Jews in the News: Jack Black, Iris Apfel and Bruce Levenson

Friends Creator Returns

The new Netflix series, “Frankie and Grace,” will premiere on Friday, May 8. Per Netflix practice, the whole first season is released at once. The series stars Lilly Tomlin and Jane Fonda (who co-starred in the hit flick “9 to 5”) as long-time rivals who are brought together when their husbands announce that they are in love with each other and plan to marry. Their husbands are played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. The latter’s character’s first name is “Sol,” and I am guessing that he is supposed to be Jewish.

“Frankie and Gracie” was created by MARTA KAUFFMAN, 58, who co-created “Friends” with DAVID CRANE, 57. She has been married to Crane’s college roommate, composer MICHAEL SKLOFF, 57, since 1984, and they have three children. Skloff composed the hit “Friends” theme song, “I’ll Be There for You” and the music for other TV shows. He also helps bring music programs to the Los Angeles synagogue that he and his wife belong to.  Crane, who is gay, is married to JEFFREY KLARIK, who is about 55, and was a principal writer of “Mad About You.” I’m pretty sure Kauffman got some input from Crane/Klerik regarding “Frankie and Grace.”

At the Movies: Make a Note

The following two movies open in limited release on May 8, or a bit later. In all likelihood, you will see publicity about them and reviews in the national media, but it will be hard to find them playing in a theater near you. Make a note about their Jewish connections and catch up with them when they come to other media outlets, like streaming services/DVD.

The bro-mance comedy, “D Train,” stars JACK BLACK, 45, as Dan Landsman, a Pittsburgh-based “loser” who convinces his boss (JEFFREY TAMBOR, 70) to send him to Los Angeles. Dan sells it as a business trip, but what he really wants to do is meet-up with Oliver (James Marsden), an old high school classmate who Dan wrongly believes is a successful actor . Dan thinks that if Oliver attends a high school reunion that Dan is organizing that it will be a success and Dan’s life will turn around. “Train” was co-directed and co-written by JARRAD PAUL, 38, who has been steadily acting in smallish parts since the ‘90s. Born Jarrad Paul Goldstein, his late father owned a deli in North Miami, Florida. Paul once said, tongue-in-cheek: “I grew up in the roughest Jewish suburban neighborhood… you best be watching your back".

“Iris” is the last documentary by ALBERT MAYSLES, who died on March 5, age 88. Alone and with his brother DAVID (who died in 1987), he created some great documentaries, including “Gimme Shelter” and “Grey Gardens”. “Iris” refers to fashion icon IRIS APFEL, now 93.  She and her late husband, CARL APFEL, long ran a high-end textile firm and Iris gained some fame as a consultant to White House restoration projects. But she became an “icon” when a 2005 museum exhibit highlighting her style (especially the clothes she has chosen to wear) was a surprise hit.  While not really covering Apfel’s Jewish background, the film is a fun and interesting look at a long life well-lived.

Correction Corner: Oy Vey! 

In my previous column, I accidentally omitted the name of BOB IGER, 64, the CEO of Disney, from the list of Jews in the Time Magazine list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He is one of 16 Jews on the “Time” list.  Also, in the same column, I made multiple errors in an item on basketball---the first name of the Sacramento Kings player, OMRI CASSPI, was mis-spelled; I said that the number of Jewish owners of NBA teams had increased with the purchase of the Atlanta Hawks by a group led by ANTONY RESSLER—well, the previous majority of owner of the Hawks, BRUCE LEVENSON, 65, is Jewish, too; and I misspelled the first name of Ressler’s wife, actress JAMI GERTZ (not “Jamie”).

However, more serious is an error made in the last ten days by a lot of the Jewish community media, but not by this writer. Driven by assumptions (“Jewish-sounding names”) and the 24-hour news cycle, many Jewish media outlets reported that Dan Fredinburg, an important Google executive who died in a Mt. Everest avalanche triggered by the Nepal earthquake, was Jewish. By all accounts he was a talented mensch, and his death is a tragedy, but Mr. Fredinburg was not Jewish. His last name is of non-Jewish Dutch origin.


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