In Hollywood, Calif., the answer may just be that tonight isn’t so different from all other nights, after all. For the entertainment industry’s sizable Jewish contingent, Passover is as much an excuse for rambunctious partying and shameless deal-making as it is for solemn reflection on the Israelites’ emancipation.
The hottest ticket in town — according to an in-depth exposé of the phenomenon that appeared in the New York Observer this week — is the Seder held each year at the Beverly Hills home of music mogul Guy Oseary. Dubbed “the seminal power Seder” by those who keep track of such things, the gathering has attracted everyone from Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis to comedian Chris Rock and even Madonna, who reportedly peppered her version of the Four Questions with Kabbalah references.
Over in the Valley — on all other nights strictly no-go territory for industry cognoscenti — a mix of celebs that includes Larry David and Sandra Bernhard gather for television producer Larry Einhorn’s musical Passover celebration. Guests are encouraged to rewrite show tunes and to introduce Passover themes, such as “ Afikomen !” (sung to the title tune of “Oklahoma!”) and “There’s No Seder Like Our Seder” (“There’s No Business Like Show Business,” from “Annie Get Your Gun”).
“If I was back at my parents’ house and we did this,” Einhorn told the Observer, “people would probably say this is a little disrespectful. But here — is our group a little more hip? I guess we think so.”
Jeffrey Zarnow certainly thinks so. The former producer prides himself on the “debaucherous affair” he hosts every year at his West Hollywood apartment. The evening, which features a blaring rock ’n’ roll soundtrack and tasty milk-and-honey cocktails, is unabashedly interfaith — despite Zarnow’s insistence on reading from the Haggadah in Hebrew. A mix of studio executives and talent agents mingle with Jewish-curious actors such as Matthew McConaughey.
Producer Peter Guber, who ran Paramount Pictures in the 1970s, has decided to eschew the more Bacchanalian productions in favor of something more sedate and spiritual. “I turned it into a circus,” Guber said of his wild Passovers past. “I realized it had become something other than what it was supposed to be.”
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Israeli Web surfers in search of some online titillation recently received a decidedly un-sexy surprise at the hands of a group of ultra-Orthodox hackers. Instead of steamy shots of women in various states of undress, visitors to numerous Israeli pornographic sites were treated to the stern, white-bearded visage of Menachem Schneerson, the late Lubavitcher rebbe.
Taking responsibility for this peculiar brand of Web vigilantism was a previously unknown religious group dubbed “Da-Net.” The group decries the X-rated content of the sites as an “abomination” that leads to “death, trouble, and calamity.” In addition to posting the image of the Lubavitch movement’s late leader, Da-Net includes a message reminding potential sinners of the Torah’s injunction against onanism — a violation that the hackers claim can cause “disease and misfortune.”
So far the group has targeted only pornographic sites operating in Israel, according to Yediot Aharonot. There are about 40 such sites, although the so-called “sex-commando” has hacked into only a handful of them.
Joking that the group’s puritanical campaign may have an unintended effect, “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update co-anchor Tina Fey said that while 99% of those visiting the affected sites are likely to be turned off by the deceased rebbe’s photo, somewhere there is a 1% minority that will react to the unexpected image with the cry “Jackpot!”