Jack Luskin dies, James Franco gets poetic, ‘House of Cards’ returns and more

Luskin's TV commercial

Screen shot from YouTube of 1991 Luskin’s TV commercial

Jack Luskin dies

Jack Luskin, who built a Baltimore-based chain of electronics and home appliance stores over nearly five decades with the help of his famous slogan “The Cheapest Guy in Town,” died Friday of complications from an infection at his home in North Palm Beach, Fla., according to The Baltimore Sun obituary. He was 89. The Baltimore native started Luskin’s in 1948 in Pimlico with his brother, Joe, selling refrigerators at a time when consumers stored food in iceboxes. The brothers would follow ice delivery trucks through neighborhoods, then knock on residents’ doors to persuade them to switch to the new appliance.

Read the Baltimore Sun obituary.

Also see: The ‘Cheapest Guy in Town’ Was Actually a Mentsch

Haredi Orthodox rabbis call for boycott of London JCC

Haredi Orthodox rabbis in London have again called on their followers to boycott a local Jewish cultural center because it holds events for LGBT Jews. The letter signed by 25 rabbis and circulated last week to synagogues in northwest London, says that the JW3 Jewish community center “promotes a way of life which is in total contradiction to Orthodox Judaism and halacha,” or Jewish law. “Members of our community should distance themselves fully from JW3, its activities and services, and refrain from visiting JW3 even for recreational purposes only,” the letter also says, according to the Jewish Chronicle, based in London. JW3, an American-style Jewish community center that opened in 2013, includes a kindergarten, movie theater, fitness facilities, a kosher restaurant and a library. In early March, the Jewish center held a GayW3 festival to mark 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. At the time, a poster outside the center advertising the event was vandalized with the word “shame” drawn on it. A letter signed by seven haredi Orthodox rabbis was released in July calling on members of their communities to “distance themselves fully from JW3, its activities and services, and avoid using this centre,” due to the center’s LGBT programming, which it called “Toievah” — Hebrew for “abomination,” the word used in the Bible to describe homosexual acts. In recent years, a growing haredi Orthodox community in Great Britain has become more assertive in communal affairs, often clashing with the centrist Orthodox United Hebrew Congregations — represented by the chief rabbi — and other denominations. —JTA

Interfaith initiative releases ethics guidelines for religious leaders

An interfaith initiative has created international ethics guidelines for religious leaders to insure proper conduct with their congregants. The Ten Guidelines were announced last week in Jerusalem by the International Conference of the Israeli organization Tahel, Israel’s Crisis Center for Religious Women and Children.  The new initiative calls upon religious leaders around the world to unite and discuss issues of sexual violence and abuse within the community and to formulate and adhere to international guidelines. The Ten Guidelines include a reminder to clergy to trust their instincts. For example, the guidelines say: “If you feel that extra distance is appropriate in a specific circumstance, trust your feelings. It’s a red flag, warning you to take extra precautions.” Another guideline urges religious leaders to avoid virtual communication since words can be misconstrued and understood as inappropriate or harassing. They are also encouraged to install glass doors in their offices, place a desk between them and their guests, document any meeting in writing, and avoid all physical contact. Among the world leaders who signed their names to the guidelines are Elizabeth Petersen, an Anglican Catholic who founded The South African Faith and Family Institute which unites leaders of various faiths in Africa; Rabbi Doctor Aharon Adler from Jerusalem, a Talmudic scholar; Ramadan Dabash, Mukhtar in eastern Jerusalem; and Victor Vieth, a Catholic legal scholar who founded the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center. The guidelines for clergy come in the wake of a series of sexual assault complaints against prominent American men in the entertainment, sports, political and media worlds.

Read more: Ten Guidelines issued for religious leaders to insure proper conduct with congregants

James Levine

James Levine at Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera House in New York, Nov. 28, 2014. (Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Speaking of sexual misconduct…

The Metropolitan Opera announced that it is investigating charges of sexual misconduct against its conductor James Levine so that it can take “appropriate action.” The Met’s announcement on Saturday night came after the New York Post reported on its website that Levine allegedly molested an Illinois teenager from the time he was 15 years old for several years beginning in the mid-1980s, according to a report filed with the Lake Forest, Illinois Police Department in October 2016. “The Met would like to let our supporters know that we are deeply disturbed by the news articles that are being published online today about James Levine. We are working on an investigation with outside resources to determine whether charges of sexual misconduct in the 1980s are true, so that we can take appropriate action,” it said in a statement issued Saturday night. The alleged abuse began in 1985 when Levine was guest conductor at the Ravinia Music Festival near Chicago. The accusation came nine years after the statute of limitations on a child sex crime in Illinois had expired, according to the Post. Levine held the position at Ravinia from 1973 to 1993. He was music director of the Metropolitan Opera for 40 years and now is director emeritus. He conducted a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” on Saturday. Despite health issues, including Parkinson’s Disease, he also is scheduled to conduct on New Year’s Eve. “I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really ‘seeing’ him. It nearly destroyed my family and almost led me to suicide. I felt alone and afraid. He was trying to seduce me. I couldn’t see this. Now I can,” the alleged victim, who is now 48, wrote in his police statement. The Met has known about the accusations since the October 2016 police investigation was opened, Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, told The New York Times. The newspaper also reported that rumors about Levine and sexual abuse have circulated for years. Levine’s maternal grandfather was a synagogue cantor in Cincinnati, and his father was a violinist with a dance band. –JTA

Geraldo Rivera

Geraldo Rivera at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 16, 2015. (Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

And Geraldo Rivera apologizes

Television host Geraldo Rivera apologized to Bette Midler for an incident in which she says he groped her. “Although I recall the time @BetteMidler has alluded to much differently than she, that does not change the fact that she has a right to speak out & demand an apology from me, for in the very least, publically [sic] embarrassing her all those years ago. Bette, I apologize,” Rivera tweeted on Friday. On Thursday, Midler tweeted a video clip of a 1991 interview in which she told Barbara Walters that Rivera violently assaulted her the first time they met. Earlier that year, Rivera published an autobiography called “Exposing Myself” in which he claimed to have had — in the words of Walters — a “torrid” sexual affair with Midler when she was a rising star in the early 1970s. Midler, however, explained to Walters that she has a different recollection of their relations. Midler claims Rivera and his producer pushed her into a bathroom, broke two “poppers” (inhalant alkyl nitrate drugs), pushed them under her nose and proceeded to grope her. Last week, Rivera tweeted a defense of Matt Lauer, the former host of the Today show whom NBC News fired for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. Rivera said, “News is a flirty business & it seems like current epidemic of #SexHarassmentAllegations may be criminalizing courtship & conflating it w predation.” He later apologized for that tweet. Fox News also distanced itself from Rivera’s tweets.

See more: Geraldo Rivera Apologizes to Bette Midler for Alleged Groping Incident

‘House of Cards’ to return

Netflix has decided to move forward with the final season of “House of Cards” without Kevin Spacey, CNN reported Monday. Production on the eight-episode sixth season had been on hold due to allegations of sexual misconduct made against Spacey. Production will resume in early 2018, a source said. Netflix cut ties with Spacey back in November, saying at the time it would “not be involved with any further production of ‘House of Cards’ that includes Kevin Spacey.” “House of Cards” producer Media Rights Capital also suspended the actor last month. Netflix announced the show’s sixth season would be its last days after the first round of allegations surfaced. Sources told CNN, however, that the decision to end the series pre-dated the allegations. “House of Cards” writers have been racing against the clock to find a new direction for the final season in light of Spacey’s absence. Baltimore Fishbowl reported that Maryland has benefited tremendously from Netflix picking the Baltimore area as its working set. To put it into numbers, the Department of Commerce calculated the first four seasons of the show had an economic impact of more than $460 million, and that Netflix hired an average of 2,154 residents each season and rented or bought goods and services from an average of 2,228 businesses each season.

Read: ‘House of Cards’ production to resume without Kevin Spacey
And: Netflix to Proceed with Filming ‘House of Cards’ Season 6 – Without Kevin Spacey

James Franco goes ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’

Actor and director James Franco will direct and star in a film about children’s book author and poet Shel Silverstein. The film, based on the book “A Boy Named Shel,” by Lisa Rogak, will focus on Silverstein’s personal life and professional struggles, Deadline Hollywood first reported. Silverstein, who was born into a Jewish family and grew up in Chicago, is the author of the well-known children’s poetry collections “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “The Light in the Attic,” as well as the children’s book “The Giving Tree.” Franco, who is Jewish, is fresh off his latest success, “The Disaster Artist,” a biographical comedy-drama which chronicles the making of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult film “The Room,” a critical flop that later became a cult classic. Franco and the film are reported to be in contention for several Oscars this year. —JTA

J-Word of the Day:
Ongematert (Yiddish)
Meaning: Tired, worn out
Usage: “Don’t bother me right now, I’m so ongematert I can’t see straight!”

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Top photo: James Franco attending the Independent Filmmaker Project’s 27th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York, Nov. 27, 2017. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

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