Jews in the News: Jesse Eisenberg, Jenny Slate and Adam Schiff

Zombies and Slate

“Zombieland Double-Tap” is a sequel to “Zombieland” (2009), a box office and critical hit that featured a lot of wry humor. In the original, JESSE EISENBERG, now 36, starred as Columbus, a nerdy guy who cleverly avoids being bit and becoming a zombie. Gradually, he meets up with three other survivors, played by Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, and Woody Harrelson.  The four eventually bond and, as the film ends, they stave off a big zombie attack. The sequel finds the original survivor quartet (played by the original actors) meeting up with four new survivors, one of whom (“Madison”) is played by ZOEY DEUTCH, 24.  (Opens in theaters on Oct. 18).

RUBEN FLEISCHER, 44, who directed the original (his first feature), returns as the director of “Double Tap.” PAUL WERNICK, 47, who co-wrote the original, co-wrote “Double Tap.” By the way, about two years ago, Breslin disclosed that her paternal grandmother was Jewish.

Comedian and actress JENNY SLATE, 37, stars in the special “Jenny Slate: Stage Fright.” It’s a mixture of on-stage stand-up and filmed parts in which she has conversations with her family in her childhood home. (Starts Oct. 21 on Netflix).

On Cohn, Trump, and Adam Schiff

In the last few months, a few things have made me think about writing about ROY COHN (1927-1986) and his connection to President Trump. Part of what I would have said is covered in the new biographical documentary “Where is My Roy Cohn?” The title refers to the President’s reported lament about former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump thought Sessions should be a ruthless protector of his interests, like Cohn, Trump’s long-time business lawyer and mentor.

The film covers, in-depth, the “lowlights” of Cohn’s career. They include his role as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy during McCarthy’s Communist witch hunts in the early ‘50s. While serving McCarthy, Cohn, a closeted gay man, had a big hand in getting gays ousted from federal jobs. The film gives equal time to Cohn’s years (1954-1985) in private law practice. Many famous people hired Cohn because he was a “bulldog fixer.” (Opens Oct. 18 in Sarasota; later this year on HBO)

The film’s website describes his tactics, which are very familiar today:  “Always attack; never admit blame or apologize; use favors and fear to ensure support for your objectives; expertly manipulate the media to gain advantage and destroy your opponents; lie shamelessly, invalidating the idea of truth; weaponize lawsuits; evade taxes and bills; and, most importantly, inflame the prejudices of the crowd by scapegoating defenseless people.”

A recent review of the film noted that the lesson that Trump should have learned from Cohn’s life was that “he got away with it, until he didn’t.” The reviewer was referring to the fact that Cohn was three times acquitted on criminal charges, but an appellate court upheld his disbarment (for several outrageous acts) while he was in the hospital, dying from AIDS (the disease, in effect, outed him as a gay man).

I thought about this review while watching the documentary “Studio 54”, which is now streaming on Netflix. The famous disco was founded in 1977 by co-owners IAN SCHRAGER, now 73, and STEVE RUBELL (1943-1989). The club became a huge hit before the partners even got a regular liquor license. Instead, for months, day-after-day, they got a one-day catering license that allowed them to serve drinks. The State Liquor Authority noticed this fraud and tried to shut them down. They hired Cohn and he used his usual tactics to scare off the regulators and, not long after, they got a regular liquor license. This outcome made them think they were invulnerable and they didn’t report 80% of their earnings to the IRS. In June, 1979, they were arrested. This time Cohn’s bluster and political connections couldn’t help them and they went to jail for three years (after informing on others).

ROBERT MORGENTHAU (1919-1929), the Manhattan District Attorney from 1974 to 2010, failed to convict Cohn (of various crimes) when he was a U.S. Attorney in the ‘60s. Cohn always (falsely) claimed that Morgenthau “had it in for him” because Cohn had attacked (really smeared) Morgenthau’s father, Treasury Secretary HENRY MORGENTHAU, as being “pro-Soviet.”

Well, here’s an interesting coincidence. It’s widely believed that the Jewish character Adam Schiff, the long-time, highly principled, head Manhattan District Atty. in the original “Law and Order” series was based on Robert Morgenthau. It is startling that Congressman ADAM SCHIFF, 59, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is the leading Congressional figure in Trump’s impeachment. Like Robert Morgenthau, and the fictional Schiff, he exudes an air of quiet determination. The Congressman just brushes off the President’s personal attacks.


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