It is a tried and true bit of showbiz wisdom that you never open with a show-stopper. So the organizers of the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival are taking a huge risk in opening the 27th installment of the popular literary event with Fran Drescher.
Star of screens both big and small, successful author (Enter Whining and Cancer Schmancer are both best-sellers) and possessing enough personality to light up three of New York's five boroughs, the Divine Ms. D. is definitely a show-stopper. And yet there she sits, pretty as a picture and kicking off the JBF at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, November 6. She discusses, among other topics, her career and her successful battle with uterine cancer. Fran's gorgeous, funny, and she beat cancer -- who's going to follow that act?
Tab Hunter, that's who. The too-good-looking-to-be-true star of such flicks as The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and Polyester sits down to discuss his autobiography, Tab Hunter, Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, with Joe Williams of the Post-Dispatch at 7:30 p.m. Monday, November 7. Hunter's book is a no-holds-barred look at the dying days of the Hollywood Star Machine and how it took in Art Gelien and spit out "Tab Hunter." Topics of discussion include Hunter's leading ladies (Natalie Wood, Lana Turner) and his homosexuality. Bombshells on top of bombshells!
All right, Tab Hunter is gay (and doing fantastically, we might add; the book is a corking good read, and he has happiness and a successful career as a producer to boot): Some of you might need a little something to revive yourself. And what's a Jewish get-together without a little nosh? At 1 p.m. Wednesday, November 9, Don Siegel (author of From Lokshen to Lo Mein) and Matthew Goodman (author of Jewish Food: The World at Table) discuss the glorious history of Jews eating well, and they provide a schmear of samples. Eat something; you look hungry. And the JBF is not even half over at this point.
Dive right into week two with another shot of glitz, courtesy of Jack Klugman. At 7:30 p.m. Sunday, November 13, the messy half of TV's The Odd Couple (and former Steak-Ums pitchman) talks with Charles Brennan about his memoir, Life with Tony, which looks back on five decades of friendship with frequent co-star Tony Randall. To some, Klugman will forever be Oscar Madison, but to us he'll always be Quincy, the crime-fighting medical examiner who provided CSI thrills before there was a CSI. (Tony Randall will always remain Tony Randall, however.)
But this year's JBF is not all Hollywood star power and snacks. Josh Neuman, editor of Heeb magazine, comes to town at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 17, to discuss The Big Book of Jewish Conspiracies. For those who don't know, Heeb is the magazine for today's hip, young Jewish urbanite (and it bills itself as "The New Jew Review"). Neuman discusses some of the more common Jewish conspiracies, such as how and why Jews created Hollywood, and the function of psychoanalysis as a tool for controlling the wealthy. Trust us: Fran Drescher's going to raise expectations, but Neuman's gonna steal the show. -- Paul Friswold