Email Luke Essays Profiles Archives Search LF.net Luke Ford Profile Dennis Prager May 24

YU Gone Wild?

No way. A friend who went to Yeshiva University admitted under intense questioning this week that more than 75% of those who graduate YU with bachelor degrees (and who have never married) are virgins.

Correction From AJ Benza

AJ Benza writes: "Luke.... Please, my man, make sure you stay current with the Lloyd Grove/Razor Magazine nonsense. If you heard Stern this morning and yesterday morning you'd know he told his listeners that I never claimed my speaking to him was an exclusive. It was, as Howard said, Razor Magazine trying to drum up publicity for the issue. Other than that...I always enjoy reading your stuff."

What's The Jewish Response To Sodomy?

Coming down from the excitement of meeting Steven I. Weiss, I could not sleep Wednesday night.

9:05AM, Thursday. I pick up Steven and drive to the Valley for day two of the UJC conference.

We were five miles outside of Pico/Robertson when the drugs began to take affect. I saw big black bats swooping down on my van. I screamed, pulled over to the side of the road, and ran into the desert. Ten minutes later, I returned.

Steven was still holding his bottle of Jack. "As your moral leader," I said, "I must advise you to have another drink."

I drop him off at the conference and then commence my deep under cover investigative reporting which I am not at liberty to discuss.

I pick up him late in the afternoon. He wants to go to the graduation of the latest Wexner class at the University synagogue. We have an hour to kill so we walk to Starbucks and he buys me a strawberry frapuccino.

The class on leadership is led by HUC LA professor Darla Abrams. An hour in, I look up from my HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL book and say, "This sounds feminine."

"Interesting that you should say that," she responded, "because the person who came up with this leadership model was a man."

"He's probably gay," is how I wanted to respond, but as a model of propriety, I say instead, "This doesn't sound like the way football coaches such as Bill Parcells would lead."

Steven hands out his Forward card to everyone in the room and bores some poor innocent ladies to death with his theories on blogging leading a renaissance of Jewish journalism.

As I was driving home tonight, I took a sudden turn through the 405 traffic. Steven I. Weiss saw his life flash before his eyes and he started singing a song that I could not quite make out. Protocol readers, if you were on the Titanic and the ship was going down and you knew you were going to drown with your mates, what song would you like the band to play? What did they play on the Titanic? I fear I'd choose a Christian hymn, Abide With Me. Or, Nearer My God To Me. Or Losing my Religion by REM. Or, Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver version). Or, (I Just) Died In Your Arms. Or, I'm Still Standing (Elton John). Or, Who's Cryin Now (Journey). Or, Keep on Loving You (REO Speedwagon). Or, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.

Friday morning we might attend a congressman's public meeting on an HIV problem within a certain sector of the Valley economy. What's the proper Jewish response to sodomy?

Moby Al Cinder writes: "One of the many unfortunate consequences of the establishment of a Jewish state on Muslim land is exactly this - that Jewish American women are made to feel inferior to Jewish Israeli women. No wonder so few Jewish American women are married and mothers by age thirty - the men they want are busy slobbering over Zionist women in a foreign land."

Shmarya writes: "Luke, Google has banned my (meagre) ads for the third time. Why? A Google "program specialist" has determined that my site contains "slanderous" information about "the rabbi." So, how's this for inversion? Chabad bans Ethiopian Jews from its schools, won't do outreach with Ethiopian Jews, and spent considerable effort slandering me (and Rabbi David Berger, and Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, and many more who have publicized information Chabad wanted hushed-up), and yet, somehow, in Google's twisted version of the world, I'm the bad guy. Every claim I make about Chabad is sourced. Nothing is untrue. But when the big Chabad spin machine and wreaking crew goes into operation, truth takes a holiday."

A Grief Revealed

Orthodox Jewish screenwriter Robert J. Avrech, 54, is about the most private man I know. In 20 years at his shul, I do not believe he has once gone to kiddish. He avoids the social circuit. He refuses most interview requests (except for Jewish publications). He sticks close to home.

Ten months after the death of his son Ariel, however, he's pouring himself out on his blog revealing the most intimate details of his love for his family. I'm not surprised by anything he's written. I'm just stunned he's made it public. I fear that any day now he'll pull the whole thing down and never blog again.

Hadesh West Conference

I picked up Steven I. Weiss from LAX at 11:15AM. At first, I thought he was a homeless guy and I was about to toss him a quarter. Let's just say he's unassuming in appearance and dresses like a typical journalist. He's down to earth. He puts on no airs. His mind is like a steel trap and he has a ton of contacts in Jewish blogging and Jewish journalism. Weiss is a rebel like me. I thrill to his tales of ejection.

He goes online and someone has left another appeal to get rid of me from Protocols. He's received about 50 such requests via IM, phone, email and every form of communication known to man. He admits my first day was horrible but he thinks I've improved.

He wants to go to this Hadash West conference put on by the UJC. I tell him I'll give him a ride to Woodland Hills Mariott if he can get me in. He says sure. Just say I'm covering it for Jewsweek.com. Do you think they'd take an article from me?

Steven has a lot more chutzpah than I, and a lot more confidence in my journalistic abilities. I trail him to the organizer's table. He gets me in no problem.

Once we enter the conference room, I look for a lonely chair near the back while he starts chatting with people and making contacts. One part of me tries to be as repellant as possible and the other half of me cowers from the consequences. I look around, hoping to aid the Jewish renaissance by finding a Jewish woman to breed with. No luck.

First panel. Rabbi David Woznica (Jewish Federation of Los Angeles) moderates a discussion between panelists Dr. Beryl Geber (UJ) and Dr. Steven M. Cohen (Hebrew University).

Within ten minutes, I want to take my Museum of Tolerance tote bag (holding my heavy HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL by Joe Eszterhas book) and storm the stage to bash Rabbi Woznica into silence. R. Woznica makes long boring speeches. He asks his panelists ponderous questions and then interrupts them to make more boring speeches.

R. Woznica is the most over-rated rabbi in America. I've heard him speak several times. He's a poor man's Dennis Prager. All he ever seems to say are Dennis Prager sound bites. He gave about 20 tonight and did not once credit his source.

Dr. Cohen is nothing short of brilliant (and I can't stand his politics). Like his mentor Prager, R. Woznica is all about himself. Do you agree with me? This is where I agree with you. This is how I feel. This is what I admire. These are my fears. I want everybody to feel passionate about Judaism. This is where I went to college. I teach this group from entertainment. I tell them...

R. Woznika starts the discussion by telling Dr. Cohen how Jewish life has gone down hill. Jews are less Jewish. Dr. Cohen tells him he's wrong. By almost every measurable indice, Jews are more Jewish, more learned, more likely to send their kids to Jewish day school than 50 years ago.

R. Woznika repeats Prager's point (without giving credit) that before Jews make up their minds on issues like abortion, they rarely consult their own tradition.

Dr. Cohen says Jewish values are those values that Jews hold that are different from the values of the non-Jews they live among. For instance, Jews hold radically more liberal views on sexual matters than non-Jews (homosexuality, abortion, pornography).

I believe that Jews are the only group in American who believe that pornography should not be illegal. Jews are more resistant than any group to censorship. R. Woznika interrupts with ponderous statements. Jewish values are not values held by Jews but the values of 3000 years of Jewish sacred text. That's a funny statement for a Reform rabbi to make when Reform Judaism is radically different from the dictates of Torah and Torah sages.

If I had been in Dr. Cohen's seat, I would've walked out after the fifth interruption by R. Woznika. Dr. Cohen sits through another 20 over the course of an hour. While R. Woznika hectors, blusters and interrupts, I check out the crowd. About 40 persons, evenly divided by sex. Half the women wear dresses and half wear pants. No women cover their hair. Most men are bareheaded. One man has earrings. Steven I. Weiss is far and away the most religious person in the room. The only authentic Orthodox Jew (I'm the pretend Orthodox Jew).

I can't get over listening to Steve introduce himself as "Steven I. Weiss." I can't remember the last person I've met who introduced himself with the middle initial.

R. Woznica wonders about making requirements for Jewish observance and learning for people who hold positions in Jewish organizations like the Federation. Dr. Cohen says it is a terrible idea. "It is unAmerican to set requirements for participation in Jewish life."

Dr. Cohen says the Federations are sitting on a looming crisis in financial support. Jews born since 1945 are far less likely to give to the Federation and more likely to support individual concerns. We're moving from Klal (communal) Judaism to Personal Judaism.

JCCs closing up around LA are one symptom of the decline of Judaism as a civilization (R. Mordecai Kaplan) rather than a religion.

Marion Blumenthal is the chair of this Jewish Renaissance and Renewal Pillar of the UJC. Impressive title. Impressive woman. A beautiful blonde.

I believe there would be a lot more Jews leading Jewish lives if a lot more Jewish functions were performed by gorgeous blondes.

R. Woznika invites questions from the audience. As this is a Jewish group, he only gets alternative speeches. Marion makes a couple of points before R. Woznika tells her to sit down so the panelists and he can retake the floor.

For dinner, I sat by Rabbi Eric M. Lankin of the UJC rabbinical cabinate. He has a masters in marketing, a doctorate from HUC in counseling and semicha from JTS (1985). He served as a congregational rabbi for about 15 years and is mentioned in the Stephen Fried book THE NEW RABBI.

Lorraine Blass, UJC researcher, says the JPS population survey showed that the intermarriage rate on the West Coast doubled in the past decade to 67%. Another sociologist said the West Coast should be called the "unchurched belt."

The rest of the slide show presentation was so boring that I slipped a headphone into my ear and listened to Carl Hiassen's book DOUBLE WHAMMY.

We walk into a new room for dessert and music. I spot a sexy blonde. It's Jewish Journal singles columnist Carin Davis. She reads three of her favorite singles columns, listing about 100 demands for her future husband, including that he keep kosher at home, throw away his Girls Gone Wild videos, accept her frizzy hair, smudged lipstick and burnt cooking.

I eat five helpings of dessert. I'm struck by chest pains. I saw the movie Supersize Me last night. I fear I'm going to have a heart attack.

Was it so wrong of me to dine off the UJC and then write all these nasty things about the kindly R. Woznica? Perhaps God is punishing me for lashon hara.

When I'm dead, you're all going to be jolly sorry.

So many people were so nice to me tonight when I am such a hateful person that it makes me feel guilty for being a self-hating wannabe frum Jew.

Is it so wrong of me to live off women? When I had money, I always picked up the bill. Now I'm poor again. A woman bought me lunch yesterday. Another woman took me to the movies.

Is it so wrong for women to give me plane tickets, accommodation, massages, spending money, tickets to Broadway shows? Is that so bad when I devote my every spare minute to study of sacred text? In the Jewish tradition, women would often support their man so he could study Torah all day. I just want to sit around and read books and write about my feelings. Is that so wrong? Do I not deserve support? I need a patron. I'm a national treasure. I want to be America's blogger laureate and receive a nice fat check from the government every month.

Fight For Your Right To Orgasm

Daniel Radosh writes on Protocols :

If Luke's not going away, why should I? Come to think of it, why hasn't Luke posted this already?

Israeli Women Sexually Assertive. According to Cosmo, Israeli women are among the world's top "doing-it divas," getting busy and watching porn (52%) with the best of 'em. But the weirdest thing is Cosmo's explanation: "In Israel, women join the army at the age of 18, and their fast, high-adrenaline lifestyle spills over into their sex lives."

As Pervscan (no dirty pictures, but some lewd language) puts it, "The whole intifada is so dismal that it's hard to imagine, no matter how innately optimistic you may be, any good coming out of it. And yet Cosmo now tells us there is a silver lining to this dark cloud: Israeli chicks are hot, super-hot. The maneuvers they learn in the army carry over into the bedroom. Every terrorist explosion apparently serves to make an Israeli chick better in bed. Muslim fanatics die so that Jewish hotties can assert their right to orgasm."

General Media Buying Fewer Stories

General Media owns The National Enquirer, The Star and The Globe.

"American tabloids are going under," groused a friend the other day. He'd tried to sell them several good stories and they just weren't buying. "If you look at the past front page stories for The National Enquirer, they're running nothing. They run false stuff sometimes. They ran a false piece about Julia Roberts that blew up in their face over the weekend. They claimed she'd never be able to have a baby. Guess what? She's having twins.

"It seems that the only stuff they want to buy these days is stuff on Christina Aguilerra and Brittany Spears.

"They brought in Bonnie Fuller (profiled in Vanity Fair recently) to convert The Star into a rival with People.

"They have nothing to put on their front page, so their sales are plummeting. Last week their front page was, 'What stars are anorexic?' Who cares? They haven't broken a major story in a couple of months."

"Hollywood Confidential" columnist Jose Lambiert recently quit The Star for The Palm Beach Post.

Rod Lurie exposed the tabloid National Enquirer in Los Angeles Magazine in 1990 and 1992.

In 1989, Lurie got a hold of a list of the Enquirer's paid tipsters. Soon after, Anthony Pellicano called Lurie, and according to Rod, became "very threatening [and] told me in no uncertain terms that he was working for the Enquirer and he was being paid a lot of money to get this file back."

Pellicano called Lurie's editor Nancy Griffin and warned, "Bad things can happen to nice lady editors."

Kim Masters writes in the March 2003 issue of Esquire: "In March 1990, Lurie was knocked from his bike by a hit-and-run driver, breaking some bones. He doesn't claim that Pellicano was somehow involved in the accident, but Lurie says Pellicano may have wanted him to think so when Pellicano called him shortly afterward. "Pellicano knew about it awfully fast," he says. "But that could be drama-queen stuff - on his part or mine."

An entertainment journalist tells me: "Don't forget that Rod Lurie was writing this series for LA Magazine 'To get the National Enquirer out of my Gelsons [supermarket chain]', said the editor at the time."

From the February 1992 issue of Los Angeles Magazine:

Now they're playing dirty! Hey, if you thought the Enquirer was sleazy before, look what it's up to now - using everything from mail theft, false police reports and even blackmail to set up the town's biggest superstars.

My wife's private line rang. A minute later she returned, slightly ashen, and said an "old friend" was calling.

When I took the phone, he didn't introduce himself. He didn't have to - I recognized his voice immediately.

"I thought I'd never have to call you again," Anthony Pellicano said.

The last time I heard from Pellicano was a year and a half ago, while I was working on a story for this magazine called "I was on the Enquirer's Hit List." Pellicano, a notorious private detective, had been hired by the National Enquirer to "discourage" my story. He was the man who Assistant U.S. Attorney James Walsh claimed had intimidated government witnesses in the John DeLorean case and who, in a recent issue of GQ, bragged he'd beaten somebody with a baseball bat on behalf of a client. Pellicano had said he'd killed "hundreds" of stories and strongly suggested I drop mine.

"What do you want?" I asked him.

"What do I want?" he said, as if the answer were ludicrously obvious. There was a small pause. "'Don R... [Pellicano's attorney Don Re?] whore...Don...Pellicano wants his job...call Patrick about Norm and relationship to Pellicano....'"

I was stunned. Pellicano was reading from the notes I had compiled during my current investigation into the Enquirer. "This is libelous," he said with a drawl. "I spoke to Don. R. He's one of my best friends. He says he never spoke to you... I'm going to subpoena all your notes... You've brought yourself a lawsuit, pal."

"Where did you get my notes?"

"Would you tell me your sources? So why would I tell you mine?"

As I was soon to find out, Pellicano had paid my research assistant $3000 for the notes. Not only that, the Star, which the Enquirer had purchased in 1990, had given my assistant a check for $500 to monitor the progress of my article. For the record, Michael Boylan, a high-ranking executive of Macfadden Holdings, a publishing-investors group that owns a dozen magazines, including the Enquirer/Star, insisted Pellicano was no longer in the company's employ when I called to complain. A few days later, I learned the Star not only had paid my assistant to spy on me but was allegedly researching a story linking me romantically to a celebrity who was married to an actor the tabloid had previously "outed."

So here we went again. Round two. That first time out, I had uncovered what amounted to a sourcing scandal. Tabloid reporters were falsifying sources as a way to meet the publication's three-source requirement and back themselves legally. The Enquirer had gone into a frenzy, hired Pellicano and hit me and Los Angeles Magazine with a barrage of calls and letters, charging, among other things, that I was harrassing and threatening Enquirer employees. Ultimately, the piece became the basis for dozens of TV shows and articles, including segments on 60 Minutes and Entertainment Tonight.

NINE MONTHS AFTER Lurie's article appeared, he got a phone call from an employee at the tabloid's headquarters in Lantana, Florida. Then the employee faxed Lurie dozens of pages of private hospital records of Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett and Burt Reynolds. It's illegal to have those. The Enquirer's public policy is that it does not purchase or accept those that have been stolen.

Over the next six months, Lurie's source would put him in touch with 75 other sources who all had some horror story to tell. Under pressure from their bosses, Enquirer and Star reporters had run amok, getting involved with not only invasion of privacy, filing false police reports, mail tampering and theft but, in some cases, out-and-out blackmail, forcing stars to collaborate with the tabloids on a long-term basis.

ROD LURIE TALKED TO Jim Cruse, who was fired after three years as an Enquirer reporter. Cruse believes the Enquirer fired him when it found out about a book he was planning to write.

According to Cruse, star Enquirer reporter Brian Williams made-up a story about Roseanne Arnold beating her daughter.

Williams has broken such stories as Jill Ireland's "bizarre" cancer treatments and the discovery of Roseanne Arnold's long lost child.

Cruse says Williams telephoned the Child Protection Services unit in Van Nuys and reported Arnold had been abusing her. Brian knew the CPS is required to investigate all charges of child abuse, even anonymous ones. "He said he was a parent of a classmate of Jessica Pentland's [Arnold's daughter by her first marriage] and reported that she came to school with bruises, and that maybe Tom Arnold, supposedly on drugs at the time, had [done] her harm," Cruse stated.

Cruse, another reporter and a photographer, staked out Arnold's home for two days until the social-services representative showed up, talked to Arnold and her family and concluded there was no basis for the allegation. The Enquirer shortly thereafter ran a story that Arnold was being investigated for child abuse.

Cruse said on May 10, his editor, Steve Coz, told him to go to the Benedict Canyon home the Arnolds had been renting. Cruse determined that Tom and Roseanne were packing.

Two days later, Cruse returned to the property with another reporter, Robert Jordan [aka Robert Hudson], to see if the house had been trashed. "What Coz wanted was a pigsty story," Cruse said. The two reporters wandered the house and could find no damage.

When the story appeared in the Enquirer July 17, 1990, it reported broken windows and ruined rugs in almost every room, a shattered $5000 antique chair, a giant tic-tac-toe board drawn in black paint on top of expensive wood paneling, holes punched in walls and moldy, half-eaten pizzas.

What happened? Cruse says Jordan returned to the house and trashed it. "[Jordan] said he'd taken garbage cans and emptied them all over the house and the pool area," Cruse said. "He photographed it right after he had hit set up." The photos were never published.

ROD LURIE discovered that manufacturing stories was common among tabloid reporters. According to one tabloid editor, to add a little zip to one story, an Enquirer reporter informed the police that he'd heard screaming and furniture braeking in Fawcett and O'Neal's home. Though the police found nothing, the tabloids reported the police investigated disturbances at the home.

Stringer Bob Daniels remembers how in late Spring 1989 reporter Neil Hitchens and paparazzo photographer Phil Ramey tried to get photos of Farrah in a compromising position with a carpenter who claimed he was banging the actress. Three sources corroborated the story to Lurie.

Why the need for such photos as the Enquirer does not publish such material? "My understanding," Daniels, said, "Was that we would get the photos to use as leverage with Farrah on future stories."

BY THE END OF ROD LURIE'S investigation, it was clear that Enquirer and Star reporters "blackmailed" a number of major stars into becoming "friends" of the tabloids. One instance involved a major - and wholesome TV megastar. The Enquirer got photos of him in a compromising position. The Enquirer wouldn't run the story because the actor was too popular. To bash him in the paper might backfire, alienating readers. But the photo and story were too good to waste.

The Enquirer used them to blackmail the celebrity. Cruse said he was present when Coz called the star. "Coz told him about the photo," he said. "He also made up some things. He said the girl had told us about bondage and drugs and things like that. It was all a bluff, but he bit."

The star agreed to be accessible to Enquirer reporters. Soon after, he was on the Enquirer's front page, lamenting the drug problems of a family member.

MIDWAY THROUGH LURIE's INVESTIGATION, he began hearing stories that U.S. Postal Service investigators had begun looking into allegations that Enquirer reporters were stealing mail - a federal offense punishable under U.S. Code 18, Section 1708. The press agent who had set up the purchase of Madonna's stolen medical records, in fact, admitted that a few years ago, when Faye Dunaway was going through her divorce, it was his job to stake out her mailbox. Each day for about a week, he would wait for the mailman to arrive, then check all the envelopes in the box. If there was anything of interest - say, a letter from an attorney's office - he would pluck it.

Another Enquirer staffer said rifling mail was routine practice and that reporters even had a name for it: "Playing Mailman." Here's how it worked: A reporter would go to a celebrity's local post office and fill out a forwarding-address form for the celebrity, rerouting the star's mail to a prearranged address. The reporter would then pick up the mail and peruse it for any usable information. (When I asked paparazzo Phil Ramey if he had ever heard of "Playing Mailman," he chortled, "Yeah, yeah. But they do it just to fuck with people. What's the big deal?")

One of my sources, whom I'll call Jerry, a three-year veteran of the tabloid, also admitted he had been involved with mail theft. "We paid a live-in friend of Tony Danza to steal one specific piece of mail...a letter from the Screen Actors Guild," he said. "My bosses felt it contained information we needed. We made arrangements through one of Danza's employees to have this friend pick up the mail when it came in and bring it to me."

Dr. Park Dietz, an expert on obsessed fans and the prosecution's psychiatric expert in the John Hinckley trial, once said that obsessed fans have an "unholy alliance with the tabloids." Many rely on the tabs for personal details and the latest information on their celeb idols.

For their part, the tabloids don't seem averse to exploiting these delusions - or, in fact, aiding and abetting them. According to Cruse, on several occasions Enquirer reporters allegedly sold the addresses and phone numbers of celebs to overzealous fans. According to a friend of Greg Louganis, a mentally ill man who had approached the Olympic diver said he had gotten his address from a reporter at the Enquirer looking to make a few bucks.

The Star and Enquirer sometimes print the delusions of fans as facts (e.g.the claim of a San Diego photographer he had an affair with Kirk Cameron's bridge Chelsea Noble in 1991).

According to Dr. Walt Risler, a University of Indiana professor and a nationally recognized expert on the subject of obsessed fans, playing into the fantasies of an obsessed fan is not only shoddy journalism, it's potentially dangerous. "Tabloids are already part of the lives of celebrity stalkers. When they validate their delusions like this, they are lighting a fire under a combustible situation."

Why are tabloid reporters running amok? ROD LURIE concludes it's because the tabs went public in 1991 and are driven to find sensational stories to attract readers, advertisers and profits.

Journalist Stuart Goldman writes on tabloidbaby.com about a 1990 incident: The Enquirer's chief goon, Anthony Pellicano, ("The Nation's Most Publicized Private Investigator") began a nonstop campaign to hound [Rod] Lurie, [Gavin] de Becker and myself. Pellicano was right out of a bad Fifties B-movie. He loved to do the good cop/bad cop bit. He threatened, he bullied, he wheedled, he cajoled. (At one point, Pellicano sent me a personal check as "hush" money to keep me from incriminating the Enquirer.) When I changed my private telephone number -- which I did frequently -- he'd call just to let me know he'd made the new number (Pellicano enjoyed a rep and expert bug/wire man).

On March 11 [1990], Rod Lurie was riding his bicycle near his home in Pasadena. An unmarked car (no plates) drove up behind him, suddenly sped up, and whacked Lurie fifty feet into space. The bicycle was instant scrap, and Lurie wound up in the hospital with two broken ribs and a busted back. When I called him after the accident, Lurie was resolute: "It was no accident," he said hoarsely. "That car hit me on purpose. There's absolutely no doubt about it ... I saw the the guy veer over and go right for me." I asked him if he had any idea who was behind it."Lemme put it like this," Lurie said. "The tabloids warned me if I didn't back off I'd be sorry. I think they just made good on their threat."

John Connolly writes in the February 1994 issue of Los Angeles Magazine about Anthony Pellicano:

...[In] 1990 when Rod Lurie was researching his Los Angeles magazine piece on how the National Enquirer gets its information. Lurie got a call from Pellicano, who identified himself as a private investigator working for th Enquirer. Indeed, as Lurie recalls, Pellicano said, "I am the Enquirer." He demanded to know the identity of Lurie's source at the tabloid. When Lurie wouldn't cooperate, Pellicano said he would find out, adding, in what Lurie termed in the article a threatening manner, "I am relentless." In the ensuing months, Pellicano lived up to that image. He called Lurie on his unlisted phone number, bad-mouthed him to his sources, accused him of extortion and threatened him with a "nuisance suit" to block the article's publication. The piece was published without further incident, but the following year, when Lurie was working on another Los Angeles story about tabloid dirty tricks, he again crossed paths with Pellicano. Lurie was told by his assistant that Pellicano had approached him and asked him to spy on Lurie. Although the assistnat said he turned Pellicano down, Lurie remained suspicious.

The next day, he fabricated some notes about the Enquirer and asked the assistant to type them into the computer. Two days later, he got a call from Pellicano, who smugly read to him the very notes he had written. Late last summer, I tracked down the assistant, who admitted in a taped interview that Pellicano had paid him $3,000 for the notes. But Pellicano wanted to be sure he was getting his money's worth. To guarantee the assistant wouldn't try to pass off counterfeit information, Pellicano threatened him. According to the assistant, Pellicano said, "I make a living knowing if somebody's bullshitting me! I can look up a bull's asshole and give you the price of butter." Then, pointing to a blue aluminum baseball bat in the corner of his office, Pellicano told the assistant, "Guys who fuck with me get to meet my buddy over there in the corner."

Stern Q&A Raises Questions

Lloyd Grove writes:

Did he or didn't he? The folks at Razor magazine have been making a big deal about their "exclusive" Howard Stern interview purportedly conducted by former Daily News gossip A.J. Benza. But Stern insists the alleged interview never happened.

It's part of Razor's June cover story on the blue-tongued radio jock's troubles with the Federal Communications Commission.

I'm told that Razor's editors got very anxious the other day when Stern went on the air to deny that he ever gave Benza or anyone else an interview. According to MarksFriggin.com, a fan site that summarizes Stern's shows, "Howard refused [Razor's interview request] and it never happened. ... He thinks it's kind of funny that the magazine is putting out a press release saying that they have an exclusive with him when they don't."

I hear that the Razor editors' anxiety level increased when E-mails to Benza, who has written for the mag on and off since 2001, were bounced back with the message that the address was invalid.

"I have a hard time believing that A.J. Benza would make up quotes about somebody as prolific and newsworthy as Howard Stern," Razor publisher Richard Botto told me. "I think it would be career suicide, and I think A.J. knows that."

But while Benza told me he didn't make up any quotes for the article, "I never interviewed Howard. I made some calls to him personally as a friend," he explained. "We spent about 30 seconds talking about the FCC, but it wasn't under the guise of an interview. But then the magazine put out a press release about an 'exclusive interview.' It's just stupid. It's ridiculous."

From 10/12/99 Luke Ford Wire Services Ltd:

    Concurrent with Content magazine’s observation in the October ‘99 issue that Benza’s “Mysteries & Scandals” offered “a seedier view of Hollywood,” the Village Voice, dated 9-28-99 , reported that “ A.J. Benza was finishing up his cautionary tale memoir.”    
    The following items offer a cautionary glimpse into the mysteries and scandals of A.J. Benza’s momentous life and times:
    “Right now, we’re the shit,” observed Benza in New York magazine, dated 8-1-94.
    An accompanying photo of “the clog-footed, jewelry-wearing, dude-about-town”--his thinning coif moussed and ponytailed, his extremities wound with at least four weighty metal bracelets plus rings and earlobe accessories-- bore distinct clinical signs of phase-three Saturday Night Fever. Not visible were Benza’s three tattoos: The word “Pope” on his right shoulder; a wolf’s-paw print on his right forearm, and a Gypsy flag on his left shoulder.
    “I’ve met more beautiful women in the last two years than I met when I was married and lived on long island....Every girlfiend I’ve had in the last two years has been a person in that scene, y’know? When you go out in that scene, you end up dating bartenders, hostesses, models,actresses, publicists. I would never go back to dating a girl who works in a bank in Levittown, not with this kind of lifestyle....The problem is you do tend to meet the girls you dated last month and they see you with someone else, and so you gotta be really cool. There are worse things in this world! My friends who are married with two kids and a white picket fence all call me to hear about the stories, y’know?
    “..More recently, Benza got into a fight with one of the club’s [defunct Times Square nitery USA] doormen...Vindictive items about the club’s owner, Peter Gatien, started appearing [in the Benza co-written Daily News column]....
    [New York, 3-18-96; accompanying the profile are photos of Benza, attired in head-to-toe leather, grasping his crotch and grimacing suggestively for the camera:] “.....Hot Copy” isn’t neccessarily considered the best column in the city, but A.J. and Michael [Lewittes, a former publicist and Dr. Ruth Westheimer assistant]--”the Fonz and Richie”, as one colleague described them--have made it a contender... The “Hot Copy” office is strewn with Playboy and Penthouse magazines,
and as any viewer of [E! Channel’s] The Gossip Show [canceled for low ratings] can tell you, the wall behind A.J’s desk is littered with photos of women with large breasts....’...You got the publicists who’ll sell out their clients, and you’re set,’ chuckles A.J.. ‘It’s all a trade-off: I run some bullshit thing, then they give me something hot....’
    ...A.J. leans back. He’s wearing silky black pants and a gray untucked shirt hanging to his knees. “My flowing look,” he says of the outfit, delivered to his office via messenger from Donna Karan at, A.J. smiles, [the following in italics] a greatly reduced price. “
    “A.J. has confided to his readers a ‘“concern over male-pattern baldness’...’but it’s funny,’ he says. ‘ If I want to know if I think a girl’s really pretty, I try to imagine what she’d look like bald.’
    ....Then there was the time a few weeks ago when A.J. threatened Nick Paumgarten, a writer who’d made the mistake of going a ahead with a profile of him for The New York Observer after A.J had told him he’d already pledged his loyalty to a New York Magazine profile. ‘I said that
if he went that low on that story, he was going to have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life. New York Magazine...
    “A.J. has stories: backyard weenie roasts with Warren Beatty, party-hopping with Mickey Rourke and Abel Ferrara, naked swimming in the grotto at Hef’s mansion...breakfasts at the Carlyle with Dan Rather.     ‘Dan knows I have a fucking edge.’
    Daily News 3-25-97: In Hot Copy, A.J. Benza and Michael Lewittes announce sighting of Robert Downey Jr at the L.A. Mondrian Hotel’s Sky Bar back from rehab with a beer in hand.
    New York Times, March, 28, 1997: “Pete Hamill, the new editor of The Daily News...accepted the resignation of A.J. Benza and Michael Lewittes, who have written the ‘Hot Copy’ gossip column for four years [plus A.J. Benza’s] Sunday column on the city’s youthful night-life scene, ‘Downtown’...[Benza reported said] Mr. Hamill was unhappy with the sometimes smart-alecky
tone of both columns, and in particular with the Sunday column’s narrower, youth-oriented definition of celebrities worthy of mention..
    New York Post, 4 - 1-97: “... this week comes Michael Fleming’s story in Variety that has actor Robert Downey Jr. threatening a lawsuit against Benza and the News for the columnist’s report that he saw Downey drinking beer in the Sky Bar in the Hotel Mondrian in L.A. recently. (Benza retracted the story after Downey said he wasn’t even in L.A. he said he was in Savannah, Ga...)...”
    “Had Downey been drinking a beer, he’d have been in vbiolation of parole and wwould face jail. So this was no small matter...
    “...the gossip industry has been polluted with too many people who think they have a hook into every rumor out there,” wrote Benza in his farewell to journalism in the Daily News, dated March 30, 1997. “ And they don’t. And it makes those of us who do--those of us who’ve worked hard at making contacts and honing our intuition--seem like vicious hacks.....
    Daily News, 5-16-97 : “...A.J. Benza was charged with punching and slamming a car door on a cabby in midtown yesterday after the driver apparently refused to pick him up.... Benza was arrested after witnesses flagged down a beat cop...”
    The former Daily News gossip columnist, appears on the E! network's [now canceled] ‘Gossip Show.’
    “The cabby, Collin Osei Tutu, 45, of the Bronx, was treated for a bruised face and a leg injury at St. Clare's Hospital, police said.”
    “The dispute flared about 4:30 p.m. after Benza tried to flag down the cab at 41st St. and Fifth Ave... The cabby told police that because he was off duty, he kept driving, stopping for a red light at 40th St. Benza ran after the cab and allegedly punched the driver in the face through the open car window...
    When Tutu got out, Benza slammed the car door on him... Benza was booked last night on a charge of third-degree assault...
    “...I had penetrated a group most gossip columnists cannot, “ noted Benza in his Daily News swan-song. “ I got beyond the velvet ropes... I did the things. I became the item.”
    According to Los Angeles New Times, dated 8-13-98, A.J. Benza “plays a drug dealer in the next Steven Seagal film, a psychopath in a new digital indie project called Bug Night and a slimy Hollywood agent in an upcoming comedy called Chump Change...along with [the] U.S. President’s brother, recovering coke addict and ex-con Roger Clinton...
    “Benza admits his lifestyle in L.A. is something of a fish-out-of-water tale, although he’s moved on from Vinnies’s couch to a $750 -per-month one-bedroom in West Hollywood’s Normadny Towers.
Because he hasn’t paid his cable bill for months, he goes over to Vinnie’s to watch baseball...”
    Fame: Ain’t it a bitch?

List Your Lovers

A friend writes: "Not since Luke Ford's masturbation diary have I been so enthralled by someone else's narcissism." A woman who is half black and half Jewish writes about her previous experiences with intimacy.

The Curse of Ham

The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Dr. David M. Goldenberg (visiting professor Jewish Religion and Thought at the University of Cape Town) is getting rave reviews. I ploughed through it Shabbos morning in shul. It's a difficult read and I can only believe that academics will find it of interest.

Dr. Goldenberg concludes that race played no role in the worldview of the Hebrew Bible and little role in the view of the oral tradition. It had a considerably bigger role in Christianity and Islam which led to massive black slavery.

My father is a Bible scholar. He used to drill me that most Bible scholarship simply reflects the ethos of its time. Nineteenth Century Germany saw the Torah through its own prism. I'm suspicious that Dr. Goldenberg's conclusions fit so perfectly with his own worldview and that of his peers and I doubt that if he came to any other conclusion than what he did that a major university press would've published his book.

40 days and 40 nights

Can a man last 40 days and 40 nights on a boat with the world's sexiest farm animals and still stay faithful to his wife?

More Credulous Sex Reporting From NY Times Sunday Magazine

I don't believe much of this article about teen sex in the NY Times Sunday magazine. Why would the reporter Benoit Denizet-Lewos accept as gospel truth what secular teens tell him about their sex lives? When I was in high school, we lied all the time about our sex lives. I used to boast about mine and it was non-existent.

It reminds me of the Times magazine similarly credulous story about sex slaves.

For another view, read my interview with the author of Generation S.L.U.T., Marty Beckerman (a 21 year old author of two books).

Hollywood Animal

I had a wild time at Cathy's panels Saturday night. I drank too much. When I came to Sunday morning, I found myself atop a church in Westwood next door to a sorority house where I knew a girl who wouldn't sleep with me.

I was hanging on to the cross on the roof of the church, bare-chested, a bottle of Jack Daniel's in one hand, a big cigar in the other.

I was yelling very loudly so the girl I knew in the sorority house could hear me.

I was yelling, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (pg. 24)

Hollywood Animal by Joe Eszterhas is an absorbing read.

Contemplating D.H. Lawrence On A Nude Beach

I'm going to a nudist beach in Malibu tomorrow with this chick (Dr Suzy, the love doctor). I've NEVER been to a nudist beach before, nor contemplated ever such a visit to a place. I'm greatly flummoxed if I should bring my volume of Jeffrey Myers' D.H. Lawrence biography? In all seriousness, I do have a lot of work to do. But can a man read Lawrence while sporting ----? Did Lawrence ever contemplate this of his own work? One has to wonder.

I went to the beach today for a couple of hours to get my mind off things. Sublime. It was not a nudist beach. (Rather, this snotty beachclub -- but sublimely devoid of riff-raft -- to which my parents belong). Toes in the warm sand, sitting under an enourmous beach-umbrella, watching the perfect surf, I phoned a few people, one of whom was the great Cathy Seipp. Left her a voice-mail, that I planned to return again to the beach tomorrow and wouldn't be wonderful if she would please join me then. However, in light of tomorrow's unexpected locale, I scarce imagine the faire Cathy inclineth to unabashed nudism.

Word has it, "Luke's Epistle to the Nudists" was inspired by Rob Light's jejune attempt to lure the faire, dainty Ms. Moxie to the beach. A Torah Jew would never do anything so foul.

The Ten Reasons Men Fail With Women

(I was emailed this list, I do not know the author but I suspect speedseduction.com.)

MISTAKE #1: Being Too Much Of A Nice Guy.

Have you ever noticed that the really attractive women never seem to be attracted "nice" guys? Of course you have. Just like me, I'm sure you've had attractive female friends that always seemed to date "jerks"... but for some reason they were never romantically interested in YOU. What's going on here? It's actually very simple... Women don't base their choices of men on how "nice" a guy is. They choose the men they do because they feel a powerful GUT LEVEL ATTRACTION for them. And guess what? Being nice doesn't make a woman FEEL that powerful ATTRACTION. And being NICE doesn't make a woman CHOOSE you. I realize that this doesn't make a lot of logical sense, and it's hard to ACCEPT... but GET OVER IT. Until you accept this FACT and begin to act on it, you'll NEVER have the success with women that you want.

MISTAKE #2: Trying To Convince Her To Like You.

What do most guys do when they meet a woman that they REALLY like... but she's just not interested? Right! They try to "convince" the woman to feel differently. Well, I have news for you... YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE HOW A WOMAN "FEELS" WHEN IT COMES TO ATTRACTION! Never, ever, EVER. You cannot CONVINCE a woman to feel differently about you with "logic and reasoning". Think about it. If a woman doesn't "feel it" for you, how in the world do you expect to change that FEELING by being "reasonable" with her? But we all do it. When a woman just isn't interested, we beg, plead, chase, and do our best to change her mind. Bad idea. One that will never work.

MISTAKE #3: Looking To Her For Approval Or Permission

In our desire to please women (which we mistakenly think will make them like us), us guys are always doing things to get a woman's "approval" or "permission". Another HORRIBLE idea. Women are NEVER attracted to the types of men who kiss up to them... EVER. Don't get me wrong here. You don't have to treat women BADLY for them to like you. But if you think that treating a woman well means "always getting her approval and permission for things", think again. You will never succeed by looking for approval. Women actually get ANNOYED at men who seek their approval. Doubt me? Just ask any attractive woman if Wussy guys who chase her around and want her approval annoy her...

MISTAKE #4: Trying To Buy Her Affection With Food And Gifts

How many times have you taken a woman out to a nice dinner, bought her gifts and flowers, and had her REJECT you for someone who didn't treat her even HALF as well as you did? If you're like me, then you've had it happen a LOT. Well guess what? It's only NATURAL when this happens... That's right, I said NATURAL. When you do these things, you send a clear message: "I don't think you'll like me for who I am, so I'm going to try to buy your attention and affection". Your good intentions usually come across to women as over-compensation for insecurity, and weak attempts at manipulation. That's right, I said that women see this as MANIPULATION. MISTAKE

#5: Sharing How You Feel Too Early In The Relationship

Another huge and unfortunate mistake that most men make with women is sharing how they "feel" too early on. Attractive women are rare. And they get a LOT of attention from men. Most men don't realize this, but attractive women are being approached in one way or another ALL THE TIME. An attractive woman is often approached several times a DAY by men who are interested. This translate into dozens of times per week, and often HUNDREDS of times per month. And guess what? Attractive women have usually dated a LOT of men. That's right. They have EXPERIENCE. They know what to expect. And one thing that turns an attractive women off and sends her running away faster than just about anything is a guy who starts saying "You know, I really, REALLY like you" after one or two dates. This signals to the woman that you're just like all the other guys who fall for her too fast... and can't control themselves. Don't do it. Lean back. Relax. There's a much better way...

MISTAKE #6: Not Getting How Attraction Works For Women

Women are VERY different from men when it comes to ATTRACTION. You need to accept this fact, and deal with it. When a man sees a beautiful, young, sexy woman, he INSTANTLY feels a sexual attraction. But does the same apply for women? Do women feel sexual attraction to men based mostly on looks? Or is something else going on? Well, after studying this topic for over five full years now, I can tell you that women usually have their "attraction mechanisms" triggered by things OTHER than looks. Have you ever noticed that you see a lot more average and unattractive men with beautiful women than the other way around? Think about it. Women are more attracted to certain qualities in men... and they're attracted to the way a man makes them FEEL than they are to looks alone. If you know how to use your body language and communication correctly, you can make women feel the same kind of powerful sexual attraction to you that YOU feel when you see a hot, sexy young woman. But it's not an accident. You have to LEARN how to do this. And ANY guy can learn how...

MISTAKE #7: Thinking That It Takes Money And Looks

One of the most common mistakes that guys make is giving up before they've even gotten started... because they think that attractive women are only interested in men who have looks and money... or guys who are a certain height... or guys who are a certain age. And sure, there are some women who are only interested in these things. But MOST women are far more interested in a man's personality than his wallet or his looks. There are personality traits that attract women like a magnet... And if you learn what they are and how to use them, YOU can be one of these guys. YOU DO NOT have to "settle" for a woman just because you aren't rich, tall, or handsome. Let me say this again: If you know how to use your body language and communication correctly, you can make women feel the same kind of powerful sexual attraction to you that YOU feel when you see a hot, sexy young woman.

MISTAKE #8: Giving Away All Of Your Power To Women

Earlier I mentioned that it's a mistake to look to a woman for approval or permission. Well, another similar tactic that a lot of guys use is GIVING AWAY THEIR POWER to women. Said differently, guys try to get women to like them by doing whatever the woman wants. Another bad idea... Women are NEVER attracted to men that they can walk all over... Women aren't attracted to Wussies!

MISTAKE #9: Not Knowing EXACTLY What To Do In Each Type Of Situation With Women

Now I'm going to blow your mind... A woman ALWAYS knows what you're thinking. Women are approximately TEN TIMES better than men at reading body language. That's ten TIMES. I know, it might be hard to believe. But for example, if you're out on a date with a woman, and you want to kiss her, she knows it. And if you don't know exactly what to do and exactly HOW to kiss her, and you just sit there looking at her and getting nervous, she won't help! And this goes for ALL aspects of women and dating... Approaching a woman, getting her number, asking her out, kissing her, getting physical... everything. If you don't know what to do in each situation, you will probably screw it up... and LOSE EVERYTHING. And you KNOW it. It is VITALLY important that you know EXACTLY how to go from one step to the next with a woman... from the first meeting, all the way to the bedroom.

MISTAKE #10: Not Getting HELP

This is the biggest mistake of all. This is the mistake that keeps most men from EVER having the kind of success with women that they truly want. I know, guys don't like to make themselves look weak or helpless. We don't like to ask for help. Hey, I've been there myself. Let me tell you a little about me and how I figured out how to be successful with women... About five years ago I became fed up with the fact that I didn't know how to approach, meet, and get dates with women that I was attracted to. It frustrated the hell out of me. One night I was out with a friend, and I saw a woman I wanted to ask out, but I just couldn't get up the nerve to do it. I can still remember that night... right on the spot I made the decision to do whatever it took to learn how to be successful with women and dating. Well, after a lot of hard work and trying all kinds of crazy things, I finally figured it all out.

Robert writes: "Luke --- single best precis of advice on dating women I've come across. Thanks for posting it. Unfortunately, it's all very true. Hot women are almost always bitches; but, as I think even you've said, they have no choice to be as such, getting hit on TEN times a day. How very pathetically Darwinian it all is."

Birthday Reflections

A Christian friend from my childhood writes: "That was very nice of your family but what I wondered was the Jewish holiday celebration. Did any of those people know?"

I reply:

Did any of my Jewish friends know it was my birthday? Very few if any... The Jewish tradition doesn't celebrate birthdays though most Jews do...but as I rarely remember anyone else's birthday, I never expect anyone to remember mine... I'm so little changed from sixth grade or second grade for that matter. I have that same ambivalent relationship with community and that huge need to keep people at arm's length through satire, irony, sarcasm, etc...yet that huge need for a home and friends.

She replies:

Well, Luke, I think we all need to accept you as you are and be toughed-skinned enough to weather the satire, irony, and sarcasm. But stop and think, will that work for getting a wife? Knowing women, I think they have a need to get closer than arms length emotionally and mentally. They really don’t handle well people playing games with their minds. I wonder if you do this because you really don’t trust people not to hurt you if you let them in. Vulnerability takes trust. You’ve seen a lot of hurt in your life to you and to your family and so this is understandable, but I could hope you would not let these hurtful people influence the rest of your life.

Take Back The Night

Robert Avrech writes:

Stern [College] is one of the few campuses in the United States where the students do not organize "Take Back the Night" marches. They do not have to because the religious Jewish women in Stern have enough common sense not to: a)drink themselves insensible b)dress like Brittany Spears, i.e. like sluts c) go back to a hormone driven boy's dorm room after a night of drinking, dancing and flirting, and expect the boy to be satisfied with a deep conversation about Kierkegaard's notions of sin and redemption.

L.A. Press Club-American Cinema Foundation Blog Panels Saturday Night

Full reports here: Cathy Seipp, Cecile du Bois, Mack Reed, Sean Bonner, Caryn Coleman, Amy Alkon.

* Two panelists (Mike Sullivan and Andrew Breitbart on entertainment) looked like cows chewing their cud as they munched on gum while sitting on their panels. Folks, you should not chew gum when speaking speaking in public, when in a house of worship, or any time you want to be taken seriously (such as in a business meeting or job interview).

* Cathy is such a dear but I always have to keep her from the alcohol before she moderates a panel. Afterwards we chugalugged Manischevitz and blew the shofar.

* The organizer publicly noted my complaints from last year that all the food seemed slathered in pork and this year there was kosher food.

* I thought of a question near the end of the second panel (politics). I waved my hand tall and wide until Cathy acknowledged me.

"This better be clean," she said.

"Oh, it's clean," I replied. "I want to know if blogging has ever gotten the panelists ----."

Matt Welch: "Tony Pierce."

Also add the names of Moxie and BoiFromTroy (sat in front of me) to that lucky group.

Unfortunately my religious rules prevent me from engaging in such, but I thought it was a worthy question to judge the true worth of blogging.

I also believe that the answer to my question will answer another question on the minds of many Saturday night. Given that he's suffering from burnout, how long will Mickey Kaus blog?

* Moxie and Kevin Drum spoke the least.

* Caryn Coleman made this long boring incoherent clueless college girl-type lecture about blogs epitomizing liberalism. Thankfully, Cathy brought it to a close after a couple of minutes and moved on to those who had questions rather than alternative speeches.

Caryn's friend Sean Bonner sees her question this way: "Caryn goes back to and wants to talk about the opening statement that the blogosphere leans right of center, she says the blogs she reads lean left and because it's inherently open to people talking about what they want and it's open for all sides to voice their opinion, left and right and isn't slated to either side. The media isn't showing coffins returning from Iraq but bloggers are, that would seem to be on the liberal side, no?"

Caryn writes: "It didn't exactly bore the audience when I had at least three people right in front of me nodding in agreement, one woman saying "thank you for saying that it was needed" and people coming up to me afterwards upset that my comment was dismissed. So, just because YOU don't like what someone has to say doesn't mean they can't say it."

Caryn, I could've opened up my fly at the panel, wanked myself in full view of the crowd, and I can guarantee you that it didn't exactly bore the audience when I had at least three people right in front of me nodding in agreement, one woman saying "thank you for saying that it was needed" and people coming up to me afterwards upset that my comment was dismissed.

Cathy Seipp replies: "Caryn, I'm sorry you felt your question wasn't answered, but actually you spent so long outlining your position statement that you forgot to include a question at the end of it. We kept waiting, but it never came. I've seen this happen so often during Q&A sessions at speaker events that I'd meant to ask people to please keep their questions in the form of actual questions, preferably short and direct, but that was something I forgot to do. Eventually a moderator has to move on, especially when there are so many people in attendance who want to ask questions of the panelists, rather than address the opinions of an audience member."

* Cathy Seipp, Moxie, Steve Smith, Robert Light and a few others hung out at the home of Emmanuelle Richard and Matt Welch until Sunday morning. Everybody concluded from my vigorous discussion of deficit financing and back-end entertainment deals that I was drunk. Rob and I left at 3a.m.

Comforting Those Who Mourn

Robert Avrech writes:

To be the parent of a child who has died is to be dropped into an alien landscape; it is a world so foreign that the English language does not even have a word to describe it. Think about it: when your spouse dies you are a widow; parents die and you become an orphan; if your marriage collapes you graduate to a divorcee. But lose a child and you become... unnameable. It is a territory so horrible that language collapses, imagination fails. Interesting to note that Hebrew, a language with far fewer words than English, gives the gift of such a word: shikulim.

What would Ariel do?

People don't know how to respond to such grief. I know someone in shul who lost his mother a month ago. I haven't said anything to him because I am not that close to him and anything I could say would be trite. I never met his mother and I have no idea of his relationship with her. Such tragedies as you describe frighten people. I know when I was confined to bed for six years by CFS, many people didn't want to have anything to do with me. My illness frightened them. One thing I learned -- people older than me tended to have more compassion than people my age or younger.

People are good at different things. The person who is gifted in knowing how to respond to someone who's suffered a gigantic loss may not be skilled in another important aspect of human relations. A person may be an otherwise observant and fine Torah Jew and yet be frightened of the sick or dying.

Awake & Sing!

LONG BEACH, CA –– Acclaimed director Simon Levy brings Clifford Odets’ depression-era classic Awake and Sing! to life on stage at International City Theatre.

This moving portrait of a Jewish immigrant family crowded together in a cramped Bronx tenement features multiple award-winning actress Jacqueline Schultz as the domineering matriarch Bessie Berger, and also stars Tom Astor, Ira Denmark, Paige Handler, Paul Hayes, Sasha Kaminsky, Neil Larson, Joseph Ruskin, and Jamieson Stern.

The four-week run takes place June 18 through July 11 at International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Low-priced previews begin June 15. Awake and Sing! is part of Celebrate 350, a year-long commemoration of 350 years of Jewish life in America sponsored by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Considered to be Odets’ best work, Awake and Sing! portrays the struggles of the financially destitute Berger family as its three generations cope with survival and grasp for dreams during the depression years in New York. Tragedy, hope and politics are all interwoven to create a powerful work as illuminating and engaging today as it was when first performed in the 1930s.

“This ground-breaking drama remains as relevant as it was when Odets wrote it nearly 70 years ago,” says Levy. “Many of us are asking ourselves the same questions asked by this play: What is one’s responsibility to society? At what point does that become more important than one’s responsibility to family? Can we afford to insulate ourselves from the outside world, even during times when we’re caught up in difficulties and struggles of a personal nature?”

The original production of Awake and Sing! at the Belasco Theatre was directed by Harold Clurman and starred Stella Adler as Bessie Berger, Sanford Meisner as Sam Feinschreiber, and Morris Carnovsky as Jacob. Veteran theater critic Clive Barnes included Awake and Sing! in his book, “50 Best Plays of the American Theatre.”

Actor Leonard Nimoy, who at age 17 played Ralph in a production of Awake and Sing!, recalled in an interview, “The story paralleled that of my own family. I was so inspired with its illumination of the human condition that I decided to be an actor.”

Awake and Sing! was the first full-length play produced by the legendary Group Theatre, catapulting it to the forefront of the world stage in 1935 and establishing Odets as a champion of the underprivileged.

Odets has been characterized as the most distinctive and significant American playwright of the 1930’s, and his body of work remains a lasting contribution to the American theater. Born to Jewish immigrant parents in 1906, Odets dropped out of school at 17 to become an actor and was one of the original members of the New York City-based, avant-garde, left-wing ensemble Group Theatre.

Founded by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and method-acting guru Lee Strasberg to dramatize the social and political life of their times, the Group Theatre was a response to what they saw as the old-fashioned light entertainment that dominated the theater of the late 1920s. Their vision was of a new theater that would mount original American plays to mirror — and possibly change — the life of their troubled times. Over the course of ten years and twenty productions, they altered the course of American theater forever.

Turning his attention from acting to playwriting, Odets soon came to be regarded as the most gifted of the American social-protest dramatists of the 1930s. His first work for the Group, Waiting for Lefty (1935), a Marxian drama of the awakening and insurgency of the impoverished working classes, aroused immediate international attention. It was followed by Awake and Sing! (1935), his first full-length play. Other plays include Till the Day I Die (1935), Paradise Lost (1935), Golden Boy (1937), and Clash by Night (1942).

Odets spent many years in Hollywood writing film scripts. In his later plays he turned from social drama to rather turgid and self-conscious dramas of the individual, such as The Big Knife (1949), The Country Girl (1950) and The Flowering Peach (1954).

Simon Levy, producing director and dramaturg at the Fountain Theatre, directed Master Class, a Fountain production currently on stage at the Odyssey Theatre, and produced the world premiere of Athol Fugard’s Exits and Entrances, currently at the Fountain.

Preview performances take place at 8:00 p.m on Tuesday, June 15; Wednesday, June 16; and Thursday, June 17. Preview tickets are $28.00. International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 300 E. Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach. For reservations and information, call the ICT Box Office at (562) 436-4610.

The Luke Ford Book Club

I spent my 38th birthday reading Jewish books. As a Torah Jew, birthdays have no meaning to me as they are not celebrated in our tradition. The only birthdays I observe are those of women I date.

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg: B (for women and children) D (for men)
The Ladies Auxillary by Tova Mirvis: B (for women) D (for men)
Shiksa : The Gentile Woman in the Jewish World by Christine Benvenuto: C+
Consolation: The Spiritual Journey Beyond Grief by Rabbi Maurice Lamm: B+

I'm like the little boy rescued by Kevin Costner in my favorite film - A Perfect World.

My dad emailed me with a list of cities where he's recently preached the Gospel. My brother phoned. My mother and sister sent checks and cards.

Variety's Dana Harris Condemns Primetime

Dana Harris writes on ADT:

Hi, all - My name is Dana Harris and I'm a film writer for Variety who also covers adult for the paper. I've been writing about the industry for about five years and have gotten to know some people in it pretty well.

This is my first post. I missed this the first time it aired, as I find most mainstream coverage of the adult industry pretty reprehensible.

But after all the fracas that followed last year, I made a point of watching the rerun last night. Jesus H. Christ.

How does Diane Sawyer sleep? There may as well have been a crawl at the bottom of the screen that read: FREAKS. THESE ARE ALL SICK FREAKS. TRAGIC, REALLY, BUT WE'RE NOT HERE TO JUDGE. Over and over and over until the hour was up. Zero investigation. Zero news. Zero balance. And the worst part is the piece gave me the feeling that the idea of balance was "beneath" the Primetime crew - after all, this is PORN we're talking about. What kind of SICK FREAK would suggest that there was any balance to be had?

Adian, I do hope you take action. That was really, really low - buying footage from a fan and then, not only using the images without permission, but also making it look as if Belladonna allowed Nightline to shoot her again, even after seeing what the program had done to her last year. That, to me, is character assassination. Anyway, don't want to hog the stage on my first outing.

My Guest Blogging Schedule

Hot on the heels of my Protocols triumph, Kevin Roderick has kindly asked for me to (anonymously) guest blog for him next week on LA Observed. You won't even notice it's me.

After that, I'm subbing for Mickey Kaus, Instapundit and NYTimes.com. Taking the Gospel of Luke to all the world.

Rob's Excellent Vacation

Telephone conversation with my friend.

Rob: "I'm going away."

Luke: "Are you going to prison?"

Rob: "No, I just got out. I just walked out of the courts."

Luke: "What was it for?"

Rob: "They said I had a warrant for violation of probation. The judge said, what violation is that? I said, I don't know. The cop pulled me over yesterday and said I had a violation. The judge said I was not in no violation."

Luke: "Were you in prison last night?"

Rob: "I got out this morning. They said I didn't surrender a gun. I said I don't have no gun. How do you surrender something you don't have? I don't have to pay the rent any more."

Luke: "Did you have a big black roommate?"

Rob: "No, no ni----s."

Feel the Love

From Luke Ford Fan Blog:

One of the cool things about being a Luke Ford fan is that I'm part of a very exclusive club. In fact, beside myself, Cecile DuBois and Cathy Seipp, I can't think of another fan club member. This is why I have the shortest blogroll in the blogosphere. I suspect that it will soon get shorter still. Cecile is clearly going through her Luke Ford phase -- you know how moody teenagers are. Now that N'Sync are getting back together, I wouldn't be surprised if the life-sized Luke Ford posters come down from her bedroom walls to be replaced with more age-appropriate fare.

It's not just that almost no-one likes Luke Ford. More interesting is the intense loathing that he provokes in otherwise tolerant, caring, and reasonable people. I've seen this in my own social circle. All I have to do is mention his name and my usually placid Canadian friends become enraged. Fearing for my life, I don't mention that I'm the author of his #1 (and only) fan site.

Substantiating evidence is hardly lacking, but here is a small selection of reader comments from the Protocols website during Luke's short stint as a guest blogger:

When are you leaving Protocols?

Luke, I don't understand, is this some sort of sociological experiment on your part? ... We can't take much more, and it has only been one day.

stop! please! no more!

why is this person tolerated on this site? He's offensive!

I'm not sure what the point was of having you as a guest blogger. You seem to have taken over Protocols -- where are the usual contributers? ... Have you ever considered trying to look at life from other people's points of view, and not purely your own?

This man is a sicko

Luke, in essence, is an asshole.

What has happened to Protocols this last week. Amzing [sic] how one guest blogger can ruin this formerly thoughtful, sophisticated meditation. I used to look to Protocols every day ... Now I grimace at the immuturity, unbridled anger & hatred (self hatred?) and general creepiness.

goodbye. I've had enough

This site has hit an all time new low

When is your stint as a guest blogger over?

Aren't you supposed to be gone by now?

Oh Crap!!!! You again, Ford? Dammit, can't you just GO AWAY

Luke, you've violated us all by imposing your sick self upon us and by misrepresenting yourself as a frum jew when really you're a very very sick man.

That's it. I'm not looking at Protocols again until the week is over. More time to check out other blogs now, or rearrange my sock drawer.

I think I am beginning to understand why LA, rather some of it's self-absorbed residents are so hated.

we dont like when a person who isnt too intelligent, funny, clever, or interesting posts non stop on a blog that used to be informative and entertaining.

Your posts are so long and boring its unbelievable. Never before have I seen someone write so much and say so little. Please stop. Now.

i can almost guarantee that this luke is one weird creepy freak in real life.

Don't try to stuff your religious position down everyone's throught. (God, you are worse than Prager.)

You are a very sick person ... I do not accept you as a fellow Jew. You were converted under false pretenses, and you have failed to live up to even the most basic standards of what it means to be a frum Jew. We didn't ask you to join, but we're now asking you to leave.

I don't find your satire funny ... you come across here as a bigot

Luke - You are the worst kind of white jewish trash.

I truly hope to never see you on this blog again!

your endless posts felt like the guy who shows up at a dinner party and won't stop talking, interrupting, pontificating until all that remain in the room are him and his exhausted hosts.

leave these poor people and their blog alone!!!

How about writing about something other than your narscistic little world. Other than your friends, and your personal predilications?

this page has gone to hell

The bottom line is, he's a sensationalist jerk. Regardless if people call him bad names. What's his deal? When is his guest-blogging stint done? I want to know because if this goes on much longer, I'm going to remove the Protocols link from my blog.

Personal insults aside, the problem with Luke Ford - or, shall we say, one of the more serious problems - is that he uses very provocative language but his meaning is never clear. What is satire and what is not? Is he trying to convey a point, or simply to upset people? He certainly has succeeded at the latter.

I want to put the link back up on my blog, but I have to wait until he stops posting.

Most people simply hated the interminable, self-referential posts, many of which were copied verbatim from his personal blog, some from as much as two or three years ago.

Get Luke off of here!

Luke - From reading your posts the past few days, I've come to one conclusion - you're one strange dude.

Soon, soon it will be over.

go away Luke


This luke individual is a truly horrible read. Truly horrible. Too horrible even to be fun-horrible. F--- your awful blogging, Luke, and go write something else.

Hey Luke mate! I don't bloody understand why you insist on writing about nothing but rubbish on this blog.

You have such a hard-on for that windbag Dennis Prager. You guys both deserve each other and I wish you'd stick to what you both do best pontificate about religion and morality, rather than pretend to be experts on the Middle East.

I am encouraging all readers of Protocols to call Luke Ford at home. Number available through anywho.com

WTF is going on here? I've landed in planet WTF.

I'm confused. I thought this was a religious site, not a sex blog.

you are a sick man

I would say this site has turned into pure garbage

Luke, you are truly dumber than I thought.

speaking on behalf of the Protocols readership, its time that you stopped posting altogether. Instead of spending your time posting this stupidity, why don't you go and talk to a psychiatrist

When did this site become the new lukeford.com?

How much longer, Lord, how much longer?

Luke, you are one big sicko. Get lost and get some help.

Luke, I am assuming that this is another one of your pathetic ironical little test(e)s. Get a life

I am really losing intest in this blog. Is the point now solely to shock, I thought that is what Maddona is for. I don't get this or most of your comments, this is really just getting old.

I too am getting very sick of this blog and I am fed up with LukeFord making Protocols his own little freak show.

Luke, we don't like you and we don't like your B.S. attention grabbing announcements. Please find some other blog to ruin.

Yeah. Get rid of LukeFord. Give us back the old protocols

I need some Midol. Anyone here got some?

OK, damn Luke, this is too much!


Luke Ford, you are a moron.

someone wake me up when lukeford is no longer posting.


Still making friends wherever you go, I see, Luke.

This is getting painful.

Luke Ford makes me ashamed to be Jewish.

Lukeford, do you have a life? What happened to Protocols? Farewell, I'm getting bored to tears

This is too much. Shut up and go away!

luke ford, go away.

This site has hit an all time new low

You love to push your limits and see just how far you can go ... you really have to sit down, listen and learn from some good mussar shmusses from a good rabbi and live your life by the credo "do unto others as YOU WANT THEM TO DO UNTO YOU".

Luke, yuck, your posts stink

Get rid of lukeford, bring back protocols. Protocols is my cup of coffee every day and now this sludge all week long. Help!

Get this long-winded pervert off the site and bring back the type of bloging that made protocols interesting

Enough Already!

When is this jerk's turn as guest blogger over?

Give Protocols back to those that can write, (not u Luke)

this really sucks. likeford trying to promote lukeford all the time. what fun. cant imagine it sucking any more

what the hell is going on around here?

Dude, get a life. Your posts are way too long and boring. One post about a subject is enough, we don't need 5 of them!

We miss the days when Protocols was pithy and interesting.

Why is this guest blogger so obsessed with sex?

this guy is really freaking me out

Is this another one of your "satires"?

This Ford is an absolute ghoul.

Most of these guest bloggers have been awful. There is no question that this one takes the cake. Its so highly irritating and not interesting.

grow up, this was a serious blog once upon a time

If any of us were interested ONLY in you, we'd go to your blog, Luke.

I can be the first to say Goodbye and Good Riddance. You succeeded in making the last 7 days feel like 7 years. Perhaps now you can spend more time with your therapist, trying to figure out why you are so dedicated to antagonizing others.
Luke Ford responds to his critics:
Thanks. You love me. You really love me.
Luke isn't delusional. He genuinely loves/needs to be criticized. I often wondered why he didn't tell me to stop posting nasty material on my fan blog. Just the opposite: no matter how awful my entries, Luke would request that I post more often and write even meaner stuff. Apparently this is Luke's MO with everyone. According to his memoir, an ex-girlfriend once said to Luke:
I have criticized you up one end and down the other and it's wonderful. It's the most fulfilling thing in the world because you don't defend it. You don't fight it. You don't get angry. You just take it. And for people who don't like conflict such as myself, it's a beautiful thing.
Luke Ford is the ultimate human punching bag. This is why we -- fans and critics alike -- need him. What does this say about us?

A Doggie Story For Cathy Seipp

From producer Joel Soisson:

"With Hambone and Hillie, Sandy [Howard] said, 'We need to do a family movie. Let's get a dog. Everybody loves dogs. We haven't done a dog movie.' I was a camera assistant at the time, on the verge of getting fired. So I knew that this was my chance to get another month of employment. I pitched him this dog idea. He said 'Write it up.' So I became a producer-writer. In those chaotic days, you did everything. And as long as you were willing not to get paid for anything, you were like gold. It didn't matter if you had talent as long as you had initiative.

"This was about a dog who went from New York to LA. Because I was new, they only let me take the dog from New York to Philadelphia. Other writers took him the rest of the way, without any idea of what I had done. Sandy wanted to put his stamp on it. So he wrote the last leg where the dog got involved in a gang rape. I said, 'I thought we were setting out to do a family film.' He said, 'Yeah, but we still need drama.' I thought, 'Well, this man is pushing the envelope. I'm impressed.'

"I got to write the part where O.J. Simpson picks the dog off the turnpike and drives him a ways. They're sitting there motoring along. It was in the days where dogs didn't talk. And O.J. was lamenting that he was a lonely trucker. His wife ran off with another guy. Thinking back, it's precious.

"I told an interviewer from the LA Weekly that the movie premiered on a TWA flight to China. I believe so because that's the only record I have of it being screened anywhere. A friend of mine flying to China saw it. Then I got this horrible letter back from Sandy saying that real producers don't denigrate their own work. He gave me that rule, which I have since broken at every chance. I've got a kiddie movie with a gang rape [rated PG] and I'm thinking, 'Thank God it premiered on a flight to China.'"

Luke: "Did anyone jump out of the plane?"

Joel: "I don't know but I'm sure it opened up a whole new world for the Chinese view of American culture.

"By the way, the dog didn't participate in the gang rape. He was a little dog so all he could do was nip at the heels of the assailants."