also attended. It came up that she was Jewish, she told “GQ”, and not long after a drunk Gibson called her “an oven dodger.”

I have no respect for those whose ties to the Jewish community are small-- and then they whip out their “Jewish card” to defend someone like Gibson. On the other hand, I feel solidarity with anyone whose Jewish ties are small when they are attacked for their Jewish background and have the courage to speak out about it.

Musical Notes

Due to an oversight, I left three Jews nominated for 2017 induction into the Rock Hall of Fame out of my prior column. They are STEPHEN JO BLADD, 74, drummer with the J. Geils band, and the band, “Yes,” which had two Jewish members: TREVOR RABIN, 62, guitarist and principal songwriter; and TONY KAYE, 70, keyboards.

Well, BOB DYLAN, 75, has finally accepted his Nobel Prize and I bet he’ll be in Sweden on Dec. 10 to accept his prize. He graciously personally accepted the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Pres. Obama in 2012. As for his long silence about accepting the Nobel—in the words of the sages, “Go figure!”

There is a wonderful article about the equally legendary LEONARD COHEN, 83, in the Oct. 17th issue of the New Yorker, written by DAVID REMNICK, 58 (free on-line). It is a remarkably complete profile of his life, combined with a recent interview. There’s insight into the Dylan/Cohen connection.

Remnick writes: [Both are] Jewish, literary, [with] a penchant for Biblical imagery…but the work was divergent. Dylan, even on his earliest records, was moving toward more surrealist, free-associative language and the furious abandon of rock and roll. Cohen’s lyrics were no less imaginative or charged, no less ironic or self-investigating, but he was clearer, more economical and formal, more liturgical… Dylan and Cohen saw each other from time to time. In the early eighties, Cohen [met with Dylan] in a Paris café…Dylan was especially interested in “Hallelujah.” Even before three hundred other performers made “Hallelujah” famous with their cover versions…Dylan recognized the beauty of its marriage of the sacred and the profane.” (Dylan twice performed “Hallelujah” in concert in 1988—but not since.)

Link to Remnick Profile:



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