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Interfaith Celebrities: Upcoming Celebrity Nuptials

January 24, 2012

Third Time a Charm? Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman

Drew Barrymore is 36. I had to look up her age. She's been in the public eye so long that it's sometimes hard to guess, off-hand, how old she is. She began acting in commercials when she was less than 1 year old and, in 1981, when she was 6 years old, she made her second film, the surprise blockbuster hit, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It made her an instant child star.

For almost twenty years, she has starred or co-starred in films in which she plays a young adult seeking romance and, sometimes, "the perfect guy."

Most actresses don't get their "big film debut role" until they are in their mid- 20s. Many are pushing 30 when they get their break, so most actresses have a fairly short period of time in which they are "right" for a lead role in a young adult romantic comedy.

Barrymore is just the opposite. By the time she was 16, it was obvious she had the kooky charm, acting talent and beauty for which directors of young adult romance films look.

In 1995, she co-starred in her first such film, Boys on the Side. In 1998, she teamed with Adam Sandler in their hit romantic comedy, The Wedding Singer. Other romantic comedy hits followed including Ever After (1998), Never Been Kissed (1999), 50 First Dates (2004), Fever Pitch (2005), He's Just Not That Into You (2009) and Going the Distance (2010).

Yes, Barrymore has had a remarkably long run in films in which she plays a young woman seeking the right guy. In real life, she has also been looking and maybe Will Kopelman, 33, her Jewish fiancé of a few weeks, is the one. Maybe he represents the happy ending often found in her films.

Many sources have featured and described Barrymore's troubled childhood, including an autobiography she co-wrote when she was just 14, Little Girl Lost. Her father was actor John Drew Barrymore (1932-2004), the very troubled son of the legendary actor John Barrymore (1882-1942). Both her father and her grandfather suffered from substance abuse problems, including alcoholism.

Substance abuse and mental illness — along with great acting talent — has been a hallmark of the Drew/Barrymore acting dynasty for over 150 years. Drew Barrymore's great-great-grandfather, John Drew, who was born in Ireland, became a famous American actor in the early 19th century. His daughter married famous actor Maurice Barrymore. Maurice fathered famous actors John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore.

Drew Barrymore barely knew her father. Her parents divorced right after her birth. Her mother, Jaid Mako Barrymore, was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany right after WWII (1946). Her parents were non-Jewish Hungarians.

After Drew was born, Jaid was financially hard-pressed. She and Drew lived in a small West Hollywood apartment.

Drew's early acting successes ended their financial troubles. However, little Drew was exposed to all the temptations of fame very early and by the time she was 11 she was constantly partying, taking drugs and drinking heavily.

Her mother put her in rehab when she was 13. A suicide attempt the next year led to further treatment and, this time, it was successful. She's been sober for over twenty years and is an outstanding example of someone who has overcome a family history of substance abuse. Barrymore has also managed to avoid the "child actor curse" (i.e., the long list of star child actors who became very troubled adults).

This is not to say that Barrymore didn't show a bit of a "wild side" after getting sober. In 1993 and 1995, she posed nude, respectively, for Interview and Playboy magazines. This literal overexposure led her godfather, Jewish director Steven Spielberg, who cast her in E.T., to send her a quilt on her 20th birthday (1995). The note that Spielberg wrote, accompanying the quilt, read, "Cover yourself up."

My sense is that Spielberg has taken his role as Barrymore's godfather seriously. He's mentored and helped her as he can. No, he hasn't attempted to be her surrogate father, but he has been a constant, steady, older friend. I think it's fair to say that his presence in her life is one of the main reasons she overcame her early problems.

Barrymore was engaged when she was just 16 (1991), and again two years later. Both engagements ended before marriage. Then, in 1994, she married a much older Los Angeles bar owner. This marriage lasted less than two months. In July 2001, she married comedian Tom Green. This marriage lasted five months.

In 2002, she entered into a five-year romantic relationship with Fabrizio Moretti, now 31, the drummer for the famous rock band, The Strokes. In 2008, she began a relationship with actor Justin Long, now 33. This relationship continued off-and-on through 2010.

In early 2011, she began dating Will Kopelman. The couple announced their engagement early this month.

So who is Will Kopelman? He is a fine art consultant who comes from a distinguished, New York Jewish family.

His father, Arie Kopelman, 71, is the now-retired head of Chanel, America (a subsidiary of the famous French company). Will's sister, Jill (Kopelman) Kargman, 37, is a well-known columnist and novelist.

His mother, Coco Franco Kopelman, was born in France, the child of Sephardi Jews who were originally from the Island of Rhodes, off the coast of Greece. A little "Googling" around reveals that Coco Kopelman's extended family has several successful members.

You can get a sense of Will Kopelman's immediate family from this excerpt from a May 2011 profile of Jill Kargman, written in conjunction with the publication of a collection of her essays. Will is referred to as "Willie" in this piece:

Jill's new book does more than deflate the overinflated egos among the Manhattan elite. She gives us a glimpse into her own life, growing up on the Upper East Side in an intellectual yet quirky Jewish family. "For twenty-five years, my father worked for Doyle Dane Bernbach, the legendary Madison Avenue advertising agency that was proto-Don Draper, complete with the same martini lunches and genius minds, but the Jewy Jewstein version…. How do her parents feel about having their private stories made public? This is the same family that once went to a tattoo parlor together (Jill, her brother, Willie, and her mom and dad) intending to have the letter "K" etched on their butts. Recently, Jill's mom and dad attended a City Harvest luncheon where Jill was the keynote speaker and laughed as loudly as the guests. (Jill told the City Harvest people she might not be the group's best choice since "I write about women who skip meals on purpose.")

As for religion, the members of the Kopelman family seem to be moderately religious. I say this based on bits and pieces about the family, like Jill mentioning "sitting shiva" (the seven days of mourning following the funeral of a family member) for her grandmother in one article, and newspaper notices about family weddings presided over by a rabbi.

I would say, based on what I know now, that Drew Barrymore has found her right guy in Will Kopelman.

Part of Barrymore's appeal comes from the fact that she seems genuinely zany, in a fun, infectious way. Audiences like how she projects an effusive "joy-of-life" both on and off the screen.

Being zany and upbeat isn't easy to do without sometimes coming off as an intellectual lightweight or, in slang terms, a ditz or an airhead. Barrymore, however, is no lightweight. In fact, she's clearly a very intelligent woman who, early-on, took control of her career by producing many of her starring vehicles.

The Kopelmans, as the above quoted paragraph indicates, seem to have that same quirky joy of life. Not many families from the wealthy Upper East Side of Manhattan take a family outing to have the initial of their last name tattooed on their behinds. And isn't it lucky that Jill married a guy whose last name also begins with "K"?

Will Kopelman and his family seem to be a great fit for Barrymore. They're stable, intellectual, and yet they have the ability to laugh at themselves and with each other.

My guess is that the couple will be married in a Jewish ceremony, but that Barrymore, who has always been secular, won't convert to Judaism. I am curious whether Steven Spielberg will have a role at the wedding, like walking Barrymore down the aisle.

Tamblyn/Cross — Unexpected? Maybe Not

The engagement of actress Amber Tamblyn, 28, to actor/comedian David Cross, 47, was announced last August. The couple has been linked together romantically since 2008.

Tamblyn, who is not Jewish, is the daughter of actor Russ Tamblyn, 77. The elder Tamblyn is still best known for playing Riff, the leader of the Jets in the film version of West Side Story (1961). While he never again had such a high-profile role, he continued to act regularly in films and on TV and still takes a part now-and-again. He has also acted on TV shows with his daughter.

At the age of 12, Amber Tamblyn had early acting success, snaring the role of Emily Quartermaine on the soap opera General Hospital. She played this role from 1995 to 2001. Her next big part came as the star of the TV series, Joan of Arcadia, which ran from 2003 to 2005. This series created quite a stir because it was, and remains, one of the few broadcast TV shows with religious themes at its center. Tamblyn played Joan, a teenage girl to whom God spoke. God appeared to Joan in dozens of human forms, old and young, male and female, asking her to do simple tasks. These tasks, when completed, helped solve or alleviate a larger problem.

Critics praised the program for its sensitive handling of religious themes, and because the program managed to be convincingly "non-denominational." (God never revealed to Joan which religion was considered "true.")

Most recently, Tamblyn had a one-year stint (2010-2011) playing med-student Martha Masters on the hit series, House and she appeared opposite interfaith actor James Franco in the critically acclaimed film, 127 Hours.

I long had reason to believe that Tamblyn might go on to marry a Jewish guy. Back in 2005, People interviewed Tamblyn in connection with the opening of the movie, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (Tamblyn co-starred in this hit film and the 2008 sequel, too.)

People reported:

She [Tamblyn] played a teen who communicated with God in the acclaimed CBS drama Joan of Arcadia (recently canceled after two seasons), and spirituality plays a big part in Tamblyn's life. "My parents raised me to believe in God and to respect all forms of religion," says the actress, who in 2003 recorded the song "God and Me," inspired by the show. And when the holidays roll around? "I'm not Jewish, but I celebrate Hanukkah," she says. "I have an obsession with Jewish boys. I've never dated one, but I wish I'll marry one someday."

Her fiancé, David Cross, is Jewish and, in that respect, if she goes on to marry him, she'll get her wish.

But if Tamblyn is still spiritual and a believer in God, she may not have picked the right Jewish guy with whom to share these "things.".

Cross was born into a poor family in Georgia, and grew up mostly in that state. His father, an immigrant from England, was often absent and he was raised mostly by his mother, who is Jewish. (It's never been clear to me whether his father is Jewish or not.) Cross was raised religiously Jewish, but has long been an adamant and vocal atheist.

Cross began as a stand-up comic when he was 17. He's best known for co-starring on the MTV sketch show, Mr. Show (1995-1998), for playing Tobias Funke on Arrested Development and for playing Ian Hawke in the financially successful Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Currently, he stars in the IFC cable channel series, The Increasingly Poor Choices of Todd Margaret.

In a 2011 TV interview with Keith Olbermann, Cross addressed the "usual reaction" to his engagement to a much younger woman who is, as these things are judged, more physically attractive than him.

He said an article about their engagement on People.com attracted a lot of visitor comments, most of them nasty. Cross said (I am slightly paraphrasing) that a lot of people posted comments that read: "What is she [Tamblyn] doing with this much older, ugly guy?"

Cross told Olbermann that what most people don't know is that Tamblyn "is one of the funniest people I've ever met" (implying that humor bonds them) and she thinks these nasty comments are stupid.

So, now we know that Tamblyn is funny, that she likes funny guys and that she likes Jewish guys. Maybe she and Cross are made for each other and what seems so disjointed to other people about their relationship doesn't mean anything to them.

That's cool.

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. Having Jewish family origins in Spain, Portugal or North Africa. The term literally means "Spanish" in Hebrew. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation. Hebrew for "seven," refers to the seven days of mourning following the funeral of a family member.

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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