Sunday, April 23, 2006
Wife: Drugs, hookers, threats, gambling, porn on actor's plate
'Yeah our relationship hasn't been the same since he asked me to blow him'
An acquaintance of mine talking about her uncle.
Highlights from Helen Reddy’s Memoir [“Helen Reddy: The Woman I Am”]
She's the ex-wife of Hollywood manager/producer Jeff Wald.
She had a psychic revelation foreshadowing Robert Kennedy’s demise [pg. 127-29]: “This particular day, I had been thinking about the upcoming election before drifting into an alpha state. I saw the date June 6 edged in black and understood that it was for Bobby Kennedy. It signified that he would be out of politics forever on that date. My conscious mind was unable or unwilling to face the significance of the black border and, because I knew that the California primary was around that date, I interpreted the vision to mean that Bobby would lose the election in California, retire from the race, and never again run for political office. This vision was followed by three days of paralyzing depression. I had no desire to dress, brush my hair, or move out of a chair. After the black cloud passed, I wondered what on earth had caused it….The primary had been on June 4, he had been shot on June 5, and his heart stopped beating on June 6. My vision had been accurate, and now I understood why I had been so deeply depressed for three days. If hatha yoga and meditating made me this sensitive, I wanted no part of either one, and I stopped the practice of both for a while.”
Helen Reddy on abortion [pg. 151]: “As a moral issue, abortion will be debated as long as humankind is able to debate. I respect all points of view as being valid to the holder. What concerns me is abortion as a legal and political issue. I am against all reproductive laws for the same reason I am against the draft. I believe that legal ownership of one’s body is the most basic civil and human right. Without it, we are all slaves to whatever government is in power at any given time.”
On handling fame [pg. 183-84]: “The best one I’ve ever seen at handling fans in a public place was Paul Newman. Once I was on the same flight as him and he was traveling alone. As he moved through the airport, people were coming up to him and asking for his autograph. The number-one rule for a celebrity is keep moving. If you stop to sign anything, a crowd will gather. Paul would say to each one, as he kept walking, that he didn’t sign autographs but, ‘I’ll shake your hand, and the next time I see you, I’ll have a beer with you.’ Then whoosh, he was gone, leaving behind a more satisfied fan with a story to tell back home.”
Is a strong believer in reincarnation and specifically believes that “Elvis was formerly King Tutankhamen” and that “Richard Nixon was formerly Andrew Johnson, who was formerly Thomas Paine.” [pg.216]
On Richard Nixon [pg. 217]: “History will be much kinder to Richard Nixon than his contemporaries have been. Truths will come to light that will reveal him to be a more honorable man than some who have come to that office after him.”
On AIDS [pg. 225]: “In my experience, a question is expressed before going into meditation is always answered, so I asked for clarification of what I’d read. This is what came to me: AIDS was one of the biblical plagues and, until recently, had lain dormant for centuries. In ancient times, the temple was the center not only of religious life, but also of healing and lawmaking. The masses were uneducated and relied totally on the priesthood for leadership and guidance. What has come down to us today as sexual taboos, deeply embedded in traditional religious practice, are the remains of old public health laws designed to contain the spread of the disease. Hence, the emphasis on virginity before marriage, sexual relations only within a monogamous union, circumcision for males, and ritual cleansing for postmenstrual women.”
Given a psychic revelation relating to feminism [pg. 326]: “There were assignments still ahead of me, and my work on earth was far from over. I was given a revelation of the role of feminism at this point in the history of our planet. At this time I can say little, except that I believe that it will be Third World women who will save the earth from destruction.”
Chaim Amalek writes: "Helen Reddy makes lots more sense than I would have guessed. Too bad she helped disseminate feminist poison into the ears of a generation of women. Especially about ancient temples, and public health laws. She's right on the money. The gays won't like this, though. As she seems to be saying that the biblical condemnation of man-man sex was rooted in a deep understanding of public health issues."Two Jews On The Phone
Cathy Seipp writes:
Kate Coe writes: "I think I liked it better when Luke was the human equivalent of a cool local microbrew that nobody knew about and that yhou could only get in select locales. Now, he's in danger of becoming a mainstream kinda guy -- the human Bud Lite."
Link writes Cathy:
Allan writes: "Okay, where do I sign up for this orthodoxxxy thing? Great marketing I must say."
Odysseus writes: "That's a bit tough. Judaism hasn't been a prosletyzing religion since the destruction of the second temple. Still, if you want to join badly enough, I'm sure that we can find a mohel."
Allan writes: "I'm getting the feeling that may be mohel than I bargained for. Perhaps I'll just keep taking my pleasures amongst the philistines."
'I Blogged Your Dad'
I went up to a friend in shul and all excited announced in my best Jamaican accent, "I blogged your dad, man! I met him at your party, I emailed him, I called him up and interviewed him and I put it all on my blog."
Nomi Fredrick writes:
Why I Pray With My Eyes Closed
Chaim writes me: "Do you want me to agitate for a Luke Ford Appreciation Day to coincide with your birthday? Now I want you to hype it, and bring it to the attention of all your friends in ---- and your nonfriends in Judaism. If anyone calls you on the errors, tell them you were typing through the tears of loneleeeeness."
It was recently brought to my attention that I am going to turn 40 this May 28, and that nobody was planning on doing anything to help me celebrate this special - and grim - day. Not my kids (I don't have any); not my wife (I've never been married); and not my girfriend, either (I don't get any GF these days). Not my coworkers and not my neighbors and not . . . you get the picture. In short, if I don't do anything about it, nobody in the world is going to help me usher in this special day. I will spend it all alone in a state of morbid self-attention.
Thankfully, I have a life coach, Chaim Amalek, who tells me that if people won't come to my side on their own initiative when I need them to, I will just have to browbeat them into doing so using my media powers, which is exactly what I am doing here. All of you people who know me and enjoy my company are on notice: you have between now and May 28 to prepare suitable birthday celebrations for me. Buy gifts if you wish, but it is your time and love that I especially seek (especially if you are young and fertile and female and available for marriage). Advice too, will be welcome, especially if it leads to more gainful employment that I currently know through my blogging efforts.
Don't let me start my fifth decade on earth all alone like I was when my birth mommy died when I was but a helpless little boy. I want to know the milk of human kindness on my big day, and there are oh so many ways for you to show it to me.
What can you get the birthday boy who has everything that he needs, but not everything that he wants? Plenty.
1. A job that fully exploits my talents and pays me accordingly.
Chaim Amalek: 'Which mitzvahs did you perform today that you did not perform yesterday?'
"You are like a rock hurled high into the sky, now in midflight, awaiting the downward part of its trajectory. Why oh why didn't you make more of an effort?"
For the past two weeks, I've been sneezing and wheezing and hurting in my throat, which makes my newfound commitment to chastity that much easier.
I've got that same puffy hungover look I displayed on VH1 last night.
Despite my suffering, I put on a dark blue shirt, a red tie and my black undertaker suit and drive to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills for the latest meeting of the Wednesday Morning Club.
Isn't there a [Harold] Meyerson who edits or writes for a prominent liberal magazine? It's not that guy.
Ed was the location manager for Papillon, my brother's favorite book (much of the book was plagiarized I learn from Ed).
"Wasn't that shot in New York?" I ask.
No, he says it was shot in Jamaica.
Then I realize I'm getting Papillon mixed up with Serpico.
Ed producer the miniseries Mahabharata "a wonderful realization of one of the world's great religious-mythic epics."
I ask him if there was any sex or nudity in it. After all, it's an Indian classic and they boast the Kama Sutra.
He says there was some sex but no nudity.
Oh well, you can't have it all.
Back in the 1950s, Ed's father took him to rock 'n' roll shows thrown by disc jockey Alan Freed. Now Myerson has a 12-year old daughter.
I'm careful to avoid grains as I pick at my lunch. It's still Passover.
I tell the table that I'm looking forward to bombs over Tehran, but only if it's shown live on TV. I love pictures of bombs exploding. I particularly enjoyed the Shock and Awe campaign on Baghdad. There should be smart bombs that only kill bad Muslims.
TV is good for wars and football.
Cathy does not like my relish for war so I switch to bemoaning the morals of the younger generation. This 21-year old hottie sent me intimate photos of herself. I'm still recovering (from her standing me up, I thought I had found my future bride).
Cathy does not appreciate this topic either (she says it is not a matter worthy of the Four Seasons) so I lapse into a gloomy silence for five seconds. When no one notices and sympathizes with my miffed feelings, I join Cathy in bemoaning the spread of pornography across the internet. Some fake blogs with naughty pictures have seized her name and excerpts of her writings to drive traffic to hardcore sites. She's not happy.
I try to comfort her but I'm only one man and her needs are enormous.
She promises to cook me a big bean dish if I transcribe generous portions of today's speech.
The average age of the WMC crowd is about 50. I'm not likely to find my future virginal bride here.
Peter Schweizer is a terrific speaker with a powerful powerpoint presentation to go along with his words.
From Publishers Weekly:
Schweizer says that Michael Moore and Al Franken support affirmative action yet they employ almost exclusively white people. Out of the 134 people who worked on Moore's films and TV productions, only two were black (and one white person majored in African-American studies). Out of Franken's 112 employees, only one was not white.
Michael Moore says it is racist to live in a neighborhood that is overwhelmingly white yet Moore lives in Central Lake, Michigan, where not one of the 2551 residents is black.
Ralph Nader denounces multi-nationals who overwhelmingly use nonunion labor yet most of his investments are in multinationals who overwhelmingly use nonunion labor.
Ted Kennedy supports a 49% inheritance tax yet he employs numerous overseas trusts to avoid paying such taxes. Over the generations, the Kennedy's have transferred $300 million and paid $132,000 in tax, a rate of .004%.
George Soros, Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky favor stiff inheritance taxes but employ trusts so they can pass on their wealth to their children tax-free.
Liberal Fox TV host Allan Colmes says it is difficult for liberals to be hypocrites because they are not judgmental.
All this talk about hypocrisy makes me uncomfortable and I don't like it.
Schweizer says his next logical step is to do a documentary on these themes.
I walk Cathy back to our vehicles. The sun shines.
"Aren't you hot?" she asks me.
"Nope. I'm a cool cucumber."
We hug and kiss goodbye.
Happy and Belated Passover Greetings
My friend Daniel just sent this to me in a mass email to all his friends and family and most distant acquaintances.
I replied: "Thank you Daniel. This means a great deal to me. I'm in tears."
All Americans must see "United 93"
Helen Reddy's Memoirs Due Out May 4th
She does not refer to her ex-husband Jeff Wald by name. She calls him "number two." Is this a scatological reference? There's nothing in it about Wald that has not been revealed by other sources.
Broadway Producer/Attorney Abraham Borenstein
I call him Monday afternoon, April 17, 2006. He's in his New Jersey law office.
I know Avi's son and daughter from Orthodox life.
Luke: "How were your [Passover] seders?"
Avi: "Very late, very loud, very nice."
Luke: "When you were a kid, did you ever think of getting into Broadway?"
Avi: "When I was a kid, I starred in musicals in summer camp."
Luke: "In Orthodox camp?"
Avi: "In those days, the concept of women not singing publicly was not yet developed. In Orthodox camps, particularly Avi Weiss's family's camps, it was not usual to have stage productions where boys and girls sang together. I played in the major leads in West Side Story, Oklahoma, King and I, South Pacific. That's how I developed my love of theatre."
Luke: "Did you always want to get back into it, even after you became a lawyer?"
"I went to a black-hat yeshiva, Mir on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. Even then I would sneak into Manhattan and see Laurence Olivier in Hamlet at the Paris Theatre. He won the Academy Award for that production. [It was filmed with stage values for the most part, so it felt theatrical.] That was a major rebellion.
"When I first started working as a lawyer, the firm that I worked for (Proskauer-Rose) represented the primary theatrical interests in Manhattan. They are one of the most prominent labor relations law firms in the country.
"There were various clients who gravitated towards them because they were so well known but they couldn't afford the partners. The American Dinner Theatre Institute came to Proskauer. I was a junior associate. I was assigned to handle the account.
"In 1980, when I started my own firm, they stayed with me as a client. The executive director of the organization was Jane Bergere.
"Between 1986-1991, I represented her Darien Dinner Theatre.
"We lost contact for a couple of years.
"In 1993, she called me. Did I want to represent her in Broadway productions? I said 'No, I don't want to represent you. I want to be your partner.'
"I got involved with a show called Houdini. I wrote some of the lines. I helped produce the show in the Goodspeed Opera house and theatres in Chicago and other places.
"Jane and I co-produced Metamorphoses (based on the work of Roman philosopher Ovid). The entire stage was a swimming pool. The water was used by the director as a metaphor for things that change and things that never change. It was nominated for a Best Play Tony.
"Two years ago, I was involved in a musical called Caroline or Change. It also had some Jewish themes. It was nominated for a Tony Best Musical. It was well received. It broke even, which is a good thing.
"This year we were involved in a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross."
Luke: "Why would you invest your money in something where breaking even is a good thing?"
Avi: "You do that for the love of the theatre."
Luke: "Why do you love theatre so much when there's film and television?"
Avi: "My experience with theatre is analogous to my experience coaching basketball [at a yeshiva]. When the personalities are in front of you and the emotions are so real, the possibility of making a mistake is so real, and the professionalism is so high, that it becomes a real experience. In movies (my one movie was 2002's Topa Topa Bluffs and my involvement was very limited), you don't have any real connection to the piece or to the performers."
Luke: "Most of the time, don't you wish you weren't dealing with real people because they are difficult?"
Avi: "I specialize in difficult people and difficult situations."
Luke: "How many Orthodox Jews are there on Broadway in any capacity?"
Avi: "Must be ten people. I can't name them off the top of my head.
"Broadway is a little inconsistent with today's Orthodoxy.
"I try to stay away from difficult themes that might be too overtly in conflict with Orthodox Judaism."
Luke: "How much does that limit you?"
Avi: "About 25% of the time. I don't have a problem with love issues or religious issues. I try to stay away from sexual issues and anti-Jewish issues. I don't have a problem with controversial Jewish issues. Houdini represents a controversial Jewish issue because Houdini (Eric Weiss) was the son of an Orthodox rabbi who married a Gentile woman. The theme of that marriage is presented in that show and is almost accepted in the show. I don't have a problem with the presentation of it. If the show became more dialectical about that subject, I might have an issue. There are several Yiddish expressions used in the current version of the show that I wrote."
Luke: "Do your peers in Orthodox Judaism give you a hard time?"
Avi: "I have not had a problem from the Modern Orthodox community. I don't think people I know in the charedi (fervently religious) community who know about it have an awareness of what it really means.
"I went to see the show Yentl on Broadway preceding the Barbra Streisand movie. I went on opening night, a Saturday night.
"There were busloads of Orthodox people in attendance.
"There was a mikveh scene with the redhead they [in the yeshiva] fix up with Yentl as her potential wife. The mikveh the girl is dipping in on stage, is on a turntable. She turned around, faced the audience and was completely nude and I can assure you that the carpet matched the drapes.
"There was an audible gasp from the audience. Half the crowd walked out.
"The very next week, they stopped the turntable from turning. You couldn't see it anymore.
"My lesson from that is that we are not going to do anything sexually adventurous. Let some other producer do that."
Luke: "Most of the plays I've seen on Broadway (all one of them) do have nudity."
Avi: "It's not that common today. You are going to see people in skimpy outfits but you are not going to see nudity, certainly not in mainstream Broadway shows.
"The theatre knows that a high proportion of its audience is not New York. It's the tourist crowd. In general, the tourist crowd does not want to go to Broadway and see nudity. They want to see high-level talent. The shock value of the nudity is 20 years old and not necessary. There are shows off-Broadway where you can see that, but Broadway is like Disney -- pure entertainment."
Luke: "What do you love and hate about your involvement in Broadway?"
Avi: "I hate that I don't do it full-time. No matter how inept you feel the person is that you're working with, even they are extraordinarily talented. You are dealing with the top one percent of performing talent in the world."
Luke: "What have been the highlights and lowlights of your Broadway career?"
Avi: "The lowlights have been that every time we've had an opening night, I couldn't go because it was on Friday night and I'm an observant Jew.
"The highlight was the first time that Houdini opened in community theatre in Connecticut. I was a producer and I sat there and sold T-shirts."
Luke: "Didn't you have a play that closed in one day?"
Avi: "I only lost $10,000 on that one. That was The Last Confederate Widow Tells All starring Ellen Burstyn. I knew during previews we were in deep trouble."
Avi: "Because I kept on falling asleep. I have a pretty good sense of what will work. I have a good feeling for how long something will run. Just because something won't be a smash doesn't mean that my partner and I won't do it. Sometimes we'll do a piece just to be active in the theatre. Sometimes we'll do a piece just because we think it needs to be seen."
Luke: "Does theatre matter and why?"
Avi: "Theatre matters as a developmental process of a wide range of skills for the wider media. I don't think that theatre changes anybody's life other than the people involved in the theatre. But it also matters because there is something about a live performance that cannot be duplicated. Creating something out of nothing is a Godlike thing."
Luke: "[In his book Intellectuals,] Paul Johnson calls theatre the most influential artistic medium [for the beginning of the 20th Century anyway]."
Avi: "I don't think that's true now.
"You can only sell 1100 seats a night, at most. You can gross at most a million dollars a week. A movie can make $40 million over a weekend.
"I think movies have been [the most important performance artistic medium] of the past 30 years."
Luke: "Is there a generational thing with theatre?"
Avi: "Unfortunately yes. Younger audiences are not much for theatre and I don't think they're crazy about musicals."
"Musicals, and I mean this in a good way, are the dumbing down of opera. It makes opera accessible to middle-class taste.
"That's why you have all the controversy over the Rents of the world and the rock musicals. Andrew Lloyd Webber is controversial because he takes an operatic sound but the music is simple. He's trying to make it palatable to the middle class. The people at the top level feel it's too light, it's like fluff. People at the bottom level feel it's too rich for them. But there is a wide middle."
Luke: "Do you think Andrew Lloyd Webber is an abomination?"
Avi: "Hardly. If the King James Bible is an abomination for making the Bible accessible, then he's an abomination. But if it is the ability to disseminate, then it's the opposite of an abomination.
"It is like, l'havdil (as it were) some of the Art Scroll translation works of classic Jewish texts. To the Charedi crowd, they are the dumbing down of classical Jewish works for the masses. To the less educated, they open the secrets of Jewish education and have the natural tendency to expand interest and learning. I do not think the Daf Yomi (daily learning of a folio of Talmud) and Siyum Hashas would have the incredible worldwide impact they are having without the Art Scroll Talmud translations. Webber has had the same effect for music appreciation. I think if Webber knew he was being compared to Art Scroll, he would plotz, and Rabbi's Zlotowitz and Sherman (the General Editors of Art Scroll) might find it amusing to be compared to the composer of Jesus Christ Superstar."
Luke: "Are we living in a golden age of Broadway?"
Avi: "No. That was in the 1950s. We are living in the middle age.
"Live performances have become much more dramatic, more flashy, but nevertheless there's a limit to what you can do in a live performance. You have special effects but they are significantly reduced from a movie's special effects. On the other hand, in movies there's a sense of dehumanization from the film because the special effects have dehumanized the characters. All the fast-cutting has dehumanized the characters. You don't have the camera slowly going into the actor. That has taken away from the dramatic focus on the actor. That's one reason why the HBO series are so successful because they give the actor more opportunity to act."
Luke: "How do your kids feel about Broadway?"
Avi: "I took them to see their first Broadway show when my son was nine and my daughter was six -- Les Miserables. They saw it three times. They loved it. They did a lot of Broadway. As the eighties became the nineties and the music changed, they began to feel not as close to it."
My friend caught the East Coast feed three hours before me.
ChaimAmalek: Did any bleeders rub up against you at your seders?
Yael Goldstein Interview
I call Rebecca Goldstein's eldest daughter in New York Monday morning.
I emailed Yael's father Sheldon April 11, 2006:
I got no response from Sheldon.
Luke to Yael: "I'm rolling tape. Everything you say will be used against you."
Note to self: Never say this again to start an interview. It casts a pall.
Yael: "Thanks for the warning."
Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Yael: "A balancer [her ambition between the ages of two and five]. Someone who balances. I really liked to balance on things."
Luke: "Can you make a living at that?"
Yael: "I don't think that's a career, but my mother was too kind to tell me there was no such thing."
Luke: "From age six onward, how did your ambitions change?"
Yael: "I wanted to be everything there was -- certainly writer. In highschool, I wanted to be a [philosophy] professor. Pretty lame. Everybody in my family studies philosophy."
Luke: "Did you have philosophy classes at your [co-ed Syrian] yeshiva [in Highland Park, New Jersey]?"
Yael: "God no. I discovered Descartes on my own [around age 15] and I tried to reconstruct his arguments. I found a notebook where I had tried to do this a few years ago and it was amazing what a muddle I made of it. Nonetheless, I got a lot of out it on an emotional level."
Luke: "What did you love and hate about Orthodox Judaism until you were 18?"
Yael: "I loved all of it. It's a great way to raise kids. I felt safe. I never felt pressured to do anything I didn't want to do. I never had to contemplate sex or drugs before I was ready to contemplate them. I loved the education. I loved studying the Bible. I loved how social it was. You could wander around and find everyone your own age and go from group to group. It just so happens that I don't believe in the things one has to believe to be a part of that community. I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it now."
Luke: "Your mother said, 'We were living in suburban New Jersey in a claustrophobic Jewish community.' Did you feel you were living in a claustrophobic community?"
Yael: "Not at all. I liked the smallness of it. Now I would probably find it claustrophobic. As a kid, when everyone is in each other's business, that doesn't seem bad."
Luke: "Your mother said: '"It seemed to be a wholesome warm environment to raise a kid. My kids don't think so nowadays. They don't thank me at all.'"
Yael: "My sister [Danielle] certainly doesn't. She really hated it. There's nothing I regret about having grown up there. Maybe I'm not as cosmopolitan as I would've been otherwise but it is not clear to me that I would rather be cosmopolitan than to have had a happy childhood."
Luke: "Did any of your teachers say to you, 'You think you can do anything you want because your mother is famous'?"
Yael: "No. My sister had to deal with more of that. I don't know why. I think in part because my sister made clear that she didn't like being a part of the community. I can't think of any time that a teacher was mean to me because of that."
Luke: "How are you ever going to be a writer if you can't think of examples of suffering?"
Yael laughs. "Luckily, I can imagine them. I think I'm supposed to be truthful here, right?"
"Your mother said to me, 'They did not regard us as part of the community.'"
Yael: "That's definitely true. That I definitely picked up. Every Shabbos everyone else's parents would be invited to everyone else's houses and we were never invited anywhere except for my cousins. I was definitely aware that my family was not a part of the community in the way that everyone else's family was a part of the community."
Luke: "How could that have not bothered you?"
Yael: "I liked my family. I like that they had these other interesting aspects to them. The other families seemed boring to me. The parents all talked about boring things at the dinner table. They gossip. My family talked about interesting things and had interesting people over for dinner parties. That compensated."
Luke: "You're basically a happy person?"
Luke: "Which period of your life would you say was the happiest?"
She sounds intrigued by the question and thinks for a few seconds. "Maybe college [she graduated from Harvard in 2000 with a degree in Philosophy]. I just loved every aspect of my days. I loved going to classes and having knowledge put into your brain as you sit there. I was dating a guy that I was crazy about. There were always friends around who were interesting to talk to. It seemed like everything was perfect."
Luke: "When did you develop an interest in boys?"
Yael: "I've always had one. During nursery school, everyone has an interest in the opposite sex. You all have your little boyfriends and girlfriends. I had a string of three who I was madly in love with.
"In first grade, people start to lose that interest. I never lost it. I always had a desperate crush on someone. I remember telling myself, 'You have to wait this out.' I wanted to talk about my crush to my friends but I knew they weren't going to be receptive. I waited it out for a few years because I knew starting in sixth or seventh grade, everyone else will redevelop an interest.
"I don't think I never had an interest in boys."
Luke: "Were these interests requited?"
Yael: "In the fallow period when people weren't interested in the opposite sex, they were probably unrequited because they probably felt that girls were gross. My nursery school romances were incredibly successful."
Luke: "What does that mean?"
Yael: "We planned to get married. These were the first men, maybe the only men, who were willing to make solid commitments to me."
Luke: "Was the love of your life in college Jewish?"
Yael: "No. He had an Irish-Catholic name and he was raised in an Irish-Catholic community. It turned out his mother's mother was Jewish. He was the most unJewish Jew you could imagine."
Luke: "How would you compare dating identifying Jews to dating non-Jews?"
Yael: "I haven't dated that many people. I'm a serial monogamist. Since I was 18, I've had three relationships [two identifying Jews] but I've never been out of a relationship for longer than a month.
"I'm dating someone Jewish now and it's easier because I never have to worry that anything he says is anti-Semitic."
Luke: "How old were you when you first published?"
Yael: "I was 17. It was a dialogue I wrote with my mother -- The Ashes of the Akedah, The Ashes of Sodom in the book Beginning Anew: A Woman's Companion to the High Holy Days. I was still in my Orthodox phase. It shows up in the dialogue in embarrassing ways.
"I published on my own in Commentary in 2004."
Luke: "What kind of crowd did you hang out with in highschool?"
Yael: "There wasn't much of crowds. The Ashkenazi kids hung out together. By the end of school, all the kids in honors classes hung out together."
Luke: "Were you always a teacher's pet?"
Yael: "No. I wasn't always a great student as far as being well behaved. If I was interested in something, I would really put effort into it. When I wasn't, it was really hard to get me to put effort in. I'm very talkative. It was hard to get me to shut up in class."
Luke: "How did your mothers novels affect your life?"
Yael: "When her first book came out, people were definitely talking about it. I wasn't thrilled. It was the cover that made my life difficult -- it had a naked woman on it. All the little boys in my class would say, 'My mommy has a picture of your mommy naked.' I'd say, 'It's not my mother who's naked.'
"I found that mortifying."
Luke: "I guess with the other novels, most people couldn't understand them."
Luke: "I guess with the other novels, they were increasingly complex."
Yael: "Yeah. I didn't read any of my mother's books until I was in highschool."
Luke: "Which is your favorite?"
Yael: "Properties of Light. It has this incandescence. It sounds the most like my mother even though the main character is nothing like my mother. I hear my mother's voice most clearly."
Luke: "How did your parents talk about God to you?"
Yael: "They didn't. I can't remember God ever being mentioned in my house. I don't even know if my dad believes in God or not."
Luke: "I emailed him: 'Do you believe in God?' He didn't reply."
Yael: "That would've been great if I had got an answer to that one."
Luke: "Did you have difficulty relating to non-Jews after you left your Orthodox day school and environs?"
Yael: "No, not at all. I wasn't nearly as insulated as most of my peers in Highland Park. I had a number of non-Jewish friends as a child -- children of my dad's colleagues, mostly."
Luke: "Was God talked about in your religious world?"
Yael: "In a vague way. God was a hanger that you would hang things on. 'We do this because God wants this.' 'God says blah blah...' But the important thing is not the God part but whatever he says part. There was no real exploration of who is this dude God."
Luke: "Did you have a relationship with God?"
Yael: "I did. I still do. When I'm not paying attention, I might fall into having a relationship with God despite the fact that I don't believe in him. I always talk to God directly. Make little yells."
Luke: "Have you spent time in church and how does that feel to you?"
Yael: "I've been a few times, particularly with my ex-boyfriend, going to Christmas services etc. It was mostly boring. It felt like synagogue. Paging through the pages and wondering when it would be over. The first time I went to church, I felt really guilty. I went with a friend from college who was Armenian Orthodox. That is a cool service. It was all in Armenian. It really puts the Catholic church to shame the way it has been watered down.
"I started feeling weird, that I shouldn't be there. I was a freshman in college."
Luke: "How did you feel about the statutes, idols?"
Yael: "They were quite pretty.
"I don't think any of us understand idolatry and what the urge was to bow down to idols."
Luke: "Do you have any Christian envy?"
Yael: "I don't think so."
Luke: "So what do you miss about believing in Orthodox Judaism and practicing it? And not miss?"
Yael: "I miss Shabbos. I really liked Shabbos, not only about not having to work and not feel guilty about it, but the social aspect. Knowing that you're going to have this long lunch with friends and you're going to go to synagogue and see all these people.
"What I don't miss is the smallness of it. Having to believe certain things that you don't want to believe. That's what started to drive me away in highschool and college."
Luke: "How did your novel come about?"
Yael: "I got the idea for it in college with the movie Amadeus and these Thomas Mann books that talk about art vs. life. There'd be this artistic hero who venerates art above all else. He sacrifices everything for his art. How much do you sacrifice for people who depend on you?
"My mother takes art seriously.
"I thought it would be interesting to explore this from a woman's point of view. A woman has all these people who depend on her in a different way and she's so concerned for other people in her life. Her concern for the people in her life can be different from a man's concern for the people in his life.
"I wanted to write a book about a woman who took her art as seriously as any Thomas Mann hero but who's also an incredibly good mother.
"I started writing it right after I graduated college. I worked on it for five years. It changed a lot. The plot changed. Characters came in and out.
"My main character is a better mother for being an artist and a better artist for being a mother, which is something my mom accomplished too. I was trying to figure out how did my mother accomplish this."
Luke: "Your mother was very honest in her interviews about how bad reviews drove her out of writing novels. Did you see that?"
Yael: "I saw that very much. It amazes me that I want to be a writer given the extent to which I was aware that negative reviews affected my mother. I remember that when we were aware that a review was coming from The [New York] Times, this whole pall would fall over the house. It was like we were getting a death sentence. She was assuming it was going to be terrible and she was going to be really depressed."
Luke: "How good a medium do you think the novel is for exploring the type of philosophical ideas that your mother explores, particularly with her later novels?"
Yael: "It's a very good medium. See how abstract ideas function in a human life can be illuminating. I don't know if we get any answers that way, but we can view the question in different ways."
Luke: "What role did your mother play with the various drafts of the book?"
Yael: "She read many drafts. She's a good reader. She can be brutal, but you know she loves you no matter what. She would never impose what she wanted the book to be."
Luke: "Has God ever spoken to you?"
Luke: "What have you loved and hated about your decision to live your adult life for your art? What type of real world jobs have you had to take to do that?"
Yael: "I've had to take many jobs. I was a bartender, waitress, secretary, wrote Spark Notes study guides to philosophy, did online editing, and was the publishing assistant at the literary magazine Paris Review. Only the last one would I want to put on my resume. They were all fun.
"It's hard when you see your friends having adult lives and their careers are going well and they have nice apartments. I still feel like a kid. I don't have a regular income. For a while, I had practically no money. If my book hadn't got published, I would've been at square one again."
Luke: "And if your friends want to go out to an expensive restaurant, what do you do?"
Yael: "I go."
Luke: "Are you an agonized atheist?"
Yael: "I'm an agnostic who has a really strong hunch that God doesn't exist. 'Agonized' is too strong. I think about it. It's not as though I've closed the question. I would like God to exist. I don't see it."
Luke: "Do you want to marry a genius?"
Yael: "No. This is something I've been dealing with for a little bit of time. Like my mother, I was always drawn to the men who seemed the most like a genius. My last boyfriend was of this mold. I realized what's the good of being married to someone who takes themselves and their own mind so seriously. Now I think I want someone who is going to be fun and kind. They just have to be smart enough that I find them interesting."
Luke: "How will you feel about taking your husband's last name?"
Yael: "I would like to take my husband's last name. This is not so much a feminist stance. I don't like the name 'Goldstein.' It reminds me of a butcher with a bloody apron.
"I like 'Yael.' It's unusual and pretty. It has an exotic Jewishness."
Luke: "You could never merge into the goyim."
Yael: "That's true. I don't think I would want to."
Luke: "Are you a feminist?"
Yael: "In the sense that women should be able to make their own choices and enter any field they want to. I don't think I'm a feminist in the sense of thinking men and women are entirely equal. There's no unified school of feminism any more."
Luke: "Did you take part in any 'Take Back the Night' marches?"
Luke: "Do you think Judaism is any more rational than any other religion?"
Yael: "It's more rational than Christianity."
Luke: "Do you have any close friends who are Orthodox?"
Yael: "Yes. I have two close friends from childhood."
Luke: "What did your parents expect from you aside from being happy? Can you put them in order?"
Yael: "Let me put my father aside. My mother foremost wanted me to be a good person. After that, she wanted me to live up to whatever promise I might have. I was a terrible student in elementary school, particularly in my Judaic studies classes. I would sit and play with my hair. My mom was worried.
"As a kid, I felt no pressure. I thought that all that was expected of me was to play and have fun and also be nice, but that wasn't pressure."
Luke: "What did your dad want from you?"
Yael: "I don't know. He wanted me to be well-behaved and talk to him about math."
Luke: "What do you love and hate about Jewish life?"
Yael: "The holidays are fun. I don't like the food. I don't like having so many dishes on the table at once. It overwhelms me because I feel like I have to eat all of them."
Luke: "How much do you care about what happens to the Jews?"
Yael: "I care a great deal though I don't know exactly what it means to care about what happens to the Jews."
Luke: "Is there anything you do about it? Say, read The New York Times about Israel?"
Yael: "I follow the news about Israel closely. I worry about Israel actively."
Luke: "Is there anything else you do because you want to contribute to the well-being of the Jewish people?"
Luke: "Do you want to lead a life filled with conflict or a peaceful life?"
Luke: "Your mother loves people being racked by doubt."
Yael: "That's true."
Luke: "I told her only some intellectuals want to live that way."
Yael: "Yeah. Not many."
Luke: "How would your closest friends describe you?"
She's 5' tall.
Luke: "How has that affected your personality?"
Yael: "It's allowed me to get away with a lot. I'm just this short cute little thing and people let me get away with murder. I act younger than I would otherwise if I were 5'6"."
Luke: "Aside from short?"
Yael: "Enthusiastic, with a lot of time on my hands so everybody bothers me when they have problems."
Luke: "What do your closest friends have in common?"
Yael: "They have this intelligence that focuses narrowly on human emotions. They put enormous effort into being sensitive to and understanding of the behavior of people around them."
Luke: "What did you think of the TV show Sex and the City?"
Yael: "I did not like it. I was completely addicted to it and watched every episode. I found the characters flat except for Carrie, until she cheated on Aiden. I couldn't forgive her for a while. I thought it was fun brain candy but it was being treated as something profound. That irritated me."
Luke: "How many people react to you primarily as Rebecca Goldstein's daughter?"
Yael: "Very few.
"I'm highly protective of my mother."
Luke: "Are there any highly acclaimed writers you think are crap?"
Yael: "I don't want to get myself in trouble by saying that."
Luke: "Do you miss being around people who live their lives for God?"
Luke: "How often have you experienced the consolation of philosophy or are there other things you find more consoling, such as friends?"
Yael: "I do find some consolation in philosophy. Thinking things through clearly always makes them seem better. Maybe because no situation I've been in has been that terrible."
Luke: "How do you like the siddur [Jewish prayer book]?"
Yael: "I don't have much of an opinion on it."
Luke: "What about as a kid when you were forced to daven from it?"
Yael: "I found it long."
Luke: "What do you think of Wendy Shalit's article in The New York Times book review last January?"
Yael: "It made some points that were not overly generous. How's that for a cagey answer?"
Luke: "And to think that you were a troublesome talkative student. Now I'm getting the careful philosopher."
Dennis Prager says: If you were an agnostic, that program would push you to become an atheist. The one Jew on the panel was a rabbi [Michael Lerner] who represented no mainstream denomination. They simply picked him because he's a Marxist. Not that Christianity fared much better.
The panelists were Sister Joan Chittister, Rabbi Michael Lerner, author Jon Meacham, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Rev. Richard Neuhaus, and Pastor Joel Osteen. Plus, a Meet the Press Minute with Rev. Billy Graham.
Prager is a big fan of Richard Neuhaus.
It's A Great Shame When A Beautiful Woman Goes To Prison
Ugly people I don't care about as much, but the fate of beautiful women moves me.
I want to rescue them from their sinful ways and receive their grateful thanks.
My friend Lyra N-ccarato has been incarcerated since July 22, 2005 for drug trafficking.
I feel like there was something I should've done to save her from her wicked proclivities. If only I had been there for her, maybe none of this would've happened.
She called me three times over the past few days but I was always out. Yet again I had failed her.
Sunday morning she reaches me. Glory, hallelujah.
Every few minutes, there's an announcement: "This call is from a federal prison."
Lyra: "Don't listen. They're lying. I'm at a spa."
Lyra's in an all-female prison but with numerous male guards. "They flirt a lot," she says, "but they're all talk."
She'll be released in July to a halfway house.
Her mailing address is:
37930 N. 45th Ave
She says she goes to church every Sunday and is in great shape.
I interview author Humphry Knipe (husband to photographer Suze Randall and father of Holly Randall) about his book The dominant man: The mystique of personality and prestige:
* What are the implications for politics from your book?
HK: Profound. We have to be aware of the pecking order instinct that is wired into us and which makes us such easy prey to authoritarianism, whether religious (Islam) or secular (fascism). As long as we are human we will never be able to shake this thing off.
* How has it stood the test of time? Has new research validated or invalidated it? How so?
HK: Actually, when it was published in 1972 it was still widely held by liberals that the infant mind was tabula rasa - a blank table - on which anything could be written. The instinct theory was discredited by, for example, by Ashley Montagu in his influential "Man and Aggression" which was published in 1973.
The modern view is that we are, in fact, soft wired - we have an inborn propensity to behave in a certain way, but culture can modify that to some extent. However atavistic instinct remains only a heartbeat away. Why? Because it's the tried and true fall back position.
* Are humans just another animal? What distinguishes us from animals?
HK: Of course we are animals, smart animals although maybe not smart enough to deal with the power of destructive technology.
* What about the women? Your book is largely about men. Do women demonstrate status differentials in the same ways as men?
HK: We had a chapter on women but this grew into such a page consuming monster we dropped it. Thought of writing "The Dominant Woman" (I'm married to one, Holly is another). Could have, should have. Would have made me rich and famous by now and getting interviewed by the NY Times!
* What do you think of the book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life?
HK: Regarding The Bell Curve, which I have not read except in reviews: Obviously high intelligence coupled with high dominance (for example Julius Caesar et al) will improve the chances of the assertive individual getting to the top of the heap - although modern American politics indicates that intellectual brilliance is not essential for the highest political office - "people skills" is the must.
Brilliant but shy back room boys have the brains but not the extroversion, assertion, executive demeanor, charisma or whatever the latest buzz word is, to get into the executive office. The beta may be a tyrant to the gamma, delta and epsilons, but he (or she) goes mysteriously shy in the company of an alpha.
'Why Is The Rabbi Trying To Look Like Britney Spears?'
Men who would otherwise not talk to me come up and make conversation with us. Heather is married and wears a big fat ring.
There seem to be a disproportionate number of retarded men at Friday Night Live. They are understandably desperate for female attention but have no chance of any except the negative kind.
Tonight it's Jewish gospel music with Joshua Nelson and his band. The five new blacks on the bima (pulpit) liven up the honky davening (prayer).
"Jewish gospel music just like you remember from your childhood," jokes Rabbi David Wolpe.
With the big crowd on stage, the microphone situation gets muddled.
When Rabbi Wolpe walks into the audience to deliver his sermon, he wears one of those microphones that Britney Spears and other singers use -- hooked on the ear with a slender mic attachment near the mouth.
Rabbi Wolpe detached the mic from his ear and held it near his mouth. "I don't want you thinking -- why is the rabbi trying to look like Britney Spears?"
He connects the welcoming of Elijah to our Passover seders to our welcoming of the Sabbath bride...and the importance of the invisible as a way of unlocking ourselves and others.
After services, a hot Jewish chick gets in my grill over my brief blogging of her.
"Jewish women are feisty," Heather observes later.
"I like 'em strong and feisty," I say. "I'm passive except for work. I like my women organized and outspoken. I like Jewish women."
Joshua Nelson gives a concert and there's stand-up comedy from Joel Chasnoff (the bloke is about 5'9" but says he played power-forward for his Jewish basketball team) and kosher-for-Passover food. While waiting for Joshua and company to come on stage, ATID director Stacey Zackin does an impromptu stand-up routine which bowls me over. I had her pegged as a summer camp counselor type.
She asks the crowd: "Anyone here from Pico/Robertson?"
A bunch of hands went up.
She asked, "What street?"
Somebody says Alcott.
"What's your favorite part of Alcott?" she asks.
"Where I live," came the response.
For some reason, I find that hilarious.
Stacey taught comedy traffic school.
Walking out after 10 p.m., I warn Heather that most synagogues don't have gospel music and stand-up comedy as part of their services.
I take two benadryl and get my first decent night's sleep in a week.
Saturday morning at shul I'm still groggy. A friend quotes me: "A great sage says that he'd rather go to a seder than have a 19yo shiksa."
Oy ve. "Please use metaphorical language when quoting me in a house of God," I say.
I don't lead an integrated life. I am simultaneously the least religious person in my shul and the person most in need of religion (I am speaking about my wellbeing, not my soul and not my place in the world to come).
Second Seder - I Make A PhD Woman Cry
I look around at all the women and start approaching some. The first one turns out to be a rabbi newly married to Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei. She's taken his last name. That's true love.
The second and third ladies I chat up turn out to be the girlfriends of the two-man band Justin and Jared Stein.
Then I find a group of academics. I get excited. "I have a fetish for academics!" I announce. They look at me strangely. I stick to them like a loser for the rest of the night. I volunteer to get the jug of water and conduct the hand washing. I spill lots of water on the chicks. It's part of my evil plan. Two of them get up and leave.
I get stuck into one PhD in the sciences. I barrage her with questions until she breaks into tears and flees from the room. Her fellow PhD friend leaves with her.
I then hit on fitness model Ilyse Baker. I announce that I can kick her ass. I probably meant "kiss her ass."
She blows me off.
Undiscouraged, I hit anew on a PhD who blew me off definitively at the time of my first 60 Minutes appearance (November 2003). She's polite to me. She says she's polite to everyone. Then she gets up and politely leaves.
'If You Don't Offer Your Daughter Up To Me, You're Giving Hitler Posthumous Victories'
An Orthodox friend writes me Wednesday afternoon: "I hope... this will be the year that you will break free from the bondage of, well, you know."
Wednesday evening. I step into a home for the first Passover seder. It's filled with strangers. Only my host have I spoken to -- and that was over the phone.
I look around the room and feel rising panic as I can find no books (there are huge picture books but nothing I can take with me to the table to help me through the long meal). I'm such an idiot for leaving that Binnie Kirshenbaum novel (A Disturbance in One Place) at home.
I sit by guys from a gay synagogue. Instead of the traditional four types of children in their seder, their gay shul has evolved a ritual of the four different types of parents (based on how they react to their children coming out).
The host explains that the inserts in our haggadot (books telling of the order of the meal and how it symbolizes the Jewish exodus from Egypt) came from a particularly PC time of her life.
I sit near three guys who are converting to Judaism.
During the seder, we're required to drink four cups of wine (though grape juice is allowed as a substitute). I only drink grape juice. "I'd rather date a young beautiful shiksa than drink a cup of wine," I explain to widespread laughter.
When the food comes out (about two hours into the ceremony), I explain that I'm a vegetarian and would rather kiss a beautiful young shiksa full on the lips than eat meat.
When the vegetables come out, I explain that I'd rather run my fingers through the silky golden locks on a shiksa than eat vegetables.
By this time, I'm feeling good. The grape juice has gone to my head. Every five minutes, I announce specific variation of things I would rather do with hot young shiksas (of legal age) than the odious option before me.
"You'd rather slip into a hot tub with two beautiful young shiksas and sip champagne than..." says a wife getting into the swing of things.
I seize the opportunity to discourse on my history with shiksas. "Every time I kiss a shiksa," I wail, "I feel my yiddishe neshama (soul) dying" (Chaim Amalek).
"I date Jewish women. I try to meld my life with theirs but they won't put up with my poverty, my hovel, my serial-killer van and my scandalous reputation."
When I finish, a mother says there is no way she's introducing me to her 19-year old daughter. It's the "scandalous reputation" bit that most bothers her.
"If You Don't Offer Your Daughter Up To Me, You're Giving Hitler Posthumous Victories," is not exactly what I replied, but that's the essence of it.
"I've made some mistakes," I admit, "but it was from a misguided enthusiasm for God and Torah. I realize in retrospect that some of the ways I went about repairing the shattered vessels were not quite kosher but I am a different man now. I can see clearly now the rain is gone."
Our host skips my favorite part of the seder -- where we open the door and ask God to pour out his wrath on the goyim.
("Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not, and upon the kingdoms that call not upon Thy name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his habitation" [Psalm 79:6-7].).
"That's the philosophy behind my love life," I explain. "By dating shiksas, I'm executing God's wrath on the goyim. I am delivering divine karma (Rabbi Mordecai Finley)."
"I'll never forget this seder," says a man.
We open the door for Elijah and, in a feminist touch, for the prophetess Miriam.
"Enough about me," I say. "I don't like attention. In fact, I'd rather embrace a hot young shiksa and lock my lips to hers and intertwine my limbs with hers and interpenetrate our lives than talk about myself."