African-American, Jewish, and More
It’s a coincidence, but on the Martin Luther King holiday I noticed that I had a number of ‘trending’ pop culture items about Jews who are also African-American. Let’s start with the movies: opening on Friday, January 29, is “Fifty Shades of Black,” a parody of “Fifty Shades of Gray,” the best-selling novel and box-office hit movie. I’ve seen the trailers and this movie is less “porno-like” than the original. It’s played for broad laughs (with a black humor spin) and I did laugh at many of the gags in the previews. Basic plot: Marlon Wayans plays “Christian Black”, a very rich guy who wants to be the “dominant” in his sexual relations. He meets Hannah (KALI HAWK, 29) and tries to get her to be his “submissive girlfriend.” Hannah is no waif and Black’s attempts to dominate her don’t exactly work out.
Hawk, who identifies as Jewish and even speaks some Yiddish, is the daughter of an American Jewish mother and (non-Jewish) black father. Back in 2011, she teamed up with actress/singer KAT GRAHAM, 26, to do a funny short movie called “Black and Jewish”, a parody of a famous rap song video. (Title on Youtube: “Black and Jewish—Yellow and Black parody”). Graham, who is the daughter of an American Jewish mother and a black Liberian father, was in the news this past week. She’s now set to play Jada Pinkett Smith in “All Eyez on Me”, a “big” movie about the life of rapper Tupac Shakur. Graham has a big role---Smith and Shakur were great high school friends and stayed close until he died in 1996. Graham, who looks like the beautiful Smith, was raised Jewish and went to Hebrew school. You may know her as Bonnie Bennett on “The Vampire Diaries.”
The new season of the PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” began this month. The Jan. 19 episode featured three African-Americans, including comedian MAYA RUDOLPH, 43. Her mother, singer Minnie Riperton, an African-American, died when she was six. She was raised by her Jewish father, music producer/songwriter DICK RUDOLPH, now 69. The program explored both her Jewish roots (going back to Lithuania) and her African American roots. (By the way, the Jan. 26 episode featured the ancestry of NORMAN LEAR, 93, the creator of many hit shows, including “All in the Family,” and the Feb. 2 show will feature famous architect FRANK GEHRY, 86. The past episodes of PBS shows, including this one, are viewable on-line for free.)
RASHIDA JONES, 39, the multi-talented daughter of actress PEGGY LIPTON, 69, and legendary African-American musician Quincy Jones, is the titular star of the new TBS series, “Angie Tribeca.” It’s comedy send-up of police shows, similar to the “Police Squad” TV show and “The Naked Gun” movies. The first ten episodes were shown on TBS on Jan. 17-18, but you can view them all via on-demand or on-line (free). The next ten episodes are being shown weekly, starting Monday, January 25. (And, yes, Rashida was raised Jewish, too).
Something Ugly, Something Not
The FX network “American Crime Story” “true crime” anthology series premieres on Tuesday, Feb. 2. The first season is a dramatization of the 1994-95 O.J. Simpson murder trial. “Crime” is co-produced by BRAD FALCHUK, 44. (Falchuk’s mother, NANCY, was National President of Hadassah and was chair of Hadassah magazine from 2011-15). Frankly, if Simpson wasn’t now in prison for robbery, I don’t think I could bear watching a series that ends with his astonishing acquittal. There were many real-life Jewish “players” at the O.J. trial and they are in the series: FRED GOLDMAN, now 75, the father of murder victim RON GOLDMAN, is a character. He’s played by veteran character actor Joseph Siravo. Also--Prosecutor MARCIA CLARK, now 62 (Sarah Paulson) and defense attorneys ROBERT SHAPIRO, now 73 (John Travolta), BARRY SCHECK, now 66 (ROB MORROW, 53), and ALAN DERSHOWITZ, now 77 (EVAN HANDLER, 54).
Defense attorney Robert Kardashian and his ex-wife, Kris Kardashian, are played by Jewish actors (DAVID SCHWIMMER, 49, and SELMA BLAIR, 43). Please note: Faye Resnick, a (sleazy) friend of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson, is not Jewish. "Resnick" is a last name she kept when she and a Jewish husband split in 1991.
On a sunnier note, a couple of weeks ago Brad Falchuk (who also co-created “Glee”) spent a long weekend in Mexico with GWYNETH PALTROW, 43, and her daughter, APPLE, 11. They’ve been quietly seeing each other since August, 2014, but Paltrow made it really official by posting Instagram pics of them cuddling, etc., on a Mexican beach. Like Paltrow, he is “hot” and like Paltrow, he has two young children from his first marriage.