Jews in the News: Jonah Hill, Adam Levine and Elizabeth Taylor

While delving into Jordan’s background, I found an interesting 2012 interview with singer ADAM LEVINE, which reveals he has more of a Jewish cultural background than I reported last week, just after he was named People’s “sexiest man alive.”  Details magazine says that Levine has a Los Angeles-based “Bris Pack of Jewish showbizzers” who have been almost life long friends—they have nicknames—and Levine’s is “the Bear Jew,” after a fierce Jewish commando in the movie “Inglourious Basterds.”  Adam’s father was best friends during childhood with Jonah and Jordan’s father and Adam refers to Feldstein, his manager, as “family.”


By the way, back in 2004, Clint Eastwood cried “Kinehora!” when a reporter queried him about the Oscar chances of his movie, “Mystic River.” He then laughed and explained it was a Jewish expression meant to ward off a jinx. Maybe he should say it ever time he sees Francesca.


Jewish Bad Boys


“Mob City” is a six-episode series that airs over three weeks on TNT (two episodes were shown on Wed., Dec. 4; two will be shown on Dec. 11; and two will air on Dec. 11.  Many encore showings on Saturday and Sundays; check listings).  It is a film-noir style series, set in Los Angeles in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and it’s directed by Frank Darbont (“Shawshank Redemption”).


It focuses on the conflict between real-life gangster MICKEY COHEN (1913-1976) and real life L.A. Police Chief William Parker, who cleaned-up the city’s notoriously corrupt force after he took over in 1950.  Real-life Jewish mobster BENJAMIN “Bugsy” SIEGEL (played by Edward Burns) is another important series character.


Jeremy Luke, who plays Cohen, isn’t Jewish—but much of the cast is, including JON BERENTHAL, 37 (as Joe Teague, a police officer); ANDREW ROTHENBERG, 44 (as Eddy Sanderson, a mobster); and ALEXA DAVALOS, 31 (as Jasmine, the lead female character).  Davalos, whose father is Jewish, and identifies as Jewish, played a Jewish partisan in the film “Defiance.”  Born Alexa Dunas, her maternal grandfather is actor Richard Davalos (“East of Eden”).


Parallel Courageous Lives


“The Battle of AMFAR” premieres on HBO on Monday, Dec. 9, at 9PM. It’s directed by Oscar-winning documentary makers ROB EPSTEIN, 58, and JEFFREY FRIEDMAN, 62.  This short film focuses on the dire early days of the AIDS crisis and the moment when Dr. MATHILDE KRIM, now 87, and actress ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1932-2011) launched (1985) AMFAR, the foundation for AIDS research.


The first medical journal item (June, 1981) on the syndrome that became later known as AIDS was written by Dr. MICHAEL S. GOTTLIEB, then 33. He met Taylor when he was treating her great friend, actor Rock Hudson, who died of AIDS in Oct. 1985.  Taylor, Gottlieb, and others incorporated (Aug. 1985) a Los Angeles-based AIDS research foundation. Meanwhile, in 1983, Dr. Krim (then at Sloan-Kettering hospital) co-founded a NY-based AIDS research foundation. These two foundations were merged to form AMFAR in Sept., 1985.  Krim and Taylor deserve huge credit for marshalling public and private resources to find AIDS therapies and to care for HIV positive people.


Krim, then a Swiss citizen, converted to Judaism before she wed a Swiss Jewish medical student in 1946. They both smuggled weapons to the Irgun during the lead-up to Israeli independence. Krim and her husband moved to Israel in 1953, where they did medical research.  After her divorce, she met and wed (1958) top Hollywood movie exec ARTHUR KRIM and relocated to New York.


Taylor was born in the UK to Christian parents. Her mother and godfather were pre-war supporters of Zionism. In 1959, after the death of producer MIKE TODD, her beloved Jewish husband, she converted to Judaism “on her own”. While she rarely went to synagogue, Taylor actively supported many Jewish and Israeli charities and causes-- and her Jewish funeral gave her a final victory over bigots: Members of the tiny, but infamous Westboro Baptist church, knowing Taylor’s role in the AIDS fight, planned to picket her funeral. But they didn’t know that most Jewish funerals happen one day after death and Taylor’s funeral was over by the time they learned this and showed-up at the cemetery.



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