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Interfaith Celebrities: Becks and "Sex"

July 31, 2007

Bends a Bit Kosher

 

Los Angeles Galaxy's soccer star David Beckham (L) his son Romeo (C) and sister Joanne watch, from a private box, his team play their SuperLiga tournament friendly match against CF Pachuca in Carson, California July 24, 2007. Beckham's maternal grandfather was Jewish. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)

David Beckham, the English soccer player, is the most famous athlete in the world. He's an incredible package of talent and movie star good looks. Last January, Beckham signed a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer; the deal was reportedly worth $250 million, which would make Beckham the highest-paid athlete in history. On July 22, Becks, as he is called, made his debut with the Galaxy, playing only 13 minutes because of an ankle injury.

Still, the game, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., was almost like a Hollywood major awards ceremony. The stands were studded with stars: Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mary Kate-Olsen (who isn't Jewish, but is dating David Katzenberg, the Jewish son of Dreamworks mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg), Brooke Shields, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jewish actress Alicia Silverstone (whose mother is a convert to Judaism).

The Galaxy and the league are counting on Beckham to bring the starpower that will lift professional soccer to a much higher level of popularity and public awareness in America. Currently, only two out of 13 teams in the league make money and soccer is still nowhere as popular among American fans as pro basketball, baseball and football.

The jury is also still out whether Becks' wife really enhances her husband's popularity in America. David Beckham has long been married to the beautiful, if plastic-looking, Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice of the singing group the Spice Girls. In Britain, where the Spice Girls were always more popular, Becks and Posh are almost like an alternate royal couple, constantly in the glossy magazines. But Victoria really has little talent and I sense that the American public has grown tired of people who are famous for glossy good looks and endlessly shopping in chic stores. Paris Hilton has kind of cornered that market.

NBC/Bravo thought Americans would be interested in a reality TV series featuring Victoria Beckham. Well, the footage was so vapid (Victoria shopping in fancy stores, etc.) that NBC cut the proposed series down to a one-hour special, "Victoria Beckham: Coming to America." It aired on July 16 to absolutely savage reviews and anemic ratings.

Still, David Beckham has such a warm persona that he just might pull off the trick of making soccer more popular. He has, for example, always been sweet and open when talking about his interfaith background. In 1999, Beckham first told the press that his maternal grandfather was Jewish. He said that he was close to this grandfather and "wore skullcaps" when, as a boy, he went to a Jewish wedding or two with his grandpa. Becks added that this little contact with Judaism was the only exposure he had to any religion while growing up.

English Jewish soccer fans went ga-ga over this news and Beck's Jewish ties are often noted in the English Jewish press.

The Beckhams, by the way, are what I call "celebrity eclectic religious": they have matching tattoos, written in Hebrew, of a verse from the "Song of Songs"; they had an Anglican wedding ceremony although they aren't exactly churchgoers; and on their English estate there's a faux gothic chapel with a Buddhist shrine near the chapel door.

In a very recent interview with The Guardian, a British paper, Beckham said:

It's always nice to be loved and liked, and not just for the soccer. I've always been honoured when people have made me feel special all around the world. I get that from the gay community around the world, from the black community, and the Jewish community because I'm half Jewish. I'm really honoured when people say different things about me. If I can have that effect in America, then great.

It's nice that Beckham calls himself "half Jewish" (even though he is a quarter). It is nicer still that he is pleased with being honored by Jewish, black and gay fans.

No, I wouldn't claim Beckham as "Jewish." But I do I give him credit for disclosing his Jewish roots and being proud of them, and of being proud of his black and gay fans. The European soccer world is marred by racist "fans" who shout vile words at black, Arab, and Jewish players. In some way, Becks' pride has always been a slap in the face of these idiots.

Cynthia Nixon was not born Jewish, but clearly participated in Jewish life when she was with her ex-boyfriend of 15 years, Jewish professor Danny Mozes. Since her days on "Sex in the City," she has won a Tony for Best Actress for her role in Rabbit Hole. REUTERS/Brian Snyder       (UNITED STATES)

"Sex and the City": The Movie

There has been talk of a "Sex and the City" movie since the hit HBO series concluded in 2004. However, actress Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha, one of the lead characters, long refused to do a film and it looked like the project would never get off the ground. Cattrall was angry, for still unclear reasons, with "Sex" star and co-producer Sarah Jessica Parker.

Well, the pair recently made up and the "Sex in the City" movie is scheduled to begin filming this September.

Parker, whose late father was Jewish, has long been married to actor Matthew Broderick, whose late mother was Jewish. I'll cover Parker and Broderick's background more in a future column. Meanwhile, I was quite amused by some parts of Lynn Yaeger's recent satirical piece in the Village Voice, speculating about the script of the upcoming movie.

As "Sex" viewers know, lead character Charlotte York (played by the gorgeous Kristin Davis) converted to Judaism near the end of the series to marry Harry (Evan Handler), a homely Jewish divorce lawyer with a good soul. Charlotte wasn't able to bear a child, but in the last episode of the series Charlotte and Harry got the good news that they had been approved to adopt a Chinese baby girl.

Yaeger speculates that the "Sex and the City" movie will have Charlotte and Harry as the parents of a whole brood of adopted kids from around the world who are being raised Jewish. Here's Yaeger's imagined dialogue:

CHARLOTTE (voice rising): Mai Pang Goldenblatt, settle down and study your haftorah portion! Hussein Goldenblatt, a yarmulke is not a miniature Frisbee! No, Krishnamurti Goldenblatt, you may not go parasailing Friday night, that's the Sabbath! Latifah Goldenblatt, stop pulling Hiawatha Goldenblatt's hair or I won't help you with your Queen Esther costume!

Actress Cynthia Nixon, who played lead character Miranda Hobbes, has had such an interesting private life since the TV series ended that Yaeger could hardly ignore it. Yaeger's "script" for the upcoming movie has Miranda now working as an attorney for the Lamda Legal Defense fund, a gay rights group, and in a lesbian relationship. This is quite a departure from how the "Sex and the City" series ended, with Miranda happily settled in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and their son.

Yaeger's satire is clearly based on Nixon's rather shocking real-life romantic life. Soon after the series ended, it became public that she had left English professor Danny Mozes, her domestic partner of at least 15 years and the father of her two children, and began a lesbian relationship.

I have always been puzzled, by the way, by some aspects of Nixon's personal life. Danny Mozes, whom she has known since junior high, is Jewish. I am sure that Nixon was not born Jewish, but I have long wondered whether she was a convert to Judaism or just a "fellow traveler," at least when she was with Mozes.

In an interview she did not long after the series started, Nixon said that she delayed auditioning for "Sex and the City" because she "could not travel on Passover" and that "God rewarded me for not traveling on Passover" (when she finally did the audition things went just right and she got the part).

In the same interview, Nixon added that she made a Passover seder for 20 people all by herself. Also, a New York community newspaper, around 2001, mentioned that Nixon and Mozes were members of a synagogue in the Hamptons resort area and frequently attended this synagogue's summer services.

However, despite my best efforts, I've been unable to determine Nixon's religious status. I was still trying to figure it out when Nixon left her Jewish partner and created headlines by taking up with Christine Marinoni, an education activist in New York.

I find myself wishing that Nixon would put me on her Hanukkah (or Christmas) card list and that she would include one of those chatty, "what I have been doing this year" letters with the card. In other words, letting me know where she stands in terms of religious background, etc. al.

It wouldn't have to be a long letter, Cynthia--if you happen to be reading this.

 

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." A selection from the books of Prophets that is read following the weekly Torah portion. There is a Haftorah for each Torah portion. Hanukkah (known by many spellings) is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd Century BCE. It is marked by the lighting of a menorah and the eating of fried foods. The spring holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The Hebrew name is "Pesach." Yiddish for "skullcap," also known in Hebrew as a "kippah," the small, circular headcovering worn by male Jews in most synagogues, and female Jews in more liberal congregations. Traditional Jews were kippot (plural of kippah) all the time. A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Hebrew for "fit" (as in, "fit for consumption"), the Jewish dietary laws. 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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