Life & Culture

'That's an insulting question'

JC arts writers interviewed various celebrities in 2010, some more co-operative than others. Here’s the pick of their quotes


● "She hasn't had a drink for two weeks. Two weeks may not sound like much, but it's a major achievement for her."Mitch Winehouse on his daughter Amy's gradual recovery from addiction

● "I don't go to synagogue, I'm not interested in any kind of community and I don't care if the Chief Rabbi considers me a proper Jew - although Jonathan Sacks and I are friends in an informal sort of way."
Novelist Frederick Raphael doesn't let religion get in the way of a friendship

● "Anybody who spends time around orchestras will tell you that Jews tend to have the musical gene… a large percentage of Jews are musical. It's in the blood."
Danny Elfman, the Hollywood film composer, reckons Jews have an advantage in at least one of the arts

● "It did occur to me to tell the people who were punching me: 'No, you don't understand, I'm actually Jewish' - like that would make a big difference.
David Baddiel, whose film 'The Infidel' was released this year, recalls being beaten up by racist thugs who mistook him for a Pakistani

● "The perspective of almost all fiction is 'outsidery' - being part of a culture but also being part of the other."
Children's novelist Neil Gaiman explains why, if you are a writer, it helps to be Jewish

● "There are three things in my life: the love from the mother to the child, which is the basis of everything; nature, which is so beautiful; and music. This is my religion."
The 107-year-old pianist and Holocaust survivor Alice Sommer Herz explains the secret of her longevity

● "I've been called cynical, cruel, mean-spirited and vile - it goes on and on."
Independent director Todd Solondz counts the cost of making 'Happiness', a film about a child abuser

● "In quite a lovely way, you know everything about what is happening in the Jewish community if you work in Temple Fortune."
Playwright Samantha Ellis points out the unique significance of the north London suburb

● "People have been telling stories for 10,000 years. There are only 32 kinds of story. So don't think you're going to tell a new story - the only thing that changes is the way you tell the story."
Insight from 'Star Wars' director George Lucas

● "I get so angry when I think about them and their poor parents standing there naked and stripped of their dignity before they were killed. How scared they must have been? These were not people anyone had reason to fear. A Jewish baker? A Jewish farmer? They were just not part of one man's vision of the future."
Ex-'Friends' star Lisa Kudrow mourns members of her family killed in the Holocaust

● "I just write what I can every day. And when I get tired of it, I watch baseball."
Neil Simon, the 83-year-old playwright and screenwriter, on his work-life balance

● "For my obituary there will probably be a little small picture of me and big picture of Poirot."
Actor David Suchet speculates on what he will be remembered for

● "I remember doing cocaine with Jimi Hendrix, but it was a mistake, because I actually turned out to be allergic to cocaine. I was really fortunate, because I think coke would have been a perfect drug for me."
Singer Janis Ian recalls a mispent youth among rock royalty

● "I've always felt as much outside the Jewish experience as in it."
Howard Jacobson, winner of this year's Man Booker Prize, explains his perspective as a novelist

● "My dad's advice? Don't think about money. Focus on making good work."
Lail Arad, daughter of designer Ron Arad, gets some parental guidance about her career choice as a singer-songwriter

● "I don't want to be a celebrity but I do want to be well-known so people can see my name and want to come and see my concerts."
What counts as success, according to cellist Natalie Clein

● "Do you realise what an insulting question that is?"
Veteran rocker Lou Reed objects to being asked about his continued passion for music

● "I like Manchester - I've played there many times. The people have a lot of chein, a lot of heart."
Neil Sedaka sings the praises of his favourite British city

● "I was a classical music geek at school. Luckily I was a strong boy so I didn't get bullied."
Influential music writer James Inverne reveals how he survived as a teenager interested in Bach and Mozart

● "Drugs and breakdowns weren't our problem. It was the stress of life on the road and living together like a family every second of every day with no escape route."
Why '80s girl band The Bangles had to call it a day, according to lead singer Susanna Hoffs

● "This job is my joy and my passion. I can also use the money."
Comedian Joan Rivers on what motivates her

● "I should have slept with more men - that's my regret."
Rivers wishing she could have done things differently

● "I'm very happy - as happy as I could be without Jack."
Maureen Lipman on life without her husband, the writer Jack Rosenthal, who died in 2004

● "The films are comic and tragic, there's always two sides to a thing, and all of that - in that sense there's a Jewish spirit in my work."
Film-maker, and Israel boycotter Mike Leigh

● "Arthur was the kind of guy who doesn't like dogs or children."
Walt Odets, son of American playwright Clifford Odets, on his childhood memory of Arthur Miller

● "I know when his eyebrows rise, I'm going to get scolded."
'X Factor' creative director, Brian Friedman, recognises the signs when judge Simon Cowell is about to lose it.

● "I think I have had certain problems which is that ego and vanity are toxic to me."
Hollywood star Elliott Gould explains why fame pushed him off the rails in the early 1970s

● "I have only good things to say about her. I'm real proud of Barbra. I'll always love her."
Gould on his ex-wife Barbra Streisand. For many years after their divorce the couple refused to speak to each other.

● "I was always told I was lazy and stupid. My parents called me a dumme hund, a dumb dog. They had escaped Nazi Germany and didn't know about learning challenges."
Actor Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz, reveals the trauma he suffered as a child with dyslexia

● "He does come to the opera to support me but I think he enjoys EastEnders more."
Royal Opera House patron Gail Ronson on her husband Gerald's preferred viewing

● "I like the fact that you Brits are all old-fashioned, until you go to a soccer match and start eating each other."
Ronna, one half of the American Jewish mother comedy act, Ronna and Beverly, reveals what she admires about the British

● "You have to be angry to write comedy, even if it wears off by the time you're my age."
Yes, Minister writer Jonathan Lynn reveals the fires are not burning as fiercely at the age of 67

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