Tuesday, March 11, 2008

His Lipas Are Sealed

Well originally, I thought the big news story of the week was the reappearance of Waris Dirie.. the 80s supermodel who recently vanished. The actress who had a brief part in "The Living Daylights" had been missing, but was found alive and well just one day before we screened her only movie for next week's Movie Club Review. But that story got out-Spitzered when the big scandalous news broke on Monday afternoon. The New York Times gets credit for breaking the Spitzer angle first... its second journalistic coup in 2 days... one day after the article on Sunday about Musical Genius Neil Fein's sister-in-law's wedding. See his blog to link to the article. In a Kevin Bacon-esque twist, you will notice that the bride is friends with All My Children's Melissa Claire Egan who appeared as a kid on Conan in a spelling bee skit with Scarlett Johanson whose first movie North was in 1994.. the same year of the miniseries Scarlett starting... The Living Daylights' Timothy Dalton!

The Spitzer fiasco is the most exciting scandal to hit these parts since Jim McGreevey. But even though there were rumors that McGreevey is gay, nobody had a clue that Spitzer was mixing it up with some high priced call girls! Interestingly enough, The Star Ledger had a story about the arrests of the 4 ringleaders of this prostitution ring in Friday's paper... but of course who woulda thought that Governor Spitzer was a part of this? The Ledger story was pretty matter of fact.. calling attention to the fact that a 62 year old male arrested was living with a 23 year old woman who was also nailed in the scandal. 32 year old Tameka Lewis who was also in the Ledger story allegedly was the liaison to Spitzer in booking the "entertainment"... she apparently is no relation to the Tameka who is in the process of bringing down former Newark Mayor Sharpe James.

It looks like the whole scandal was a witch hunt... since the FBI could care less if someone breaks the obscure 1910 Mann Laws which forbids bringing hookers across state lines. How ironic that Spitzer graduated from Horace Mann High School. Of course when you create a reputation as the poster child for morality, you are bound to fall hard when you get caught with you hand in the... well use your imagination. According to The Times, it seems that Spitzer was the source of an IRS investigation from Day One after some serious cash transfer irregularities were discovered by some banks... Why wasn't this prostitution ring set up to take Pay Pal?.

Its too bad for Spitzer.. he already drew a ton of criticism for favoring Drivers Licenses for illegal immigrants.. I guess letting them drive makes it easier for them to get down to DC's Mayflower Hotel. And these hookers were soooo expensive, charging thousands of dollars for a night of fun. But when Spitzer quits and his #2 man takes over, at least he is legally blind so you don't have to worry about supplying him really hot looking hookers. Of course he would never get involved in that type of activity!

Anyway, Waris Dirie had disappeared last week in Brussels, Belgium, and I was hoping she would turn up ok... I didn't want to put a damper on my movie night when the boys came over to see "The Living Daylights", Dirie who appeared in the movie as Waris Walsh, was a one time supermodel who in recent years has campaigned against the religious fanatics who force young girls to have female circumcisions... which basically cuts the clitoris as a way to take away sexual sensation. Last Wednesday she was supposed to appear at a women's rights conference with Condelezza Rice.. but vanished. Now she is saying that she was abducted by a taxi driver and held captive in his apartment. Whatever the case may be, she has done an outstanding job speaking out against the brutal mutilation of these young girls.

It seems that these religious leaders can go either way when it comes to being extreme. A buddy of mine from out of state lost a parent recently, and I felt terrible to find out that his synagogue had no rabbi, and this guy had a lot of unanswered questions about what was supposed to be done during the shiva mourning period. Luckily another friend who lives in the same state was able to bring the "Jewish Guide to Death and Mourning" book to his house within hours so he had some type of spritiual guidance during a very difficult time. It seems his synagogue had not rehired a new Rabbi after the last one had left, and that seems to be an all too common theme among many communities that run out of members AND money when it's time to bring on leaders for its members. As it turns out, my buddy has a family friend, who is a Rabbi who lives out of state. He drove into town and provided excellent leadership and guidance during a very difficult time.

Is there a middle ground somewhere? I was reading about a charity in Israel which raises money to pay for the weddings for people who have no parents. Great cause. Its big fundraiser was to be held Sunday night at Madison Square Garden in the form of a Jewish music concert featuring a singer named Lipa Schmeltzer. That would also give them enough time to clean up afterwards to get ready for the big Pete Sampras - Roger Federer exhibition the following evening. By the way I had never heard of Lipa, and Trophy Wifes amusement with his name brings back memories of a former non Jewish roommate who got a big kick out of the caterer Shmulka Bernstein. He even took it on as a nickname for a brief period.

The organizers were extreeeeeeeeeeeemely Orthodox. Not only do they conduct their prayers with separate seating, but they mandated that all concert attendees sit in separate mens and women's sections. I discussed this separation of the sexes in a column from last August 2nd.. (see the archives at left) noting that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein had mixed seating at the weddings of 2 of his children... but you get the idea that the March 9th concert was catering to an ultra Orthodox crowd.

Well... things did not go according to plan. A couple of extremist activists sabotaged this wonderful charity when they sneakily went to a group of Rabbis and without divulging all the details arranged for them to sign a petition prohibiting their followers from going to the concert! That prohibition was published in an ad in an Ultra Orthodox newspaper...which by the way sanitizes its news coverage to such an extent that I predict Spitzer's downfall will probably be referred to as "engaging in immoral activities" or "was seen attending a Reform synagogue"! That is similar to the concern for people attending the concert... I had never heard his music before and I checked him out on You Tube. Apparently he takes pop songs and changes the words to religious themes...but I couldn't find any such music on You Tube. He also puts on G rated wacky costumes and dances around the stage... but the activists thought would lead to separate seated "frivolity and levity"!

Ultimately, the newspaper proudly recounts what happened next. Some powerful Rabbis within that community called Lipa in... and apparently those extremist activists must have approached those clergymen on the day of their daughter's wedding because you can never turn someone away on the day of your daughter's wedding... As a result these Rabbis made Lipa an offer he could not refuse. He was called to the Brooklyn home of one of the Rabbis and asked to sign a document that he would not appear at this concert. Basically it was either his signature or his payis! Ultimately it was try the cholent but save the spongecake... (Is there a Jewish food that resembles canolis?) And the producer who lost a ton of money was figuratively dragged out to the middle of the lake for a Fredo-esque farewell.... because if the show was not cancelled, he would be swimming with the gefilte fish... or wake up in the morning and find himself in bed with the head of a horse radish.

Ultimately the whole event was called off.

The audience for that concert, and those that support this Rabbinical edict probably won't "get" that last paragraph. But the way Lipa was treated, was just wrong. Schmeltzer lost approximately 100,000 dollars and the charity missed out on a payday of substantially more money! And I get the feeling that it wasn't the concert itself that caused the issue.. but the increasing freedom that Lipa was enjoying by overstepping certain boundaries that were not within the total strict control brought on by these leaders.

Amazingly that newspaper published an editorial praising these Rabbis... and in that very same editorial never ever mentioned of the fact that this was a charity fundraiser to raise wedding money for orphans and that these Rabbis had been misinformed by these evil community activists... Of course the Rabbis couldn't turn back and admit they made a mistake by signing that petition... and notice how Matisyahu couldn't give a crap about any such edicts when it comes to his musical performances. Too bad for Lipa.. it seems like there must have been some interesting negotiations to get him to agree in writing to not honor his contract to appear at the concert.

Ultimately, we need our religious leaders - not to control our day to day lives.. but to provide guidance to us. But when they start forcing women to cut their clitorises and young brides to forego a beautiful wedding day.... it seems to me that they are stepping way over their boundaries.


Here is a perfect example of Lipa Schmeltzer's incredibly harmless music... This is a song about losing weight... it could be a demo tape for NBCs "The Biggest Loser". Did anyone see when Jillian went off on that "Days of Our Lives" chic during the weigh in Tuesday night??


alberich said...

Hmmm ... let's see? Where in the Bible or Talmud does it say you can't have frivolity and levity? In fact, the wise Koheleth said "I commend enjoyment, since there is nothing good for a man to do here under the sun but to eat and drink and enjoy himself; this is all that will remain with him to reward his toil throughout the span of life."

OTOH, rejoicing with bride and groom (and the money raised would help to enable that) is one of those "obligations without measure whose reward is without measure". Don't these so-called Rabbis actually read their Bibles, Talmuds etc?

Nate said...

And where does it say that men and women must be segregated except for during hoochie mcscoochie?? Nowhere.

A Rabbi did say once that the genders shouldn't mingle together during weddings because it would cause a man to check out the women. I must admit that we went to a wedding in Jan, and when I wasnt checking out the Giants Packers score, i was checking out the bride! Homina Homina Homina. Oh wait... that was your wedding! :)

And now my prediction for Eliot Spitzer's next career. He will co host a CNN talk show with Wolf to be called Blitzer and Spitzer.

You heard it here first!