Hollywood producer Jerry Weintraub to headline Jewish Book Festival

Jerry Weintraub

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Legendary Hollywood movie and music producer cum author, Jerry Weintraub, will open the 32nd annual St. Louis Jewish Book Festival at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex on Sunday, Nov. 7th. The format will be a lively on-stage storytelling session with co-author Rich Cohen, who helped write Weintraub’s recent memoir, “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead.”

This year’s festival runs Nov. 7 through 18th with a pre-festival event, featuring Rabbi Harold Kushner, on Thursday, Oct. 28th ; a community-wide Kristallnacht Commemoration on Thursday, Nov. 4th featuring Tom Segev and Eric Metaxas and a post-festival family event on Sunday, Nov. 21st featuring children’s author Kate Feiffer.

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Among the more than 30 authors, comedians, journalist and world figures scheduled to appear at this year’s festival are Ambassador Nancy Brinker; Miss Manners Judith Martin; Abraham Foxman; Joan Nathan; Brad Meltzer; Judith Viorst; Len Berman; Cathleen Schine and Martin Fletcher.

As a longtime producer, Weintraub’s films include classics such as “Nashville,” “Diner,” “Oh, God!” and (the original) “The Karate Kid,” as well as the more recent “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Ocean’s Twelve,” and “Ocean’s Thirteen” movies and the new “The Karate Kid.” Together, these films have grossed billions of dollars worldwide.

Weintraub grew up in the Bronx and first got into “the business” as a manager and concert promoter, with a client list that included Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Neil Diamond, the Carpenters, the Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin. He is one of the few independent film producers to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He and Cohen, who also wrote “Tough Jews” and “Sweet and Low,” will share stories at the festival that have become the equivalent of Hollywood folktales. They also will take questions from the audience.

“I could tell you stories about Jerry, but Jerry is the first and best to tell them. He’s funny and grumpy and perfectly inappropriate,” said his pal George Clooney in the book. “When it comes to work, nobody works harder. When it comes to charities, nobody guilts better. And when it comes to friendship, he has no peers. That’s Jerry’s great talent. He doesn’t just light up a room, he lights it on fire. He’s a great producer, a great organizer, a great friend, and truly the greatest showman on earth.”

Festival Director Marcia Evers Levy said she has been trying since she first heard the book was being published to get Weintraub to the festival. Then she read the book and was smitten. She kept calling and was continually told no, the only publicity he was doing was with national media outlets.

“So I stopped calling for a while,” said Evers Levy, “and then a month or so ago, I went back to his people and said, ‘I know we haven’t talked in long time but I really, really liked the book and want him to come.’ There’s a story in his book that says to get Elvis he called every day for a solid year. Maybe I just wore them down because they finally said yes.”

After the keynote presentation at 5:30 p.m., Weintraub and Cohen will sign copies of the book, which will also be available for purchase in the festival bookstore. The two will then be the guests of honor at the festival’s gala patron event, which will take place later that evening.

“Not only has Jerry led a fascinating life, had a fabulous career and worked with hundreds of amazing people,” said Evers Levy, “he’s also written a terrific book. He has so many great stories to tell not only about Hollywood and his career but also his parents and the great love story they had. And Rich Cohen, who has been to the festival three or four times in the past, is a fan favorite. They’re an unbeatable package.”

Added 2010 festival co-chairs Gail Feldstein and Kitty Gross: “We are thrilled to present such an entertainment legend, and accomplished personality at this year’s festival. “We’re looking forward to a fabulous evening and even some surprises.”

Evers Levy also hinted at some surprises, including a special event with noted interior designer Jonathan Adler and an audience reading with psychic medium Rebecca Rosen. “That’s something we have never done before,” said Evers Levy.

Held annually in November, the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival has the largest attendance of any Jewish book festival in the United States. People attend author lectures and book signings; panel discussions; shop in the bookstore; and experience special events. For a complete schedule, visit www.stljewishlight.com.

St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

When: November 7-18

Where: Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur

Cost: $70 for a series pass; $95 for a series plus pass; $15-$36 for individual programs. Individual tickets for the opening keynote and patron gala with Jerry Weintraub, which includes a series ticket, are $195 a person; sponsorships begin at $600 and include two keynote and patron gala tickets and two series plus tickets. Pre-festival event with Rabbi Harold Kushner on Oct. 28 is $18.

More info: 314-442-3299 or go to www.stljewishbookfestival.org