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Friday Follies: Strangers Among Us

Friday Follies: Strangers Among Us

This will be the last time you can read my blog for free on this site. Starting next week I’m putting up a pay wall. The first 20 characters of each blog post will be free, with a $35 subscription required after that. If the Times can do it, why can’t I? I don’t have my own Times Square tower funded by tax breaks like they do, though I do have a Lego tower in my basement built partially with the help of Toys R Us Rewards. Both Suzlberger’s outfit and your blogger are tired of giving away the virtual cow for free. It’s time to sell some milk. The first 36 people to sign up for The Continuum Digital Subscription will get an all expense paid trip to the next J Street convention, a Theodor Bikel album and some shares in a nuclear power company.
The last time I saw Jody Foster in a movie, she was gunning down thugs and street punks and sticking up for the urban oppressed. Now life is imitating art, but in the Bizarro World. The actress once rescued by Travis Bickle is sticking up for her embattled past and present costar, Mel Gibson, saying he’s all misunderstood and stuff.
He is the most loved actor I have ever worked with on a movie," the actress and director tells the Hollywood Reporter. But she doesn’t pretend Mel never went into an anti-Semitic rant in the drunk tank. "[H]e’s not saintly, and he’s got a big mouth, and he’ll do gross things your nephew would do. But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my life … I know him in a very complex way. He’s a real person; he’s not a cardboard cutout. I know that he has troubles, and when you love somebody you don’t just walk away from them when they are struggling.”
Lets take Ms. Foster’s words as sincere, rather than assume that in promoting her new movie, “The Beaver,” in which she directed and stars with Gibson, coming March 23rd to a theater near you, she is hoping to resurrected the warm and fuzzy Mel that once did comedies. Jodie might see a less complex or less forgivable side of Mad Mel, though, if she were to crack open a bottle of Mcallan and work the Holocaust into the conversation.
Who knew Howard Stern had such a sensitive side? The man who has been lowering the bar of pop culture standards since I was in high school says in a new interview with Rolling Stone that he’s still trying to figure out where his first marriage to Allison Berns went bad. "It’s so complicated, and it’s hard for me even to figure out at this point what went wrong and how things that were so good could go so bad,” said Stern, now married to Beth Ostrowsky. “It’s tough. I think I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to analyze that."
I had the opportunity to be in the press pool in Stern’s studio at Sirius radio when his show launched there a few years ago and spoke to him briefly. What struck me is how, when the microphones are turned off for a break, Stern seems to transform into a more reserved persona than the one reading jokes off the prompter, only to switch moments later, right back into character the fans crave. That’s probably not much different than a lot of public personalities, including politicians. But given his on-air antics, you might expect his private life to be more Sheen-esque, but he seems to stay pretty low key and stable. One has to wonder if that dual life had something to do with the mystery of his earlier failed marriage. Hopefully by now he has learned to reconcile the two halves.
So what’s your Purim costume? Don’t tell anyone, but I’m going to a party as Chuck Noland, Tom Hanks’ character in the 2000 film “Cast Away,” one of my top five movies of all time. It’s easy, just some ripped clothes and a volleyball with a red handprint, but that’s not the only reason I chose Chuck.
There’s something very spiritual about that movie, not exactly tied into the theme of Purim, or even Judaism. But [spoileralert] in this film Chuck, assumed after four years lost at sea to be dead, gets to start his entire life over when he miraculously escapes from a deserted island. At one point a friend, who had buried some of Chuck’s belongings in a grave for closure, declares “Tomorrow, we’re going to bring you back to life.” It’s kind of Jesus-y, except for the fact that, while plenty of people are glad to see him, no one proclaims him a son of God. But after watching this movie how can you not appreciate everything you have and wonder, if you lost it all, what would you do to get it back? In Chuck’scase it’s too late in one important regard: The love of his life had moved on, married someone else and had a child. And he’s left with the reality that if he hadn’t been a workaholic and taken an unnecessary trip, fate would have been kinder.
At the end, when Chuck stands literally at a crossroads, trying to find out where in the world he still belongs, you realize that part of him was lost at sea, and he needs to figure out who he is now.
That’s part of what Purim is all about, taking account of what we almost lost and celebrating getting it back and, for many people, stepping outside their ordinary lives with a joyous celebration or a costume. As Billy Joel said, "they’re the faces of the stranger, how we love to try them on." But whether you’re Mel Gibson battling a bad rep, Howard Stern searching his soul or a shipwrecked FedEx executive, the trick is to find your way back home.
Happy Purim.
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