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Whatever Happened To Harry Jakobs?

I was reading Rabbi Abner Weiss's book Connecting to God: Ancient Kabbalah and Modern Psychology. Yes, it sounded hokey, but it was Shabbos and I was desperate for reading material appropriate for shul.

I open the book and in the third paragraph, Rabbi Weiss writes: "I am also grateful to the participants in the workshops that I cofacilitated with the late Dr. Harry Jakobs..."

What happened to Harry Jakobs (the producer and director of 1987's Rebel High, which IMDB calls the worst film of all time)?

I'm told he died quickly of a brain tumor (circa 2001).

He was among the first persons I met in Los Angeles in 1994. We saw each other regularly at Jewish events and meals over the next two years. We didn't particularly get along. We had a couple of arguments about religion and Harry later told friends I was an asshole.

Harry said he'd been raised Orthodox and that he had a Ph.D. from Yeshiva University. But now he'd thrown away his religious observance and his beliefs seemed New Agey to me. Harry struck me as very Hollywood. To the best of my knowledge, he'd never married. He liked the ladies.

In June (?) of 1996, Harry invited me to a party at his Hollywood Hills home. He told me to bring porn stars.

I'm glad I didn't because at the party I ran into Rabbi Weiss (and his then wife) along with several beautiful B-level Hollywood actresses best known for taking their clothes off on-screen. I got phone numbers from a couple of the ladies but when I called them over the next few days, they had no interest in me.

Harry later told me he was producing and directing a movie based on the Isaac Bashevis Singer novel The Slave, which I loved.

Later I saw flyers for these Kabbalistic seminars Harry was giving with Rabbi Weiss and I didn't understand how an Orthodox rabbi could give religious seminars with a secular on-the-make What Makes Sammy Run?-style producer such as Harry.

(I've long admired Rabbi Weiss for, among other things, his frank talk about sex. He said that within the boundaries of Jewish law it was like putting a key in a lock and turning it.)

Rabbi Weiss writes to the July 4, 1997 Jewish Journal:

I am grateful to Ari Noonan for his sensitive article on "The Spiritual Course" which Harry Jakobs, Ph.D., and I are offering to the community ("Taking a Spiritual Course," June 27). The first workshop has taken place and all the participants confirmed that we had, indeed, delivered on our promises.

With his wife, Rabbi Weiss threw great singles parties at his home on Simchas Torah. I went for years to try to find my future wife (which never happened, but in such matters it is the search that counts). There was a hitch though. Rabbi Weiss's wife would warn women I hit on at her house that I was a womanizer.

Despite this, I met one older woman. Despite the warning she got from the rebbetzin, she took a chance on me. She allowed me to give her a ride home. A week or two later, we were hosted for Shabbos dinner by an Orthodox family.

It had been a tough day for my date and I did my best to be sensitive. While the man and woman of the house retired to bed, my date and I retired to a spare room and, by the glow of the fish tank, hooked up.

Afterwards, I walked to my old van parked outside and fell asleep in the back.

Saturday morning, my hosts saw me drive away. I was headed for Stephen S. Wise and the powerful reform Torah of Dennis Prager.

Abner Weiss (who in the 1960s was the runner-up for the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire post which was taken by Emmanuel Jacobvitz) left Beth Jacobs of Beverly Hills for London in 2000. That didn't work out for him. He got divorced. He moved back to Los Angeles. He met a divorcee. He found out he wasn't really a Cohen. Thereby, he was allowed to marry the woman he loved -- Dr. Yolande Bloomstein, "my partner in our mental health practice."

As I reflect on these weighty issues, I realize that Harry Jakobs was right -- I am an asshole.

Terrence emails 12/27/06:

Luke, just read your what happened to on Harry Jakobs. Trust me, your belief that you're a bastard as compared to him? Not even close. What he did to people in Hollywood and Montreal (and probably other countries) pales to whatever you said that offended him. And I'm not even 100% sure if he's actually dead or faked it, as there's another Harry Jakobs out there in Arizona who's ripping off people and destroying lives just as effectively as the one I know.

I used to work on an tv show of his that his produced in Montreal, a show called Time of Your Life. It was this pretty horrendous teen tv show a la 90210, just without the budget and production values/ Well, just on that show alone (and there is TONS of proof in the Quebec Superior Court records), he alledgedly -

- did not pay taxes on salaries of any of the cast, production, and misc staff (this ran into the millions);
- did not pay any of the WORKMAN'S comp requirements, so had anyone gotten hurt, crippled or killed on the show, they were on their own;
- had convinced a number of merchants to loan merchandise to the show, which he then sold off at the end of the season;
- would eat at any number of local restaurants, running tabs of thousands of dollars with no intention to pay;
- (this point is unconfirmed, but relayed to me by a Mr. Mashkin, who would be explained later) took the production tapes of the show, and would then go off and sell the broadcast rights over around the world (known countries, Canada twice in english and french, France, Germany, Italy and Indonesia) with no royalties to any others who may have been entitled;
- had rented all of the production equipment, and then SOLD them all off illegally at the end of season.

That's just with that show. In the years after that, a writer based in Hollywood, Mr. Mashkin, was swindled out of a multimillion dollar home and was drained of almost all of his savings trying to fight Jakobs. Jakobs somehow managed to convince Mashkin to invest in a number of business dealings and rent out part of Mashkin's house. When they proved false or fraudulant, he somehow managed to steal part title of Mashkin's home. Mashkin was bankrupted as a result, with his life savings wiped out. He then proceeded to try something similar with Empire Strikes Back director Lawrence Kasden, but I don't know the end results of that. But it's just incredible. There are 40+ legal suits against Jakobs for fraud, theft and so on in just Quebec alone, before he skipped off to Hollywood. With the Mashkin fights as well, I can only begin to imagine what might be in California.

Greg emails Aug. 8, 2007: "I had known Mashkin since the 70's in Boston. Bob and Harry's war was all consuming for Bob. Bob would sit for hours listening to the tapes he made from bugging Harry's room and phone. In truth Harry was a small part of Bob's downfall and never got the title of Bob's house. Harry was a classic sociopath."

3/3/07

Richard Raybourne writes:

Hello Luke,
So I have been hearing this rumour about Harry Jakob's being dead and all...I last saw him in Montreal in September 2002. I believed I even emailed (Mickey) Jason LeCavalier about it. As far as I know he looked very well and alive then.
Now I want to set some of the The Time Of Your Life (TOYL) records straight. Please don't take offence to my humour or language. First of all, I am so damn tired of hearing how much of a "shyster" hustler , scummier rip off artist everything negative under the sun about this guy. If he was so fucked up why and how the fuck did he ever get so much money to mess people up like that when they all already knew he was so full of shit? I definitely didn't agree with his unscrupulous hustle and how he even messed me up with TOYL (as we called it) 2ND season that never happened but that shit was going on for years with many other people in the film industry. Those so- called tax shelter years in the late 80s-90s played many actors directors and producers.
Thing is at the end of the day...you know what? He did something. He still gave a shot to some people to make shit happen. CINARS studios break came from TOYL and look what eventually happened with out Harry down the line. CINAR still made great kids shows but........
Now let us not forget folks, in 1986 and 1987 when Rebel and TOYL was released... jack shit was happening for English Canadian film and television...especially in "Quebec". Back then CFCF/CTV had "Snow Job " and not much else. Most Canadian programs were 90 percent American..and CBC wasn't doing much more then ...CBC stuff...you know Beachcombers nshit...Johnny Wayne was still chillin with Frank Shuster. The francophone stations had even worst crap on, translated cheesy American ABC weekly 70s movies starring Donna Pescow , Anson Williams and Bernie Kopell. Or something European with Gerard Depardieu being always violent, driving off some Swiss cliff having rough sex with a his impostor.
That "negro" Harry still had the balls to get shit done by any means. If people were too fuckin stupid and yes everyone of us out there who worked on his so-called worst film or shittiest syndicated show, ever did know that this Dr. Rabbi had such bad vibes and was so evil? Then why the fuck did he get shit done..why did he get another chance to shoot why did so many actors even known ones audition? .Why wasn't his ass capped then 20 years ago. by the mob who was looking for him? Harry knew how to manipulate people and who ever he hooked up with sucked his dick up with it. Those are the facts. I saw how everybody who worked on TOYL would literally chant "Let's Kill Harry ! on set and when he would show up ...it was Oh Harry ! hi Harry! He actually did have a near fatal car accident as the chants were becoming so religious on set and he was not a very happy camper, never the same from that day !
We went on strike for contract shit and walked off the set. It made the papers! his own publicist set him up! Know what though? He still got laid , he made money and many got played. Mind you the *&^% government does that shit every day to everyone of us to the point of a brand new world war, corruption, disease, poverty and bullshit.! What can we do? just bitch about it but nothing is changing today or tomorrow or any time soon..
Life is not always what we want it to be...Yes I will not deny I had many hard years of struggles as a result of that "cursed' series but you know what? I am still the first Black Canadian to get his black ass on TV all over the world for some odd 5 years in syndication. I did gain notoriety...It was a great training ground for an actor to be at entry level ..it did open big doors.and no other real Montreal Quebec Canada series that has been shot .. has been represented all over the world like that..if so they didn't get much more even in royalties still to today.
I still get recognized and sign autographs from people did love the show.from as far as Greece..and Israel. Only nicey nicey conservative DeGrassi Jr High from Toronto was rival to our asses and it sucked big time square ass then. Chambre en Ville , Riverdale or Norhwood or some shit were all "biters!"
We the, TIME OF YOUR LIFE dealt with gay, heroin, suicide, guns, cults, violence toward women, fucked up dream sequences, porn, rape, abortion, promiscuity, alcoholism, kung fu, bullying with no stereotypes in 130 episodes in a built in studio warehouse next to Orange Julep with full dressed sets n shit. Shooting daily from 6:30 am call time to 5:30 pm wrap ( paid over time if needed) at 150.00 per day..Episodes were shown 2 weeks in advance in soap opera video format in a sweet time slot Monday to Friday at 4:00 pm right after General Fuckin Hospital! That slot belonged to Bob "Back Kick" Barker Price is Right and we punked Bob price right off!. For first timers that was the bomb! The weekly syndication made up for 5 years of TV in some countries! Many actors may never have such an opportunity
What killed the show I really believe was he really wanted to make it as independent as possible without the participation of political institutions that would've eventually fucked us up anyway. I would have been another pretty show with no grit and possibly killed off all Black actors or my character (Matt Peters ) would have killed or smoked freebase or ganged up some bangers stereotype then.
Our excellent cast had nuff culture ...Shondelle Riley (Jessie Dragon) and her sweet mother Claire of Native and Afro American decent, myself of West Indian Trinidadian decent, Grenadian roots Francois Roberson (Laura Moriarty), "big big" red Head boy Alan Legros (Eddie Saunders), Concordia drama teacher Dez Gallant (Evan Taylor), lovely Kara Feifer ( Lisa ), Ara Carrerra (Christine), Karen Peterson (Charlie), Lana who was from BC or somewhere out west. The bad homeboys David Lipper (Kevin Waters) and (Mickey) Jason Lecavalier...and from Ontario sharing September 15Th b-day with me , mystery chick idol Intellectual musician Scott William Armstrong (James) who shaved his long ass hair and fucked off to India. He had some vibes issues to work out though (last seen by me in June ? 1993 when "my affiliation with "The Madhatter Library Pub" happened) .
The original synopsis originally written by Rhea Cohen was about High School Confidential, a brother and sister moving into a new town and all that shit...sound familiar? Then I think right after he was pissed of and stepped Harry sold off ideas or someone else "bite" the idea in "Beverley Hills".
The crew was the bomb too! Floor manager Dominic Vanelli is a bomb producer and true grease behind RDC (Reseau des Sports) , Studio Camera 2 David Franco is notorious for Graceland 3000 and real Hollywood DOP A list movies, Alain Dahan , Philippe Spurelle, Christophe Flambord, Vincent Di Clemente, RIP Steven G Blanchard, David Blanchard, Pierre Henri, Lynn Picard, Terri Joseph Darryl and Anne back in BC (I am starting to lose some long term memory..too many joints joints !!!lol) where some of Concordia grads (Big Up Loyola!) who cut their teeth and went on as big killas in this dog eat dog industry across the country even the world! TOYL was their first real life break!
So I am happy to say but sadly ...if that if this is true about Harry Jakobs... I took initiative to make up some peace with him (Like I said in 2002 September we went out for a drink...he didn't drink though at a bar in the New Forum) to tell him I was sorry on behalf of the cast for chanting to kill him. He seemed quite reflective as I asked him why and what happened. We spoke of a possible reunion end to the story of Mickey and Laura 15 ish years later killing everyone at a bad high school reunion putting an end to the dead horse. I asked him for rights all to the foreign tapes.They still exist. By the way is Natalie Rosen still around? He was lonely and seemed aware of his fuck ups. I think he started to finally understand sometimes karma stinks. He spoke of girls and wanting to do something ..you know the spiel but like almost someone who was not all there either. Maybe that was his brain going. Ironically I lost his phone number but have an email address for him that seems to still be active.He hasn't responded though maybe because...
What I think we should do is find those 130 episodes preserve them and put into a national Canadian cinema TV archive to show that Montreal could put shit even in together back in 1988.
Now I can't speak for the other shit he put people through and if his is still around he could deserve a good cuff in he head but I could only speak for my own selfish experience of being a privileged and kick ass cast member of Canada's first prime time syndicated soap opera Time of Your Life.
May 2007 will mark 19 years since the first auditions. We aired October 17th 1988. Today I am a better actor and way better producer because of the experience. I learnt not what to do from the worst. Simple.
Oh yes I remember May 1987 so long ago ...so innocent.
May he rest in peace?
RIP Mark Feifer, Steven Blanchard
Thanks and peace to you Luke for letting me go off a bit if you have any question don't hesitate to let me know whats up yo! Respect.
Sincerely
Richard Raybourne aka Matt Peters ( He was such a pussy and got none because Mickey punked him for Jessie! Bastard!)
We should have a cheesy dvd box set lol!

June 17, 2007

Keith emails:

Hello, Luke.

I came across your website while searching for information on the above-named series, which isn't exactly plentiful.

I discovered the series in the early 90's, when CFMT (now OMNI-TV) here in Toronto ran some episodes: first on weekdays, later on Sundays. Though I never got to see more than a couple of dozen episodes out of the 130 Richard Raybourne (Matt Peters) says were produced, I'm inclined to agree with him that it was superior to, say, either DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH or DEGRASSI HIGH. I might even say it's an overlooked video gem -- one which may someday achieve cult-classic status. To that end, I E-mailed the Drive-In Classics channel to ask whether they might run it soon (they're showing STRANGE PARADISE, aren't they?). I got the following "Out-of-Office Auto-Reply":

Greetings from Drive-In Classics!
Thank you for your interest in our station and for taking the time to write to us. We regret that due to the large volume of e-mails and calls we regularly experience, we may not be able to respond to your message personally. Be assured that your comments, queries and suggestions are taken seriously and individually reviewed.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Once again, thanks for your input and for tuning into Drive-In Classics.


I might get a personal reply yet; when and if I do, I'll pass it on to you.

One item in your blog that interested me was that executive producer Mark Feifer (whose daughter Kara played Lisa Greenberg in the series) had died (on May 22, 1995, as I later learned). You mention that he had been a lawyer -- but then how did he get involved in TV production? And what other series did he work on?
I checked the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), too, and discovered that, first, not all of the characters are listed there; and second, those that are, are identified by first names only: I've made a number of corrections and additions which haven't yet taken effect. For example, Kara Feifer's last name is there given as "Feiter," and Evan Taylor's first name is given as "Even," which is rather ironic since the character was considerably less than balanced. I've run into trouble trying to find Karen Petersen, who played James Warren's twin sister Charlie, listed there. And I can't find a last name for Mickey...

But there's an interesting trivia item about David Lipper (apparently the son of writer Greg Lipper): "David Lipper, or Kevin [Waters], the 'rich' kid, left the show in mid-season after being accepted to Boston's famous Emerson College." The storyline actually accommodated this, with Kevin preparing to finish his senior year (the kids were apparently all seniors) on an exchange program in the then-Soviet Union!

Richard says: "...TIME OF YOUR LIFE dealt with gays, heroin, suicide, guns, cults, violence toward women, fucked-up dream sequences, porn, rape, abortion, promiscuity, alcoholism, kung-fu, bullying with no stereotypes in 130 episodes..." I'll tell you my recollections of some of these.

Suicide: Helen Reardon (Lana Higgins) worked as a phone volunteer at a help center, but ironically she was at least as troubled as many of the people whose calls she took. While working at the help center on Christmas Eve, she got into an argument with another girl (Jessie Draygon, I think, whom Shondelle Riley played), who then left; Helen then swallowed a bottle of pills, and her life was narrowly saved.

Porn: James Warren (Scott William Armstrong) was alerted by his best friend Eddie Saunders (Alan Legros) to a men's-magazine photospread allegedly of the former's girffriend Christine Hutchison (Ara Carrera). In reality, Christine was a victim of "photoshopping," but she couldn't convince her father of that (for his part, he'd been alerted to the photospread by a co-worker). The man called her some pretty awful names including "whore," and kicked her out of his house. She then went to the Warrens' house: Beth Warren, the mother of James and Charlie (and played by an Irish lady whose name escapes me) called up the irate Mr. Hutchison to plead on Christine's behalf, but got nowhere. Christine prepared to move into her first apartment...

Rape: Charlie worked part-time at Harry's Place (an in-joke involving Harry Jakobs: this was another bit of trivia I found at the IMDb), a diner serving as the seemingly obligatory hang-out for the kids. One night around closing time, Evan Taylor (Des Gallant), in a bitter, dope-fueled rage, tried to rape her. James, Matt and Jessie arrived just in time to break up the attack (at least James and Matt did that) and send Evan packing. The threesome then escorted Charlie home, where she went to bed and they all fell asleep in the Warrens' living room. Jessie subsequently woke up and went home to her frantic mother, Roberta Draygon (I think this is whom Shondelle's real-life mother Claire Riley played), who taught science at the high school the kids all attended. She explained what had happened, saying that she, James and Matt might have been "standing guard duty" at the Warrens', and adding that she was safe there because "James is Charlie's brother." "Matt isn't," pointed out Roberta (who had just mentioned having long known that Evan was trouble), forbidding Jessie to see him again, and earning herself the nickname "Dragon Lady" from him (which might account for Richard thinking that Jessie's last name was "Dragon" rather than "Draygon," as it actually was).

Abortion: Lisa Greenberg found herself pregnant by Kevin Waters. In a booth at Harry's Place, she confided her predicament to Laura Moriarty (Francoise Robertson), who in turn showed her some money she'd been saving to buy dope. While Laura was picking up something she'd dropped on the floor, a desperate Lisa stole the money, intending to pay for an abortion with it.

The main-title sequence was quite intriguing, too. The title graphic took the form of a high-school yearbook, which opened itself and turned its own pages. On each "page" was a title card identifying one of the regulars (e.g. "Scott William Armstrong as James Warren," "Ara Carrera as Christine Hutchison," etc.), and bearing a shot of the individual which, in a real yearbook, might have qualified as a "candid." The shot for "David Lipper as Kevin Waters" showed Kevin with, of all things, a pet duck! The sequence was accompanied on the soundtrack by a female francophone, whose name also escapes me, singing (these lyrics are quoted from memory):

"Papa said, 'Hit those books, kid, or hit the street.'
Mama said, 'Always be a good girl; don't be indiscreet.'
They've got their problems, I've got my problems;
How can I face the world on my own... ?*

Tell me you're having the time of your life,
Tell me you're having the time of your life,
Tell me you're having the time of your life,
Tell me you're having the time of your life... "
---------------
*This line may be wholly or partly wrong.

A bit downbeat, don't you think? But thanks for letting us know that the series hasn't been forgotten.