Woman In Gold

Here is a film that not only recounts a compelling story, but delivers artistic results as well. It ranked high on my list for a number of reasons, least of which is the fact that the storyteller is my friend, Randy Schoenberg. The fact that I know Randy, knew him before, (I gave Pam and Randy their school tour at Sinai Akiba Academy),  and during this famous trial, made the viewing of this film extra special for me. But you do not have to know Randy in order to enjoy and learn from this film. It accomplishes all of that on its own. If you are not familiar with the story, then listen up. Maria Altmann, a friend of Randy’s grandmother, had one aunt, who just happened to be the subject of Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt’s famous painting, “Woman In Gold.”  It hung above the mantle in her home, which she shared with Maria’s family. Her husband, Maria’s uncle, commissioned Klimt. The Nazis stole it and many other works of art and jewels from Maria’s family as they occupied their home in the 1930’s when they marched into Vienna.

Fast forward almost 70 years later when Randy, then a struggling lawyer, is asked by his mother to assist Maria, a friend of the Schoenberg family, with a “small” matter. This matter involved recovering her stolen art now hanging on the walls of the Belvedere Museum in Vienna.  Randy took the case on contingency and sued the Austrian government.

Woman-in-Gold.jpg

Do not fear, I haven’t spoiled the film for you, there is so much more to this film than than meets the eye, so to speak.

There are many important things to like about this film, starting with Helen Mirren, who plays Maria, heart throb Ryan Reynolds, who plays Randy, (and yes Randy joked about that!), and Canadian actress, Tatiana Maslany who plays young Maria and speaks in fluent German! All of the performances are honest and tender, captivating and convincing.

I would recommend that you run not walk to this film. It is yet another incredulous Holocaust story.

 

With Randy Schoenberg at a recent screening of Woman in Gold.

With Randy Schoenberg at a recent screening of Woman in Gold.

The Hunting Ground

  Disgusted, saddened, frightened, shocked, dismayed, compelled to take action…these are only some of the words that come to mind when I recall how I felt after watching the documentary, “The Hunting Ground.”

  A film by producer Amy Ziering, who made last year’s  “The Invisible War,” this film cuts to the core as it exposes the rampant, frightening and much too often ignored issue of college campus rape. This pervasive violence is damaging our colleges while simultaneously destroying the lives of gifted, strong and smart young women and men. Yes, the issue of rape does not affect only women, but men as well.

  Amy Ziering began her career as a director, while a PhD student of Comparative Literature at Yale. Her first film, “Derrida,” followed the life and doctrines of modern day philosopher, Jacques Derrida. The film’s cult like following was a huge success in both Paris and London.

  Fast forward to 2012 and the documentary, “The Invisible War,” which broke the story of the epidemic of rape in our US military. It wasn’t until the film was screened on college campuses, that Ms. Ziering’s inbox overflowed with emails from college age women who told her that they, too, were victims of rape right on their college campuses. Ziering is the mother of three girls, two of which were college age at the time of the making of this film.

“I felt we could not not make this film -, there were too many pleas for help.”

  She and award winning director, Kirby Dick, (The Invisible War), set out on this journey together and the final product is this incredible and magnificent film.

I do not want to tell you every detail of the film. Suffice to say that there are compelling interviews, stories and many, many tears of pain and frustration. One of the most devastating aspects of these rapes, is the fact that the “big business” of college often sweeps the rape under the carpet, especially if it will affect the sports programs as well as the fan and fraternity alumni base. The colleges sited, and there are plenty, are all big name Universities that most of us have either attended or are sending our children to.

  I promise you that you will leave the theater armed with information you did not know, and will feel compelled to spread the word as I am doing with this article. The film is not in wide release, and will only be in theaters for another week. I urge you to see this film, regardless of whether or not you have a child in college. If you are a citizen of the world, it is your responsibility to both see and retell these young people's stories.

  As many of my readers know, I have two children. My son is a senior at USC, and my daughter, is a senior at Milken Community High School. I have a vested interest and will make sure that they both see this film.  All too often, these young women are told by the college deans that they “brought this on themselves,” or that they “should not discuss the incident with anyone.”  By seeing this film and spreading their story, we are giving these young people a voice. It is time for this to stop. Go see “The Hunting Ground”!

Free At Last

Me with Jo Bernard and our Go Commandos!

Me with Jo Bernard and our Go Commandos!

 Jo Bernard had a problem. Her pants were see-through and she couldn’t find the right under garment to wear that would not leave a visible panty line. “Why don’t you just go commando?” asked her “honey”. “I could never do that!” she retorted.

Fast forward 10 years, she is now the founder and CEO of Go Commandos patches, a fashion solution for women who want the freedom of an under garment that leaves no trace of itself.

The journey of Go Commandos was long and, you should pardon the pun, well worn.

After declaring herself a thong and bikini brief woman, Jo Ann’s honey and partner of more than a decade, clothing designer, BK Phillips, designed the perfect adhesive panty-free undergarment; it gives her and now thousands of women, the freedom to wear pants, jeans and workout wear, without the annoyance of crotch riding and bum bunching undies. After many road tests, he and Jo Ann came up with the perfect design and adhesive material.  

If you research the history of underwear, you will find that it should offer protection, act as a buffer, be absorbent and non abrasive. Go Commandos fits the bill perfectly. I must admit that after receiving a complimentary package in the mail last month, I was skeptical. I stared at the adorable packaging and super soft liners but could not bring myself to try them on for size. But as Jo Ann explained to me, it takes a few times and “they will become your next best habit.”

 At the time of our interview, I was wearing my Go Commandos, which was securely adhered to the crotch of my super skinny high rise black AG jeans. I felt comfortable and secure and knew that I would soon be addicted to this freedom undie. It was actually much more comfortable than my tried and true thong. I should disclose that unless I am wearing a dress in the summer, I almost never wear bikini underwear. Years ago, I got tired of yanking them back into place with every step that I took.

The thing about Go Commandos, is that it is much more hygenic than the thong. Without getting into graphic details, which I’m about to get into, there is no chance of transmitting bacteria from the rectum to the vagina or urethra as there is with the thong. Trust me, I’m a nurse, I know these things! Moreover, it is far more comfortable inside your slacks, jeans or leggings than a bikini brief. Made of the softest cotton, (there is even an organic variety), Go Commandos ergonomically fits into every pant crotch. It is incredibly simple to position and adhere, and you simply toss it at the end of the day.

Jo Ann told me that she has received a plethora of emails from women all over the country who have expressed their gratitude and appreciation. Many of these women, who suffer from chronic pelvic and vaginal diseases, have finally found an underwear replacement that they can wear without the discomfort of their previous underwear. From pregnant women to equestrians, athletes to fashionistas, women everywhere are abandoning their thongs and bikinis and embracing the freedom of Go Commandos.

There were some over-riding questions to which I needed answers. First was the cost. How could I justify the cost of disposable panties? When you consider that you spend more on a case of bottled water, coffee or panty liners, the answer becomes a no brainer. Secondly, what would you do if you wandered into a store and wanted to try on a pair of jeans or pants? Jo Ann packs a spare thong in her handbag for those occasions.

I have mentioned Go Commandos to a few of my friends and relatives. One of my friends, who is anxious to try them, thought they would be perfect to wear inside her Spanks. Go Commandos would free her up from having to wash the Spanks after every use which causes them to lose their elasticity.

Whatever your motivation, take it from this skeptic… they are for you. As Kramer said to Jerry (Seinfeld), when he went commando, “We’re out there, Jerry, and we’re lovin’ it!”

To get your own, visit the Go Commandos website!

 

Holiday Entertainment: Film and Theater

Into The Woods

What do you get when you mix a star studded cast, classic fairytales, and magnificent music together? An imaginative, beautiful and altogether fabulous film, called Into The Woods. The unstoppable Meryl Streep stars as the Witch, and is joined by an incredibly talented cast which includes, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, James Corden as the Baker, Chris Pine as Prince Charming, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Christine Baranski as the step mother, Tracey Ullman as Jack’s mother, and Johnny Depp as the Wolf. Even though I have seen the stage version several times including the original Broadway production of 1989, I felt that the story came alive in a much clearer way. The film is a beautiful spectacle of color and sound. Each performance resonates with an abundance of depth and emotion. There is much in the way of humor provided by the clever words of James Lapine and especially in the repartee between the two Princes. Of course, Tracey Ullman and Christine Baranski, adept at comedy, are at the top of their game here, and will keep you laughing. I am a sucker for musicals, but even if you don’t share my enthusiasm for this art form, I guarantee that you will enjoy this film and emerge from the theaters humming “Into the woods…!” Into The Woods opens Christmas Day.

 

The Elephant Man

TEMArtworkNew.jpg

For those of you who know Bradley Cooper as the handsome and hilarious cad in films like “The Wedding Crashers” and “The Hangover” trilogy, the troubled and mentally ill ex school teacher “Silver Linings Playbook” or the over zealous FBI agent in “American Hustle,” you have never seen him like he is in his current role as Joseph Merrick, the central character in the Broadway play “The Elephant Man.” I have known Bradley personally for about 18 years, having shared a manager together in New York. After meeting him for the first time, I recall very clearly telling Jeff, who was just beginning his career as a business manager, that Bradley was going to be a huge star one day. It was a moment of clairvoyance that has never shown itself to me since, but because I love being right, I tend to brag about it any chance that I can get! Indeed Bradley has become a huge star, and the line outside the Booth Theater’s stage door is just one example of his stardom. And yet, in spite of all the theatrical and film accolades, the Oscar Nominations and being dubbed People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, he is still Bradley-- sweet, kind, down to earth and unaffected by his celebrity. Above all, and most importantly, he is a doting son to his mom Gloria! Yet, it is Bradley’s intelligence and talent that provides the ability for him to take on an acting role and make that character his own. And he soars as Joseph Merrick, the Englishman afflicted with disfiguring neurofibromatosis causing gross physical defects that leave him physically lame and visually abhorent. Dressed in just a pair of shorts at the top of the play, Bradley morphs his body, hands and face on stage so that the audience sees him become the Elephant Man. From that moment on, Bradley disappears and one is only aware of Joseph Merrick on that stage. He plays the role with such charm and vulnerability that you can’t help but fall in love with him. The cast, which includes the very capable and prolific Patricia Clarkson, is marvelous. I am quite certain that Bradley will earn a Tony nomination for this role. The engagement is limited, so if you are planning to travel to New York , or you live in the area, you must see it before February 22. 

Books…the best gift to give (or receive) under $35.00

Here are my choices for the best books to give this holiday season

 

“Yes Please” by Amy Poehler

A very honest and hilarious autobiography of the actress’s life. You will laugh out loud at many of the passages. Poehler writes in a very real and forthright voice and her stories are both entertaining and thoughtful.

 

“Parisian Chic” by Ines de la Fressange

This is every woman’s guide on how to dress and style yourself like a Parisian.  Ines de la Fressange,  a former runway model, the face of Chanel and clothing designer, offers advice on personal style from clothing to the home. There are tips from everyday makeup (never go without), to how to dress for a Black Tie event (mix flats with a ball gown), as well as where to shop in Paris. This book is a style bible!

 

The MOST Of Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron, the witty poignant author, screen writer, director and foodie, has been celebrated in one larger than life book. Here you will find excerpts from her most famous screenplays,  “Heartburn”, “When Harry Met Sally,” and her last play, “Lucky Guy.” Her writing resonates in humor and honesty, and touches on serious subjects such as love, divorce and death. This is a book that endures no matter the number of readings.

 

She Matters by Susanna Sonnenberg

Sonnenberg’s life is defined by the women she has befriended along the way. The idol, the betrayer, the travel companion, the mentor, the rescuer, the guide, the list is endless. This book is both illuminating and comforting; a must read for every woman. You will feel enlightened, empowered and proud of your gender!

Zina of Beverly Hills

  Just the sight of the burgundy gift box and white ribbon sets my heart a flutter! I love receiving as well as giving a gift from Zina’s of Beverly Hills. Whenever I have the challenging task of buying a gift for the person who has everything, I always manage to find something they DON’T have, at Zina’s.

 Tucked away on the south side of Beverly Drive, far from the hustle and bustle of “classic” Beverly Hills, is a treasure trove of the most fabulous jewelry, art, housewares and Judaica this side of the Mississippi! If you are looking for the perfect Chanukah or Christmas gift, look no further than Zina’s.

  If you happen to be on South Beverly Drive, you will notice a giant photo of Zina and her friends along the storefront wall. It is so gigantic, that it is impossible to miss. And on that wall is yours truly. I cannot begin to tell you how many calls, texts and emails I have received from close friends to acquaintances, to friends’ children, who have spotted me on said “wall.” All I can say is “yes, that is me, and I hope you are not texting or emailing me as you are driving past it!” I am very honored to be counted as one of Zina’s friends. As I have always reiterated in my posts, I write about things and people who inspire me.  Zina Sherman is one of those people. She is a jewelry designer, an artist, a photographer and a curator of fine art and giftware. Her tastes are modern, and eclectic but practical.

  I met Zina several years ago; having received many gifts from her store, I decided to check it out for myself. Upon meeting her, I was immediately taken with her warm and gracious demeanor, her impeccable taste and unique sense of style. The store is always filled to the brim with fabulous necklaces, earrings and bracelets, some of which are her designs, (I own several of them), as well as those by other artists. From bottle stoppers, to ring holders, cheese plates to candlesticks, there is something for everyone on your list.

  And now through November 30, Zina’s is having a 20% off sale. This is when I choose to get my gift shopping done, and I highly recommend you do yours as well!

  One of the qualities that I most admire about Zina, is her sense of philanthropy. She has an innate understanding of and desire to give back, and her generosity has been felt by many organizations throughout the community.

 On Wednesday, December 3, Zina will be hosting a shopping event,  in which 20% of the proceeds will go to the JNF (Jewish National Fund).

 I asked Zina to choose some of her most favorite pieces for giving this holiday season, and I chose mine as well. Below are some of our choice highlights!

Neoprene Basket from Italy  $150

Neoprene Basket from Italy  $150

Vase $275

Vase $275

Carol Boyce bottle stopper from So. Africa $30

Carol Boyce bottle stopper from So. Africa $30

Metalart, Tel Aviv $545

Metalart, Tel Aviv $545

Finnish Cake Server $45

Finnish Cake Server $45

Nambe tray $150, Salad Servers $125, Vase $50 , Pitcher $125.

Nambe tray $150, Salad Servers $125, Vase $50 , Pitcher $125.

Tears and Tequila

As a former psychiatric nurse, I can attest to the fact that grief counseling is one of, if not the most, successful treatment modalities for people experiencing loss. Emotions that are not dealt with, or that are silenced, can lead to the emergence of many other problems later on.

  In Jo-Ann Lautman and Linda Schreyer’s book, “Tears and Tequila,” the subject of grief therapy is dealt with in a creative yet poignant way. Six seemingly disparate strangers are drawn together by their bond of grief, and guided to healing and hope by an unlikely leader in the story’s central character, Joey.

Joey’s own suppressed emotions float to the surface as she leads “group.”  The reader journeys with these individuals, whose lives are forever changed after the deaths of loved ones, but whose healing gives hope to us all.

Two parallel stories are told simultaneously, yet seamlessly intertwined so that the reader is taken on the characters’ journeys of pain and healing, while humor and suspense are injected at crucial moments to allow for some respite from the sadness.

Jo-Ann Lautman, who I had the privilege of meeting at the recent Our House gala, founded the grief support center, “Our House,” in 1993. Since first opening its doors, here in Los Angeles, Jo-Ann and her staff, some of whom went through the program themselves, have provided hope and healing for so many people.

I highly recommend this book. It is a quick read, but an important one. It illuminates the path of grief and the emergence of hope. If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing pain and loss, this book will assist you in being able to guide them to a place where they can find hope and healing. 

 

Emergency Backpack

About 6 months ago, while driving calmly through Beverly Hills, I got pulled over by a police officer. I had no idea  why he stopped me. I knew I wasn’t speeding, I didn’t change lanes in the middle of an intersection, nor did I run a red light, heaven forbid! “Is my tail light out?” I inquired, “no,” he replied, and with the straightest, sternest face, he informed me that “the back of your car was in the intersection for 3 seconds after the light turned red.” “What?” Really?” “Yes,” he answered, “and I am giving you a ticket.” Well that ended my pleasantries. I had nothing more to say to him; I was flabbergasted….and annoyed.

I finally took my online traffic school course last weekend. As I was reading through the section on what and how to be prepared in states of emergencies such as accidents, weather or other car problems, it occurred to me that my car was not equipped with any of the necessities listed, such as flares, first aid kit, survival blankets and rain gear.

I ordered this one by Ready America, available here. I purchased one for each of our cars. Better to be safe than sorry!

Barbara Morrison: A Voice As Smooth As It Is Sweet

Since I am in the throes of recording my new album, I thought it would be special to feature female vocalists who have inspired me over the years with their range and talent. One of those women is jazz vocalist, Barbara Morrison, whom I had the great fortune of meeting a few years ago when she performed at LA’s Vibratto’s Grill and Jazz, a fabulous spot owned by Herb Alpert. In between sets, Barbara made the rounds, moving from table to table and greeting the audience members. I was stunned; I couldn’t imagine myself doing that in a room full of strangers, but she did it with such sincerity, grace and poise, that I was mezmorized. I couldn’t wait for her to arrive at our table so that I could tell her how much I have always loved her voice and how thrilled I was to meet her in person. My husband told her that I, too, am a singer, and she was interested in where I performed and what style of music I sang. During the second set, as I had just taken a spoonful of dessert, I heard her call out my name (I couldn’t believe she remembered!), and asked if I would come up on stage to sing. OMG….I had just finished a huge dinner (I never eat before I sing),  a glass of wine (and I never ever consume alcohol before I sing), and worst of all, I had NO LIPSTICK ON!!

Naturally I bolted up to the stage, asked the band if they would play “Just In Time” in G major and modulate up to A flat, and gave her the biggest hug and kiss. I sang my heart out after I told the audience how much I have always admired and been a huge fan of Miss Morrison.

Barabara’s voice is warm, rich and friendly. You can hear her vivacious personality in each note, and her vulnerability and honesty transcend the material as she takes the listener with her on her musical journey. Her album, "Barbara Morrison Live Down Under," is one of my favorites. Her vocals are both tender and energetic, the arrangements are divine, and her sweetness shines through each track. Buy the album HERE, you will be glad that you did.

Beautify Your Surroundings

I believe that your physical surroundings impact your life in ways that can affect your mental and physical health. Some people operate better when they have their papers piled in stacks that make sense only to them. Others,(yours truly), cannot function in clutter, and must have open clean spaces.  No matter your preference, I have never come across anyone who doesn’t appreciate a bouquet of fresh flowers to brighten a mood,  mark an occasion, or simply decorate a room.

Read More

Scentimental Journey

Last week, as we made our way to the Vienna airport en route to Paris, I discovered that I had left my 2 travel atomizers of perfume in the bathroom of the Bristol Hotel. Since I am unable to go through a day without perfume, I asked Jeff to accompany me to the Duty Free store where we could choose a new fragrance together. This was actually something we had never done before and so we were actually excited about the activity, even though for Jeff, it involved spending money!

Read More