Jews in the News: Michael Douglas, Dr. Joyce Brothers & Phil Ramone

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, co-stars include: Dan Akroyd as Liberace’s real-life manager, SEYMOUR HELLER. A genuinely good guy, Heller was Liberace’s manager from 1950 until the pianist’s death; PAUL REISER, 56, as “Mr. Feld,” a character who is a composite of Thorson’s lawyers; Debbie Reynolds as Liberace’s mother; and Rob Lowe as the drug-addicted, incompetent plastic surgeon Jack Startz (who I think was Jewish). By the way, Lowe’s wife is Jewish and their two sons were raised Jewish.


In 1977, Liberace met Thorson, then a 16-year-old vet’s assistant and became his lover. He showered Thorson with gifts and put him in his stage show. According to Thorson’s memoir, the relationship foundered because Liberace was unfaithful and because Liberace insisted that Thorson have multiple plastic surgeries to look like a young Liberace! Thorson says that these painful surgeries helped make him a drug-addict. He sued Liberace for palimony in 1982 and settled for a smallish sum in 1986, a year before Liberace died of AIDS.


Another Jew “Survives”


I just got tipped off that JOHN COCHRAN, the winner of the just-concluded TV season of “Survivor” (“Caramon”), is Jewish. This tip was borne by two 2011 twitter tweets. In one, Cochran, 25, explained his last name: “It's an Irish name (father's Irish Catholic). My mother's Jewish, though!” In another, he responded to a Happy Chanukah wish with: “Chag sameach!”  A recent Harvard Law school grad, Cochran previously competed on the show in 2011 (“South Pacific”), but didn’t win. His win this season was by unanimous vote and that’s only happened two other times in 25 prior competitions. 


The Happy Chanukah tweet that Cochran responded to was also directed to ETHAN ZOHN, 39, and STEPHEN FISHBACH, 34. Zohn won "Survivor: Africa" in 2002. A pro soccer player, he has fought a decade long battle with cancer and he now says he’s cancer-free. Fishbach finished second in the 2009 competition, “Survivor: Tocantins.” He was the valedictorian of the same Los Angeles high school class that included school basketball players JASON SEGEL (later an actor) and Jason Collins (the pro player who just came out as gay).


The Last Hangover


 “The Hangover Part III,” we are promised, will be the last “Hangover” film and, unlike the second entry in the series, will not largely repeat the plot of the first. This time the gang goes on a road trip—but there’s no wedding or bachelor party. Once again, TODD PHILLIPS, 42, directs, with the whole original crew on-board, including JUSTIN BARTHA, 34, and veteran JEFFREY TAMBOR, 69. (Opened Thursday, May 23)


Shalom, Joyce and Phil


Dr. JOYCE BROTHERS, the famous psychologist, died on May 13, age 85. Here’s some Jewish and family “color” not found in most obits: she was born Joyce Bauer, the daughter of two attorneys who were practicing Jews. She graduated from Cornell Univ., where she was a member of the mostly Jewish Sigma Delta Tau sorority.  In 1949, she wed MILTON BROTHERS, then a medical student, later an internist. They had one daughter, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.  She was a longtime member of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. In 1968, she received a merit award from Bar Ilan University.


Legendary record producer PHIL RAMONE was honored with a memorial concert on May 11.  Performing were many of the artists whose best albums he helped shape. Musicians taking the stage included  BILLY JOEL, 64, PAUL SIMON, 71; and PETER YARROW, 74 (Peter, Paul and Mary), and Tony Bennett. 


Ramone, by the way, named two of his sons (WILLIAM and SIMON), after Billy Joel and Paul Simon. 


Ramone, who died in March, age 79, was the most important American pop/rock producer of the last 45 years and his career and death was covered in every media outlet.  


I didn’t cover it because, until a little while after his death, it was almost impossible to find out what I am reporting, here, for the first time in any news outlet: Ramone was born Philip Rabinowitz, and under that name, he graduated from Julliard. Why he took the name “Ramone” remains unclear to me. 


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