Celebrity jews

On TV: AmfAR, Kennedy Honors

“The Battle of AmfAR,” which premiered on HBO this week (with encore showings this month), is a 40-minute film by Oscar-winning San Francisco–based documentary makers Rob Epstein, 58, and Jeffrey Friedman, 62, that provides a remarkably cogent overview of the history of the AIDS crisis. It focuses on the role of Dr. Mathilde Krim, now 87, and actress Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) in creating amfAR, the first and most important foundation for AIDS research, in 1985. As depicted, Krim and Taylor brought unique gifts to the fight to garner public and private resources to find AIDS therapies and help HIV-positive people. Not in the film: Both women also had longtime empathy for the Jewish people and Zionism, and both converted to Judaism before their 30th birthday.

Billy Joel

The gala celebrating the 2013 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, for lifetime achievement in the arts, was held on Dec. 8. The event will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Dec. 29 on CBS. The 2013 honorees are opera singer Martina Arroyo, jazz musician-composer Herbie Hancock, actress Shirley MacLaine, musician-songwriter Carlos Santana and singer-songwriter Billy Joel, 64.

MacLaine, who isn’t Jewish, played a loveable Jewish Bronx beatnik in “Two for the Seesaw” (1962) and a dignified Jewish grandma in “In Her Shoes” (2005). In a “Shoes” interview, she noted that she always admired the way Jewish women spoke up for themselves. Santana, 66, has lived in the Bay Area since 1959, and his path to stardom was much aided by his late, great friend, the music impresario Bill Graham. In 2001, J. reported that Santana lit a candle on the giant Union Square Hanukkah menorah. But the Jewish community’s affection for Santana cooled in 2010 when he canceled a concert in Israel, reportedly due to pressure from anti-Israel groups.

Joel, always secular, is the son of a German Jewish refugee father and an American Jewish mother. He recently announced that in 2014 he will play a concert every month at Madison Square Garden.


‘Anchorman’ and ‘Mary Poppins’

The 2004 satire “Anchorman,” starring Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, a pompous TV newsman, was a surprise hit and is now considered a comedy classic. The sequel, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Continues,” opens Wednesday, Dec. 18. It reunites Burgundy and his crew of goofy news colleagues, including Paul Rudd, 44. More serious is “American Hustle,” directed and co-written by David O. Russell, 55 (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Christian Bale stars as Irving Rosenfeld, a brilliant con man forced by the FBI to ensnare some corrupt politicians. Jennifer Lawrence plays Irving’s wife, with Amy Adams as his mistress. It opens widely on Dec. 20.

B.J. Novak

Opening the same day is “Saving Mr. Banks,” which purports to tell the true story of how the author of the “Mary Poppins” children’s books, Brit P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), was cajoled into giving Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) the right to make a “Mary Poppins” film. In 1964 Disney brought Travers to Hollywood where she met with, among others, the young songwriting team Richard Sherman, now 85, and his brother, Robert Sherman (1925-2012). They are played by Jason Schwartzman, 33, and B.J. Novak, 34, respectively. These two actors sing the Sherman brothers’ Oscar-winning “Mary Poppins” song “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”


Almost married

On Nov. 17, actress Francesca Eastwood, 20, the daughter of Clint Eastwood, 83, wed music manager Jordan Feldstein, 35, the brother of actor Jonah Hill, 29, before an Elvis impersonator. She moved a week later to annul the marriage because the two were drunk when they said their vows. Feldstein belongs to the Los Angeles–based “Bris Pack of Jewish showbizzers” with his lifelong friend Adam Levine, 34.

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

Nate Bloom

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