Growing up in Brentwood, Paul began working as an usher at a movie theater at age 12. By 16, he was booking movies. By 24, he had an MBA from UCLA.
Friday, January 11, 2002, I visited Paul at Regent Entertainment's headquarters on Ocean Blvd in Santa Monica. We walked out his office to the deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean and sat down at a table. Within a few minutes, we had our feet up.
Luke: "When did you produce your first film?"
Paul: "In 1987 - The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years. Before that, I worked at Fox TV where I was head of late night programming and created the [short-lived] Joan Rivers Show."
Luke: "I remember Thicke Of The Night."
Paul: "We were on the same soundstage"
Luke: "Which of your projects have had the most meaning for you?"
Paul names off his most critically acclaimed features: "Gods and Monsters, Twilight of the Golds, Tom and Viv, and One False Move."
Luke: "Those were also your most financially successful films?"
Paul: "None of them are on the list of our most financially successful films. At least ten of the smaller more commercial films have made more money. We try to balance it out. If we just made the purely artistic projects, we'd go broke. For every one that hits, three miss. With the more commercial projects, even if you don't creatively hit it right on the nose, you can still be profitable. With artistic projects, there's no room for error. Nobody wants a so-so art film."
Luke: "So the cliché is correct - the art films that the critics love are hard to make money on."
Paul: "It's very hard. We try to make these movies that are very commercial that have an art edge, like One False Move"
Luke: "Where do you make the cash?"
Paul: "The films you don't know about are the ones that make us the most money. Circuitry Man, a sci-fi series. The Brotherhoods, a little video series. These cost under a million dollars each to make."
Luke: "What pulls your trigger to decide to make a movie?"
Paul: "A script that is a cut above. Once I have the material, I can get the actors, directors and packaging.
"A good film is like love - you know it when you feel it. There's chemistry with the crew, the director is creatively on and the actors are crackling."
Luke: "How have you grown as a filmmaker over the past 14 years?"
Paul: "I've gained more respect for the basic rules of a good screenplay. When I was younger, I believed that you could do a deconstructionist work and it would be good. I now don't. It has never worked for me. I need the good solid three-act American screenplay. Anything other than that, doesn't work. You'd be amazed at how few screenplays are even structured well enough to consider. People submit us things that are more artistic. People think that artistry gives one the right to ignore the rules. Quite the contrary. Artistry is using the rules in a creative and unique way. So it has gotten easier for me to decide what to make. I can throw out the poorly structured stuff right away unless I feel I can fix the structure easily. Then I take the ones that are well structured and work with that smaller set, about one in four. I get a lot of movies that have no third act. I get movies that have no second act.
"The television movie structure is the three-act structure cut in half into seven sections. All the movies I've made that didn't turn out well are the ones that weren't structured right."
Luke: "Can you make a good movie where the lead characters are not sympathetic? I'll often take a dislike to the lead characters in the first few minutes and then not enjoy the movie."
Paul: "They can be seriously flawed but they should be sympathetic. They have to have a redeeming quality. If they don't, it's hard to emotionally look into the film. The audience must identify with someone. If they don't feel involved, the movie doesn't work."
Luke: "Are you able to enjoy movies as much as ever?"
Paul: "I don't analyze them as I watch them. I'm able to lose myself more than ever. I'm open to the ride.
"I could relate to Twilight of the Golds. It was a Southern California Jewish family dealing with issues of sexuality.
"I have an older sister. In high school, I was in the student government clique. I was on every committee. I produced all the campus events. I've been producing since I could talk. I enjoy the challenge of integrating people. For a living, I pick groups of people to work together.
"I've always been a hard worker. I worked 30 hours a week during school and full-time during the summers. I tried to get as much experience as I could in as many places as I could. I worked for distribution and exhibition companies. I managed movie theaters.
"My parents were serious people. My dad Eugene, born in Texas, was a nuclear chemist. My mother Betty, born in Montreal, was a bacteriologist. My parents were atypically Jewish. They were scientists. They were not religious people. They were stark realists."
Luke: "Would you rather marry a Jew or a non-Jew?"
Paul pauses: "I don't think I care."
Luke: "Many of my Jewish male friends long for shiksas."
Paul: "Oh. I'm gay, so maybe it makes a difference. My boyfriend is half-Jewish even though he does not look it or act it."
Luke: "Why are there a disproportionate number of gays in Hollywood? Gays seem to have a better visual sense."
Paul: "I think there is an artistic bent that goes with the orientation. This business needs people on the cutting edge who are visually astute. You've got to integrate a lot of things on the production side - not just smart with the written word, but visual, and a good businessman."
Luke: "And gays tend to be the most empathic people I know."
Paul: "The ability to empathize is essential for producing. Because most of the time the people you are talking to can't tell you what they want to say. They can't get it out. Or they have a feeling and they can't even express it. If we can translate those feelings, we can get a group of people to work together and succeed. Every time you start a movie, you're starting a new company with 120 people who've rarely worked together before. And everybody brings all of their issues to the table."
Luke: "We've seen more films dealing with gay themes in the last five years than in the previous 100 years."
Luke: "Is that reflecting or driving a societal change?"
Paul: "Reflecting. Film rarely drives anything. It reflects. Gay liberation started in 1969 in New York with the Stonewall riots. There came a point in history where we said enough is enough. We're going to start to fight. It's been a 30-year fight. It is the civil rights movement of our generation."
Luke: "Are there still distributors loathe to deal with gay-themed films?"
Paul: "Yes. There's homophobia everywhere. It's rampant."
Luke: "I'm a liberal Hollywood Jew. But as a straight, seeing two men on screen kissing is very jarring and disturbing."
Paul: "You'll get over it."
Luke: "Do you remember any particularly biting comments from distributors?"
Paul: "I remember a thousand of them. The one that sticks with me most... I've made a lot of movies. I know when I've made a really good one because it doesn't happen all that often. No producer makes a really brilliant film all that often. I was pitching a distributor who should've bought Gods and Monsters. And he said, 'We already have one of those kind of movies.' And their other one of those kind of movies turned out to be a dismal failure while Gods and Monsters got three Oscar nominations. They thought they were allowed one per customer. Could you imagine saying that to a black producer? Oh, we already have a black movie."
Luke: "I can imagine people thinking it."
Paul: "But they wouldn't have the guts to say it. These are people who are supposedly my colleagues and have known me for years and without hesitation will make a statement like that to me. It doesn't even make an impression on their cerebellum that that might be a problem. Homophobia is so accepted. That too will change."
Luke: "When I grew up, when you were mad at someone, you called them a fag."
Paul: "You are one of the few straight Australian men I've met. I remember one thing about Sydney - the huge gay population and very open."
Luke: "Was that epithet used where you grew up?"
Paul: "Yes. All kinds of awful things were used. Abuse of gay people is still accepted. Stuff that no other group would have to put up with, we have to put up with."
Luke: "When did you come out?"
Paul: "When I was 24."
Luke: "How did your parents react?"
Paul: "It didn't bother them."
Luke: "Do any of your movies reflect themes from your childhood?"
Paul: "No. Growing up as a gay youth, you're managing your way through childhood. You're not embracing it."
Luke: "One producer told me that his movies were his psychotherapy."
Paul: "Not mine. I find that a poor use of film. I don't make these things for me. They're not self-serving. They're designed to entertain the world."
Luke: "Many movies are self-serving."
Paul: "I have no patience for such things. We have responsibility as producers to entertain and inform. If we're going to be self-indulgent, we should do it on our own time."
Luke: "Is there a thread through your work?"
Paul: "On the contrary, they are eclectic. I'm looking for that quality piece that can come in any form. It could be a science fiction movie or a romance..."
Luke: "Could you make a film where you disliked the moral?"
Paul: "Disliked the moral? I don't know if I look at the morals that much when I make them. I look at the quality of the work. With a good third act, you bring the action to an end but it keeps you thinking as you walk out the door. The best movies aren't so simple that they give you a moral. The really good movies don't give you a moral message. They're not that manipulative. They're able to tell an exquisitely structured story without manipulating you or leading you to a firm conclusion."
Luke: "Could you make a film where the main character is a homophobe?"
Paul: "Yes, just like I could make American History X where the main character is a racist."
Luke: "It seems there is still a PC attitude in Hollywood where the characters can have any flaw except be racist or homophobic?"
Paul: "I could give you a list of movies that are homophobic in their approach. Most mainstream comedies treat gay people as a joke and marginalize them. You could go through a history of film and be shocked at how homophobic so many movies are."
Luke: "They've been instinctively used as a gag."
Paul: "Yes. What could be more homophobic than taking someone's lifestyle and making it the butt of a joke? A lot of the teen comedies, from Porky's forward, did you ever see any gay characters in those movies? Did you see any of them referred to in a nice way?"
Luke: "No. They're usually the butt of jokes."
Paul: "Talk about homophobia. It's everywhere. It's omnipresent. People are naturally homophobic. You have to be educated out of it. People are naturally anti-Semitic. Even though you are not gay, you are Jewish and you know what that is like. Now take that and multiply it by ten."
Luke: "As Good As It Gets. Jack Nicholson."
Paul: "Plays a homophobe. And the movie starts with a gay bashing scene. But would I make that movie? You bet your ass. Because of what surrounded it and the understanding that was gained throughout it."
Luke: "What's your favorite part of your job?"
Paul: "The eclectic nature of my job is my favorite part of my job. I enjoy all of it in small doses. I'm not just a finance guy. I'm not just a script guy. I'm not just a casting guy."
Luke: "For many producers, their least favorite part of the job is shooting the damn thing because it is more out of their hands."
Paul: "I like that too. It's not as out of their hands as they think. I'm never under the delusion that I have control over anything. Since I've completely divorced myself of the concept of control... Control is a unicorn. Control is mythical. I only hope to have influence. I don't feel the need for control as a driving force in my life. As we get older, we accept our lack of control and are happy with it."
Luke: "Can a film be a great film and yet be too immoral to make? Do you ever feel that tension? Such as Lolita."
Paul looks mystified. "I didn't find that particularly immoral."
Luke: "You never read a script and say, Jesus, this is a great script and would be a great movie but it is immoral."
Paul: "Out of all the scripts I've read, I don't think that has ever come up for me. I'm not terribly judgmental when it comes to morality. If I can find a brilliant screenplay, I will make it. Some people would've thought Gods and Monsters was immoral."
Luke: "What about gratuitous violence?"
Paul: "If the violence is an important part of the story, it should be there. What defines gratuitous is purely subjective. I would say it is gratuitous if it doesn't move the story along. If it is not moving the story along, it needs to be removed, not because it is violent but because it doesn't move the story along. Anything gratuitous shouldn't be there. Movies are supposed to be pithy."
Luke: "How would you feel about making a movie that promotes the war on terrorism?"
Paul: "I can't imagine a movie that would do that other than a propaganda film. I suppose if one could find a sympathetic terrorist, good luck..."
Luke: "Isn't the Bush administration meeting with Hollywood types to get them involved in the war on terrorism?"
Paul: "That's utter nonsense, of course."
Luke: "We did that in WWII."
Paul: "They were all lousy movies. The best film from WWII was Casablanca, probably the best war film ever made, but not much in the propaganda area. The lead character was a soldier of fortune."
Luke: "You're not making movies to send messages."
Paul: "I try to entertain and inform and lead people to think."
Luke: "Do you ever wonder if you're blocked from seeing good material because of your psyche or ideology?"
Paul: "I'm well therapied. I know myself. I have a lot of faith over my ability to analyze projects. I don't think I could get fooled."
A Hassidic Jew in a big shtreimel (traditional fur hat) is stopped at customs by an agent at JFK airport and asked: "Taliban?"
"No!" the man replies immediately. "Teitelbaum."
Luke Ford - Friend Of Dorothy?
Today I had lunch with a Jewish girl. She asks me about my conversion to Judaism. "Did you feel like you were coming out to your parents, like you were gay?" she asks. I couldn't help it. I start blushing. "Many of my friends tease me about being gay because I'm kinda effeminate," I explain. She says she didn't mind. Her last fling was with a gay guy.
I don't understand why I blushed when I am as heterosexual as they come.
LukeFord.net prayer warrior Fred writes: Congratulations, oh moral leader. This must be Providence's reward to you for changing your ways.
Prayer Warrior Khunrum writes: Gentlemen.. As my trip to T-land winds down (one more week) I have a few observations to share. The first is, White Men....meaning White men of Euro decent, have the most disgusting bodies of any race of people on the planet. Age wise, year for year, far worse than our Asian or Afro cousins. We have distended stomachs, flat flabby asses and pipe stem arms. To add insult to injury, White Men seem to delight in showing off this all this eyesore blubber by wearing unbuttoned shirts and wife beater Ts. Throw in inane tattoos and we are one unappealing package I tell you. The message seems to be, "Hey, look at this revolting mound of flesh and while you are at it, check out these moronic tatoos"....Have we no shame?
Next: Unfortunately it is impossible to travel anywhere in the world where music is being played without hearing that song "Hotel California" at least several times a week. Sometimes several times a day. I for one have had enough. I suggest some sort of World Music Conference be convened to ban this ditty from being heard or played for at least five years, maybe ten, maybe life.
BTW Luke. I have told you several times that I thought you were a fag. When are you "coming out"? Are you blushing?
Kendra Jade Update - Words Save
Hey everyone, Sorry its been soooooooooo LONG!!! I would like to say HAPPY NEW YEARS TO ALL OF YOU. This year has already brought about a lot of changes in my life, all exciting, new and somewhat scary..But I look forward to a good year and wish you all the same!! First, the Bad news... I am no longer a part of The Stone Movement due to personal reasons, but they are a great bunch of guys and I wish them all much happiness and success. If anyone deserves it, it's them. However, I will still be touring the country dancing, and making appearances on the Howard Stern show, so you can all still come check me out!!!
Last year was really a year where I learned a lot about myself and the things I want in life. There was a lot of growth for me. Of course, I'll be 25 this year and I think that's a little scary for me. When you realize its time to grow up and do the right thing and make the right choices in life, and when you learn that you have to face the consequences of your own actions, and that your own life depends on those actions, and when you learn that beauty fades and money goes away, it can really be a slap in the face.but what you find afterward is that suddenly you're becoming this new person with so much more insight and so much more to offer the world, that can be very exciting.
I'm also learning for the first time in my life how to be independent, how to not be in a relationship or fall in love too quickly. I think I'm just learning who I am, and I am really enjoying the lessons. I spent most of last year in relationships with guys, two really. The first one, I loved but he couldn't offer me the time or stability I needed.and as much as I wanted him to , he just could not give his heart to someone 100 percent. His life includes all the traveling and girls and money that one person could imagine, so I feel blessed that he was even in my life for a while. he was truly an amazing person. And from him I learned how to love someone for Who they are inside and not WHAT they are or where they are headed in life.and I learned that letting go is not so bad.
Then, I met another man, who I thought was my soulmate and fell madly and completely in love with. Of course he started as my best friend so i though that it could not be more perfect. we moved in together right away, i got out of the business, and planned to settle down, marry, and even have children with this man. its amazing how you can really think you know someone and how seriously wrong you can be. but although it was a CRAZY, unhealthy,love/hate relationship..it was always INTENSE to say the least , and intense can be good. ....and I probably learned more from that relationship than from any other. I learned the art of loving somebody too much, and loving somebody enough to let them go and I also learned that no matter how much you want somebody to change, they never will. And I also learned my own unwillingness to change or compromise my beliefs for someone..it was a painful, even devastating experience but I wouldn't trade it for a thing. SOOOO..anyway, this year, I will not be looking for love..but, rather looking for myself.
I am looking for inner peace, I am looking for happiness and healing and health. I got a dog, actually I got a puppy. Its such a powerful thing to have someone in this world who just loves you unconditionally. She's a little over 2 months old now and she is by far the love of my life.(with the exception of my sisters).Originally, she was named willa because of her rambunctious, deviant ways. But a few days later, I decided that I liked the name Brooklyn better...so that's officially her name. I took her to the vet today and they said she has a respiratory infection. So I have to feed her antibiotics, but she's gonna be okay. I cant believe how much it really moves me and touches me that this little girl only wants my love ...and she is forever loyal and even protective.GOD I LOVE HER SOOOOOOO MUCH!!!
I spent Christmas with my family this year, it was a really hard time for me because that's kind of when I really realized that my relationship was over. And so there I was trying to spend time with my little sisters and make their holiday the best ever and all I really wanted to do was cry ..but anyway, my Mom was very supportive and my sisters are just RAD !! They are getting bigger and bigger by the minute. I am so sad that I cant be with them full time, but man I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder...I miss them every day and my time with them (which is not as much as I'd like) is like the best time of my life..I think this year I'm gonna try harder to get my Mom to move back out here with them.
Well for those of you who didn't know, that my dad is battling with cancer, I am quite happy to say he (along with my brother) drove out to Vegas to visit when I was at the tough enough auditions...and he looks amazing. He stopped taking his morphine so he's not all doped up anymore and he looks better than ever. He says he feels good, too.... So that is comforting... I moved into my new place January 1st. I like it here, I am right in Hollywood. I am only starting to get used to sleeping alone but its not so bad cuz my pup, Brooklyn sleeps wit me now.but man does she snore!!! Ummm...what else?? I'm sure most of you heard that my bag disappeared at the airport. That really sucked!! Inside of that bag was nearly every poem I had ever written.and I've been writing since I was thirteen. My ex said maybe it was a sign that its time to write new stuff, happier stuff. I don't know...He could have been right..but I still miss the sad angry shit.Maybe its time to let it go...and to move on. It just feels sad to not have those words anymore. Words sometimes are my only comfort, and many times have saved me from saying or doing really stupid things. Words can indeed be a savior.
Luke Needs A Collaborator For His Memoir
Chaim Amalek and Marc W. suggest Amy Sohn: the way you can bait amy sohn into the book project is, in fact, making it as much about her as it is about you ... in other words, she's interviewing you, writing her reactions to you, interspersed with your own tales of woe. you might have to ease up on your own narcissism and yield a little to this woman who's roughly a decade younger and requires her fix of attention. the trade-off is that we will all get a famous jewish woman as an acquaintance, one with a bona fide self-absorbed best-seller in her past. (one who AMALEK insists is hot.) but sohn does seem to want for work, especially since the "sex and the city" template has been tapped out for good post-9/11, i think.
A Great Rabbi Smiles At Luke
I saw Rabbi D. today. I was stopping at a stop sign. Looking out my window and there was Rabbi D. getting out of his car to mail a letter. I waved and he waved back and smiled.
Khunrum writes: Rabbi D. obviously has feelings for you or he wouldn't have smiled and waved. Why not approach him and ask if he wants to be your new co-author on the memoir? Or at the very least write a "forward".
Please Pray for Peace
A journalist assigned to the Jerusalem bureau has an apartment overlooking the Western Wall. Every day when she looks out, she sees an old bearded Jewish man praying vigorously. Certain he would be a good interview subject, the journalist goes down to the Wall, and introduces herself to the old man.
She asks, "You come every day to the Wall. Sir, how long have you done that and what are you praying for?"
The old man replies, "I have come here to pray every day for 25 years. In the morning I pray for world peace and for the brotherhood of man. I go home have a cup of tea, and I come back and pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the earth. And very, very important, I pray for peace and understanding between the Israelis and Palestinians."
The journalist is impressed. "How does it make you feel to come here every day for 25 years and pray for these wonderful things?" she asks.
The old man replies, calmly, "Like I'm talking to a fucking wall."
Luke Wrote The Best Summary Ever Of Post-Post-Modernism EVER!
"It just seems like Western style liberal democracy has won the political debate. We live at the end of history. We live in the reality of what is and I sense little passion over what ought to be."
Musician John Price writes Luke: You just nailed the state of "everything" in America both pre and post 9-11. Being here in Philadelphia, I'm certain that Camille Paglia would probably love to have that line you penned ascribed to her and not you.
What is so refreshing about your words though not hardly a surprise to these eyes and most likely lost on others who see The Porn Industry as Grotesque or as something to dismiss, is that the eloquent "observation" which is made here comes from not an ivory tower academic context or even from a mainstream media-journalist as neither does the prose flow from a sex positive feminist writer ( nothing against them though ) who sees porn as they would hope it could be recast, but rather this prose I've read flows from a male observer who is essentially a "chronicler" of sex workers who IMHO has nailed not only the state of a profit-hungry-porn industy, but many other states of taste in American Culture which are not quite as purient, but just as well defined by your words.
But again, that two sentence blurb you worte is the most "spot on", and succint statement made which essentially applies to virtually all of our present aesthetic and social interactions/values/communities as it is moreover a bridge into what could be seen as a broader peek into everyones "collective" state of consciousness.
Brian Eno recently said somewhere that Gossip has now been elevated to Philosophy. I think your site and clearly aside from all those who would decry it for not adhering to a set or traditional style of journalistic patterns, is really a text book model for how people already want to listen, hear, know, read & know as to where and they will get their news. I think you should be studied by anyone considering journalism and in many instances I think you should be emulated. But just know that in two brief sentences you have floored me which I aint that easy to do but please do keep doing what you do so very well as that there are more truths in gossip than we all may care to admit to ourselves beyond just the medium itself being the message.
JustMrT writes: Stick to sharps and flats, Ringo . . .
Chaim Amalek writes: So can this guy get any one of us laid by a hot chick who would otherwise be way out of our league?
From VillageVoice.com: Can you remember the days before people routinely sifted through the details of their own lives with the rapacity of gold diggers, hoping to collect enough nuggets for a memoir? Before The Kiss and The Real World, before online diaries and digital cams allowed us to invite a world of strangers to ogle our heads and homes? The media is so clogged with free emotional porn that it's surprising anyone would pay $25 for more of it. But that's the price of More, Now, Again, the new memoir by Elizabeth Wurtzel.
When Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living," he probably didn't have Wurtzel in mind. At the age of 34, she has published two books about her life as an unstable woman (Prozac Nation and this new one), one semi-facetious self-help book for unstable women (Radical Sanity), and one sloppy nonfiction tome celebrating unstable women throughout history (Bitch). She has spent her entire publishing career taking interesting arguments about female power and twisting them into a Wurtzel-shaped apologia for her own reckless, narcissistic ways.
Chaim Amalek writes: So this Wurtzel is a jewess?
I hate to say this, and I am ashamed even to think it, but the jewish contribution to western culture and thought over the last 100 years seems mostly degenerate or worse. It is fundamentally dishonest as to human nature, extolls weakness, is hypocritical (one standard for zionists, another for white gentiles, and yet another for "people of color"), and is harmful to society at large (e.g., Marxism, Fruedianism, the pedophilia of Woody Allen, etc.). These days, I actively seek out movies made by gentiles with a gentile sensibility (i.e., from places other than jewish hollywood). Better to watch something like "Black Hawk Down" by Ridley Scott than the latest Holocaust flick, and it is better to pay to see "Lord of the Rings" than anything by some whiney jew in Hollywood. Even movies from places like Iran are far superior to what judeo-Hollywood produces. And spare me the poison on HBO and MTV! [Note: the tenor of the times is such that I have chosen to delete the sentence that I first wrote for this space.]
If jewish orthodoxy wants to make itself useful, it can organize cultural boycotts of jewish hollywood and jewish television and the like.
Marc W. writes: You should both see the Royal Tenenbaums, which reflects a gentile sensibility ... the most disturbing anecdote I heard about the film related to a bunch of Jews leaving the theater disappointed on Xmas even because they were in the mood for some "good Jewish humor" and instead they got a somber treatise on dysfunctional Christian family life. Yes, there are two celebrity half-jews in the film (Paltrow and Stiller) who would be proud at the annoying hebes they're pissing off by *not* being whiney. Yes, Wurtzel is a Jewess--her first book, Prozac Nation, discusses in some detail (foggy in hindsight) a story about one of her divorcing parents being observant while the other sought revenge on the other by feeding their daughter pork.
Nice Jewish Girl writes: She's not totally jewish. Hence the pork. She just gets loads of press. She's a terrible writer. From www.jewhoo.com: Elizabeth Wurtzel - Born, 1967 in Manhattan. Ms. Wurtzel's mother is Jewish. Her father is not. Her parents divorced when she was very young and her mother spent the better part of the next two decades chasing her father for child support, etc. Ms. Wurtzel got where she is on scholarships. She graduated from Harvard College, where she received the 1986 Rolling Stone College Journalism Award. She was a music critic for The New Yorker and New York, and her articles have appeared in numerous magazines including Mademoiselle, Mirabella, Seventeen, and The OxfordAmerican.
From an ad in the latest issue of the Jewish Journal:
Joan Denson was the American Dream except for one little problem: she was a lesbian. This is a memoir of the girl-next-door who faces her homosexuality and finds herself unwelcome in her surroundings.
A child during WWII, the author came of age reading The Diary Of Anne Frank. The memories of opression and suffering of the innocent so captured her imagination that she struck up a friendship with Anne Frank's father and visited Anne's annex, where she found in her desire for Anne a hidden piece of herself.
By early adulthood Denson absorbed the culture of the fifties, an era famous for its "loud events and quiet discontents." With a husband and children, she coveted suburban bliss as much as the next girl. But something was amiss. That something came in the form of a lesbian experience that led her to realize what had been missing all along.
A precursor to the "lipstick lesbian" the author, now a prominent Beverly Hills Psychotherapist, recounts the struggles, joys, and humor of growing up homosexual in an era of repression. Her memoir provides a first-person account of the evolution of sexual mores over the last 30 years.
Singles Columnist Sits Beside Luke In Shul
In shul this morning, Jewish Journal singles columnist Carin Davis sat next to me.
While looking at the shul's weekly bulletin, I knew I had found my home. This synagogue boasts a "Gay & Lesbian Havurah [friendship society]". The shul's main rabbi will speak at their next meeting. Gotta get myself to that. None of the four Orthodox shuls that booted me have Gay & Lesbian Havurahs.
Ed Koch Says Boycott France
Ed Koch writes in Newsday.com: ALL supporters of Israel should boycott French wine, cheese, perfume and clothing, as well as refuse to visit France as tourists, until the French government recalls its ambassador to Britain, and either cashiers or demotes him.
Last week, the recently appointed French ambassador to Britain, Daniel Bernard, attended a reception at the home of Conrad Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel. Black is the publisher of newspapers in Canada, the United States, Britain and Israel. Amiel, a reporter in her own right, said that at the party Bernard called Israel a "shitty little country," adding, "Why should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?"
Bernard does not deny he made the statements, and his spokesman stated that Bernard was "absolutely shocked" by suggestions he was anti-Semitic.
Fred writes: Dear Mayor Koch: Your remark about Martel raises the following interesting point.
I understand from our media (all-knowing and omniscient) that Arabs still hold a major grudge against the west for the Crusades, and they all consider Saladin as a major hero. This isn't something that is relegated to history books for them--this is something that the entire Arab world is brought up to think about.
It seems to me that Martel is a historical figure fairly comparable to Saladin. Saladin drove the crusaders out of Jerusalem; Martel drove the Moslem invaders out of France at the Battle of Tours. (Had Martel not succeeded, Western Europe would probably be predominantly Moslem today.)
While probably everyone in the Arab world knows who Saladin was, probably only about 1-2% of folks in the west (at least in the U.S.) know who Martel was. The vast majority of Americans probably think that the Battle of Tours was a travel agency trade war.
Given the similar significance of Martel and Saladin, why do the Arabs worship Saladin, and westerners haven't a clue who Martel was? Answer: Nothing terribly interesting has happened in Arab civilization since the Crusades. This was the last interesting thing they did. Ever since then, they've been a civilizational waste land. In contrast, the west has been a vibrant, interesting civilization that has gone through the reformation and the enlightenment.
BTW, I understand that the Moslem population of France is between 10 and 20%. I bet that's going to cause festering problems for a long, long time.
There is a certain trait among some nations that I think of as a national ego problem. It afflicts the Chinese from time to time. They used to consider themselves the "middle kingdom", i.e. the center of the world. They're pissed off about things like the Opium Wars, and think the west did them wrong. (Of course, in the case of China, the British probably did screw them over.)
The Arabs are the same way. They like to recall that they had a great civilization a thousand years ago. Like some sort of ethnic group of Rodney Dangerfields, they complain that they don't get any respect.
My feeling is that while they may have had a pretty good civilization a thousand years ago, they haven't done anything since. I think their gripes against the west are more a matter of national pride run amok than anything else. I was listening to an NPR interview with a bunch of "typical arabs" in Jordan and Egypt, and they were trying to explain their anger. What struck me is that none of the points they cited had anything to do with their day-to-day lives. Their cost of living wasn't going up because of the west. They weren't being conscripted for forced labor by the west. In fact, as far as I could tell, the west had no real day to day impact on their lives (at least no negative day to day impact). As far as I could tell, it was all an ego-based temper tantrum. Of course, nationalist ferver is whipped up by the police states that run their various countries. It's all done for purposes convenient to the Mubaraks, Assads, and Al-Sauds of this world. I find it very difficult to sympathize with these folks.
BTW, from about 1500 to the end of World War I, the arab countries were run by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey)--not the west.
Starting at the end of World War I (about 1918) to tne end of the Second World War, France and England administered a big chunk of the arab world. After the second world war, all these countries became independent. It seems to me that if, over the past 500 years, for 420 of those years you were ruled by Turkey, 25 of those years you were ruled by France/England, and 55 of those years you were independent, you have a lot of chutzpah blaming the west for all your woes.
Khunrum writes: They should be ashamed that they are the only people who don't have "free" elections. They are governed by despots, dictators, kings, whatever. Look at Chairman Arafat. The guy is older than dirt. Has he even stood for an election? How the hell did he become "Chairman," No ballot box in sight. Even the Afros have elections every now and again to find a new head shvoogie to rob them blind.
Remembering Chanel Price
Hi. I'm writing in response to Kti, who had asked for information regarding Chanel Price. I am using a friend's computer, so your information isn't coming from John. My name is Drea. Chanel is my sister. Her real name is Teri. She was born on May 26, 1957 in Chicago. She is the second of 4 kids. From Chicago, the family moved to Delaware, and then to the Bay Area in 1965. Our parents divorced in 1971, Mom remarried, and us 4 kids moved with Mom and her new husband to Long Island, NY. Teri only lasted in NY for 3 years before she got fed up with it and moved back to California. Since I was still in NY until 1991, I'd only see her on my visits to CA, or her occasional visits to NY, although we did speak to each other frequently. Unfortunately, she had a rough childhood, had suffered molestation, and I think that it deeply affected her future.
She was stunningly beautiful (not to mention 6 foot 3 1/2 inches tall), and turned heads wherever she went. It was always an experience to go out with her! She was extremely intelligent and also very artistic. Her drawings always amazed me, and we loved to draw together. She had a wicked sense of humor. She abhorred authority and never wanted anyone to tell her what to do or how to do it. I think that was one of the things that drew her into porn; she could do it on her own terms and make great money doing it. She started out modeling, and that progressed to more erotic things as time went on. I suppose the draw of the money didn't deter her, either. Since she loved to party and sunbathe, making a good amount of money in a short amount of time allowed her to live the lifestyle she chose. She had a nasty accident in 1989 (I think). She was doing a party in Beverly Hills and was flown in by helicopter. She was to exit the helicopter and wave at the party guests. I guess because she was so tall, her left hand hit the blades and she lost her index finger and her thumb.
I really think that was the beginning of the end for her. She came fr! om a long line of alcoholics and suffered alcoholism to its fullest. After the accident, of course she felt that she no longer had her looks to rely upon, got a partial settlement, put a year's rent down on a house in Topanga Canyon (in Southern CA) and partied and drank to the point that she was near death from cirrhosis by the time she entered the hospital in March of 1991. All of the doctors were sure that she'd never leave the hospital alive. All of the family converged on the scene and I think that really helped her. Her attitude changed from one of indifference (and not wanting to be resuscitated) to one of really wanting to live. After a month or so in the hospital, she left and entered rehab. She really did try to work the program and change her life, but I think that once she got back out into the "real world," it was just too much for her. She couldn't seem to avoid the things that had made her so sick. She wound up moving to Klamath Falls, OR, and then settled in Eureka, CA. She died of a drug overdose there in December of 1992.
My mother, two brothers, sister-in-law, and I all went up there to claim her. Since she'd already told us that when she died she wanted to be cremated and sprinkled among the redwoods, that's just what we did. Since none of us were very familiar with the area, we got out a map and found a place that we thought she'd appreciate: Titlow Hill. Titlow Hill actually turned out to be a beautiful spot. We all said some thoughts and tossed some ashes into a waterfall there. Then my brother and I took more ashes and, on the way back down to the Bay Area, sprinkled any place that we thought she'd like; The Living Chimney Tree, High Rock, Spirit Art & Glass Studios, etc. Since then, I've sprinkled in numerous places that I knew she'd get a kick out of; Lick Observatory, the Pinnacles, the ocean, the desert, etc. She had a true love of nature. That's about it for now. John's computer is starting to make funny noises. In closing, I'll tell you that she ! was loved dearly by those who were close to her, although I'm not sure that she realized just how much. I hope that this helps you.
I'm Not Writing Another Word Until You Love Me
I don't care if this column has become boring and solipsistic. I don't care if I no longer offer you any good dish. I don't care if I'm no longer funny. I'm not writing another word for the 300 daily readers of this website (down from the 7000 a day of lukeford.com) until you love me.
What Orthodox jew in my circle, notes a great sage in New York, has made such a sacrifice on behalf of torah, all to no avail?
I want the right to be as boring and self-centered as I want to be. Yet I want you to keep reading, and no matter what, love me.
I am no fount of unconditional love. Far from it. I only believe in it for me and for babies. After all, I am a baby.
I'm the product of a preacher daddy and a dead mommy. I have a lot of anger inside of me. I hate you all.
The purpose of my writing is to throw manure at the world.
If you really love me, you will come get me from my hovel and bring me out to play.
This need for constant love, reassurance and feedback is the key thought behind my passivity.
You may think that I just lie back and take it because I'm lazy. Nooooooh! It is a reflection of the deep pain I suffered in childhood when I learned to stop doing anything until I got love. Yes, I'm passive-aggressive.
And I'm not going back into any Orthodox shul until I get some love. They've been a decidedly cold place for me of late. I think I will change my name to Rav Joseph Solveitcheck.
And I must submit this article to Oxygen magazine. Oprah loves stuff like this.
I need to be constantly reassured that I am loved. And if I don't get that, I won't do anything. I'll just lie on the floor and feel sorry for myself.
And if that doesn't get me any love, I will start acting out in socially inappropriate ways (publishing Dr. William Pierce et al). But don't let that stop you from loving me.
But then I looked back on the story of my life, a deeply moving story of love between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters and, ultimately the love of oneself.
Well, I'm just rewriting the boxcover of Barbara Streisand's movie THE PRINCE OF TIDES. I thought it was excellent except that it seemed to lose steam in the last 20 minutes. Why did Streisand put herself in so many gratuitous sex scenes? Did she feel some special need to prove herself sexy to the world?
I'm feeling very vulnerable right now. I need a hug.
JRob writes: OK, fine. I love you. I really love you. Now, write about porn for chrissake. No one gives a shit about your self-revelations. Did you honestly think it was for your personal views on judaism that people tuned in? An interesting, argumentitive sideline, but let's face facts. The only thing interesting to the general public (i.e. ME), were inside stories of salacious, tawdry, activities by people who lived a life of depravity and self-indulgence about which we (i.e. I) could only dream.
Yes, you're jewish. Yes, it isn't working out as well as you had hoped. Yes, you felt pornography reporting was having a detrimental affect on your life. Yes, a sudden separation hasn't resulted in the personal and professional success for which you had hoped. Wah, wah, wah. Get back to what you know and for which you had achieved a modicum of notariety. Who is Kendra doinking? Who is metaphorically sucking the dick of organized crime? With whom is AVN (allegorically) in bed? Where is Mad Jack's latest materpiece? Let's see some on the set pictures. By cracky, man, do what you were born to do!
P.S. If you have Asia Carrera's phone number, let me know. She's single now, you know. Aren't you the least bit interested in the real details of that break up? It's just not fair that beautiful women are always attracted to jerks rather than nice jewish boys like me and Luke Ford.
Bill writes: Dear Luke: I've always enjoyed your postings on UseNet and was glad to find that you had a website. I've read your aurobiography and was also very interested to find that you're a convert to Judaism. I am also studying to convert and I've noticed that many of the personal and spiritual issues in your bio mirror my own. I've been a fan of Dennis Praguer for a few years now. Had I begun listening a few years earlier I may have heard one of your calls into the show.
I'm studying at a Conservative Temple (against the advice of my good friend Irv Rubin of the JDL) and enjoying the journey.
Anyway, my closing thought was to thank you for posting your bio and for sharing your thoughts on some very personal issues. It's good to see that while we may be on a strange journey there there are likely many others on similar trips who have the same thoughts and feelings we have. Sometimes when we're isolated we spend a lot of time inside our own heads and we begin to feel that no one else is sentient..... The beauty of the internet is that it allows us to open a window for others to see what's going on.
Basementchild writes: I've always liked your Luke, but I don't love you. But I also think that you should get on with your life and stop it with the religious thing! Heavens! Become an atheist! Not only is it the path to the truth, but it might save your life! If your problem is drugs or booze, go to a meeting.
Will Senger writes: You say you want love, perhaps attention, but isn't that what it means to get 300 a day Luke? Does this not tell you that people are interested and that people love you? Indeed you seem to have this unhealthy need to be noticed, or to have fame and celebrity, and if I thought such was within my reach I might also seek stardom, but I get real concerned about you when you rant on about not writing another word unless you get some love. How, other than coming every day and writing when appropriate are the visitors to lukeford.net supposed to demonstrate their care for you?
I realize you get 6700 less hits here at .net than you received at .com, but I would suggest there is a far greater chance for you to develop friendships and make contact with people in this forum than the .com site ever could have afforded. I hope you realize that having 300 people a day care about what is going on in your life is a great deal more than most of us encounter. Try to be happy with what you have.
Khunrum writes: Stop acting like an asshole...You had a middle class upbringing. So what if your mother died? Mine did too (eventually) Cry babies like you need to travel in third world countries to see how easy you have it.
Why Do Actors Think Their Views On Politics Are Important?
From the latest issue of Talk magazine: "I think that people like the Howard Sterns, the Bill O'Reillys and to a lesser degree the Bin Ladens of the world are making a horrible contribution" to society, says the 41-year-old star [Sean Penn] of "I Am Sam," who saves his most scathing remarks for the Fox News Channel host.
"I'd like to trade O'Reilly for Bin Laden," says Penn, calling "The No Spin Zone" author "an embraced pariah, that's what he is.
"This is not a man sitting on the toilet with a smile on his face. He's a grumpy, self-loathing joke," says Penn. "There's a long history of people who capitalize on the lowest common demominator of people's impulses, Adolf Hitler being one of them. Not everybody wants to hit the wall in a violent rage and break their knuckles, so [O'Reilly] does it for them. He'll get very rich and get his rocks off that he's powerful."
Why do actors like Sean Penn think their views on politics are important?
One, because they're famous and they're constantly asked for their opinions by the news media. This instills a feeling of self confidence.
Two, actors play experts and important people, and this carries over to the actor's psyche. Actors are used to acting like they are somebody.
Instead of rising at 6:15 to do the morning prayers at shul, he gets up at 8AM. And in the afternoon, he sates his loneliness by walking up the street to Starbucks. He wears a yarmulke in case he decides to catch Mincha (the afternoon prayers usually conducted 20 minutes before sundown).
He orders a large hot chocolate and sits at the window, under a strong light, and looks out at the people walking by the intersection.
He opens up his latest book, "Intimate Lies: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham" and over the next three hours he reads 150 pages.
A man from shul walks over.
"Don't I know you from Tuesday night class?"
"Yes. I'm Levi."
"We haven't seen you for a few weeks."
"No. I hope to come back."
At 5:30 PM, it is dark outside. He walks home. He sees Orthodox Jews coming out of different shuls after Maariv. He sees one man who played a role in his expulsion from one shul.
He gets home and watches the 1966 movie "A Man For All Seasons" about Sir Thomas More who was executed for refusing to sanction King Henry VIII's divorce and remarriage. He saw this movie as a child at Avondale College and it left an indelible impression. He was raised to be a martyr and to sacrifice everything - career, family, and life itself - for his beliefs. Then at age 14 he watched his father do just that. He felt fated to be a martyr. For a little while, he imagined that he was a martyr.
Then he decided that he must not fulfill his childhood imprinting. He would cast off his fate and create himself as a happy productive member of his community.
A friend writes: "I'm sorry about your exclusion from the Orthodox synagogues. It will probably take a while to clear your name but you can do it. I'm curious to know what the therapist is doing to help you. Is it just talking so you can get things out? Do they give you projects to work on? In what way do you think it is helping you?"
He talked on the phone about a kept woman. Professional women who work hard for their independent income don't like women who are maintained by men. Upstanding women disdain whores.
Will writes: Stop letting resentment guide you Luke. You both admire and hate Orthodoxy and you are both Jew and anti-Jew. Today you are one thing and tomorrow you will be another.
You appear to have a lot of resentment toward the SDAs, yet this group is the one in which you were raised and therefore you benefitted from. Your parents, the people who gave you life, are SDAs - correct? Are you to become the philosopher who claims the best part of his existence was the time before he was born? Are you to determine that all of your present is drudgery and pain?
Why do you go to these set-up situations looking for women Luke? Real women are all over the city you live in and you are hanging at shul trying to find what? Judegement from unforgiving Jewesses who could teach you a thing or two about resentment? I lived in Venice (CA -- not Italy) for about six months. I met lots of women. I am barely half as good looking as you. Why did I have such success?
Are you sure you want to meet a girl Luke? Sometimes I feel like you want life to be misery just so you have something familiar to write about. Try meeting a girl the old fashioned way. Try the laundromat. Stop being a puppy. It just isn't possible that a nice looking man like yourself with all your intellect and charm could possibly be single unless it is a self-directed, self-fulfilled intentional situation.
You remind me of a friend I had who would do just fine with women until they got alone on a date and he would profess that he wanted to get married soon and be in love etc. This would be a first date with the girl and he was 20 years old. It freaked me out and I thought he was such an asshole -- then I realized it was all a ruse because he didn't have the parts to make a commitment and he wanted to be single all his life (as he still is at the age of 39). He crapped all this shit out on dates so the girls would grab their handbag and run like escaped convicts. Often, they would pay the dinner bill just to make sure they weren't obligated to this dude in any way shape or form -- and who can blame them?
Any time you want to talk turkey about women, let me know and we will get on the phone Luke. I know you have it together underneath all the blankets, smoke and mirrors. That is what the girl with the cell phone was trying to tell you -- get genuine and stop posing as your own worst enemy. I wish you lived here Luke. I could have you hooked up with some A-grade Jewish love machine inside two weeks. Of course you would have to be happy then.
Luke Ponders The Difference Between The Jewish And Secular New Years
11AM: I apologize if I've been out of touch but I just got home from my New Year's party. It was just as I was tossing and turning at 2AM in the spare room of the host, that I began to reflect on the differences between the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and the secular New Year. At secular parties welcoming the new year, like the one I attended last night, there is much drinking and merriment but without much inner reflection and moral growth. Instead, one often hooks up, which is not nearly as spiritual as sitting in shul all day praying and listening to sermons.
I've not been able to fall asleep until around 2AM the past two days but I've been rewarded with good dreams. Early Sunday morning I dreamed that I became closely integrated into the life of a great rabbi and his family. Finally the rabbi's wife reveals that he's having an affair. The rabbi confesses that it is true. I feel wonderful that I am privy to such intimate matters and that the rabbi is as morally screwed up and unhappy as I am. And I promise not to write about it on my web site.
Then this morning I dreamed that I was living back at the Seventh Day Adventist Pacific Union College in the Napa Valley. I live with childhood friends and I am surrounded by people who love me. Friday nights I perform the Jewish blessings over grape juice and bread but otherwise integrate myself into the community's life. I go to Church with them Saturday morning but tell everyone that I am a Jew. They don't mind. They still love me and I am part of a closeknit community. And I am secure and cared for.
Khunrum writes: Luke, Could we digress from your sleep disorder for a moment. What type of Christian cult is a Seventh Day Adventist? What event happens on the Seventh Day? Does it happen every seven days? Is it one of those "waiting for it to happen events" like the eventual (alleged) return of the great man himself J.C.? How is a Seventh Day Eventist different from A. Branch Dividian? Is it your involvement with these Seven Day People that drove you to become a Jew? Come now Luke, educate us. And why if Jesus turned the water into wine is everyone drinking grape juice (Including the (Muths) Did one have to be 21 to imbibe alcoholic spirits in J.C.' s day? How did they check proof of age?
Luke says: Every seventh day, in the Adventist faith, like the Jewish faith, is the Holy Sabbath. On it you shall not do thine own pleasure. The SDAs are a form of Protestantism that hews more closely to the Old Testament than most Christians. SDAs believe in the soon coming of Jesus Christ, thus the name Adventists. The Branch Davidians are an off shoot of the SDAs. There are many similarities between SDAs and religious Jews, including a prohibition of unclean meats, the Seventh Day Sabbath and other Torah laws. SDAs believe the consumption of alcohol, nicotene, caffeine is sinful as is dancing and going to movies. SDAs told me that when the Gospels refer to Jesus turning water into wine, that the wine was really grape juice.
Luke Gets Mail
RH writes: I just came across an article about you getting thrown out of the shul in LA for running a porn industry rag site....cool (about the site that is). Sounds like the Jewish community hasn't changed a bit out there. I was thrown outa VTC (Valley Torah Center) many years back for living a kinda double life with some YULA girls by day and hookers by night. My parents had flipped because they had started the first orthodox shull in...(which was home at the time)...but there's always somthing scandelous going on there. Good luck with going to Isreal. And be careful, journalism may be fun, but journalists aren't bullet proof.
I got sent all over the place for boarding (yeshiva) schools so I kinda had to be on the other end of the stick outgoing wise or I wouldn't have survived. I was pretty much abandoned at these schools at 14 and kept getting thrown out. The schools never told my parents I wasn't there anymore to keep the tuition. I created my own familly of friends and it was a colorful time. The LA dual life thing of yours hit me as way funny because when I was out there I saw quite a bit of that flip sid. One of my friends' dad was rabbi. I forget the huge scandal but he had to step down. The weird part was my life was so sex-drugs-street on the one hand and then life with the pillars of the Jewish comunity (who in reality most were not such pillars). Currently I'm not orthodox but still believe in god. I party off and on.....drink.......but no drugs.....though I feel pot in reality is probably less harmful than alchohol.
How Can We As Jews Profit From The Current Hysteria About Terrorism?
I learned this question from the great sage Chaim Amalek who lives on New York's Upper West Side. I posed it to many Jewish friends. All my non-Orthodox friends were appalled by it, fearing it would increase anti-Semitism.
In an Orthodox shul one shabbos, I posed it and received a congratulatory response for thinking outside the box. The important thing, the frum yid told me, was to keep it from the goyim.
A Jew In The Rain
Luke Ford begins his Friday morning as usual with 90-minutes of therapy. Then he comes home to eat an early lunch and listen to the last hour of Dennis Prager's radio show.
In the cool cloudy afternoon, he alternately reads, naps and meditates, husbanding his energies for that evening's Jewish singles shabbat dinner.
Dressed in black jeans, a black sweater and a black leather jacket, he set off from home at 6:30PM, arriving at the shul at the official start time of 7PM. He wanders inside to look around and his eye strays over a shy smiling stranger. He gathers his courage and walks up to her. "Shabbat shalom."
They shake hands.
"My name is Luke Ford."
He watchs her closely to gauge her interest. She has a lovely smile that makes her eyes twinkle.
"I'm waiting for a friend," she says.
"It's your first time here?"
"Yes. My friend booked it and now she isn't even here."
Luke's friend Lawrence wanders over. The three of them stand awkwardly. Luke hangs in there with his uncomfortable feelings, his new leather jacket smothering him. Sarah's the best looking woman here. And it turns out she's a journalist.
They stand outside in the cool night air talking in the awkward way of strangers for 25 minutes until Sarah's tall slender friend Tatianna arrives. They all walk inside.
The evening has been a series of awkward moments and another one approaches. It's time to find a seat. Typically, people find friends and then sit together at a table. Typically, Luke chooses to sit alone at an unoccupied table and hopes that cool people join him.
Luke sits down alone. To his joy, a couple of minutes later Sarah and Tatianna join him.
"This is very awkward for me," says Luke. "I've spent my entire life inside a yeshiva and this is the first time I've ever spoken to a woman."
Sarah and Tatianna laugh. Sarah's eyes light up.
"Well," says Tatianna. "Perhaps we should take you home with us."
Luke feels good inside, believing he's hitting it off with these attractive women. He's making them laugh.
They proceed through the Jewish rituals, kiddish over wine, washing of hands, hamotzi over bread, and the first course appetizer.
Tatianna chats on her cell phone, in violation of Jewish laws about Sabbath sanctity. Luke wonders if he should say something to Sarah about her friend but he decides to stay quiet. Several members of the table look at Tatianna and then at each other, raising their eyebrows and shrugging at the boorish behavior.
Suddenly Sarah and Tatianna are putting on their jackets and standing up from the table.
"Goodbye," says Sarah.
"Perhaps next time if you're genuine, you might get women to stay with you," Tatianna says to Luke.
The two women walk out. Everybody at the table is shocked and disgusted by their bad manners. The group at Luke's table now consists of five single men and one married couple in their 50s. Luke's joy in the evening has already walked out the door.
He makes polite conversation with his fellow Jews until the evening's rabbi walks over and sits down and suddenly Luke engages in a genuine and heartfelt 15-minute conversation. Here at last is an Orthodox rabbi who cares about Luke. The quirky convert's not just a problem to be easily and quickly solved through expulsion.
Luke sees in his easy approach and questions that he has no clue what Luke's gone through the past few months.
"I have two sides to my personality," Luke explains. "A side that wants to proselytize and a side that wants to observe. And these two parts oppose and get in the way of each other. And due to various circumstances over the past few years, I've become primarily relegated to observing."
"What do you want to proselytize?" asks the rabbi.
"I want to proselytize ethical monotheism. I want to proselytize an approach to Judaism that uses the religion and its laws in a way to serve me, to serve the individual, the community and the world. I believe in using Judaism to make my life better. So yes I pick and choose between its hundreds of rules and rituals to find those that will most add to my life. For instance, about 18 months ago, I was feeling a particular lack of community and male camraderie in my life. So I began davening every morning at an Orthodox shul and studying a page of Talmud.
"I see so many Orthodox Jews who use the religion as a tool to hurt and exclude. I see Orthodox Jews who primarily regard their religion as a burden. I think it's better to sing some of the prayers for an hour with joy than to chant all of them for three hours out of obligation. Yet I see the tremendous power in acknowledging the obligations of the Torah. So I guess my desire to proselytize is primarily directed towards those who don't feel the obligation. I want to urge them to pick and choose as a beginning step in their Jewish development.
"But then, when they develop and take on the full burden of the Torah, I want that they end up nice. I want them to still be people I want to be around. I don't want them to be the hard-hearted callous excluding self-righteous shmucks I've become too familiar with."
After the rabbi's 30 minute public talk, the group breaks for desert and shmoozing. Luke eyes a beautiful Persian woman he's noticed for years around the neighborhood but has never had the courage to approach. Tonight's no different. He watches her talk with her Persian friends with whom she leaves.
Luke believes that Persian women age more gracefully than Caucasian women. In his seven years in Los Angeles, Luke has seen many attractive white Jewesses sag and fall apart. But the Persians he's yearned for still look as great as when he first laid eyes on them. They carry themselves with more dignity. A high proportion of them have beautiful faces, developed minds, traditional mores and curvaceous bosomy bodies.
Luke runs into a pale brunette in her late 30s. They bemoan their single status.
"When I was in college, I never thought about marriage," she says. "I concentrated on my career. Now I think that was a mistake. Now I think it is a good idea to marry young."
"College is the best time to pair up and marry," says Luke. "That's when most people have their first serious relationship. You might as well complete it. Relationships are not necessarily something that you get better at after you've had a few. Instead many people build up callouses that make it more difficult for them to love and commit."
At 11 PM, Luke walked home alone in the rain.
He arose at 9AM, showered and walked outside into a light rain wearing his best black suit and carrying a copy of the book "Understanding Judaism: The Basics of Deed and Creed" by Orthodox Rabbi Benjamin Blech. He arrived at the Conservative synagogue at 9:30PM, found a seat in the back and looked around. About six rows up and on the extreme left of the row was extraordinarily beautiful brunette. She didn't wear a hair covering. If it was an Orthodox shul, he'd know that she was single. But in the assimilated shuls, who can tell. For all he knew, the rabbi could be a lesbian.
The tall beautiful brunette sits next to two kids. Are they her kids? Surely not. God no, please.
A black woman and her two black kids, all clearly not Jewish as they appear lost with the rituals, sit in front of him and leave halfway through the service. He finds himself concentrating more on the brunette than on Blech's book, let alone the prayers and Bar Mitzvah.
At the conclusion of the service, at noon, he wanders out into the hallway for the general kiddish. A sumptious private lunch is prepared inside the banquet hall for invited guests to the Bar Mitzvah.
He stands awkwardly against the wall, clutching his book for security, waiting for the 200 people from his minyan to gather around for the blessings over bread and wine.
"Take, drink, this is my blood which I've shed for the sins of the world.
"Take, eat, this is my flesh which I've shed for the sins of the world."
His Christian past still haunts him.
Suddenly the tall beautiful brunette stands directly in front of him, pointing at her wrist. She's just asked him what time it is.
"Oh sorry, I didn't hear you," he starts. He tells her it is 12:05PM.
She thanks him and walks off to talk to her friend, a mother on the stairway.
Luke takes the long way round to the drinking fountain, which is right next to the stair where the brunette is. He takes a drink but lacks the courage to walk round the bend to the beauty. Instead he returns to his place and watches the brunette walk up the stairs and out of the shul.
Luke sips the wine, swallows some bread and cooks, and walks outside and home in the rain.
Friday he finished "The Facts," Philip Roth's autobiography and "Screenwriters: The Best in the Business Discuss their Craft". Now he finishes "Critical Essays On Philip Roth."
Roth gets annoyed when critics claim that many of his protagonists, like Alexander Portnoy, are really reflections of Roth. Roth never ceases proclaiming that his writing is fiction, not autobiography.
Luke gets similarly exercised when people identify him with his choices of subject matter.
At 3PM, Luke begins Laurence Mazzeno's critical assessment of the works of Orthodox Jewish novelist Herman Wouk.
Back to his casual attire of black jeans, black sweater and black jacket, Luke leaves his hovel at 3:40PM and walks to the Conservative shul in time for the 4PM afternoon prayers. It's still raining.
The Conservative Jews in the minyan don't dress with as much care as Orthodox Jews who usually appear on the Sabbath in their finest apparell. Most of the Conservatives are dressed casually, some in jeans. One woman who gets an Aliyah to the Torah wears overalls. This more relaxed approach in dress and manner reveals that even the most dedicated Conservative Jews, like those at this minyan, lack the ferocious commitment to Judaism of the Orthodox. This makes the minyan more easy going and less threatening and fearsome to Luke who is treated as a full citizen and is even given an honor - he lifts the Torah after the reading (hagbah).
During the seudat shlisheet (third meal of the Sabbath), the rabbi asks why Jacob embodies the people Israel.
"Because he's crafty," Luke thinks and almost says. "Because he's adept at fraud and deception, just like we Jews are adept at white collar crime and insider trading."
Luke wonders if this is the time to reveal that he's been kicked out of four Orthodox shuls.
"But why?" they would ask.
"For writings deemed obscene and anti-Semitic."
"Are you anti-Semitic?" they'd ask.
"Mildly," he'd admit.
Luke keeps his mouth shut. He misses the excitement, precision and passion of Orthodoxy.
After concluding the Sabbath with the Havdala separation ceremony, Luke walks home at 5:40PM. It's still raining. He finishes the book on Herman Wouk.
He didn't realize how severely Wouk, after publishing Marjorie Morningstar in 1955, had been attacked by rabbi for writing negative stereotypes about Jews.
He didn't realize how severely rabbis had attacked Philip Roth for his debut book Goodbye Columbus. The hysterical Jewish reaction played a role to driving Roth to his outrageous book Portnoy's Complaint.
Evidently many rabbis have no sense of literature and the independent value of truth and journalism.
Luke reads about the Jewish-American literature of Philip Roth and company and he reflects that these secular Jews are condemned to the dustbin of history. Only religious Jews will perpetuate the tradition. The secular Jews, after one or two or three generations, will assimilate.
He goes to bed. It's still raining.