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Friday June 11, 2004

Celebrity Jews

by nate bloom

For the home players

Jewish celeb spotters, including home players, watch for little Jewish details in profiles. A few examples: Gwyneth Paltrow was more-or-less raised in her father’s Jewish faith. But which way is she moving? Well, she married a non-Jewish guy. (Not good.) She gave birth recently to a girl and named her Apple, but the “Jew clue” is that one of the baby’s middle names is “Blythe,” her mother’s name. (Not good: naming after a living person.) Finally, DreamWorks has just announced that Paltrow will star in a bio-pic on the legendary German actress Marlene Dietrich, who saved many Jewish friends and told Hitler to shove it when he offered her a blank check if she came back to Germany. (Not bad.)

What about Jake Gyllenhaal, who is really hot now because of the global warming blockbuster, “The Day After Tomorrow?” Jake’s mother is Jewish and a few years ago he said he considered himself “more Jewish than anything else.” (Pretty good.) Then last month a Malaysian paper profile said Jake was brought up Jewish, but is now a Buddhist. (Not good.) But in a London Times profile that came out almost the same day, he said he studied Buddhism in college under Uma Thurman’s father, but “I’m not a card-carrying Buddhist, but I do try to practice mindfulness.”

Meanwhile, Jake’s love interest in “Tomorrow” is the about-to-be-hot Emmy Rossum, who is Jewish. Rossum can now be seen on DVD in a good little 2003 film, “Passionada,” about Portuguese-Americans. It co-stars English Jewish actor Jason Isaacs (“Peter Pan”), who recently told an interviewer that the lack of Portuguese actors gave a “New York Jewish girl” (Rossum) her casting opportunity. (Good news.)

Hoppin’ along

Not that much has been heard from Saturday Night Live star Chris Kattan since he left the show the end of last year. However, he is just about to open in previews of the New York revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical, “Frogs,” starring Nathan Lane. It will run through September. A source close to Chris tells us that he spent some time re-evaluating his career after leaving SNL, but is happy with his decision to appear in “Frogs.” By the way, the Village Voice reports that at a recent SNL after-show cast party, Chris had to fend off the advances of Nicky “Thank God She’s Not Jewish” Hilton, saying “[she threw] herself all over Kattan like a Labels for Less suit.”

Chris has a somewhat exotic background. His Iraqi Jewish paternal grandfather served as courier for Lawrence of Arabia before coming to America. His father, Jerome Kattan, aka Kip King, is a leading voice actor and comedy teacher in Los Angeles. Chris’ Hungarian-born mother wasn’t born Jewish, and became a Buddhist years ago. Chris, however, considers himself Jewish.

Briefly noted

Mazel tov to actor Harvey Keitel, 65. He and his wife of three years, Israeli actress and filmmaker Daphna Kastner, 43, are expecting their first child together this summer ... Congrats to financial expert Suze Orman, who just won a daytime Emmy award. Orman is the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants … In the most over-the top quote of the week, Howard Stern compared Mel Karmazin, media giant Viacom’s recently resigned president, to Oskar Schindler. You see, Karmazin hired Stern when NBC fired Stern some years back for his raunchy style. Stern told his listeners, “If NBC was a concentration camp, then Mel was my Schindler.” Currently under heavy “decency” pressure by the FCC, Stern fears for his future without his “Schindler.”

Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at middleoftheroad1@aol.com.

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