Stars of David — Jewish Celebrities
The Firefighter’s Son and More
“The King of Staten Island” was diverted from theaters to video-on-demand and premiered on June 12 to mixed reviews. Directed and co-written by JUDD APATOW, 52, it stars Pete Davidson (“SNL”) in a semi-autobiographical role. He plays Scott, a mid-20s weed-smoking slacker who was traumatized by the death of his New York City firefighter father on 9/11. In real life, Davidson’s firefighter father died on 9/11. His late father was of mostly Jewish ancestry. But he, and Pete, were raised Catholic.
Here’s the basic film set-up: Scott is jolted out of his “slackdom” when his mom (Marisa Tomei) begins dating Ray, a loudmouth firefighter whom Pete doesn’t like. The “tribe heavy” supporting cast includes MAUDE APATOW, 22, Judd’s daughter, as Claire, Scott’s sister; British actress BEL POWLEY, 28, as Kelsey, a childhood friend of Scott who secretly hooks-up with him. (Powley starred in the acclaimed film “Diary of a Teenage Girl”); PAMELA ADLON (“Better Things”), 53, as Gina, Ray’s ex-wife; and PAULINE CHALAMET, 28, as Joanne (a small role). She is the sister of actor TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET, 24.
A few footnotes: Steve Buscemi, 62, plays Papa, a veteran firefighter who takes Scott under his wing. Buscemi was a NYC firefighter from 1980-84. Right after 9/11, he took off his “actor hat” and worked at the World Trade Center site for four days, removing rubble. This was not that unusual: right after 9/11, the 70ish (Jewish) father of a friend of mine, a retired NYC firefighter, put on his old uniform and intended to drive to the 9/11 site and volunteer to help. My friend gently persuaded him that, given his age, this was not a prudent thing to do.
Streaming and other choices
The original HBO documentary “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” premieres on June 28. It is based on the best-selling book of the same name written by Michelle McNamara (1970-2016) and it chronicles her hunt for the “Golden State Killer” (a suspect was arrested in April 2018). The director is Emmy winner and Oscar nominee LIZ GARBUS, 50.
“The Vast of Night,” an original Amazon Prime film, started streaming on May 29. This small budget film, without any name actors, has got real buzz. It is rated 92% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. The British paper The Guardian gave it a long, glowing review. “Vast” is something of an homage to “The Twilight Zone.” A short summary: In the late 1950s, on one fateful night in New Mexico, a young, switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) and charismatic radio DJ Everett (JAKE HOROWITZ, 25) discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and the future forever.
The 2019 documentary “Bully. Coward. Victim: The Story of Roy Cohn” premieres on HBO on June 19. That date marks the 67th anniversary of the execution of JULIUS and ETHEL ROSENBERG for spying for Russia. They were the grandparents of IVY MEEROPOL, 52, the documentary’s filmmaker. Attorney and fixer ROY COHN (1927-1986) became best known as Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel during the McCarthy hearings, helping investigate supposed Communists and gays in government (Cohn was secretly gay himself). He also had a prominent role as a prosecutor in the Rosenberg case (Cohn has been accused of unethical conduct in the case, including improper secret meetings with the judge). Those interviewed for this film include writer TONY KUSHNER, 64. Cohn was a major character in “Angels of America,” Kushner’s Pulitzer’s winning two-part play. Cohn would also become an important mentor and attorney for real estate magnate (and now President) Donald Trump.
In some sense, ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955) was the polar opposite of Cohn. The Smithsonian Magazine website has just posted a two-minute colorized video of Einstein arriving in America after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1933 and relaxing with his wife and friends on Long Island. Just look on the home page for “Einstein’s Home Movies.”
Here is a “verified” Einstein quote that I think is as relevant today as it was in 1953 when Einstein said it at an event honoring the famous cellist Pablo Casals, a staunch enemy of fascism: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”