Tag Archives: Walk of Fame

Jew of the Week: Stan Lee

The Genius Behind Marvel Comics

Stan Lee (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Stanley Martin Lieber (1922-2018) was born in Manhattan to Romanian-Jewish immigrants. He grew up in poverty, working all sorts of odd jobs from a young age, including delivering sandwiches and selling newspaper subscriptions. He dreamed of becoming the next great American novelist, and wrote obituaries in his spare time. Upon graduating from high school at 16, he got a job as an assistant at Timely Comics, a company started by his cousin’s husband, Martin Goodman. Lieber spent his time refilling inkwells, erasing pencil marks, and bringing lunches – for $8 a week. Eventually, he got a chance to write something of his own. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (also Jews) had recently come up with a new hit superhero – Captain America – and needed content. They gave the young man a shot, and he wrote his first story under the pseudonym “Stan Lee”. He would later explain that he did this because in those days comics were still unpopular and generally regarded as silly, and he was embarrassed to put his real name. His story was a success, turning Lee into a writer. When Kirby and Simon left Timely Comics over a dispute with Goodman, Lee was put as a temporary editor, despite being just 19 years old. As his stories continued to be hugely successful, Lee went from temporary editor to editor-in-chief, holding the position for over 30 years (except for a few years of service in World War II). Timely Comics would be renamed Marvel Comics, and Lee would co-create (mostly with Jack Kirby, who returned to the company) some of the most popular superheros of all time, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Hulk; the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the Avengers. Lee’s heroes and stories were unique in that they did not portray the typical, flawless protagonist. Instead, his characters were more complex, had everyday problems, and were sometimes just outright nerdy. The stories explored deeper, and at times darker, themes. These became wildly popular, opening up the comic book market to a much wider audience. Lee also pioneered a new approach of connecting comics writers with their fans to build a strong comic book community. Unlike others, he would credit writers and illustrators right at the front of the issue, and even name inkers and letterers that were typically omitted from mention. Lee was at the forefront of social change, writing about serious topics that were still taboo (like drug abuse), while introducing the first African superhero in comics in 1966 (Black Panther) and the first African-American superhero in 1969 (Falcon). Lee himself wrote countless stories, edited just about all the others, and also penned a monthly article, “Stan’s Soapbox”. In 1981, he moved to Los Angeles to take Marvel from print to television. He would serve as a producer on multiple TV and film adaptations of Marvel characters, most famously in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe – now the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Lee was also a noted philanthropist and has done a great deal of charity work (especially through his Stan Lee Foundation). He was happily married for nearly seven decades. Lee struggled after his wife passed away last year, and a number of people sought to take advantage of him in his old age. Sadly, he passed away yesterday, at 95. Disney CEO Bob Iger called him “a superhero in his own right,” and said: “The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.” Click here to see a tribute to Stan Lee, featuring some of his best movie cameos.

9 Ways to Talk Like a Jew

Words of the Week

I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.
– Stan Lee

Stan Lee’s First Comic, 1941

Jew of the Week: Michael Bolton

Michael Bolotin (b. 1953) was born in Connecticut. His grandparents were all Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Russia, and kept a strictly kosher home. Bolotin, however, was more like his liberal parents who, fed up with anti-Semitic discrimination, sought to assimilate into American society and kept a Christmas tree alongside their menorah. This may explain why Bolotin was a trouble maker at his Hebrew school, and got kicked out when he was 13. That same year, he tragically lost his father. Music was one way to cope with the loss. At 16, he was signed to a record deal and dropped out of high school. His first songs didn’t go anywhere, so he joined a heavy metal band which opened for Ozzy Osbourne. Still, he struggled to make a living for a decade. It wasn’t until 1983 that Bolotin (now going by Bolton) had his first hit with a song he co-wrote, then released his breakthrough (fifth) album in 1987. By the late 80s’, Bolton was a household name, and in 1989 he won his first Grammy for “How I Am Supposed to Live Without You”, then a second in 1991 for “When a Man Loves a Woman”. All in all, Bolton produced 20 albums (so far) and sold over 75 million records, with 9 singles hitting number one on the Billboard 100. Bolton also wrote hit songs for other artists like Barbra Streisand, Cher, and Kiss; appeared in eight films and television shows; and published an autobiography. In 1993, he established The Michael Bolton Charities, focusing on helping women and children suffering from poverty and sexual abuse, and providing opportunities for underprivileged youth. Over the years, the foundation has donated over $10 million to organizations across America. Bolton is the chairman of Prevent Child Abuse America, and a vocal member of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Last year, he opened the Family Justice Center in his hometown, a support clinic for victims of domestic violence. For his charitable work and success in music, Bolton was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and among many other distinctions, has received the Martin Luther King Award for promoting racial equality. His timeless ballads and one-of-a-kind voice have made Bolton a living legend.

Words of the Week

The footsteps of man are directed by God.
– Psalms 37:23

Bolton once shaved off his famous long, golden hair for charity; it was auctioned off for $6000. He has raised even more money by playing charity baseball games with his “Bolton Bombers” team.

Jew of the Week: William Shatner

William Shatner as Captain Kirk (1966-1969)

William Shatner as Captain Kirk (1966-1969)

William Shatner (b. 1931) was born in Montreal to a Jewish family with Eastern European ancestry. Despite studying economics at McGill University, Shatner was drawn to acting from a young age and was a member of the Montreal Children’s Theatre. After graduating, he became the manager of a theatre company and soon started acting himself in Ottawa’s Canadian National Repertory Theatre and Stratford’s Shakespeare Festival. Meanwhile, he had a few small roles in Canadian films before starring in The Brothers Karamazov in 1958 – his first significant Hollywood role. Over the following few years, Shatner struggled to find more success, and picked up whatever roles he could, appearing on Broadway, in a number of television shows, and various films. In 1966, Shatner was cast as Captain Kirk on the new show Star Trek. In one historic 1968 episode, Kirk kissed Lt. Uhura – the first kiss between a white man and a black woman on American television. Unfortunately, Star Trek was not yet very popular, and the show was cancelled after just three seasons. Shatner had a tough time finding work afterwards, and ended up broke and living from his truck. He took on many small roles through the 70s, appearing in multiple shows and doing all sorts of commercials, from General Motors to Canada’s Loblaws grocery store. By the end of the 1970s, Star Trek had made a comeback and developed a massive cult following. Paramount decided to make a film and cast the original actors in the 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Shatner went on to play Kirk in six more Star Trek films. He soon expanded to directing films, producing music, writing screenplays, and co-writing a series of very popular sci-fi novels. Between 1994 and 2010, Shatner was the CEO of a special effects studio, while also publishing a number of non-fiction books and continuing to play small roles in film and television. All in all, Shatner has appeared in at least 20 films, 30 television shows, and wrote or co-wrote over 40 books. He has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe, and has a star on both Hollywood’s and Canada’s Walk of Fame. He has played for charitable causes on the World Poker Tour, and is an organizer of the Hollywood Charity Horse Show which raises funds for children’s charities. In 2006, he sold his kidney stone for $25,000 and raised an additional $20,000 to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Interestingly, Shatner does not like seeing himself on video, and says he has never watched any of his films or Star Trek episodes!

Words of the Week

God is a circle whose center is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere.
– Empedocles