OyChicago articles

My Father the Movie Star

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Picture taken from the set of Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. My dad appears on the far right. 

Witless Protection isn’t my kind of movie. Normally, I’d have skipped it all together, but I went to see it opening weekend. It‘s the story of a small town bungling sheriff who mistakenly thinks he’s witnessing a kidnapping. The “kidnappers” are FBI agents assigned to escort a woman to court to testify against a big corporation, but later turn out to be on the “take.” They’re working for the bad guy corporate executives and our clumsy sheriff ends up a hero. It stars Larry the Cable Guy as the sheriff, Jenny McCarthy as his girl friend, and…Skip Jacobs, a.k.a. my dad, as featured extra #12. He’s a movie star…well, sort of.

Following my mom’s cancer diagnosis, my dad decided it was time to retire. The two of them would travel, relax and enjoy life together without the stress of work. This arrangement lasted a whole year. My mom recovered and went back to work. And my dad went to his first movie audition for The Express.

Fifteen movies, four TV shows and a couple commercials later, he has a thriving second career in the movie and TV business. He’s filmed in movies starring Angela Bassett, Angelina Jolie, Christian Bale, Dennis Quaid, Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Patrick Swayze, and Tyler Perry—to name a few Hollywood folks. He did a commercial with Lou Pinella for Aquefina at Wrigley Field. And last year, he met Barack Obama while filming a scene for the movie “The Unborn” at K.A.M. Isaiah Temple in Hyde Park. (President Obama visited the set directly across the street from his Chicago home.) He even has three casting agents.

All of this success has gone straight to his head.

Me: “Hey Dad, I am going to write a story about your work as a movie extra for Oy!, what do you think?”

Dad: “Well, are you going to pay me?”

Me: “Umm, no.

Dad: “You can’t write it then.”

Me: “Dad, come on.”

Dad: “Ok, well only if you buy me dinner at a restaurant of my choice with my manager, my publicist, my agent, my lawyer and my accountant. You have to take me and my people out.”

Me: “Or you can just give me one or two stories about being an extra…wait-a-minute, I thought I was your publicist? Dad, can you just talk about being on the set of The Dark Knight. Give me a little scoop, so I can write this story. What was it like?”

Dad: “Well, it was a huge production. A lot of fun, but very time consuming—they shot scenes over and over again and we had to stand in place for hours on end. There were over 400 extras in my particular scene—the memorial for the police commissioner. We were under strict orders not to approach or speak to any of the Hollywood actors. But that didn’t stop Heath Ledger.. He was very nice, very warm, such an affable guy…he talked with a whole group of us and he was amazing to watch perform.

There were two wrap parties for The Dark Knight, one for the principle actors and one for the crew and some of the featured extras. Heath showed up to both parties and not only that, he took some of the crew out for drinks afterwards.

This interview will now cost you a thousand dollars. I’ll have my people send you my bill.”

So, he has a bit of an ego, but I also enjoy some of the perks of having a father in show business. I’m his future date to any premiere parties he might get invited to and I’m waiting for that elusive invitation to the Oscars. I think secretly my dad enjoys dressing up in costume, getting ridiculous hair cuts and even sitting in the make up chair. He’s an actor now who takes his craft seriously. Plus, he’s made a lot of new friends and eaten a lot of well-catered craft food.


My dad and I attending a Cubs game on a day off

But believe it or not, stardom also has its downsides. My dad can be on a film set sometimes up to seven days a week. He’s missed birthday parties and even a recent holiday celebration. It’s a lot of long hours and he never knows what he’ll be asked to do (he once turned down a nude scene) or where he’ll be. He’s filmed in airports, temples, bars and even inside a jail full of convicted felons.

A few months ago I called him on his cell phone while he was filming for The Beast. My dog and my best friend Lisa had joined him as extras on set and I wanted to check in to see how they were holding up. Surprisingly, my dad answered his phone. So, I began to ask him about the filming figuring he was on a break. Then I heard someone in the background yell “Cut! Get him off the phone…What does he think he is doing?” And click! I was disconnected. Yep, that’s my dad. He answered his phone while shooting the middle of a scene—typical movie star behavior.

‘How to Shop for a Husband’

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Consumer affairs expert’s new shopping guide offers tips on life’s most important ‘buy’ 


Ignore the shoes; focus on the ‘guts’

When Janice Lieberman was single and dating, she put a lot of stock in what kind of shoes her potential suitor was wearing.

As the Consumer Smarts correspondent for NBC’s “Today Show” and former host of the consumer affairs show “Steals and Deals” on CNBC, Lieberman had been living an exciting life with a successful career. Yet, she was missing a loving husband to share it all with, which made the rest of her life seem a little less fabulous. “I was single for way too long and I was going nowhere with my dating life,” she said. “I had the perfect job and the perfect everything, but when you come home to an empty house, the job doesn’t seem so exciting.”

After many years of dating anguish and “writing off guys for stupid reasons,” Lieberman, who is Jewish and lives in New Jersey, decided that footwear doesn’t matter in a mate and neither do many of the other attributes on her previous “shopping list” for a husband. What counts, she says, is the content of his character.

So she altered her list to consider the fundamentals that really matter in a partner—the “good guts,” as she calls them—like how good a friend he is, how he treats his mother, and how polite he is to restaurant staff.

Then, about seven years ago, she met Steve—who she says has “good guts”—in a Torah study class and, six months later, married him when she was on the wrong side of 35.

In her new book, How to Shop for a Husband: A Consumer Guide to Getting a Great Buy on a Guy (St. Martin’s Press; $22.95), coming  out this May, Lieberman couples her expertise as a consumer reporter with her personal knowledge of the dating marketplace to guide other women as they make the most important “buy” of their life—their spouse.

In the consumer guide, written with Bonnie Teller, Lieberman uses shopping principles to formulate rules that will help women choose a spouse and “close the deal.” The book provides a shopping list that women can use to hunt for their ultimate bargain and highlights potential pitfalls and the most important rules of the dating (and marriage) game.

The ‘Picky Generation’

Lieberman labels her current “shoppers” as the “Picky Generation.” People can customize the “perfect” anything—their Starbucks, their iPod playlists, and even their “Build-a-Bear” teddy bears for their kids, but it doesn’t stop there. “Our predilection for the personalized, the customized, the made-to-order, and the all-around, generally perfect has bled into our search for a soul mate,” she writes.

In researching her book, Lieberman met people who have rejected potential mates for reasons including the following: “Poor grammar,” “thinks Olive Garden is fine dining,” “had never heard of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and “didn’t know that Houston Street in Manhattan is pronounced “how-ston,” not “hue-ston.”

She advises people to be selective, but not picky in choosing a mate. People need to learn to compromise, but not to settle. “We have a million things to check off [such as in online dating] about going to the movies and taking walks on the beach, but what does that really mean?” says Lieberman. “You need to be selective about the qualities that count—the goodness in a person.”

Dating sage Charles Grodin

Back when Lieberman was single, her friend, TV personality and CNBC colleague Charles Grodin, started a campaign on his talk show to get Lieberman married.

He asked her on air what she was looking for in a husband and she rattled off a list of five descriptors: “Smart, good-looking, wealthy, athletic, and a sense of humor.” Every few weeks, he would invite Lieberman back on the show for dating updates. She went out with a lot of men, but still couldn’t meet Mr. Right.

Ironically, her future husband Steve’s father heard about Grodin’s campaign and urged Steve to call in and ask her out, but Steve refused because he worried that “she’ll think I’m a stalker.”

At the end of the failed dating campaign, Grodin suggested to Lieberman that she was searching for the wrong five things on her shopping list and suggested five more: “You want somebody who loves you, cares about your family, somebody you can trust, who is kind, and who wants children,” he explained. Grodin later told Lieberman that the most important thing to look for in a prospective spouse is a good disposition. You never know how time and circumstance will change a person, but one thing that generally stays the same is a person’s disposition, “so pick a spouse,” he says, “who is kind and pleasant.” Eventually, his advice paid off and she met Steve.


Janice Lieberman’s “shopping list” may just lead you to Mr. Right

Shopping tips for single Jewish women

Now, happily married with two sons—ages 6 and almost 1—Lieberman recommends the following shopping tips to single women:

1. Ignore the packaging. Learn how to discriminate between legitimate reasons to cross a guy off the list and those that will lead to buyer’s remorse.
2. Avoid scams and sleazy sales pitches in men.
3. Shop in the men’s department. Go to where the guys are, such as Home Depot, the Apple Store, and fly-fishing vacations.
4. Shop alone. “If there is one dress on sale and you both want it, that’s an issue,” Leiberman explains. “This applies to dating as well.”
5. Tell everyone to set you up. You never know who has a nice, single Jewish friend.
6. Finally, alterations are fine. “You don’t want to go into a relationship and need someone to change completely,” says Lieberman. “But a few minor alterations are OK, just like that classic little black dress. If it needs a hem, that’s fine, but if it needs major re-altering, leave it on the shelf.”

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