Celebrity Jews

Here for Chanukah


On Dec. 8, Matisyahu will light the Union Square menorah and kick off his annual “Festival of Light” tour. For the first time, the traditionally East Coast Chanukah celebration will start in San Francisco with an intimate acoustic show at the Nob Hill Masonic Center (http://tinyurl.com/matisyahu-nobhill). Matisyahu will play many of his hits, as well as songs from his acoustic CD “Spark Seeker,” to be released Jan. 15.

Matisyahu has released a new song, “Happy Hanukkah,” available on Spinner, iTunes, Amazon.com and Matisyahuworld.com. All proceeds from the rap-reggae mashup will be donated to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.


Hitchcock, the kosher connection

“Hitchcock,” which tells the love story of the famous director (played by Anthony Hopkins) and his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren), is also the story of the making of Hitchcock’s famous 1960 film “Psycho.” “Hitchcock” was set to open in 2013, but an advance screening resulted in such great reviews that the opening date was moved up to compete in the 2012 Oscars.

Here’s the 411 on the flick’s Jewish connections: “Psycho” was based on a novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. Hitchcock owed Paramount studio another film, but they didn’t want “Psycho” because of its gory content. As depicted in “Hitchcock,” Paramount head Barney Balaban (played by Richard Portnow, 65) finally agreed to distribute “Psycho” if the director would self-finance it. (Balaban was the uncle of actor Bob Balaban, 65). Greasing the deal was Hitchcock’s friend and agent, Lew Wasserman (played by Michael Stuhlbarg, 44).

Saul Bass (played by Wallace Langham), who revolutionized the design of film titles and corporate logos, not only did the “Psycho” titles, but he also did a shot-by-shot storyboard of the famous shower scene that Hitchcock employed as his directorial guide. Most film scholars give Bass the lion’s share of credit for the scene.

The “Psycho” cast depicted in “Hitchcock” includes star Janet Leigh (played by Scarlett Johansson, 27) and Martin Balsam (played by Richard Chassler, 40). Balsam played the police detective murdered by the psycho Norman Bates.

Bernard Hermann wrote the memorable “Psycho” score. Hitchcock himself later said, “33 percent of the effect of ‘Psycho’ was due to the music.”


Hunky Hebrews

Alex Karpovsky

People magazine’s annual “Sexiest Man Alive” issue hit newsstands last week. By my count, 19 Jewish guys are named — but there is an apparent hierarchy of “sexiness” indicated by the size of the guy’s photo. Honorees at the top, with full-body photos, are Jake Gyllenhaal, 31, Paul Rudd, 43, Max Greenfield, 32 (“New Girl”), singer Michael Bolton, 59, and Alex Karpovsky, a respected indie filmmaker. Karpovsky plays Ray Ploshansky on HBO’s “Girls.” Ray manages a coffee shop and is close friends with Charlie, a lead character. A recurring character in the first season, Ray will be a regular in the second season, which starts in January. Karpovsky’s parents are Russian Jewish immigrants; his father teaches computer science at Boston University.


Cool old-guy news

Mel Brooks, 86, gave a wonderfully funny and informative interview to the New Yorker that can be read online (http://tinyurl.com/mel-brooks-2012). The Nov. 13 interview was published in conjunction with the release of the boxed set “The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy.” It assembles odds and ends from his career, including classic interviews with Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson, sitcom appearances and several rarities.

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

Nate Bloom

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