Obama on rye

On Nov. 21, President-elect Barack Obama, trailed by a phalanx of reporters and Secret Service agents, went into Manny’s Deli, a top Chicago Jewish eatery since 1942. He stood in the cafeteria-style line and ordered three corned beef sandwiches, three latkes and a slice of cherry pie — to go. Obama said that one of the sandwiches was for Rahm Emanuel, his new chief of staff. He declined the owner’s offer of a discount, and paid full price.

A regular at Manny’s, Obama frequently ate there with campaign strategist David Axelrod, recently named a senior White House adviser. During his whirlwind visit, Obama posed with owner Ken Raskin, who asked Obama to sign a photo of Obama eating lunch at Manny’s in 2004. “I’ve aged a bit since then,” Obama said as he smiled and sign the photo.

Chess match

“Cadillac Records,” opening Friday, Dec. 5, is the story of Chess Records, a label that first recorded many of the great Chicago-based black blues musicians and early black rock-and-roll stars. Chess Records was owned by Leonard and Phil Chess, who were born in Poland. Their impoverished Jewish family moved to Chicago in 1928.

As the movie opens, Leonard (played by Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, 35) is married to a nice Jewish woman (played by the luscious Emmanuelle Chriqui, 30). Over the next two decades, Chess makes discoveries such as Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Chuck Berry (Mos Def) and Etta James (Beyoncé Knowles).

Naomi Chodas, who wrote the 2000 biography “Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records,” says that it was impossible to decide whether the brothers exploited their black musicians. Some of the musicians thought they did, while others sang their praises. Almost all agreed that Leonard, who died in 1969 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, had a remarkable ear and that he was his artists’ bridge to success.

“Nobel Son,” also opening Friday, Dec. 5, is a tale of family dysfunction on a colossal scale. Bryan Greenberg (TV’s “October Road”) plays a young man whose father (Alan Rickman) wins the Nobel Prize in chemistry while he is struggling to finish his doctorate. Greenberg, 30, is kidnapped just as his father is about to get his Nobel Prize money. However, Rickman refuses to pay for his son’s ransom, setting into motion of tale of intrigue and revenge.

On the small screen

In February, the fourth season of “The Partridge Family” comes out on DVD. It includes an episode in which a seventh-grade Danny Partridge (played by actor Danny Bonaduce) is sweet on a rabbi’s daughter, so he lies and tells her and her father that the Partridge family is Jewish. He finally fesses up at a Shabbat dinner at the rabbi’s home, with the whole Partridge family in attendance. (The complete episode, called “Danny Converts,” can currently be seen on YouTube. Do a search on the episode’s title.)

In the episode, Danny Partridge exclaims with delight when he is served “real” wine at Shabbos dinner and asks for more. Ironic, since the adult Bonaduce has had a decades-long problem with drugs and alcohol and been arrested many times while under the influence.

Alan Colmes, 56, the liberal half of the Fox News program “Hannity and Colmes,” is leaving the show in the near future. He says he probably will stay with Fox News in some capacity, presumably as their house liberal.

Few commentators have had much nice to say about Colmes, who went from being an unknown stand-up comic to a small-time radio talk show host, and then on to his Fox show. He has been called a “liberal milquetoast” and a “straw man” who is always overawed by the conservative Sean Hannity.

On the Thursday, Dec. 11 episode of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” on KTVU channel 2, an Ivy League-educated rabbi competes for what a press release calls a $1 million Chanukah prize.

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

Nate Bloom

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