Celebrity jews

At the movies

Emeric Pressburger

“The Tales of Hoffmann,” a 1951 color classic that’s been restored to a better-than-its-original version, opens in San Francisco on Friday, June 5. The film was co-directed by the British team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (1902-1988). They also made such classics as “The Red Shoes” and “Black Narcissus.” The New York Times described the restored film as “an audacious essay in film fantasy … crazy, twee, camp, exhilarating, trite, bold. … This film belongs to a bewildering number of categories. It’s lip-sync opera, multilayered meta-theater (indeed, a dizzyingly baroque exercise in overt artifice), kitsch extravaganza of luridly colored design and keenly musical ballet.”


The film is based on the 1881 operetta of the same name that was first performed four months after the death of its composer, Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880). The son of a German Jewish cantor and violinist, Offenbach settled in France, where he became one of the most popular 19th-century operetta composers. There’s a historical dispute over whether he formally converted away from Judaism for his career, or he just let people think that he had.


Rock ’n’ roll news

Lou Reed

The rock band One Republic played Tel Aviv on May 28, despite pressure from proponents of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) not to perform in Israel. The five-member band from Colorado also toured the sights and sites of Jerusalem. The band has had great chart success since forming in 2003. They are probably best known for the song “Counting Stars.” It’s sold over 7 million copies since 2013 and the video has 800 million (!) views on YouTube.

The induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame took place in April. HBO broadcast the ceremony on May 30, with encore showings scheduled this month. You can also catch it on demand. The Jewish inductees included the legendary Lou Reed, who was 71 when he died in 2013, as a solo act. He was also inducted in 1996 as a member of the Velvet Underground, the seminal ’60s rock band that strongly influenced punk and alternative music for the next several decades. Also inducted was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a Chicago-based interracial band that played electric blues and featured two Jewish original band members (and Hall inductees). Mike Bloomfield (1943-1987) was a great guitarist who also played with Bob Dylan. Bloomfield once said of his affinity for the blues, “It’s a natural. Black people suffer externally in this country. Jewish people suffer internally. The suffering’s the mutual fulcrum for the blues.”

Mark Naftalin

The other “bluesy” tribesman is Mark Naftalin, 70, the Butterfield Band’s organist. Naftalin left the group in the late ’60s and settled in the Bay Area. Since 1979, he has been the host of “Mark Naftalin’s Blues Power Hour,” which airs on KALW-91.7 FM. I recently became aware of the Jewish background of another Hall inductee from the Bay Area: Cliff Burton, the original bassist for the heavy-metal band Metallica. Burton, who was born in 1962 and raised in Castro Valley, died in 1986 when the group’s tour bus overturned. He was inducted into the Hall in 2009, along with other Metallica members. Voted the ninth-best bassist of all time by Rolling Stone in 2011, Burton was the son of the late Janet Morgen Burton, a San Francisco native whose Jewish parents were both descended from pioneer-era German Jews.



Triple Crown alert

The Belmont Stakes, the third race in the Triple Crown, is being run around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6, with coverage beginning at 2 p.m. on NBC. American Pharoah, who is owned by Egyptian-born Orthodox Jew Ahmed Zayat, 73, is vying to become the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown.


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

Nate Bloom

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