A dapper Steve Buscemi, who portrays corrupt city official Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in HBO’s luminous series “Boardwalk Empire,” and his wife, artist, filmmaker and choreographer Jo Andres, faced the photographers with grace as hosts of the 10th anniversary gala benefit of Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, held September 20 at New York’s Prince George Ballroom. Honoree Fisher Stevens, director of John Leguizamo’s “Ghetto Klown” and co-producer of the Academy Award winning 2009 documentary feature “The Cove,” accepted the Visionary Filmmaker Award from Leguizamo. The one-man show opened on Broadway on March 22 and is now playing in Los Angeles. Reel Works, which recruits students from Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan schools, is the only youth filmmaking program that matches each student with a professional filmmaker for one-on-one mentoring.
One of the six student filmmakers competing for Reel Works’ F. John Outcalt Award for Outstanding Filmmaking was 17-year-old Ileen Gutgarts, a senior at Midwood High School, who told me: “My mom is from Lubov in the Ukraine; my father is from Minsk, Belarus, my grandmother is from Moscow and both my grandparents speak Yiddish. I went to Hebrew school at F.R.E.E. of Brighton Beach — The Jewish Russian Community Center.”
She explained, “My film short, ‘A Euphoric Relationship,’ was meant to define what love is all about [and] was partially based on my own experience. The hardest part is the editing. A movie is nothing until you are building it up like an architect.”
When I asked Gutgarts if she plans to be a filmmaker, she replied, “No, I hope to become a pediatric oncologist.”
During my pre-dinner chat with Buscemi, I mentioned that I knew Allen Lewis Rickman, who portrayed the somewhat sleazy womanizer George Baxter in episodes two and 12 of the first season of “Boardwalk Empire.” I also commented about how uniquely each episode is graced and defined by a musical selection from the Prohibition era. The first episode of the second season of “Boardwalk Empire,” for example, opens with the Irving Berlin 1920 gem “After You Get What you Want, You Don’t Want It.” Another “Boardwalk episode showcases “Don’t Put a Tax on Beautiful Girls,” which was written by Jack Yellen with music by Milton Ager. Yellin also wrote the lyrics for the tearjerker “My Yidishe Mame,” which was originally sung by Sophie Tucker and was later part of the Barry Sisters’ repertoire.
When I passed on Buscemi’s regards the next morning, Rickman — who is as adept on the Yiddish stage, and whose filmography includes the character Velvel, the shtetl husband in the Ethan and Joel Coen film “A Serious Man” — said, “I was the Yiddish coach for several [“Boardwalk”] episodes.
“My grandmother Sarah would be about 140 years old if she was alive today,” said Sharon Marantz Walsh, chair of the National Osteoporosis Foundation’s “A Gift From Mothers to Daughters” luncheon, held September 26 at The Pierre. She continued, “My grandmother refused to marry the man her parents chose for her. Today we celebrate family and building better bones for life. For the first time in history, we have the opportunity to prevent and treat a disease that is affecting one in two women and up to one in four men.” Honoree Freda Lewis-Hall, chief medical officer at Pfizer and a member of the Board of Fellows of Harvard Medical School, declared: “Osteoporosis is a thief! Women live longer, but [bedridden] women take longer to die. The greatest gift a mother can give to her children is to teach them about health.” Hall was included on Black Health magazine’s list of the 25 most influential African Americans in health care. Also honored was Lisa Oz — writer producer, businesswoman and mother of four — who said: “My two passions in life are health and relationships. I learned everything from my mother. Most of what Mehmet [her husband, known as Dr. Oz] knows, he learned from my mother. The real problem with longevity is frailty — osteoporosis. You can’t function.”
NOF’S national honorary committee chair, Gail Sheehy, journalist and author of the best-seller “Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life” (E.P. Dutton, 1976) said: “My grandmother knew nothing about osteoporosis, though she swam. Her hips turned to powder.” She then mentioned another relative, who “lugged rocks to build a garden” and never developed osteoporosis. “After menopause there is a five- to seven-year accelerated bone loss,” Sheehy said. She then urged: “Work out! Thirty minutes, three times a week — run or walk! Take Vitamin D.”
I later asked Marantz Walsh to elaborate on the story about her grandmother refusing to marry the man her parents picked for her. “My bubbe Sarah Becker was born in 1878 and died in 1971. She came from a small town in Russia where marriages were prearranged. She wanted to marry the handsome boy down the road but her parents would not permit it. So, when suitors came to call, my grandmother would dust her face and long hair with flour, enter the room and for added effect start banging her head against the wall. Rather than perpetuate a scandal, her parents gave in since they had other daughters to marry off. [In Europe] she married my grandfather William Toff [whose Yiddish name was Avigdor Chaim], who changed the name to Taub in the United States. Several years later she took her six little children, one samovar and one pair of silver candlesticks, crawled through a forest at night and got to the ship [the S.S. Rotterdam] that brought her and her children to America.” After a pause, she said, “I told you before that my grandmother read The Forward every day of her life in America.”