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For those of us who grew up in the 90s, Beverly Hills 90210 was pretty much the defining show of our generation. Who didn’t idolize those rich kids from West Beverly High and tune in each week to see their latest drama. And among us boys, there were heated discussions about whether Kelly or Brenda was hotter, becoming the “Ginger or Mary Ann?” debate of our generation. And if you liked Donna or Andrea (despite being the nice Jewish girl), there was something clearly wrong with you.
And as for the guys on the show, we all wanted to be just like Steve Sanders, played by the Jewish, yet inexplicably tan and blonde-haired, Ian Ziering. Though the character wasn’t Jewish, Steve was by far the best role model for pre-teen boys; Brandon Walsh was a whiney goody-two-shoes, the brooding Dylan McKay tried too hard to be cool, and David Silver was just an annoying nerd obsessed with Tori Spelling.
Instead of those losers, we looked up to Steve and his zest for life, partying ways and constant womanizing, as masterfully portrayed by Mr. Ziering. And though 90210 may have been the height of his career, he gave all of us Jewish kids with curly hair, even those with the rare case of a blonde Jew-fro, hope that we too might one day end up on the number one show in America. More than that, Ziering showed that we could finally play the cool kid, and not be stuck portraying a nerd like some more unfortunate people.
Coming off of Memorial Day weekend, you undoubtedly have seen countless websites across the internet flooded with barbecue-related content. And this blog is no different. To celebrate the holiday that officially launches grilling season, I’ve decided to pay tribute to the most famous Jew-fro in the barbecuing world, Sir Steven Raichlen.
Raichlen and his poufy Jew-fro have been staples on PBS, hosting two different shows over the past 10 years. He has also written 18 cookbooks, including one called Healthy Jewish Cooking. Widely regarded as the foremost expert on BBQ, Raichlen has received many awards for his cookbooks and has appeared on numerous TV shows demonstrating his cooking techniques. Still, I’ll bet most people have never even heard of him.
Unfortunately, when people here the phrase “barbecue expert” Bobby Flay is the person most likely to come to mind. Appearing on approximately 60% of all Food Network programming, Flay has become the ugly, goyishe, ginger face of grilling. And consistent with all of the Food Network’s hosts, he is pretty irritating and abrasive. No idea why, but the network thinks his arrogant and pugnacious demeanor (like his show where he goes to famous restaurants and forces the owner into a battle over who can make their signature dish better) is supposed to endear him to his audience. Well, I’m not buying it. I’d watch Raichlen’s humble and nerdy delivery any day of the week.
Continuing this soapbox time, I’d also like to point out that Bobby Flay makes the same damn food each time. He throws a couple poblano peppers on the grill, adds some kind of meat covered in a pseudo-Mexican marinade and calls it dinner. On the other hand, Raichlen teaches you how to grill all kinds of ethnic food using a whole bunch of different techniques. While I’d put my money on Flay if the two ever got into fisticuffs, I would much rather eat anything that Raichlen cooked. Although I would have to watch out for loose Jew-fro hairs – the guy looks like a shedder.
Not sure why, but somehow Jews have totally co-opted the hippie movement. Go to any Phish concert, and at least three-quarters of the audience will be Jewish guys with full beards and a mess of curls on their heads. Go to any college campus on a warm day, and chances are, there will be a bunch of barefoot Jews sitting around in a circle with a couple guitars singing Grateful Dead and Bob Marley songs.
And despite the fact that many of these Jewish hippies, or Jewpies, if you will, come from comfortable middle class families, they act like they were born dirt poor. So how can you explain such a disconnect? Maybe because one of the founders of the hippie movement, Abbie Hoffman, was also a Jew from a comfortable middle class family who acted like he was born dirt poor.
Hoffman was an endless advocate of the hippie lifestyle, even writing a book about it that is regarded as the hippie’s guide to life. In Steal this Book, Hoffman advises readers on doing all things hippie-ish: growing marijuana, getting free stuff, joining a commune, rebelling against authority, and, as the title implies, trying to overthrow corporate America. And in typical hippie-critical fashion, Hoffman’s book became a best seller, making its already comfortable author even more comfortable.
Full confession time. I’m actually a bit of a hippie-crit myself. I have a mess of curls on my head, sometimes have a beard, attended Phish concerts, and have read and agreed with many of the points in Steal this Book. But if Hoffman’s legions of followers can look past his hippie-critical ways, I hope you forgive my transgressions as well.
Jews are pretty underrepresented in the world of comic books. Although Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster (creators of Superman) and Stan Lee (creator of almost every other comic book character) are Jews, the inhabitants of their works seem to be lacking any type of religion. But there is at least one Jewish character gracing the pages of the comic book world. And he just so happens to be an evil genius, or Jewnius, if you will. This character is Holocaust survivor and main villain to the X-Men, Magneto.
Born with the Semitic sounding name of Max Eisenhardt, he did as so many notable Jews do along their road to fame and changed it to something snazzier. Not only does Magneto roll off the tongue a lot easier than his birth name, but it also references the fact that he can manipulate metal and alter the gravitational pull around him. Personally, I have mixed feelings about Magneto being Jewish. It’s bad enough that the rest of the world thinks we control the banks and the movie industry; we certainly don’t want people under the impression that we control the Earth’s electromagnetic fields as well.
Anyway, the most prominent feature of Magneto’s costume, aside from his effeminate pink and purple ensemble, is that helmet of his. While many people think he wears that thing to prevent his one-time friend and long-time enemy Professor X from reading his mind, the helmet serves another purpose. You see, Magneto, being the Jew that he is, has a Jew-fro. And that’s why he’s seldom seen without his headwear. Luckily for you, I got my hands on a copy of the one comic book where Magneto is shown without his helmet, the controversial October 1983 issue of The Uncanny X-Men, titled “A Hairy Situation.” Enjoy!
As if it weren’t hard enough growing up with a Jew-fro, try getting through adolescence with a giant Brillo pad on your scalp while playing a pathetic nerd on TV. Such was the life of Dustin Diamond, better known as Samuel “Screech” Powers on Saved by the Bell. Imagine spending your formative years playing a loser on TV who is taken advantage of by his supposed friends, constantly gets smacked down by the girl of his dreams, and is pretty much picked on by everyone at Bayside High School.
It’s pretty hard to get over that type of characterization, and, as such, Diamond was pretty much typecast as “the skinny nerd with curly hair.” While his Saved by the Bell co-stars had at least somewhat successful and diverse acting careers, Diamond’s on-screen credits are confined to things like Saved by the Bell: The College Years, Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style and Saved by the Bell: The New Class, portraying his Screech character in each one. But there is another film credit in his portfolio. In 2006, that skinny nerd with a Jew-fro starred in and directed his own porno, exposing his, uh, other Jew-fro to the rest of the world.
While Dustin Diamond spent his childhood getting picked on both on TV and in real life and has become a punchline in his adult years, I’m happy to pay tribute to him on Jew-fro.com. Going through life with a Jew-fro isn’t easy, and with all the crap he’s had to deal with, it’s a wonder he’s still alive.