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February 01, 1985 - Image 39

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-02-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PEOPLE

Entertaining Activist

Continued from Page 80

before. And so if they see you
as a Russian then there's a
whole spate of. Russians of-
fered to me." He said he hoped
that Hollywood would realize
that he could speak English
without an accent and give
him other roles.
Looking back, he said his
favorite role had to be that of
Zorba. "Perhaps the most ful-
filling role that I've had was
Zorba. In terms of my success
with it, it equals, every bit of
it, Tevye, except Tevye is my
own grandfather or great-
grandfather and I didn't have
to stretch too far to encompass
him and to reach him because I
knew him viscerally and tra-
ditionally. For Zorba I had to
stretch."
He could not choose a least
favorite part and explained
why: "The least is tough to say
. . . If you have ten children
you can't really say which one
is your favorite or your un-
favorite in front of the kids be-
cause they're always there."
There are many parts he
would like to play, particu-
larly the classics. "I still ha-
ven't done King Lear yet, but
I'm working my way up to the
age bracket of King Lear."
He haS been affiliated with
the Actors Equity Association
and is its past president. He is
a vice president of the Interna-
tional Federation of Actors
and was appointed by
President Carter in 1977 to
serve a five-year term on the
National Council for the Arts.
Dressed in a herringbone
jacket, V-neck sweater, shirt
and jeans, he reminds one of
college professors. Hearing
him sing brings visions of cof-
fee house days, the Greenwich
Village folk scene of the late
'50s and early '60s when sin-
gers like Joan Baez, Bob Dy-
lan, Tim Hardin, the Muldars,
the Farinas, Pete Seeger and
Phil Ochs held sway, and were
noted for belting out tunes of
social protest.
Did he think there could be a
revival of that musical move-
ment? He answered by quot-
ing blues singer Mississippi
John Hurt: "Daddy, it ain't
never been away."
He is critical of the popular
music scene today, and said he
preferred classical music.
"I think there's a lot of arro-
gance in contemporary pop
music that, for example, did
not exist in the days Of the
Beatles because the Beatles
not only stole from all sources,
but acknowledged that they
did, indeed, paid respect to
their sources. They would tell
you that they took sitar music

Theodore Bikel:
Social artist

from the (East) Indians, that
they took Southern 12-bar
blues and used them in their
music. They took Bach and
baroque and all and incorpo-
rated it into their music and
made no bones about it, and
indeed said 'We're very
grateful that that existed, and
we could take from it.' "

He called today's pop music
"simple and overbearing."
"Maybe that's a sign that
maybe I'm too old to ap-
preciate it. But I don't think
so."
His time is taken up with
performing and television
commitments, and he claims
to have no spare time. How-
ever, he admits to playing

chess and dabbling in photog-
raphy. He doesn't pursue any
athletic activity and even
found himself faltering in the
sports category of "Trivial
Pursuit."
"Whatever sports question
you ask me, the answer is
Heisman trophy. It's either
Heisman or trophy — one of
the two." Bikel said he likes to
read when he has the time, but
"time is an enemy for me. It's
not an ally."
But, he is not regretful that
he turned to acting and
entertaining. Rather, he finds
it fulfilling.
"I could've been a linguist or
academician. But I can and do
cultivate my languages just as
much with more fun in be-
tween. And I like performing.
For want of a better definition,
I am an artist. There are cer
tain imperatives that impel
you toward it."
He has written some songs
but prefers not to sing them in
concert. His reason? "I prefer
to perform other people's bril-
liant material rather than run
the risk of marketing medioc-
rity because one is never objec-
tive enough to know whether
one's own material is really
good."
But what he does is good.
His audience gives him stand-
ing ovations, his story-telling
is unmatched. And when as
Tevye, he beseeches God to
make him a wealthy man,
well, Theodore Bikel has noth-
ing to worry .about. He racks it
up in talent.

39

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NEWS

Mexico Jews' Status Stable

New York (JTA) — American
Jewish leaders, in Mexico last
week to join in celebrating the
50th anniversary of B'nai B'rith
there, found the situation of the
nation's Jewish community sig-
nificantly improved from two
years ago.

Sponsored by the Latin Ameri-
can Affairs Committee of the
Anti-Defamation League of B'nai
B'rith, the delegation spent five
days in Mexico visiting Jewish
cultural and religious institutions
and meeting with Jewish com-
munal and governmental offi-
cials. It was the second ADL group
to visit Mexico in the past two
years.

According to the delegation
leaders, Burton Levinson, chair-
man of ADL's national executive
committee, I. Barry Mehler of
Washington, chairman of the

agency's Latin American Affairs
committee, and Stephen Arent
and Judy Hecht of Denver, mem-
bers of the committee, tensions
have eased and Mexican Jewry is
the committee, tensions have
eased and Mexican Jewry is no
longer concerned that it will serve
as a scapegoat for the country's
economic ills, a major apprehen-
sion two years ago.
They said that while the tidal
wave of anti-Zionist and anti-
Semitic propaganda which as-
sailed the community in the wake
of the war in Lebanon has sub-
sided, such propaganda still re-
mains somewhat of a problem.
The delegation attributed the
improvement of conditions to the
efforts of the Mexican govern-
ment to reassure the Jewish
community and control the
short-term aspects of the eco-
nomic crisis.

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