New Faces on TV Plus a Hollywood LegendNew Faces on TV Plus a

By Nate Bloom


New TV Season: A Couple More New Faces

Two more Jewish/interfaith actors starring in new TV series have come to my attention via further research and more sources. So, without further ado, here they are.

Lucas Neff, 24, is a co-star of the Fox TV series, Raising Hope, which airs Tuesdays at 9PM. The series has got pretty good ratings and mixed, but respectable, critical reviews.

Lucas Neff
Jimmy (Lucas Neff) on Raising Hope (Photo: 2010 Fox Broadcasting Company).

It was the first new Fox series to be “greenlighted” for a full season of 22 new episodes. Raising Hope premiered on September 21.

The basic plot: A 23-year-old must raise his infant daughter, conceived by a one night stand, with the help of his flawed family after the baby’s mother (who has killed multiple boyfriends) is given the death sentence and executed when the baby is only six months old.

Lucas Neff plays Jimmy Chance, the young father. Jimmy’s mother, Virginia Chance, is played by the ever reliable actress Martha Plimpton (who is only 39 years old in real life).

Neff’s whole life and career is outlined in this (Sept. 20) profile and interview on the website Chicago Now.

When Chicago Now asked Neff about whether the “hoopla” surrounding the launch of the show was making him nervous, he replied:

It really does. I’ve got a lot of neurosis in my family. My dad is this little Jewish hobbit of a guy and then I’ve got this really strong-minded Irish mother. And together it’s just Irish guilt and Jewish guilt and every type of Woody Allen neurosis you can imagine sort of cycling around in my brain at any given instant. I just try to keep it as truthful as I can and as simple as I can. I figure that way I won’t get into too much trouble.

Ben Rappaport, 25, stars in the NBC series, Outsourced, which began on September 23 and airs Thursdays at 9:30PM. Quoting a recent NY Daily News profile of Rappaport:

The recent graduate of New York’s Juilliard School is doing that now as the star of [the] comedy “Outsourced.” He plays a guy sent to India when his novelty company downsizes – or ‘right-sizes,’ as they say on the show – and has its work outsourced. Rather than be right-sized, Rappaport’s character moves to India.

Rappaport, a handsome fellow, was plucked from obscurity to star in this TV show. As the Daily News says, he is a recent drama school graduate and only has a couple of off-Broadway stage credits on his resume.

Outsourced, ironically enough, is in danger of being downsized off of the TV screen as I write this. Reviews were more negative than positive and ratings, so far, are just barely acceptable.

Rappaport grew-up in Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston. A friend who helped me research the young actor tells me that his birth name is Bennett Eli Rappaport and his parents are both members of a Reform synagogue in Spring, Texas. His parents are alumni of Northwestern University in Chicago.

Jerry’s Stories—Bush Ends Blackballing and a Stuntman’s Conversion

I chanced to see Jerry Weintraub‘s recent autobiography, When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead, on the library shelf. Before reading the book, I knew almost nothing about Weintraub, a big time celebrity manager, concert promoter, and film producer (Ocean’s Eleven).

Jerry Weintraub
Jerry Weintraub

No doubt, Weintraub has lived an eventful life. But, be warned, the book is not entertaining enough for me to recommend that you run out and buy the $27 hardcover version. Snag a library or used copy or wait for the paperback.

The Bronx-raised Weintraub, now 72, came from a stable, middle-class Jewish family and could have gone into his father’s jewelry business. However, Weintraub was always on the hustle for something better. This included a brief stint as an acting student in the late ‘50s. He didn’t make it as an actor, but his studies brought him into showbiz.

I am not sure I would like the “real” Weintraub. He sounds a lot like a Type A personality who rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

To his credit, Weintraub has been a big giver to Jewish causes, especially Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish group run by the Lubavitcher sect of Hasidic Jews. (Weintraub made the acquaintance of a Chabad rabbi and they became friends.)

As with most autobiographies of businessmen who make their living via show business, the most interesting stories in the book are not about Weintraub but about the famous people he worked with, like John Denver, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley.

There’s a very nice story about former President George H. W. Bush (the first President Bush) that says a lot about Bush’s character.

In 1965, Weintraub and his second wife, singer Jane Morgan, decided to vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine. (More about Jane, below.) One summer day, Weintraub decided to try and get a court at a private, local tennis club that he had never been to before.

The club’s courts were empty and normally even private tennis clubs will rent a court to a non-member when courts are available. However, the employee in charge of the courts obviously noted Weintraub’s “Jewish name” and told him that “no courts were available” and he should “try another club.”

Weintraub told Morgan what happened to him at the club. She comes from an old, mostly WASP, New England family.

Soon thereafter, Morgan told Bush, a friendly acquaintance of many years, about the incident. Bush told Morgan that it was “ridiculous” that Jerry should be blackballed because he was Jewish. (The Bush family has owned a vacation home in Kennebunkport for decades. The Bush clan still vacations there.)

In 1965, Bush was still a Texas oilman and had only recently dipped his toe in the water of politics. He was a member of the tennis club that refused to rent a court to Weintraub. George’s father, retired United States Senator Prescott Bush (the grandfather of President George W. Bush), was also a member of that tennis club.

After speaking to Morgan, Bush invited Weintraub (who he didn’t know at all) to play tennis with him and his father at the club. After the match, Senator Bush told Weintraub that he would put Weintraub up for club membership.

Such was the prestige of the Bush family that one word from them ended, forever, the club’s anti-Semitic policy. Via the Bush family, Weintraub also got into the Kennebunkport golf club and yacht club.

Weintraub has been married two times. In 1961, he wed his high school sweetheart and they had a son. Weintraub protects his first wife’s privacy by not naming her in his book and by not giving many biographical details. But, reading between the lines, you can tell she is Jewish.

His second wife, singer Jane Morgan, is not Jewish.

Morgan, now 89, was a quite popular singer from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s. She and Weintraub met in 1963 and fell in love. They married in a civil ceremony in 1965 after finalizing divorces from their respective spouses.

Together, they adopted three girls, who are now in their 30s. (Weintraub doesn’t mention what faith, if any, their girls were raised in. He does mention the bar mitzvah of his son with his first wife.)

Morgan and Weintraub grew apart after their children had grown and their interests began to diverge. Weintraub writes that Morgan wanted to stay around their Los Angeles home, attend to her hobbies, and visit her adult children. The whirl of showbiz-related parties, movie premieres, and work-related travel was no longer for her.

Around 2000, Jerry met Susie Ekins, whose age he does not specify, but I think she is between 35 and 40 now. After seeing Ekins for a few months, Weintraub told Morgan that he had fallen in love with this fetching young woman and wanted a divorce. Morgan told Weintraub that she was fine with his relationship with Ekins and if Ekins didn’t need to be married to Weintraub: all three of them could just forget about the divorce, saving all the aggravation and costs of divorce.

Jane Morgan
Singer Jane Morgan attends the UNICEF Ball honoring Jerry Weintraub held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on December 10, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images North America)

Weintraub doesn’t say this in his book but apparently he, Ekins, and Morgan all currently live together. Here’s the blow-by-blow from a British paper:

The Ocean’s Eleven producer married his wife Jane in 1965, but later found love with mistress Susan Ekins. Weintraub then discussed divorce with his wife, but Jane rejected the idea of splitting up, fearing they would squander his millions paying for the legal proceedings….the trio lives together happily, and the credit, according to Weintraub, goes to the women in his life. “They make it work. I’m very much in love with my wife, we’ve been married 48 years and I met this other woman and I’m very much in love with her,” the Daily Express quoted Weintraub as saying. “We didn’t get a divorce because we didn’t want to screw up our estate. I worked very hard for my money. I started out with nothing and ended up with a lot. She [Jane] didn’t want to give it away to lawyers. Jane said, ‘Go to Susie and ask Susie if she needs to be married.’ Susie said no, and they became best friends,” Weintraub added.

So, Morgan is still Mrs. Jerry Weintraub and I guess Jerry isn’t lying about what good terms they are on. Last year, Jane, looking incredible for someone 88-years-old, sang at a UNICEF Ball honoring Jerry.

Weintraub doesn’t specify how this came to be, but Susie Ekins is a convert to Judaism. Weintraub doesn’t make clear if this conversion happened before or after he and Ekins met.

The Great Escape – Bud Ekins Interview – 1998

He just mentions her conversion, in passing, as he discusses, in his book, the deathbed conversion to Judaism of Ekin’s father, legendary Hollywood stuntman Bud Ekins (1930-2007).

A short excerpt from Bud Ekins’ New York Times obituary lets you know who he was:

Ekins worked in films for 20 years…he is best known for [stunt doubling] Steve McQueen in that spine-tingling, if not vertebrae crunching leap to freedom while on the run from a German P.O.W. camp in The Great Escape (1963)… His harrowing stunts included two in the 1968 crime-thriller Bullitt, again as Mr. McQueen’s double and as an innocent stranger. In one, he lays down his bike in front of a skidding truck. In the other he drives a Ford Mustang in a 10-minute chase, soaring over the crests of San Francisco streets. [Ekins also rode the motorcycle up the stairs in Animal House and did the most dangerous bike stunts for TV’s CHiPs.]

Jerry Weintraub describes the very unusual circumstances of Bud Ekins’ conversion in his book. Here’s most of what he has to say:

Bud was an older man when I knew him, ailing from a life of machines, whiskey, and cigarettes…He was a Catholic, so a priest went into his hospital room, but he did not want a priest. I asked him why. He said, “Because I don’t want to confess all the shit I did, that’s why.” He [Bud] asked about rabbis, “When they come, do you have to tell them everything?” “Nah,” I said, you don’t have to tell them anything.” Soon after that [Bud] told me he wanted to convert to Judaism. “‘Cause you’re a Jew and Susie is a Jew”…”And I figure I’m whatever you guys are. Also the confession stuff.” I [Jerry] gave a eulogy at Bud’s funeral. I spoke of how he had decided to become a Jew. Many of the mourners looked confused. These were stuntmen and bikers, hundreds of tough guys with long hair and leather coats, giant guys named Tiny. “Let me explain why he [Bud] became a Jew,” [Jerry] said [in his eulogy]… [He became a Jew] “because Bud Ekins did not want to confess his sins.” With that, the stuntmen and bikers went wild, hooting and cheering, a good send off for a great man.

I am quite sure most rabbis and most priests would have “issues” with Bud Ekins’ conversion. But there’s no denying that that it makes for one entertaining anecdote.

In modern Jewish practice, Jewish boys come of age at 13. When a boy comes of age, he is officially a Bar Mitzvah (“son of the commandments”). 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.”

Spiritual leader and teacher. Typically, but not always, leads a congregation.

Place of Jewish worship, referring to both the room where it occurs and the building where it occurs. Colloquially referred to as “temple.”

About Nate Bloom

>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 And feel free to comment below.