Celebrity Jews

Divine Miss M replaces Celine

It was just announced that Bette Midler will replace Celine Dion as the headliner at the huge Colosseum nightclub at Caesar’s Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. While Dion did more than 200 dates a year, Midler will “only” do about 100 dates. Indeed, it was the lighter schedule, she says, that encouraged her to take the job. Her first engagement begins Feb. 8, 2008, and seats are already going fast. (See Bettemidler.com for ticket info.)

I think Caesar’s made a great choice. Dion has a great singing voice, but Midler has more soul in her pupik (belly button) than Dion has in her whole body.

Dancing with Ziering

The ABC series “Dancing with the Stars” is a monster hit. Until Wednesday, May 15, Jewish actor Ian Ziering was one of four celebrity dancers who remained in the competition going into the semifinals. The finals are on Monday and Tuesday, May 21 and 22, at 8 p.m. Personally, I had hoped Ian would go all the way.

The show’s success has greatly increased the visibility of Samantha Harris, its lovely co-host. Harris, 33, was raised in a Reform Jewish home in Minnesota and was a bat mitzvah. She went to Northwestern University, where she acted and got a journalism degree. Harris then moved to Los Angeles, where she has acted in films, worked as a reporter for outlets like E! entertainment TV, and modeled for fitness magazines.

Harris told JVibe, a Jewish teen magazine, that her husband is Jewish and that they had a Jewish wedding presided over by the rabbi who confirmed her. The couple is now expecting its first child.

Shrek 3 on his way

“Shrek the Third,” the sequel to the two wildly successful animated “Shrek” films, opens Friday, May 18. In this installment, the lovable ogre Shrek tries to avoid becoming the king of the land of Far Far Away. CNN’s Larry King appears in “Shrek the Third” as the voice of Doris, a funny female character, and Maya Rudolph, the “Saturday Night Live” star whose father is Jewish, provides the voice of Rapunzel.

The series is based on the 1990 book “Shrek!” by Jewish author William Steig, who died in 2003 at age 96. “Shrek” is the Yiddish word for fear or loathing.

Wolffs leading the tween pack

A “mockumentary” comedy series on Nickelodeon cable, “The Naked Brothers Band,” is now the top-rated cable program in America for children age 6 to 11 (the so-called tween market). Launched in February, the show features real brothers Nat and Alex Wolff, 12 and 9 years old. “Naked” follows the boys’ rock band, their friends and their kiddie crushes.

The boys really do play instruments and are entertaining “naturals.” How they got on the air is a bit more complicated. Their dad is highly respected Jewish jazz pianist Michael Wolff. He met the boys’ mother, actress Polly Draper, when he was music director for Arsenio Hall’s talk show. Draper, whom I am virtually sure isn’t Jewish, is best known for co-starring as Ellen Warren on TV’s “thirtysomething.”

Inspired by their sons’ real-life band, Wolff and Draper made a comedy film about the boys in 2005, called “The Naked Brothers Band.” Nickelodeon execs loved the film, now out on DVD, and turned it into a TV series. Draper produces the TV show and Wolff plays the boys’ father on TV.

Michael Wolff told the Cleveland Jewish News that his family is “culturally Jewish” and that he, Draper and their sons celebrate Passover and Chanukah.