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Interfaith Celebrities: The Summer's First Blockbuster

April 28, 2009

Wolverine, The Summer's First Blockbuster

The first of the summer blockbusters, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, opens Friday, May 1. The flick is a prequel to the previous X-Men films and most of the action takes place in the 1950s. A really buffed-up Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the mutant Wolverine, described in the film as a "fierce fighting machine possessing amazing healing powers."

Hugh Jackman and Liev Schrieber
Hugh Jackman, as the title character in Wolverine, menaces his evil brother, Sabretooth, played by Liev Schreiber. Grrrrr. Photo: James Fisher.

Interfaith actor Liev Schreiber, 41, co-stars as the mutant Sabretooth, a bad guy who is Wolverine's half-brother. Schreiber, too, really buffed up for his role.

Schrieber is a graduate of the Friends Academy in Manhattan, an excellent private school. Though the school is nominally Quaker, about half the student body is Jewish. Another famous graduate of the Friends Academy is interfaith actress Amanda Peet, 37. (Peet's father is a Quaker and her mother is Jewish.)

Peet married her husband, Jewish screenwriter and novelist David Benioff, 39, in a Jewish wedding held at the Friends Academy.

The screenwriter of Wolverine?

You guessed it--David Benioff.

There are fewer than six degrees of separation in Hollywood.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

In September 2007, I wrote about the scandalous break-up of the marriage of TV news journalist Paula Zahn. Last week, the New York Daily News had a story updating the Zahn marriage saga.

Zahn, 52, has been married to millionaire New York Jewish businessman Richard Cohen for 22 years. Zahn, a former beauty queen, isn't Jewish. However, she and Cohen, 53, are raising their three teenage children in their father's faith.

When they first separated in 2007, the pair traded ugly charges about money and infidelity through press agents in the public sphere. Both parties engaged high powered lawyers and cross-filed for divorce. Zahn filed a separate suit against Cohen demanding an accounting for the $250,000 she had invested with Cohen.

The accounting lawsuit has been dropped and Zahn and Cohen have completely reined in their respective lawyers. The Daily News says that Zahn felt she could talk to  Cohen directly and that the legal battle was hurting their children.

Cohen and Zahn have also dropped their respective divorce lawsuits and seem to be in the process of reconciling. Cohen's rep told the News: "Richard Cohen has said she [Zahn] was always a good and caring mother."

Wonder Woman: Sober and Singing

Actress Lynda Carter was the subject of a recent People Magazine profile:

To children of the '70s, she was a glamorous TV icon with her bullet-proof bracelets and star-spangled corset.


But now Wonder Woman Lynda Carter has turned the "Lasso of Truth" on herself, admitting publicly that she's an alcoholic.

"I was so good at hiding it too," the 56-year-old mother-of-two tells TV's 'The Insider.'

But, she says, she could not keep the secret from her family: Her attorney husband Robert Altman and their two children, Jamie, 20, and Jessica, 17.

"My husband asked me ... 'Can't you just stop this for the children and for me?' "

His plea prompted her to seek treatment at a rehab facility near her home in Washington, D.C. "I needed help--I begged God in heaven to help me figure this out," says Carter, now sober for nearly 10 years.

What has the recovery process taught her? The best measure of a human being, she says, is "how we treat the people who love us, and the people that we love."

Carter, who isn't Jewish, was born in Phoenix, Ariz., to an Irish-American father and a Mexican and Spanish mother.

A talented musical performer, Carter has revived her singing career in the last few years. In 2005, she appeared in the London production of the musical, "Chicago." In 2007, she toured a cabaret act around the country.

Carter married Jewish attorney Altman in 1984. In 1992, Altman was swept up in the scandal surrounding the financial collapse of the BCCI bank, which was based in Europe. Altman was indicted and charged with helping BCCI secretly and illegally purchase an American bank.

Altman's defense was that he was duped by BCCI's management. A jury eventually acquitted him on all charges.

Carter stood by Altman during his legal troubles. She was a fixture at the courthouse during his trial. Before and after each day's trial proceedings, she would tell reporters gathered on the courthouse steps that her husband was innocent. When court was in session, Carter would plant herself in the visitor gallery in the seat nearest the defense table.

She did everything but appear in her Wonder Woman costume and belt out "Stand By Your Man."

In all seriousness, it was a rather touching demonstration of spousal love and one can reasonably speculate that Altman returned the favor as Carter battled alcoholism.

After his acquittal, Altman signed a civil agreement with the government not to work in finance again and he now heads-up an entertainment company.

Apparently, Carter and Altman's children are being raised Jewish. I found a reference to the bar mitzvah of their son, Jamie, in 2001.

See the supermom in her old superhero role:

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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