Jews in the News: Jerry Lewis, Shawn Levy, Darren Aronofsky

On Jerry Lewis

JERRY LEWIS, age 91, died on Sunday, Aug. 20. Here are a few “Jewish Jerry” things not in the many obits found on-line or elsewhere.  A 1982 “Washington Post” profile and interview relates this story. The Post says: “At the age of 15 1/2, Joseph Levitch, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 115 pounds, was called to the office of the principal of his high school in Irvington, N.J., [for disrupting a chemistry lab]. [In the office], he punched the principal in the mouth.”  “I did” [punch him] Lewis told the Post. “And was expelled for it. It wasn't meant to be that violent, but it really did some damage. And it was wonderful!’”

In the office, the principal first called Lewis a wise guy. Then the principal said: “Why is it only the Jews?” That last remark prompted the punch. In Lewis’s words: “POW! [I hit him]. Mr. Herter was his name. Sweet Pea, we called him. If I'd been a white Aryan Protestant everything would have been okay. But I was the gutsiest little schmuck. I took on anybody. I was knocked on my a -- more times than you had hair on your head. But I kept coming."

Lewis was only 17 in 1944 when he met Italian American Catholic singer Patti Palmer, then 23. Lewis biographer SHAWN LEVY, 56, describes the course of their marriage.  Palmer (born Esther Calonica) made some gestures towards converting to Judaism when they got engaged and the couple were wed by a rabbi in 1945 (she was six months pregnant).  However, by 1952, Patti had returned to her Catholic faith and eventually all their children (six sons) were confirmed in the Church. She sought the comfort of Catholicism in response to Jerry’s increasing emotional distance, some verbal abuse, and his many extramarital affairs. In 1982, Patti consented to a divorce because it was clear that Jerry, then 56, was set on marrying SANDEE PITNICK, then 31, a dancer he met in Las Vegas. The couple had a traditional Jewish wedding in 1983 and following two miscarriages, adopted a daughter in 1992 who they named DANIELLE. Lewis has been quoted as saying, “I adore my daughter.”  Last year, he tearfully told “Inside Edition” that the worst thing about dying would be leaving his wife and daughter.

A Balance in the Universe?

I don’t usually note it when a Jewish celeb starts dating a non-Jewish one. But I have to mention that the director/screenwriter DARREN ARONOFSKY, 48, is now in an open romantic relationship with superstar actress Jennifer Lawrence, 27.  They got to know each other while making “Mother,” a psychological horror thriller directed and written by Arnofsky that opens on Sept. 17. Lawrence, who plays the film’s lead, opened up about their romance in the Sept. 2017 issue of “Vogue.” She said they started seeing each other after filming was over in Aug. 2016: “I [then] had energy for him…For the past year, I’ve been dealing with him just as a him as a human…he’s an amazing father... I’ve been in relationships before where I am just confused. And I’m never confused with him.” 

Aronofsky is an average looking guy. He looks Jewish, if not in the same frail way as WOODY ALLEN.  He’s an intellectual Harvard grad, but he’s got a certain gritty core that moved his then-partner, actress RACHEL WEISZ, now 47, to praise him once as a “real man.” He elicited similar praise from Mickey Rourke, the star of “The Wrestler,” another Aronofsky film. Weisz and Aronofsky had one child, a son now 11, during their nine years together (the only child either has). The couple ended their relationship in November, 2010 and Weisz started openly dating Daniel “James Bond” Craig, now 49, the next month (she married him in 2012). I don’t know if Weisz left Aronofsky for Craig. But I kind of think that most men—maybe not Aronofsky-- would be weirded-out when the mother of his child, a “real man” fan, takes up with arguably the most macho man on the planet.

Well, dating Jennifer Lawrence is quite a rejoinder (even if not intended that way)---she’s beautiful, smart, very talented, and young.  Imagine if Debbie Reynolds had responded to EDDIE FISHER leaving her for ELIZABETH TAYLOR by taking up with Sean “James Bond” Connery. The “poor Debbie” comments would have ended pretty quickly. By the way, in a 2014 interview, Jerry Lewis praised Jennifer Lawrence as his “favorite recent performer.”


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