Sex in the city, along with pity

Ellen Futterman

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Not long before Steve Friedman left his hometown of St. Louis in 1992 to take an editor’s job in Manhattan with GQ (he had been fired from the helm of St. Louis Magazine, though it won several big awards during his tenure), he threw a party at his apartment. The guest list included a few of his guy friends and about 15 or so women. Of the women present, his friend Hilda and I quickly figured out we were the only two who had not known Steve (Ladue Horton Watkins Class of ’73) in the “carnal” sense.

I mention this because – and I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school – Steve was what my mother would call “a ladies man.” Others might call him a cad. I tended toward “serial monogamist,” though I’m not sure anyone who serially breaks up with women after a few months of dating qualifies as a “monogamist.”

Of course that was 20 years ago. In fairness to Steve, who remains a friend, surely he must have matured over the years, at least where relationships are concerned.

But then I would be wrong, and Steve would be the first to admit as much. In his recently published “Lost on Treasure Island: A Memoir of Longing, Love, and Lousy Choices in New York City” (Arcade Publishing, $24.95), Steve chronicles his misadventures working for a boss he can’t impress and trolling for “the future Mrs. Friedman.” The latter has him capitalizing on his position as GQ’s grooming editor with pretty PR women who eagerly swap sex for product reviews in the magazine. Later in the book we find him attending 12-step meetings (he notes early on that he’s a recovering addict) as a way to meet babes.

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The book has gotten a fair amount of critical feedback, both good and bad. One reviewer described it as a male version of “The Devil Wears Prada” while another likened it to “Eat, Pray, Love” but “in a guy’s voice, subtract the international travel and cuisine, thin out the epiphanies, and add a heavier dose of sarcasm.”

As a friend, I’m not about to review or judge it. OK, maybe just a little. While some of the antics here fall south of sleazy, not to mention journalistically questionable, I found the memoir unflinchingly candid, and as hilarious as it was maddening.

My armchair analysis of Steve, who, by the way, is still ostensibly searching for Mrs. Friedman, is that he uses humor as a way of emotionally distancing himself, especially from women. He is a master of self-deprecation. That is evident in the memoir. But so, too, is his own vulnerability, as he lays out his last two decades of life in New York, highlights and warts.

I told Steve as much after I finished the book. In typical Steve Friedman fashion, he told me to write whatever I wanted as long as I mentioned he was “broodingly handsome.”

Coming-of-age, Jewishly?

“Terri,” now showing at the Tivoli, is a unique coming-of-age story that centers on the film’s namesake, an obese teen loner who lives with his addled uncle (played by Creed Bratton of “The Office”) and routinely wears pajamas to school. Although the indie film has nothing to do with religion, it was directed by Azazel Jacobs, 38, who happens to be Jewish. Hence, probably why the Jewish Light was offered an interview with him.

Jacobs and I spoke recently about the film, which unfolds slowly, like real life in real time, as it tells how Terri (Jacob Wysocki, in a notable debut performance) connects with a small group of fellow outcasts: scrawny Chad (Bridger Zadina), a messed-up kid who’s constantly pulling at his hair, and beautiful Heather (Olivia Crocicchia), who inappropriately uses her sex appeal as a way to be liked. Rounding out this group, and the ensemble cast, is the always-reliable John C. Reilly. He plays an assistant principal who takes an interest in Terri and his cadre of outsiders.

During our conversation I asked Jacobs if his religious background came into play while directing the film.

“That’s an interesting question and one I never really thought about,” he said. “I was brought up with a strong sense of what it means to be Jewish, more from the standpoint of who we are as a people and our ideals. I was brought up to value life and (to value) what people are and what we can do for each other and to each other.”

And while there isn’t an overt Jewish connection, “Terri” seems very true to Jacob’s upbringing as it shows how as people, Jewish or otherwise, we have more in common with one another than we often think.

“That’s what I hope audiences walk away with,” said Jacobs. “I hope they find something very familiar in this stranger that they can relate to.”

Calling all curls

A woman named Davida Aprons beat me to this great idea – hair conditioner targeted to Jewish women with curly hair called “Kosher Kurls.” The bottle, designed so the lettering looks like Hebrew, even suggests you “leave-in a schmear.”

The product is making the rounds at several national gift shows this month and will be featured at Kosherfest at the Meadowlands in New Jersey in November.

As a curly girl devotee to the DevaCurl line of products, I’m hesitant to jump ship, but I admit I’m curious and probably will give Kosher Kurls a try.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering how much a bottle costs . . . $18, of course. You also can order a sample for $5.

I just thought this was something I needed to share with my Kurlfriends.