Celebrity Jews

Bonne chance, Alexandra

The Miss Universe pageant, backed by Donald Trump, has soared in popularity. All 86 contestants will be in Los Angeles for the 2006 pageant, which NBC will telecast live on Sunday, July 23 at 9 p.m.

Last December, Alexandra Rosenfeld, a 20-year-old blonde beauty, was selected by a vote of TV viewers to represent France at the Miss Universe pageant.

In February 2006, Rosenfeld was one of many French Jewish celebrities — and some 200,000 “regular” people — who marched in Paris to protest the kidnapping and killing of Ilan Halimi, a young French Jew.

Bikini’s Jewish backstory

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the bikini. In June 1946, French Jewish fashion designer Jacques Heim introduced what he called the Atome — “the world’s smallest bathing suit.” However, on July 5, 1946, Louis Reard, a French engineer, had a Paris stripper pose before reporters in a very similar suit. Reard called his suit “the bikini,” and his name caught on. (Historians give equal credit to both men for inventing the bikini.)

In the 1920s and ’30s, Heim was an innovator who brought art deco and cubist motifs to fashion. He was harassed during the Nazi occupation of the early ’40s, but managed to stay in business by putting a non-Jewish “front man” in charge of his fashion house. In 1956, Heim made the bikini an international sensation when Brigitte Bardot wore one of his designs. (Heim’s grandson, also named Jacques Heim, is the director of the Diavolo Dance Theater, a well-known Los Angeles company).

In 1964, designer Rudi Gernreich, an Austrian Jewish refugee who settled in America, introduced the shocking “monokini” (just a bottom). Geinreich was joking with the monokini and never intended to make more than a few, but the press turned it into a big story. In 1971, Gernreich invented the thong — both the underwear and the thong bikini.

Sci-Fi premieres

The Sci-Fi channel premieres the original movie, “Stan Lee’s Lightspeed,” on Wednesday, July 26 at 9 p.m. Written by Marvel Comics’ Jewish founder Stan Lee, “Lightspeed” is another tale about a young man discovering he has superpowers.

Director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”) tries a comic twist on the hidden-superpowers theme in his new movie, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.” Luke Wilson plays a guy who tries to break up with his girlfriend (Uma Thurman) only to discover that she has superpowers and intends to use them to make his life miserable. The movie opens Friday, July 21.

Reitman hasn’t directed an unqualified hit movie in a long time. I hope this flick ends his dry streak, because he’s a mensch who gives a lot of time to the Jewish community.

Out of Centre

The Independent, a respected British paper, reports that Madonna is seriously thinking about leaving the cultish Kabbalah Centre — although nothing is certain yet. If she does leave, the Centre may go the way of pet rocks and finally be out of the news.

Britney Spears jumped ship earlier this year and new Centre acolyte and Madonna fan Lindsay Lohan is a fickle party girl. (If Madonna goes, she goes). If Madonna and Lohan leave, only Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore would remain as major Kabbalah celebs — and I don’t think they have the star power to replace Madonna as the “Grand Rebbe” of Hollywood nonsense “kabbalah.”

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at [email protected].

Nate Bloom

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