Avalon (1990), filmmaker Barry Levinson’s loving tribute to his family roots was the nucleus of his “Baltimore Films.” The others include Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987) and Liberty Heights (1999). However, although Diner is a personal favorite, Avalon, for my money is really the best of the series. Long before I began work on Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I saw Avalon in the theater with my parents, a rare occurrence and boy, am I glad I did as I learned a fascinating anecdote about my family history.
Flashback several decades when the majority of my family still lived in New York, mostly Brooklyn to be exact. My father was a truck driver and had two older brothers, Hank and Dave. My uncle Dave was involved with the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) and would jokingly tell people he was a CPA, Cleaning, Pressing and Alterations. My uncle Hank started his own successful jewelry company and left Brooklyn for the the ‘burbs of Oceanside, Long Island. I mention this as one Thanksgiving my uncle Dave and his family took longer to get to my uncle Hank’s house who had decided not to wait, and had us all eating before his older brother Dave arrived. When Dave did arrive, he was livid: YOU CUT A TURKEY WITHOUT A BROTHER?!?” he apparently shouted in anger.
Okay, now flash forward to a darkened movie theater in 1990 as I sit watching the film with my parents. If you’ve seen Avalon, then you know where this is going. Lou Jacobi arrives late to his brother’s house for Thanksgiving as his brother had moved to the ‘burbs. When Jacobi shouts, “YOU CUT A TURKEY WITHOUT A BROTHER!?” My mother howled with laughter and, being the queen of tact, elbowed my father while shouting so everyone in the theatre could hear, “Oy! is that your brother Dave!”
A happier connection to the film was the fact that when I move back to California from New Jersey, Jewish Federation News editor Harriette Ellis allowed me to review the film when it was released, turning a freelance gig into a permanent position as her editorial assistant. The review is below and as a cautionary tale, remember: Never cut a turkey without a brother! Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.

My review of Barry Levinson’s AVALON.


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Seth Greenberg, ESPN’s popular college basketball broadcaster and analyst, may not seem to be in my wheelhouse as an interview subject but back in the day, February, 1995, to be exact, that’s exactly what he was. I recently came across the piece I did on him while reorganizing some of my files and it brought back a flood of memories. Also, since “March Madness” has been cancelled due to the Corona Virus pandemic, I thought this an appropriate time to reflect on what was.
The interview with Seth Greenberg came about like this: At the time of the interview, Greenberg was the head basketball coach at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) and managed to bring the school to the NCAA Finals for what I believe to be the first time. I was the editorial assistant for the Jewish Community Chronicle here in Long Beach while I was researching and working on Lee Marvin Point Blank in its earliest stages. My editor, Harriette Ellis, wanted me to interview Greenberg due to his involvement with the Maccabi Games, a sort of Jewish version of the Olympic Games, as well as the newly built Pyramid stadium at CSULB.
Obviously, interviewing an individual who’s claim to fame was athletic, proved to be quite a challenge to yours truly. My knowledge of such things is limited at best and other than touching base on what Harriette wanted covered, I was at a complete loss as to what else I would discuss with Greenberg. I remember that at the last minute, I decided to go with the concept of the cultural belief that generally speaking, Jews are not necessarily known for their athletic ability. Once again, for better or for worse, the result can be read below.
Oh, one more thing: due to the way in which I archived the article, the orientation of columns read straight down from one page to the next as you’ll see. Just so you know. Well, for better or for worse, here it is…..
– Dwayne Epstein

Seth Greenberg interview, page 1.

Seth Greenberg interview, page 2.

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Anti-Semitism is apparently on the rise, along with other nasty acts of hatred, but the existence is hardly new. I’ve experienced some very minor run-ins with it myself, but it’s nothing compared to what I witnessed firsthand while working at Long Beach’s Jewish Community Chronicle.
Long before the rise of mainstream media’s embrace of such things (a culturally shift that, according to the ADL, can be laid at the feet of the President-Elect), I got the exclusive story of one such ugly incident of extreme anti-semitism back in 1993.
Worked like this: Long before the publication of Lee Marvin Point Blank, My JCC boss, editor Harriette Ellis, received a call of such an event to our cramped little office and then asked me to go check it out. Usually, our paper is made up of mostly local events, marriages, bar mitzvahs, etc. The only real news came from the Jewish Telegraph Agency we subscribed to and picked articles from it to run as filler. This, however, was quite different.
I went to the site of the incident and spoke with the young janitor on duty. When he showed me what took place, I took pictures to go with the article and asked if there was anything else. He reached into his pocked and pulled out some scraps of paper left at the scene. When I saw them, I immediately asked if anyone else had seen them, like the police or other local news organizations. He said the L.A. Times, Orange County Register and the Long Beach Press-Telegram all made phone inquiries. I was the only one to physically come to the scene of the crime. There’s a journalism lesson there somewhere, folks. As for the police, he said they didn’t ask, so he didn’t show it to them. I thanked him, rushed back to the office, burst in, and actually said to Harriette (wait for it)…”Stop the presses, Chief! I gotta story that’ll set this whole town on fire!” She loved it!
By the way, I like to add the Harriette was, and remains one of the best editors I ever worked for. In fact, as a side note, she contacted her nephew, L.A. Weekly editor Harold Myerson, and asked him to put me in contact with a good agent. He gave me Mike Hamilburg’s phone number which resulted in Lee Marvin Point Blank FINALLY seeing the light of day!
At any rate, below is the article for the Chronicle detailing the exclusive coverage I got on the heinous act of anti-semitism. I would like to be able to say it’s all in the past but sadly, it’s all too new, all over again. Here’s hoping 2017 might reverse the trend, but it’s doubtful….

Page of 1 my 1993 JEWISH COMMUNITY CHRONICLE article on local anti-semitic vandalism in Long Beach.

Page 2 of the article.

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