By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Last Tuesday Heeb intended to take Los Angeles by storm with a party at the Hollywood dance club Deep, a venue known for appearances by Baywatchcast members, not observant Jews. Tuesday also happened to be Holocaust Remembrance Day. Joshua Neuman, one of the magazine’s founding editors (music) and its new publisher, told me that this was a coincidence, though such mixing of the sacred, the profane and slutted-up clubgoers is exactly what the magazine is going for.
“The Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig talks about the distinction between philosophy’s obsession with studying the world and the practice of just studying life,” Neuman explained to me that morning. We were breakfasting at the Grafton Hotel on Sunset, poised above the hotel’s swank pool. Neuman, who dropped out of a Harvard graduate program and serves as an adjunct professor of philosophy at NYU, has pale skin and mussed hair. He wore glasses, ’80s-vintage athletic clothing and Diesel blue jeans. In other words, he is one part scholar, one part Beastie Boy. “At some point in my academic career I began to go through this thought process that mimicked the question Rosenzweig asked, ‘Why do you want to create these elaborate castles with your philosophy and live in the shack next door?’ I want a place for philosophy and thongs in my life, but in a crunch, I’d go with the thongs.”
“We have 400 RSVPs for tonight,” Neuman told me. “We have the World’s Worst Jewish Comedian. We have the rapper 50 Shekel. Our parties in New York are madness. I figure if New York is the Jerusalem of the West, then Los Angeles is Tel Aviv, so I think it’s going to be something great.”
But at 9 p.m. that evening, there were only a dozen people lined up at the door of Deep. By 10 there were perhaps six dozen inside the club, milling about the tables, picking at the gefilte fish and garlic-salted matzos that were strewn on the tables. Two of Heeb’s dirty dancers undulated behind glass in the stripper cages behind the bar. The World’s Worst Jewish Comedian, dressed in a deep-red shirt, yarmulke and tzitzit, told jokes. “So, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day,” he said, by way of setup. “I know you don’t think the Holocaust is funny, but it absolutely killedthem back in Poland.” Deep’s main room was packed, but the back rooms were empty. Right before his set, 50 Shekel, a scrawny white Jewish guy dressed as his namesake 50 Cent, could be seen alone in one of the VIP rooms with his fingers plugging up his ears. “Go, Voychek, it’s your birthday!” he would later sing, “We’re going to sip ’shevitzlike it’s your birthday.”
The turnout wasn’t disastrous — a good percentage of the attendees were sexy, brainy, slutted-up Jewesses. (Not so many thongs.) There were even people looking to make deals. A voluble bald man in clunky black glasses and a gray suit handed out dual business cards, one for his day job at the Jewish Federation, another for his event planning/promotional marketing sideline. However, this was nothing like New York where, last February, hundreds lined up in subzero conditions, trying and failing to get into Heeb’s launch party at a Lower East Side bar.
Neuman walked around the club with a look of stunned recognition on his face, contemplating how far the magazine had yet to go. So, does he still think Los Angeles is the Tel Aviv of the West?
“Maybe not,” he said. “Maybe Los Angeles is more like Haifa.”
Democratic Party fund-raisers used to be rousing working-class events where candidates would shake hands with ordinary Janes ’n’ Joes in a stinky union or veterans hall somewhere. And campaigning these days? Last week, presidential candidate John Kerry, through the miracle of teleconferencing, turned up at a Women for Kerry event via speakerphone at the home of Linda and Rabbi Robert ä Jacobs, inside the Woodland Hills gated community called Pinnacle Estates.
Quite a lovely home it was, with autographed Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe jerseys on the wall, as well as photos of Democrat heavyweights posed with various members of the Jacobs family. There were Bill and Hill, Jesse J. and, of course, John Kerry himself. But the largest of the party tributes was an enormous picture of John Kennedy throwing out a baseball. A nice balance — loyalty to Democrats ’n’ Dodgers in equal amounts.
At the appointed time, a group of female lawyers, software designers, political consultants and two older activists — only three men were in attendance — gathered in the Jacobs’ kitchen for the teleconferencing portion of the evening. It was somewhat like a Roosevelt “fireside chat,” except that in the old days, one didn’t have to sit on hold through wretched Muzak. When JFK2 eventually came on, the entire kitchen hung on the senator’s words carefully. As well they had to — unlike George W. Bush, Kerry spoke in unhalting, precise terms on virtually every major issue without a single pause. It was impressive, aimed-at-the-base stuff — no anti-choice judicial appointments, strong statements about renewable fuels nor even the Reaganesque “are you better off today than you were [insert the applicable duration]?”