Jews in the News: Leonard Nimoy, Idina Menzel and Bob Dylan


I know I wrote about the late LEONARD NIMOY last week. But here’s a story I just came upon that was not in any obit.  Last August, WALTER “Chekov” KOENIG, 78, spoke to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper. About Nimoy, he said: “Leonard was .a very good man. Sound ethics and a good sense of morality [for example] when it came to the attention of the cast that there was a disparity in pay-- in that George [Takei/ “Mr. Sulu”] and I were getting the same pay- but Nichelle [Nichols/ “Uhura”] was not getting as much, I took it to Leonard and he took it to the front office and they corrected that.” The website contacted Nimoy, who confirmed the story. He added: “There was also the case where George and Nichelle we’re not hired to do their voices in the animated series.  I refused to do Spock until they were hired. Mr. Roddenberry [Trek’s creator] started calling me the conscience of Star Trek.”

The web site author noted that Nimoy’s stand for Nichols back in the ‘60s took some courage: he was then just a cast member without much pull and it could have hurt his career. The author added that the story just proves that “Nimoy is a mensch”. The first visitor comment on the article was: “There are people who don’t know Nimoy is a mensch?”

At the Movies: Opening March 13

“Run All Night” stars Liam Neesom as a Brooklyn mob hit man who’s on the skids. Perhaps he can make up for his past sins by protecting his estranged son (JOEL KINNAMAN, 35) from the wrath of Neesom's mob boss (Ed Harris). It all sounds like familiar material (Nessom’s“Taken” films ‘meets’ the many hit man films). Plus, I'm a little tired of the quasi-romanticizing of people who kill people for money. But it’s a strong cast and probably there’s a lot of good action. Kinnaman (“The Killing”) is the son of a Swedish Jewish mother and an American, non-Jewish father.

“Cinderella” is a live-action Disney film which tracks (with a few twists) the 1950 Disney animated version. Advance reviews of “Cinderella” are glowing. It stars Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother; with Brit actress Lily James in the title role. The screenplay is by CHRIS WEITZ, 45 ("The Golden Compass"). Bonus: theater showings include an animated short, “Frozen Fever,” which is a sequel to the mega-hit “Frozen” film (yes, IDINA MENZEL’s singing voice is featured).

New-Ish on TV

The Fox series, “Empire,” which began in January, has become a hit. It centers around an African-American hip hop mogul (Terence Howard) and his extended family. In the Feb. 25 episode, the mogul’s middle son, Jamal, a singer, reveals to the world that he is gay. Playing Jamal is JUSSIE SMOLLETT, 31, who is the son of a Jewish father and African-American mother. Smollett, who is gay in real life, posted an Instagram photo of himself lighting Hanukkah candles last December. Meanwhile, over on NBC, gay issues are a big part of the six-episode sit-com, “One Big Happy” (starts on Tuesday, March 17 at 9:30).  Created by lesbian comedian LIZ FELDMAN, 37, it’s about a lesbian who has been friends with a straight guy since childhood. She wants to raise a child with him. Just about the time she’s learns she’s pregnant, he falls in love with and marries a British girl. Now, in the words of the show’s publicity release, “a different kind of family is born.”

AARP’s Old Jewish Guy Issue

 The February/March issue of the AARP magazine, which can be read on-line, features interviews with KIRK DOUGLAS, 98, and the relatively young BOB DYLAN, who will be 74 in June. Douglas has first book of poetry out (“Life Could Be Verse”) and the interview covers many topics, including the pain of the loss of old friends like LAUREN BACALL and Frank Sinatra (the latter two were romantically involved for a while) Kirk says, ‘I almost feel guilty to still be here. When Frank was alive, we’d go over to his home for dining and drinking.”

Dylan, who became friendly with Bacall when both received Kennedy Center Honors in 1997, is out with an album of songs (“standards”) written from the 1920s to the 1960s, all of which were recorded at some time by Frank Sinatra—and Dylan told  AARP in some detail why he so admired Sinatra. The normally taciturn Dylan really opened up in this interview—about music and musicians, aging (he’s a great-grandfather!), and the ethical use of great wealth.

AARP Dylan interview




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