The fact that I can do albums is magic. The fact that people are ready to buy them is a miracle.” Israeli folk singer Chava Alberstein admits she is bemused by the longevity of her career — one that has spanned four decades and includes more than 60 album releases. Israelis have loved her ever since she rose to stardom at the age of 18, entertaining the troops during her Israeli army service (which, she insists, is the best training a performer can get).
How about this for a headline? “Jew Sandra Bernhard Injects Ancient Kike Hate Into Goy Palin”. It is real and it comes from a website run by American white supremacists. But I am grateful to them. Theirs was the first site I found to have posted a clip of the American comedian — sorry, “American Jew comedian” — performing an on-stage tirade last year about the Republican, and no doubt to neo-Nazis everywhere, magnificently non-Jewish, vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
They are calling it “the Harwoods”, although the man himself jokingly opts for the more Wagnerian “Harwood’s Ring”. “You don’t think that’s pretentious do you?” asks Ronald Harwood as we sit in the drawing room of his sprawling Chelsea apartment.
The playwright and Oscar-winning screenwriter draws on the filter tip of a Gauloise as he considers the rarity of not only having two plays on in the West End at the same time, but on the same stage. “It is an unusual thing,” he exhales.
The peace organisation OneVoice is throwing a farewell party in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street for this year’s Israeli entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, and the two singers — newly anointed peace ambassadors for OneVoice — are being rushed from one soundbite-hungry journalist to another in what is the last press opportunity before they leave for Moscow.
Last month, Israel held its 14th annual theatre awards, a red-carpet event with the kind of prestige enjoyed by the Oscars. As the great and good of Israeli showbusiness gathered at the Beersheba Theatre, eyes were on a 74-year-old lyricist and playwright who was nominated for one of the minor categories.
‘I thought film wasn’t really going to happen for me,” says Henry Goodman, sitting behind a cappuccino at the National Theatre. A private man, Goodman does not do interviews at his south London home. So the National Theatre is his chosen meeting place. “But it’s a great role,” he says of the Ang Lee movie Taking Woodstock, which opens later this year. It might at last make Goodman, if not a Hollywood star, a Hollywood character actor.
As soon as Reina James had received the Society of Authors’ McKitterick Prize at a ceremony in London in 2007 — for that year’s best first novel by a writer over 40 — she strode over to where Harold Pinter was sitting with his wife, Antonia Fraser, and eagerly shook his hand.
“I think about it now and cringe with embarrassment,” the 62-year-old, Sussex-based author recalls. “He just stared at me as if I was a madwoman.”
Comedy is notoriously difficult to move from one language to another, but try telling French comedian Norbert Saffar that. Despite the fact that he is not 100 per cent fluent in English, he is bringing his hit one-man show, Schopenhauer and I, from France to Britain.
The Fonsecas are just one of those families. Four siblings born in five years; two daughters and two sons, all creative and fiercely bright.
Best known on our side of the Atlantic is the youngest, writer Isabel Fonseca, wife of the British novelist Martin Amis, but the others, still in America, are equally accomplished. Quina is a designer who lives between Manhattan and their father’s native Uruguay; Bruno, who died in 1994, was an artist whose large, figurative paintings, The War Murals have been compared, in their power, to Picasso’s Guernica.
What do you have to look like for Woody Allen to think he is much better looking than you? Apparently, like Wallace Shawn.
He is the American actor whose career took off when he appeared in Allen’s film Manhattan as Diane Keaton’s ex-husband — a character whose reputation as an intellectual and sexual goliath Allen’s character finds somewhat hard to reconcile with the balding, gnome-like figure cut by Shawn.