The Firefighter’s Son and More

“The King of Staten Island” was diverted from theaters to video-on-demand (premieres June 12). Directed and co-written by JUDD APATOW, 52, it stars Pete Davidson (“SNL”) in a semi-autobiographical role. He plays Scott, a mid-20s weed-smoking slacker who was traumatized by the death of his New York City firefighter father on 9/11. In real life, Davidson was traumatized by the death of his firefighter father on 9/11.  Like Scott, Davidson is a heavy marijuana user. He says that he has to use it because it counters the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, which he has long suffered from.

Davidson’s real father was of mostly Jewish ancestry. But he, and Pete, were raised Catholic.  Davidson was only eight years old when his father died. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t know he had Jewish ancestry until he took a DNA test as an adult and discovered his biological ancestry was almost 50% Jewish.

Here’s the basic film set-up: Scott is jolted out of his “slackdom” when his mom (Marisa Tomei) begins dating Ray, a loudmouth firefighter whom Pete doesn’t like. The supporting cast includes MAUDE APATOW, 22, Judd’s daughter, as Claire, Scott’s sister; British actress BEL POWLEY, 28, as Kelsey, a childhood friend of Scott who secretly hooks-up with him. (Powley starred in the acclaimed film “Diary of a Teenage Girl”); PAMELA ADLON (“Better Things”), 53, as Gina, Ray’s ex-wife; and PAULINE CHALAMENT, 28, as Joanne (a small role). She is the sister of actor TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET, 24. Pauline has starred in a number of American and French short films. Like her brother, she’s the daughter of a French Protestant father and an American Jewish mother. 

A few footnotes: Steve Buscemi, 62, plays Papa, a veteran firefighter who takes Scott under his wing. Buscemi was a NYC firefighter from 1980-84. Right after 9/11, he took off his “actor hat” and worked at the World Trade Center site for four days, removing rubble. This was not that unusual: right after 9/11, the 70ish (Jewish) father of a friend of mine, a retired NYC firefighter, dug out his old “turn-out” uniform and intended to drive to the 9/11 site and volunteer to help.  My friend gently persuaded him that, given his age, this was not a prudent thing to do. Finally, in 2001, I was editing a Jewish biographical site and I followed the obituaries of firefighters who died on 9/11. For complex historical and cultural reasons, not that many Jews were and are NYC firefighters (a lot more, again for complex reasons, were and are NYC police officers). Still, out of 343 firefighters killed on 9/11, I was able to determine that at least four were Jewish. There were probably a few more.

 

Surprises Every Which Way

“The Vast of Night,” an original Amazon Prime film, started streaming on May 29. This small budget film, without any name actors, has got real buzz. It is rated 92% positive on “Rotten Tomatoes”. “The Guardian”, a good British paper, gave it a long glowing review (“Google” the title and Guardian and you’ll find the detailed ‘free’ review). “Vast” is something of an homage to “The Twilight Zone”. A short summary: In the late 1950s, on one fateful night in New Mexico, a young, switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) and charismatic radio DJ Everett (JAKE HOROWITZ, 25) discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and the future forever.

Horowitz’s Jewish father, PETER HOROWITZ, 70ish, is an actor and the founder/artistic director of a Brooklyn theater company where Jake got his start. Peter grew-up in Miami, where his father, the late ARTHUR HOROWITZ, founded and ran a very successful restaurant chain called Junior’s. Arthur and wife, Peter’s mother, were very involved in the Jewish community and took a very tough line on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Jake’s mother is a practicing Catholic who is a leader in national lay organization concerned with abuse by priests. Jake’s two sides are very different and I simply don’t know how he identifies religiously. But, wait, there’s more unusual stuff!: there’s a Brooklyn restaurant chain named Junior’s, famous for its great cheesecake (it is great!!!). There were historical ties between the Miami chain and the Brooklyn chain. A claim was made around 2006 that the cheesecake recipe originated with the Miami chain. Brooklyn said no. The NY Times ran a long article about the controversy. Peter Horowitz was interviewed. The Times said that no conclusion was possible because so many of the “players” were deceased.

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