Michael Mann, Jody Scheckter and Robert Shwartzman

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.

Fast Cars and the 46th Kennedy Center Honors


“Ferrari” opens in theaters on Dec. 25. It is set, mostly, in the summer of 1957, when Enzo Ferrari’s Italian “fast car” empire was close to bankruptcy. It focuses on a major race that is very important for Enzo (1898-1988) and for his company. Adam Driver plays Ferrari. Driver starred as a member of the Italian Gucci fashion family in the film “House of Gucci” (2021) and gave a good performance.

“Ferrari” was directed by MICHAEL MANN, 80. He’s directed a number of great or good films, most of which he wrote (he didn’t write “Ferrari”). They include “Thief”, “Heat”, “Last of the Mohicans”, “Collateral”, and “Ali.” He also produced the ‘80s series “Miami Heat”, the first TV series that incorporated the  “New Wave” style (hip clothes, a hip soundtrack, etc.) In 2006, Mann directed and wrote a film called “Miami Heat”. It got mixed reviews, but made money and is now a cult favorite.

By the way, bios say that Enzo Ferrari’s last good racing year was 1979. That year, Ferrari team racecar driver JODY SCHECKTER, now 73, won the World Championship (“Formula 1”). Scheckter was born in South Africa, but now lives in England, and his large organic farm is well-known in the U.K

Scheckter is the only Jew to win the World Championship. But look out for ROBERT SHWARTZMAN, 24, a Formula 1 driver who was born in Israel, but grew-up in Russia and Italy. He’s done well since he began pro driving at 14!  He is now a Ferrari team reserve driver.

On Dec. 3, The 46th Kennedy Center Honors for excellence in the arts were awarded. There was a White House ceremony that was almost immediately followed by a gala event at the Kennedy Center. The honorees this year are BILLY CRYSTAL, 75, pop singer Dionne Warwick, opera singer Renee Fleming, Barry Gibb, the last surviving member of the Bee Gees, a pop group; and actress/musician Queen Latifah.

The gala will be simultaneously aired on CBS and streamed on Paramount+ on Dec. 27 at 8PM. This year, I noticed that “pirate” videos of many past Honors programs are popping up on Youtube and are not being legally forced down. This includes the induction of LEONARD BERNSTEIN in 1980. LAUREN BACALL presented a mini-bio of his life that’ was really good.


Leonard Bernstein - Kennedy Center Honors, 1980 (youtube.com)

At the White House ceremony, which isn’t televised, President Biden said he had just re-watched Crystal’s 1991 comedy Western “City Slickers” and called Crystal “the American showman with a heart of gold.”

Of course, many media sources have reported the gala highlights. So, if you want to be surprised by some of the Billy Crystal gala highlights, don’t read the following four paragraphs. I will note that NO article about the Honors mentioned that Crystal has been married (53 years) to JANICE, his Jewish, high school sweetheart.

Meg Ryan, 62, who co-starred with Crystal in the huge hit “When Harry Met Sally “ (1989) took the stage and mostly talked about the famous scene in a Jewish deli in which Sally (Ryan), sitting at a table with Harry (Crystal), faked an orgasm. She said flattering things about Crystal and was quite witty.

ROB REINER, 76, who directed “Harry and Sally”, said: "He [Crystal] can be edgy, but you always feel the human side of him and he's not afraid to show his emotion which is rare for most comedians”.

Reiner also said :““Not only was he great as Harry but Bill wrote what I believe is maybe the funniest line in all of movie history: ‘I’ll have what she’s having’.”

Two facts of interest: A  deli customer, played by ESTELLE REINER, (Rob’s real-life mother), uttered the famous line and while Crystal wrote the  “I’ll have what she’s having” line, the late NORA EPHRON wrote almost the whole script of “Harry and Sally”.

You’ll have to watch the Honors, itself, to hear the nice things that Lin Manuel-Miranda and Whoopi Goldberg said about Crystal.

Curious, I checked, for the first time, how many Jews have been Kennedy Center Honorees. Only five awards are given out yearly. 230 awards have been given out since 1978. One complication: there are a small number of persons who shared an award (four rock bands; three, “all Jewish” two-man composing teams, etc.) If an award was shared, only, by Jews, I counted their shared award as “one”. If a Jew shared an award with a non-Jew(s), I didn’t count the award “as Jewish” (2 people).

The bottom line: 51 Jewish Honorees. About 22% of all awards.


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