Celebrity Jews in the news

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

dinosaurs rumble

Aerosmith and KISS, two aging but still very popular rock bands, play tonight at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. Their concert is part of a national tour. Aerosmith features the spare, powerful drumming of Joey Kramer, 53, who grew up in a middle-class home in the New York suburbs. He’s remarked that he had a tough time with anti-Semitic bullies in his high school. He moved to Boston in 1969 to study music and quickly hooked up with the rest of the guys in Aerosmith — Kramer, in fact, gave the band its name. Aerosmith’s history has been marked by ups-and-downs and every rock cliché about the excesses of sex and drugs could be applied to the band. Kramer did not stand apart from these problems. However, Kramer got help for his problems and regained his health as the band remarkably regained its popularity in the late 1990s.

By contrast, Gene Simmons of KISS says in his autobiography that he never used drugs or even got drunk. Simmons, 54, was born

in Israel, the

only child of a woman who was a Holocaust survivor. His father proved

to be a poor provider and his mother moved to America with Simmons in 1958. She busted her butt in a factory for years to provide an adequate, if not luxurious, upbringing for Simmons. He wrote that he could never use drugs, and endanger his life because of all his mother went through.

Unfortunately, the pedestal he puts his mother on does not seem to extend to other women. In 2002, Simmons was incredibly rude and sexist when interviewed by NPR radio host Terry Gross. Simmons’ conduct was a bit surprising because he has always ran KISS like a well-oiled business, he knows the importance of public relations, and he can be very charming when he wants to be. However, 30 years of women throwing themselves at Simmons because he is a “heavy metal god” apparently have affected his view of women in general — and Simmons exposed a very ugly side of himself in the Gross interview. We cannot imagine Simmons’ Jewish band mate, Paul Stanley, doing the same thing. He has long been known as the conciliator in the band.

tennis notes

I made a few mistakes in my Sept. 19 item about local hero Brad Gilbert. First, Gilbert began coaching Andre Agassi in 1994, not 1995, as stated. Second, I erroneously said that Gilbert and Andy Roddick parted company in 2002. The error was obvious in the context of the piece. However, it was Agassi to whom I was referring. Finally, Gilbert became Roddick’s coach in June 2003, not “early in the year,” as stated. By the way, the London Jewish Chronicle has just compiled its list of the 1,000 most-influential Jews in the world and Brad Gilbert is on it.

Also in the news is Angela Buxton, 68, an English Jew who is best remembered for winning the British and French Open doubles championships in 1956 with Althea Gibson. Gibson, a sports legend who died last month, was the first black player to win a major tennis title. Buxton told The Guardian, a British paper, that she and Gibson were drawn together by prejudice — it wasn’t easy for either a Jewish or a black player to find a doubles partner in the then-posh world of lawn tennis.

Tennis players made no money in the ’50s and Gibson’s finances worsened over the years. In 1992, she suffered a stroke. A few years later, Gibson called Buxton and told her she was on the brink of suicide. Gibson was living on welfare and unable to pay for rent or medication. (Gibson had written to various tennis bodies for help; none of them replied). Buxton arranged for a letter to appear in a tennis magazine and the response was incredible.

Buxton told Gibson nothing about the letter, but Gibson figured it out when her mailbox started to bulge with envelopes full of checks from around the world. Eventually nearly $1 million came in and Buxton was kept very busy opening the envelopes for Gibson. Buxton, we should add, has been very active in helping Israeli tennis players, too.

Buxton has been trying to get a film made about their triumph. So far, Hollywood has sat on the project, although a book about the pair will appear next year. Oscar-winning writer Frederic Raphael has worked on a new screenplay.

Nate Bloom is the Oakland-based editor of www.Jewhoo.com.

Nate Bloom

Nate Bloom writes the "Celebrity Jews" column for J.