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Interfaith Celebrities: Back to Beverly Hills

Sept. 3, 2008

Beverly Hills 90210 has been revived, with a new cast and characters, on the CW network (Starts Tuesday, Sept. 2, 8:00 p.m.).

The Mills family are the core characters of the revived series. Two Mills kids go to Beverly Hills High, while their parents fret about living in la-la land. The family re-located from Kansas so Mr. Mills could keep on an eye on his mother, "a feisty-but-faded former television star and a charter member of the Betty Ford Clinic." The mother is played by veteran (Jewish) actress Jessica Walter, 67 (Arrested Development).

The 90210 revival tips its hat to the real Beverly Hills: a city whose population is over 50 percent Jewish and includes 8,000 Jews of Iranian descent among its 35,000 residents. Advance reports say that one character (Daphne Silver) is half-Jewish and another young character is Iranian (but not identified as Jewish).

Also premiering Sept. 2 is Sons of Anarchy (FX cable network, 10 p.m.). It is a drama series with comedic undertones about a motorcycle gang that controls a small rural California town and finances itself by selling guns to urban criminals. The gang keeps the police out of town and fends off a drug-dealing white supremacist biker gang.

Ron Perlman with family
Ron Perlman with his family at the premiere of Hellboy II in June, 2008. Reuters/Hector Mata.

Jewish actor Ron Perlman, 57, co-stars as the stepfather of the leader of the gang and Jewish actress Maggie Siff, 34, has a recurring role as a doctor.

Siff also appears as Rachel Menken, a Jewish character in the acclaimed AMC series, Mad Men. In a brief interview with Heeb, the irreverent Jewish magazine, Siff said her father is Jewish and she indicated that she identified as Jewish.

Perlman had the biggest hit of his career earlier this year when he starred in the surprise box office scorcher, Hellboy II. Since 1981, Perlman has been married to an African-American woman, Opal Perlman, and they have two children. I assume Opal Perlman isn't Jewish, but Ron Perlman doesn't give out a lot of personal information, so I don't know the details of his family or religious life.

The Fox comedy series, Do Not Disturb, is scheduled to start on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 9:30 PM. However, late reports indicate the premiere may be put off for a couple of months. It's about the staff of New York's hottest and hippest hotel. Newcomer Dave Franco, 23, was a late addition to the cast. He plays a rock band roadie who is deserted at the hotel by his band and is taken in by the cool staff of the hotel.

Dave Franco is the younger brother of the much more famous actor James Franco, 29. James is best known as Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man movies and he recently co-starred in the film comedy, The Pineapple Express.

Both Franco brothers grew-up in Palo Alto, Calif., a San Francisco suburb. Their father, Doug Franco, a Silicon Valley businessman, is of Portuguese descent and not Jewish. Their mother, children's book author Betsy Verne Franco, is Jewish and originally from Cleveland. The brothers were raised without religion.

I am working on getting an interview with James Franco, so I'll hold off on giving you a full profile. Meanwhile, look for Dave Franco in his first major acting role.

Lohan's Jewish Girlfriend and Duchovny's Sex Addiction

Actress Lindsay Lohan, 22, whose wild child behavior has been the talk of the gossiping classes for the last few years, has calmed down in recent months. She now seems sober and, for almost a year, she consistently remembers to wear underwear in public. However, the paparazzi are still dogging Lohan because she is apparently involved in a "sensational" lesbian relationship with Samantha Ronson, 31. Ronson is a top club disc jockey and she has had some real success as a musician.

The duo started being seen in each other's company last February and have been filmed and photographed in passionate embraces. Despite a pro forma denial of a lesbian relationship by Lohan's spokesperson, Ronson and Lohan have all but said they are romantically involved.

Lindsay Lohan looking pretty and enthusiastic at an event in December, 2008. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni.

Lohan was raised a Catholic. Samantha Ronson is the sister of multi-Grammy winning music producer Mark Ronson, whom I previously profiled in this column. The Ronson siblings were born in England and were raised in Britain and America. Both their parents are English Jews and Mark and Samantha had a Jewish religious education. When Samantha was a teen, her parents divorced and her mother married Mick Jones, a (non-Jewish) English guitarist and a member of Foreigner, the famous rock band. Jones was an important musical influence on both Samantha and Mark Ronson.

There have been reports that Lohan is contemplating converting to Judaism for Samantha, but I don't trust the veracity of these gossip website stories. I'll reserve judgment until I actually hear a direct quote on any conversion from Lindsay Lohan and/or Samantha Ronson.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for interfaith actor David Duchovny, 48, announced last week that he is entering a clinic for " sex addiction." Oddly enough, Duchovny currently plays a sex-obsessed character on the Showtime series, Californication, which starts its second season on September 28. As noted in my prior column item on Duchovny, he is married to actress Tea Leoni and they have two children.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a celebrity has admitted getting treated for sex addiction while he or she is still in a clinic for that problem. But, I guess Duchovny was forced to say something when People magazine mentioned he was going into rehab for sex addiction.

Video Corner

The terrific HBO mini-series, John Adams, about the patriot and second president of the United States, is recently out on DVD. HBO says the sales are staggering and it will probably be the best-selling DVD of an HBO series, ever. Actor Paul Giamatti, who played Adams, won an Emmy for best leading actor in a mini-series or movie for his performance. As I noted in a previous column, Giamatti's wife is Jewish and they are raising their child in the Jewish faith.

I saw the series and while I usually don't use the word great Giamatti is simply great as Adams and he helps make the whole series an intellectual treat.

The 2006 British film, Sixty-Six, a "dramedy" about an English Jewish boy's bar mitzvah, recently opened in very limited release in the United States and it is tough to catch a showing. However, because it got an American theater release, it will be released on DVD in the United States in the not-too-distant future. Interfaith actress Helena Bonham-Carter, previously profiled in this column, stars as the bar mitzvah boy's mother. Here's the trailer:

 

 

 

CNN journalists Dana Bash and John King, who are now very busy covering the upcoming election, were married last May. As I previously noted, King converted to Judaism not long before marrying Dana Bash, a Reform Jew. I recently stumbled on a website that has a short video of highlights of King and Bash's Jewish wedding. I am not sure how this website got this video--maybe it was shown on CNN--and I'm not sure why most of the footage is in black and white. But almost everybody likes a wedding, so here is a link--take a look.

Hebrew for "son of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish boys come of age at 13. When a boy comes of age, he is officially a bar mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bar mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The female equivalent is "bat mitzvah."

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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