Putting Zorba in His Place


By Masha Leon

Published May 26, 2006, issue of May 26, 2006.
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Fran Weissler, producer of “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Gypsy” and “Chicago,” received the Spirit of Achievement Award on May 2 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University National Women’s Division-New York Chapter luncheon, held at The Waldorf-Astoria. She recalled: “In 1983, Barry [Weissler, her husband] and I produced ‘Zorba’ [based on the 1964 movie “Zorba the Greek”]. I gave its star, Anthony Quinn, a note in his dressing room.” But Quinn would not even look at the note. “‘Thank you,’ Anthony said. ‘I’ll discuss it with Barry.’ He was a chauvinist!”

In an attempt to improve her relationship with Quinn, Weissler invited him to lunch at the Russian Tea Room. “‘Where’s Barry?’ Quinn asked when he saw me sitting alone at the table. As he turned to leave, I grabbed him by his shirttail. ‘Please sit with me!’ He was fuming! ‘I wonder if you could give me the little respect I give you,’ I said to him.”

The two dined; when they were done, Quinn reached for the check. “Why?” Weissler asked him. “Because I’m the man!” he answered. In what may be the neatest gender-equalizing riposte of all time, Weissler replied to Quinn, “You may be the man, but I am your boss!”

Other award recipients included Candace Bushnell, whose New York Observer column, “Sex and the City,” evolved into a best-selling novel that spawned the HBO hit of the same title; and Nina Zagat, co-chair and co-founder with husband Tim of the Zagat Survey, the world’s leading provider of consumer survey-based dining, travel and leisure information. Richard Joel, Yeshiva University’s president, introduced me to Dr. Allen Spiegel, incoming dean of Einstein College of Medicine. Spiegel told me: “My prospective wife’s ability to read the Yiddish heading of the Forward convinced my [Lodz-born, Auschwitz survivor] parents that she was indeed Jewish!”

* * *

“It was a coup!” kvelled Dr. Arnold Richards, former editor of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. “We managed to get 350 members of the five societies of the International Psychoanalytic Association together for the May 6 gala celebrating Sigmund Freud’s 150th birthday anniversary!” The crush at Manhattan’s Neue Gallerie included members of the New York Freudian Society, the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, The Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine, the New York Psychoanalytic Society and the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Above the din of professional chatter, I overheard conversations about plumber traumas, kitchen renovation disasters and airplane ticket snafus. A museum docent valiantly attempted to convey the nuances of the 60 remarkable Paul Klee paintings and drawings on display, one of which — “Monument Under Construction,” formerly owned by Ernest Hemingway — is now part of the Judy and Michael Steinhardt collection.

In the main gallery, event co-chair Richards (also a board member of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which occupied the building from 1952 to 1994), informed: “Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856, in the small Moravian town of Frieberg, son of Jacob and Amalie Freud, named Sigismund Schlomo — after his father’s father, Schlomo.” Freud’s birthday is being celebrated with conferences, journals and books the world over. This fall, the Center for Jewish History will host a conference on Freud’s Viennese and Jewish roots, sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institute and by YIVO (YIVO’s 1930s board of trustees roster included Freud as well as Albert Einstein). Noting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomerg proclaimed May 6 Sigmund Freud Day, Richards declared, “Anyone familiar with the work of Woody Allen could tell you that New York City has long been a leading center of psychoanalysis.”

* * *

“There are only 100,000 left who remember the [1948] War of Independence. For the rest, it is just history,” said Efraim Halevy, former director of Israel’s intelligence agency and guest speaker at the April 27 Israel Bonds dinner, held at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue. Halevy’s book, “Man in the Shadows: Inside the Middle East Crisis With a Man Who Led the Mossad” (St. Martin’s Press), was published recently. Asked why it was published in English first instead of in Hebrew, London-born Halevy replied, with British aplomb: “My audience is not a local audience…. I wanted to send a message [explaining] what makes us tick. The book will be translated into Hebrew as well as French, Spanish, Hungarian and Japanese.” Asked what his proudest moments in the Mossad were, Halevy replied, “Rescuing Jews in distress — from Iraq, Morocco, Ethiopia.”

“The main threats to stability are international Muslim terror and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” Halevy cautioned. “We are in the throes of World War III.” Asked about “inside information” regarding the Mossad, he politely declined to offer any, adding: “I hate to say it, [but] had there not been a 9/11 you would not have a Patriot Act…. A free society has to grapple with how to sensitize the public to understand what is at stake…. [The] terrorists thought the unthinkable.” The dinner’s honorees were the synagogue’s cantor, Joseph Malovany, and his wife, Beatrice.

* * *

On May 9, Temple Israel of Great Neck launched its first annual Lillian Schiowitz Memorial Lecture Series with guest speaker Deborah Lipstadt, author of “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” (originally published in 1993 by Free Press) and “History on Trial: My Day In Court With David Irving” (Ecco, 2005) Lipstadt labeled Irving, a British historian, as “the most dangerous of [Holocaust] deniers; he knew the truth, but bent it to fit his own notions.” Lipstadt chronicled her historic battle to bring Irving to trial with the support of solicitor Anthony Julius, who, Lipstadt said, “brought down the House of Windsor” when he defended Princess Diana in her divorce suit. She addressed Irving’s spin on the bombing of Dresden — that it was of no military import to the war and that casualties numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Lipstadt stated: “There had been 127 factories manufacturing hardware for the Luftwaffe, and each day trainloads of 10,000 German officers and soldiers passed through the city,” and civilian casualties “according to German estimates, were in the 25-35,000 range.” Another surprise was her comment that in his 1969 best seller, “Slaughter-house Five,” Kurt Vonnegut used David Irving’s material!

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