Friday, March 14, 2008

(written but never posted in 2005)

I'm not fond of this saying but I'm going to use it anyway: These are the people who give Jews a bad name.

There, I said it. I said it and I meant it. And here's why: Unless JaRule was your kid's babysitter once upon a time, he has no business performing at her birthday party. JaRule's business is the six-figure kind. This is a party for a child. Dress it up any way you like; a $500,000 bat mitzvah is in very poor taste.

I'm not unfamiliar with the concept of an overdressed event. I did, after all, grow up in Potomac, Maryland - which boasts more sweet-16 sportscars per capita than any U.S. suburb (next to Bevery Hills). But when it came to my own bat mitzvah my parents declined to jump on the bandwagon, and I've always respected them for it. While they planned a lovely lunchtime party for Labor Day 1988, 600 miles away my best friend was planning her own celebration in a tony Chicago suburb. She remembers her mother's reply when she asked what the theme of the party would be:

"The theme is that you're 13 and we let you live this long." Right on.

Anyway, back to the article. I love this part:

As they performed, Amber stood onstage with them, in a $27,000 Dolce & Gabbana dress, waving to the crowd...

So some 13-year-old pisher in Miami is now the proud owner of a schmatte that could pay down 20% of my mortgage, or better yet put a poor kid through college. Maybe when she outgrows it in six months she can ship it to me; I've been looking for a nice tablecloth. (For the record, my bat mitzvah dress cost $130 and was designed by the powerhouse team of yours truly and the owner of O'Hara's Costume Shop on Rockville Pike.)

Even rock stars who are concerned that they will appear venal or trivial if word gets out can be seduced by pay that can exceed $100,000 an hour. All they have to do is run through a series of familiar songs in front of a small crowd that feels honored just to stand in the same room with them.

Hey - tell you what; I do a jazzy rendition of "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" that's a real showstopper. I'll give you the whole Jerome Kern songbook for 500 clams. Even throw in a few Gershwin numbers, no charge. A bargain, no?

If people can afford to do it, it certainly does make a party special," Mr. Ridinger said. "It brings an electricity to it you otherwise couldn't create.
That last part really says it all, doesn't it? "An electricity you otherwise couldn't create." Here's the thing, Mr. Ridinger: You absolutely could create it. In fact, it's your responsibility as the parent of the bat mitzvah girl. This electricity for which you paid so handsomely is supposed to be the by-product of your love for your kid; your pride at her graceful passage through a time-honored coming-of-age tradition. Joy is supposed to be immeasurable on this day. There should be no price tag. But I guess, if pressed, most proud parents would agree that half a million bucks should cover it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I didn't recognize you without your sheitel

Northern Virginia, 1988. My mother is in a furniture store, my eight-month-old brother strapped to her torso in a Snugli or similar such papoose. An older lady - rail-thin and elegantly dressed, not a sterling silver hair out of place - approaches to admire the baby.

"What a beautiful boy," she says, and coos at him until he smiles.

My mother never forgets a face, nor can she pass up an opportunity to play The Jewish Coincidence Name Game.

"You look awfully familiar," Mom says to the woman, "but I can't remember where we've met... Oh - I know! Don't you belong to my synagogue?"

"Well, no, I don't believe so," says the woman, and then warmly extends her hand.

"My name is Ethel Kennedy."