HOPE AND LAUGHTER AT TWO ISRAEL CANCER RESEARCH FUND EVENTS
“Judith Leiber is carrying a Kate Spade bag!” joshed Benjamin Brafman, emcee at the recent Israel Cancer Research Fund Women of Action luncheon, at which Leiber — a Holocaust survivor and haute couture designer whose pocketbooks are owned by celebrities and royalty — was honored. The guests at the Mandarin Oriental, numbering more than 300, roared. Brafman, a criminal lawyer, was responding to ICRF honoree Saranne Rothberg’s observation: “Everyone can tell a joke.… I am living proof of what humor can do to improve the quality of life.” A stage-IV cancer survivor, Rothberg, founder of The ComedyCures Foundation, has helped tens of thousands of critically ill adults and children “rediscover their funny bones” through her laugh-rich inspirational performances. Also honored was Jacky Teplitzky, a former sergeant in the Israeli army. Teplitzky is now executive vice president of Prudential Douglas Elliman and is credited with selling more than $400 million in Manhattan properties.
“In Hebrew, you say ‘Hikar habriut’, which translates, ‘The main thing is health,’” Teplitzky said. “We usually say it casually…. [But] when my friend Nitsa, who was 42 years old, called me to let me know me she had cervical cancer, I really could not grasp it. Nitsa served in the intelligence unit in the Israeli army, and boy did she know how to read through people. I served as a trainer for the new recruits. We both sold Israel to the outside world, convincing people that Israel is not only the land of conflict but also the land of fun.… She died in 1998, the same year my son Sean was born.… He carries her last name as his middle name.… Now cancer has again appeared in our family, and we are struggling to understand and cope with it.”
At the September 3 ICRF Barbara S. Goodman Scientific Awards evening at the Paley Center for Media, Kenneth Goodman, former president of Forest Laboratories and chairman of this event (named in honor of his wife, Barbara Goodman, who in 2002 lost her battle with pancreatic cancer at age 52) — touted the ICRF: This is a cause “that has already resulted in treatments that have saved lives.” Guest speaker Carol Prives, a Columbia University professor of biological sciences, touted “Israeli scientists [for] making great contributions to cancer research way beyond their numbers.… The cancer research grants in Israel are on a par with the best in the U.S.” Detailing some of the basic cell research that ICRF grantees perform, ICRF chairman Dr. Yashar Hirshaut added, “We have found a way that is opening the door to the solution of cancer.”
There was the self-congratulatory pat-on-the-back vis-à-vis ICRF grant-supported professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover whose seminal work in cancer research was funded by the ICRF. Both are Israel’s first winners of the Nobel Prize in science. A feel-good highlight of the event was donors Jeffrey and Rochelle Canarick’s children, Marc and twins Lianne and Jay, who requested that in lieu of bar/bat mitzvah gifts, people donate to the ICRF.
A STELLAR HAMPTON EVENT CELEBRATES THE STELLA ADLER STUDIO OF ACTING
“This is a great and authentic theater school,” declared film director Sidney Lumet at the August 24 celebration of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. The celebration showcased the studio’s Outreach Division, which provides free actor training to inner-city youth. At the event, hosted by John Randolph “Bunky” Hearst Jr. at his Hamptons Watermill home, 100 guests gathered around the Hearsts’ new pool house overlooking a small orchard with a spectacular view down to the ocean. Passionate studio-booster Lumet declared, “This is four generations of a family involved in the theater, from [the Yiddish theater of] Jacob Adler to The Group Theatre to Stella and now with Tom [Oppenheim**], Stella’s grandson and the studio’s artistic director.”
Ellen Adler (Oppenheim’s mother and Stella Adler’s daughter), whom I think of as “The Keeper of the Flame,” thanked everyone “for being a part of this family.” Oppenheim vowed “to maintain the highest of standards in a world where commercialism reigns supreme,” adding, “The Stella Adler Studio of Acting will be a monument to humanity and great art.” Event co-host Brenda Scheider, whose husband, film star Roy Scheider (“Jaws”), was away on location, stated that she and her husband both believed in the “theater’s great capacity to convey truth” and in the “necessity of a theater that expresses big ideas and challenges the status quo.” Guests included writer James Lipton and actors Holland Taylor and **Joanna Gleason, the studio’s dean emeritus.
PAVAROTTI REMEMBERED BY FORMER CBS MASTERWORKS HEAD JOSEPH DASH
During our chat about the extraordinary career of tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who died September 6 of pancreatic cancer at 71, Joseph Dash, former head of CBS Masterworks, told me that in 1980, “shortly after I was appointed vice president and general manager of CBS Masterworks offices in Europe, we forged a co-production deal [for opera recordings] with Fonit-Cetra, a distinguished Italian record label. They got the Italian market, and we got the U.S. and other territories.” Dash received an unusual recording of “La Boheme,” “which had taken place in some provincial Italian theater.… The character Rudolfo was a very young Pavarotti” with the rest of the cast equally unknown. Dash noted: “My first question to them was, ‘Why was this recorded with a cast of unknown singers?’ The response was that ‘the father of the bass singing the role of Colline put up the funds for the taping. The father was [novelist] Vladimir Nabakov!… The son never had much of a career but Rudolfo [Pavarotti] did.… If not for a father’s love for his son, [that] performance might never have been immortalized.… I only met him once,” Dash said, recalling a 1980-81 birthday party that Cafe des Artistes restaurateur George Lang hosted for arts philanthropist Arthur Sackler.
Dash, one of those unique “productions” of the Bronx Jewish community, told me he was born on the Grand Concourse, which he described as “The then Champs Elysee” of the Bronx. “I had my bar mitzvah at the Jacob H. Schiff Center [synagogue], attended De Witt Clinton High School and got my B.A. at that great institution, City College.” He added: “I took a year of Yiddish, five hours a week, with [legendary] Max Weinreich” founder of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.