Jews in the News: Marin Kove, Randee Heller, and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff

More Karate Chops and the Jewish 411 on Ms. Wolkoff

“Cobra Kai”, a sort of re-boot of “The Karate Kid” movies, got little attention when the first two seasons streamed on the little-watched Youtube Red (premium) channel.  However, it got huge viewing numbers when Netflix started streaming the first two seasons on Aug. 28. (A third season will appear “sometime” on Netflix).

The original film opened with sweet teen Daniel (Ralph Macchio) being bullied by high school classmates who study karate at Cobra Kai, an “evil” karate school run by the nasty John Kreese (MARIN KOVE, 74)). Daniel responds by studying karate with a Japanese American expert. In the film’s climatic scene, Daniel faces Johnny (William Zabka), Cobra Kai’s top student, in a karate match and defeats him. The re-boot is set in the present. Johnny, who had a real rough life after high school, re-founds Cobra Kai, but he runs it more humanely than Kreese did. Daniel, who had a successful personal and business life after high school, re-founds the school that his mentor ran.

Reprising their film roles are Macchio, Zabka, Kove, and RANDEE HELLER, 73 (she played/plays Daniel’s mother.)  Heller got an Emmy nomination (2010) for a supporting role in “Mad Men”. She played an elderly Jewish secretary who works for star character Don Draper. Kove was a guest star in the first “Cobra Kai” season and became a regular in the second (and third, which is already filmed). Kove is like the “evil” Kreese in only one respect: Kove really is an accomplished expert in several martial l arts.

Kove travels the country giving anti-bullying lectures. Although born and raised in Brooklyn, he loves the West and loves to make Westerns. He had no objection when a 1987 newspaper article called him a “Kosher Cowboy.” In 2017, he told a Chabad-affiliated rabbi that he tries to be as observant as he can and that his two children (twin boy and girl) were b’nai mitzvah.

I never really looked at the background of STEPHANIE WINSTON WOLKOFF, 47, before the Sept. 1 publication of her best-selling memoir, “Melania and Me.” I long knew was that she was an event planner who was friends with Melania Trump and she got a job working for the First Lady after the 2016 election. I knew she lost her job when huge financial irregularities in the Trump inauguration festivities emerged (Wokloff’s company had a big role in these festivities).

In interviews after the book came out, Wolkoff said that she is totally clean, has the records to prove it, and has been cooperating with law enforcement looking into the wrongdoing of other people. She charges that the administration chose her as the scandal “fall guy” and Melania “threw her under the bus.”

Well, you can read summaries of what she has to say about the Trump family anywhere. Here I will just relay some Jewish and entertainment tidbits I’ve found---and there are a surprising number of these bits. Stephanie was born and raised in the Catskills. Her “first” father is BARRY BATKINOFF, 75ish, a photographer. Barry’s father was a big-time Catskills chicken farmer. Her mother, BARBARA, 75ish, was a homemaker and the child of Holocaust survivors. When Stephanie was in high school, Barbra announced she was divorcing Barry and quickly cut off contact with him. She went on to marry BRUCE WINSTON, also now 75ish, the (rich) son of the famous HARRY “Jeweler to the Stars” WINSTON. Bruce adopted Stephanie when she was 26. Being a Winston gave her entrée to Manhattan’s rich and famous. She held the type of jobs that are a glide path for a society event planner: first, Sotheby’s receptionist, then in succession: PR manager for “Vogue”, NY Fashion Week director, and Met Gala director. The only surprise is that the six-foot Stephanie was a power forward on the Division I Fordham Univ. women’s basketball team.

In 2000, she wed DAVID WOLKOFF, now 55, a 6’6” real estate developer whose father and grandfather were big time developers. They had a lavish Jewish wedding. They now have three children. But, wait! There’s more. She has two Batkinoff brothers. One is actor RANDALL BATKINOFF, 51. You probably know this handsome fellow’s face. He has worked steadily in films and TV since the mid-‘80s. His best known role came early. It’s the 1988 film “For Keeps”. He and Molly Ringwald co-starred as high schoolers who wed after she gets pregnant. Ironically, most of the groom’s family members were played by Jews, although the groom’s family was supposed to be Catholic. The film was set-in, and partially filmed in, the now-famous Kenosha, Wisconsin.


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