Last Saturday, I attended the 9th Annual Sugar and Stilettos Charitable Foundation’s Bake Sale Extravaganza. This organization benefits the Westside Food Bank, a wonderful food provider for agencies throughout Western Los Angeles County. No one should have to go hungry, and the Westside Food Bank turns every dollar they raise into five pounds of nutritious food. In 2017, the food bank was awarded the California Non-Profit of the Year.
At the bake sale, you could purchase delicious treats, donated items, breads, jams, jewelry, etc. with all profits going to the food bank. It was also a delight to stroll the grounds of this beautiful home in West Los Angeles. Lots of celebrities were present to support the cause, including actors Kurt Fuller and Ed Begley, Jr. For more information, visit sugarandstilettos.com, to see more photos of yesterday’s fun event, see my Flickr page here: flickr.com/joybennett.
Westside Food Bank also has a brunch fundraiser coming up next Saturday, May 18th with wonderful chef-created specialties, delicious mixed drinks, and more celebrity guests. For tickets and more information, visit wsfb.org.
I was very happy to attend the West Coast Premiere of the outstanding film Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival last night. This sold-out screening tells a moving and engaging story of a brave, intelligent dog Kaleb who is taken from his Jewish owners and is forced to work for the Nazis. Although this is a dramatic work, it is based on real history where Nazis often heartbreakingly forced Jews to give up their family dogs in wartime Germany.
If you love history and dogs, you will love this one. Often filmed creatively from the dog’s point of view, in actuality five dogs were used to convey the one role of Kaleb, based on each dog’s strengths and abilities. This is a well-told adventure story, with strong, heartfelt emotional impact.
After the screening, there was a fascinating director’s talk with writer/director Lynn Roth, led by Festival Director Hilary Helstein. Roth said she was always told not to work with kids and dogs. Here she did both! They had a very small budget, shot it in Hungary, on natural (not built) sets. Roth said consequently the film was very hard to make, but so worthwhile. August Maturo and other cast members also participated in the discussion.
August is an 11 year old actor who plays the dog owner. He is an outstanding actor, very natural, and despite his age, he carries the film.
Lainie Kazan, a good friend of the director’s, was kind enough to introduce the film. She is a well-known actor who appeared in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and many other roles on stage and screen.
All in all, a very entertaining and moving evening. The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival continues on through May 9th. For more information and tickets, visit lajfilmfest.org. For more photos of last night’s film screening and discussion, visit flickr.com/joybennett.
Last night I was thrilled to attend the Opening Night Gala of the 14th Annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. I arrived a bit early at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, site of the evening’s festivities. It’s a lovely theatre in Beverly Hills. I bounced around taking pictures, nibbling treats from Factor’s Deli, and waited excitedly near the red carpet area. Soon the guest of honor arrived, Peter Bogdanovich, the famous director of The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, and many other outstanding, award-winning films. He was awarded the Marvin Paige Hollywood Legacy Award later in the evening. Next it was time to sit down in the theatre where Hilary Helstein, Festival Director, opened the festival. She remarked that that very day was Holocaust Remembrance Day, very fitting timing.
She introduced Peter Bogdanovich, who recounted some amusing stories from his Hollywood experiences, including doing drop-dead imitations of both Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart.
Afterwards, the film Carl Laemmle premiered, by writer/director James Freedman, also in attendance. This film is a fascinating true story of the incredibly influential Carl Laemmle, who founded Universal Studios, produced hundreds of films, and was instrumental in creating the film industry that we know and love today. Even more remarkably, Mr. Laemmle also rescued over 300 families from Nazi Germany. Some of the descendants were in attendance at the festival. A fascinating story, highly recommended to anyone interested in the history of Hollywood and also the tireless efforts of Mr. Laemmle in helping hundreds escape oppression.
After the screening, writer/director James Freedman had a lively discussion with Stan Taffel, an actor and President of Cinecon Classic Film Festival about his film. Carl Laemmle is making the film festival rounds now and will be distributed this fall for general release. Mr. Freedman is also the director of Glickman, about the noteworthy athlete and sports broadcaster.
The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival is a well-curated, highly recommended festival that runs now through May 9th. Tickets and more information are available here: lajfilmfest.org. Lots more photos from the event are available on my Flickr page here: flickr.com/photos/joybennett.
I will also be attending the film Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog on Saturday, May 4 at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills. If you should spot me there, come up and say shalom!
Last Tuesday I was delighted to attend the Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel talk hosted by Live Talks Los Angeles at the Ann and Jerry Moss Theatre in Santa Monica. Barry is a widely popular, best-selling author and columnist who is now touring with a new book: “Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog.” Barry, author of Dave Barry Turns 40 and many other books and columns, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.
Alan Zweibel is an award-winning author and producer, and one of the original writers on Saturday Night Live. He also co-created and produced It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and others. He is the author of several books, including Bunny Bunny: A Sort Of Love Story about Gilda Radner; and for Saturday Night Live he wrote some of the iconic early sketches, such as John Belushi’s samurai delicatessen sketch, that are now classics.
Both were relaxed and naturally, easily amusing on-stage and, after their long friendship, displayed good-natured ribbing back and forth. Ted Habte-Gabr, the founder and producer of Live Talks LA — also a long-time friend of theirs, introduced the pair. Ted met Dave many years ago when running the speakers series at the University of Iowa as a student. Dave was an early guest. At that time, Dave was running for president, something he does habitually. His slogan “It’s Time We Demanded Less” has new meaning these days!
Alan and Dave met in Washington, D.C. at an after party when Steve Martin was given the Mark Twain Award. They are both in the band Rock Bottom Remainders, a band that is proudly terrible and composed mostly of fellow writers. Soon after meeting, the two collaborated on the book Lunatics, and other works, each while also separately developing their comic writing and books through the years.
Dave was raised Christian, and is not particularly religious now, but his wife and children are Jewish. Dave had a most amusing story about his grandson’s bris that left the audience in stitches. He also talked at length about his new book, Lessons from Lucy, saying what prompted him to write the book was that he turned 70 last year and his dog Lucy was 10, which is 70 in dog years. Lessons from his beloved pooch include letting go of anger, living in the moment, being kind to your loved ones, etc. Dave also discussed the last chapter of his book, which unlike the rest of his comic writing, turns quite poignant. He writes movingly of his daughter’s severe health struggles and paralysis shortly before entering college. Happily she has now recovered and is a student at Duke University.
Alan spoke proudly and humorously of his Jewish background; he was raised in the faith and continues to practice it as an adult. He started in comedy writing jokes for the Catskills comedians at $7 a joke. An early one is about the sperm bank. It’s the only bank where you actually lose interest after making a deposit!
Alan pursued comedy after not making it into law school, and met Billy Crystal early on and then Lorne Michaels, which led him to Saturday Night Live. An early joke he showed Michaels was about the post office making a commemorative stamp for prostitutes: It’s 10 cents a stamp, but if you want to lick it it’s 25 cents!
All in all, a lighthearted and very entertaining evening with two of the funniest friends on the planet.
Last night I was happy to visit one of my favorite Los Angeles clubs, The Mint, and heard some up and coming bands of note. First, there was Tilting at Windmills, an emerging young band with much promise. The lead singer/guitarist Alberto Nissim in particular was a ball of energy. Urgent, heartfelt lyrics and impressive guitar playing -- a band to keep an eye on!
Next there was The Mesh, tight musicians with a mellow, almost psychedelic rock vibe and a most appealing stage presence. Wonderful harmonies, too!
Finally I saw Dizzy Box Nine, pictured above. Their music is infectiously happy, energetic and upbeat, with good vibes that are contagious. Uplifting pop rock with a confident, smooth delivery. More photos of all three bands can be seen here: www.flickr.com/photos/joybennett. Information about The Mint can be found here: www.themintla.com.
On another topic, please note the wonderful Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival is coming back next month from May 2nd to May 9th. More tickets and information can be found here: lajfilmfest.org.