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Interfaith Celebrities: The Fishers and the Tweeters

March 16, 2010

The Sisters Fisher and More

Jewish actors Lainie Kazan, 67, and Richard Lewis, 62, guest star on the Fox series, 'Til Death, (Sunday, Mar. 21, at 7PM). Kazan plays the overbearing mother of starring character Joy Stark (Joely Fisher 42), while Lewis plays a publisher who is interested in a book written by Joy's husband, Eddie (Brad Garrett, 49. He formerly co-starred in Everyone Loves Raymond.)

Joely Fisher
Actress Joely Fisher, 42, is the daughter of singers Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Lott.

Not that much is made of it, but the Starks have been identified as an interfaith couple in a few episodes. Eddie is Jewish as Garrett is in real life.

Joy Stark is supposed to be Italian Catholic. In real life, actress Fisher is the daughter of Jewish singer Eddie Fisher, now 81, and singer Connie Stevens, now 71, Fisher's ex-wife. Stevens was born Concetta Ingoglia, to an Italian Catholic father and an Irish Catholic mother.

Joely Fisher, who was 2 years old when her parents divorced, was raised by her mother. She was raised in her mother's faith and is a practicing Christian as an adult (although I am not sure if she identifies as a Catholic or a Protestant).

In a 2008 interview, Brad Garrett ran down the similarities between his TV character and his real life. In real life his former wife was a Catholic and he and his ex-wife are exposing their children to both Jewish and Catholic traditions.

Joely Fisher's half-sister, as most people know, is actress/writer Carrie Fisher, 53, the daughter of Eddie's first wife, actress Debbie Reynolds (who is Protestant). Carrie Fisher was 2 years old when her parents divorced.

Carrie Fisher was raised "Protestant light" by her mother, but now identifies as Jewish. She and her teenage daughter often go to Sabbath dinners at the homes of Orthodox Jewish friends and sometimes attend synagogue services, as she told a reporter writing for j. the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California.

Eddie Fisher had a talent for marrying beautiful women, and he fathered talented daughters, but he no talent for fatherhood. He paid little child support and hardly saw his children, and he embarrassed them with several tell-all memoirs. Eddie Fisher was married to Elizabeth Taylor between his marriages to Reynolds and Stevens. Taylor converted to Judaism not long after marrying Eddie. However, she has not practiced Judaism in a public way since her conversion. She and Eddie had no children.

Mayer Expands On His Tweets

Back in January, I wrote a column item about singer John Mayer, 32. I noted that Mayer, who had never discussed his religious background with the media, had decided to identify himself as "half Jewish" in a few recent Twitter tweets.

Well, as you probably heard, last month Playboy magazine published >an interview with Mayer that created a firestorm around the singer. (The interview was in the March, 2010 issue, which hit the stands in February). He made comments that could easily be construed as racist. Mayer was also very frank about his sexual habits and famous ex-girlfriends.

Amidst the media frenzy about these comments, almost nobody noticed that Mayer spoke about his Jewish background for the first time with a media outlet. He put some meat, as it were, on his short Twitter tweets about being half-Jewish. He told Playboy:

"I'm half Jewish. People say, 'Well, which side of your family is Jewish?' I say, 'My dad's.' And they always say it doesn't count. But I will say I keep my pool at 92 degrees, so you do the math. I find myself relating to Judaism. One of my best friends is Jewish beyond all Jews--I went to my first Passover seder at his house-- and I train in Krav Maga with a lot of Israelis."

A Different Fisher Helps Dolphins

Congrats to Fisher Stevens, 46, who was the co-winner of the Oscar for best documentary feature. Stevens was the producer of The Cove,

Fisher Stevens
Documentary filmmaker Fisher Stevens won an Oscar. Photo: Reuters/Vincent Kessler.

a film about a semi-secret dolphin killing ground in Japan. Stevens shared the Oscar with the film's director, Louie Psihoyos. The film's footage was gathered by several environmental activists with diving skills, including Psihoyas. These same activists were behind the investigation that led to the arrest, on March 11, of the chef of a Santa Monica sushi restaurant for serving whale meat.

Stevens, a diver himself, was brought in to produce The Cove and help shape the raw footage into a film. He also promoted the documentary at many film festivals.

Born Steve Fisher in Chicago, Stevens' father is Jewish and his mother is not Jewish. My sense is that he was raised secular. He has described himself as a "thin, white Jewish guy."

Stevens has had a multi-faceted career as a TV, stage, and film actor. He has also directed many stage productions and some TV shows. He was a co-star of the TV show Early Edition and the co-star of the two Short Circuit films.

There was a bit of a fiasco on the Oscar stage as Stevens was allowed to speak for less than a minute and his co-winner was not allowed to say anything. This was not what Stevens and Psihoyos expected, as they told the New York Times about their Oscar experience and The Cove makes clear:

Stevens is also "sort of famous" for his romantic involvement with the very beautiful actress Michelle Pfeiffer. They dated for three years in the late '80s. They were considered an unlikely couple; Stevens looks a lot more like Woody Allen than George Clooney. The story goes that they broke up when Pfeiffer found out Stevens cheated on her with a much younger woman. I've decided he is that fairly rare thing, nebbishy-looking ladies' man. In any event, both Stevens and Pfeiffer have had the good taste not to discuss the intimate details of their relationship, by Twitter or otherwise.

Changin' Hosts

Model Brooke Burke, 38, has been named as co-host (with Tom Bergeron) of the hit ABC series,Dancing with the Stars. She replaces Samantha Harris, 36, who has co-hosted since 2006.

Harris, who is Jewish, says she is leaving to concentrate on her work as a correspondent for The Insider and Entertainment Tonight.

Burke (whose mother is Jewish) was the winner of the 7th season (fall, 2008) of Dancing with the Stars. The 10th season of Dancing starts on Monday, Mar. 22, at 8PM. As previously noted, Burke has long been engaged to Jewish actor David Charvet and they have two kids together. (Hollywood marital engagements go on so long it's a wonder that a new profession of "engagement planner" has not yet come into existence!)

Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." Hebrew for "order," refers to the traditional course of events, or service, surrounding the Passover and Tu Bishvat meals.

Nate Bloom writes a weekly column on Jewish celebrities, broadly defined, that appears in the Cleveland Jewish News, the American Israelite of Cincinnati, the Detroit Jewish News, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. It also appears bi-weekly in j., the Jewish news weekly of northern California. Starting April 2012, a monthly version of his column (featuring relevant "oldies but goodies") will appear in the following Florida newspapers: the Jewish News (Sarasota and Manatee County), the Federation Star (Collier County) and L'Chayim (Lee and Charlotte counties).

The author welcomes questions and celebrity "tips," especially about people you personally know. Write him at middleoftheroad1@aol.com. And feel free to comment below.

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