Who, What & Where? Fawlty Towers’ new Jewish star and more

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Who, What & Where? Fawlty Towers’ new Jewish star and more

John Cleese honouring the late Andrew Sachs is just one of the must-reads in Life magazine this March

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Fawlty Towers’ new Jewish star 

Sometimes history repeating itself it is a wonderful thing, as is the case with the casting of Fawlty Towers, The Play. Set to open in May, the stage production of the TV comedy ranked first on a list of 100 Greatest British Television Programmes has been adapted by its creator John Cleese. Launched in 1975, the comedy is just shy of its 50th anniversary and the play will feature some of the favourite scenes from the 12 episodes. Only 12 and all of them treasured because of Basil, Sybil, Polly, the Major… and Manuel. It was Andrew Sachs, the German Jewish actor who died in 2016, who turned the constantly confused and abused Spanish waiter into the most hilarious server ever to carry and be hit by a tray.

John Cleese and the late Andrew Sachs

And now, a Turkish Jewish actor, gets to play the hapless hire from Barcelona, which feels so right. Hemi Yeroham expressed as much on X (Twitter) writing: “I’m so excited. And I just can’t hide it (finally I don’t have to).” Born in Istanbul, Hemi trained at Guildford and has had a varied career in plays, musicals, Shakespeare, cabaret and dance.

Hemi Yeroham will be Manuel

But it was while portraying businessman and philanthropist Edwin Shuker in Jonathan Freedland’s  Jews. In Their Own Words at the Royal Court that Hemi felt comfortable admitting his faith. “I’ve almost not allowed myself to be Jewish, when acting, until now,” he said in September 2022, telling Freedland how seldom stories like his – of non-Ashkenazi, non-European Jews – get heard. Soon to be bullied every night by Basil, he should raise a glass of sangria to Andrew Sacks.

A Jewish record

Taschen creates fabulous coffee table tomes on culture and celebrity. Its latest weighty book, Extraordinary Records, celebrates vinyl and the many ways it has used effects, shapes and design to fashion the identities of era-defining records, from The Beatles to Bon Jovi. Yet if it weren’t for Alex Steinweiss, record sleeves would have remained blank squares of cardboard with a hole.

Steinweiss first record cover
Alex Steinweiss

Steinweiss, the Jewish son of a Warsaw shoemaker and a Latvian seamstress, went to work for Columbia Records in 1939 as the label’s first art director. Hating the plain record packaging for its lack of sales appeal, he went into action. Convincing the owner of a local theatre to swap letters around on the marquee, as evening came, the sign was lit and ‘Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart’ was snapped by a photographer. This was the image for the world’s first album cover. Steinweiss, who died in 2011, approached every album as though it were a small canvas and in his eulogy was described as having been “one of those people who are not hugely famous but who have changed the look of everyday things”. Taschen has published a book about him too. http://taschen.com

Yad Vashem by Shay Azulay

Art testimony

Artist Shai Azoulay approached his residency at Yad Vashem with trepidation. He walked around the campus, visited the Holocaust History Museum and the Museum of Holocaust Art, explored the Yad Vashem Collections and plumbed the depths of the archives. The enormity of the tragedy and the weight of memory made him feel as if “he had stepped into shoes that were several sizes too big for him”. The result is Azoulay’s exhibition Bigger Than Me,
which is available to see at the museum or at http://yadvashem.org

An old story about new pots 


Such is our passion for antiques that people shell out fortunes for old vases, vessels and jugs. The joy of Tania Kaczynski’s creations – New Ancients – is that they are intentionally old before their time. “By making pots that appear ancient, I reference my past studying archaeology at The Hebrew University,” says the potter and art therapist. “I also studied ceramics at Bezalel Arts Academy. My years in Israel were fabulous and intense. In light of the current war, my ancient- looking pots take on an important message, like clay: the Jewish people endure and survive.” Precious because of the sentiment and not the price, Tania has a hope “that one day in the far-flung future, an archaeologist might find my pots and wander”.
To find out more, visit http://@tania_kaczynski.potter or email Taniakz@yahoo.com

A dab of Dior

Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn is Christian Dior in The New Look, which has just dropped on Apple TV. The series explores the emergence of modern fashion in the wake of the Second World War and Dior’s dethroning of Coco Chanel, as played by French actress Juliette Binoche. Dior spent most of the war in Paris dressing German women and others with ties to Nazi officials, but he had a sister, Catherine, who was in the French Resistance.

Ben Mendelsohn as Dior

Later, Dior was also an art dealer and championed Jewish artists such as Max Jacob and Man Ray. Ben, who got his breakout role in the film The Year My Voice Broke, considers himself a non-denominational “Australian mongrel”, but he is married to British Jewish writer Emma Forrest, who was a Sunday Times columnist at the age of 16 and they are raising their daughter in the faith.

#MEJEW in your wardrobe

The atrocities in Israel and growing antisemitism in the UK has compelled artist, writer and entrepreneur Martine Davis to add fashion activist to her CV with her #MEJEW charity T-shirt movement. “It is too difficult to just watch and do nothing,” says Martine, who runs Balcombe Street Window Box Company and Page Introductions. “I want to create positive awareness of Jews and show strength as a community by getting the world wearing #mejew, LOVE and Solidarity T-shirts, while raising much needed funds for the charity brothersandsistersforisrael.org.”

Phillip Sallon in

Joining Martine in this venture is her long-time friend Phillip Sallon, a famed party boy and staunch Zionist seen here modelling the 80s slogan Tee, which can be bought at online shop #mejew, b03de0-2.myshopify.com or via the instagram account @mejewtoo.

A bit of beauty 

In the April edition of Life, we will explore the treatments and tightening required once you reach a certain age. But as word has reached us that 11-year-olds are already using skin creams, we have to give you some quick fixes. Like The Revelation Primer by House of Colour (£42.86, http://shop.houseofcolour.co.uk). Trust us, you’ll ditch other primer tubes once you try this tub containing silicon, an emollient too large to be absorbed into the skin so it acts as a barrier between skin and make-up. This really smooths the face – in fact, you look airbrushed before or after applying foundation. And as it’s a polymer, it stops oils breaking down foundation and keeps make-up looking matte. Honest truth it’s a revelation!

For a DIY block on expression lines and wrinkles without Botox, a swipe of the chunky but small multi-stick Wrinkle Block (£45, http://freeze-frame.uk) does as its name suggests, using peptides to instantly relax pesky lines and restore some of the bounce of an 11-year-old.

Trinny Woodall has just turned 60 and we’ll explore her products more next time, but her Trinny London BFF All Day Foundation (£39, http://trinnylondon.com) is just out, with testers reporting a natural matte finish that stays on and provides coverage without feeling cakey.

Finally, if the rain stops and your hood goes down, your hair will be on show and any thinning will be visible. Fear not – and there is no shame in creating a thickening illusion with Nanogen Hair Fibres (£18.95, http://nanogen.com) made from 100 percent natural keratin that attach to the follicle. Do they work? Absolutely and they cover testy roots in 10 shades. Stock up before the sun comes out.

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