The U.S. Tennis Open ended with mixed results for the Jewish participants. None of the Jewish players mentioned in our Aug. 29 column advanced past the first round of the singles or doubles. However, it was a different story in the ancillary seniors’ matches. JIM GRABB, one of the best doubles players in the history of the game, won the “35-44” seniors doubles championship with his partner. Likewise, TOM OKKER, a Dutch Jew who was a top player in the ’60s, won the “super seniors” doubles championship (55 and up) with his partner. Okker is best remembered for almost beating Arthur Ashe for the 1968 U.S. Open singles title.
The biggest Jewish story to come out of the Open is the emergence of Piedmont native BRAD GILBERT as a “miracle coach.” Gilbert, who now lives in Marin County, coached American Andy Roddick to a surprise singles title. Gilbert was a top touring professional from 1982-1995. He did not win any Grand Slam events, but he did win 20 singles titles and was known for his smart, tough game.
He’s a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel and played in the Maccabi Games. In 1995, he became Andre Agassi’s coach. Agassi had lost his verve and was rapidly sinking in the rankings when Gilbert came on board. Like Gilbert, neither Agassi nor Roddick is blessed with “god-like” tennis abilities. Rather, as Gilbert explained in his book, “Winning Ugly,” a player can win based on his wits and never letting his mental guard down. Agassi learned this lesson and returned to the ranks of the top players.
Roddick and Gilbert parted company early in 2002. Gilbert told the Marin Independent Journal that he was enjoying the break — hanging out with his kids and rooting for the Raiders. However, Roddick asked Gilbert to be his coach early this year, and Gilbert agreed to take on another protégé. Roddick has gone a remarkable 32-2 in tournament play since he hired Gilbert and everyone has noticed a marked increase in Roddick’s concentration.
It’s not easy, of course, to keep up with a 21-year-old on the tennis court. During one practice session, covered by an Orlando, Fla., newspaper, Gilbert voiced his displeasure at missing a Roddick volley. Roddick responded by saying that Gilbert — 15 years ago — would have got to it. Gilbert responded, “Hey, I am a 42-year-old Jewish guy.”
Tough-guy actor Charles Bronson, born Charles Buchinsky, died on Aug. 31, and no doubt many wondered, as they read his birth name in the obit, whether he was Jewish. No, he wasn’t. His parents were non-Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine and Lithuania, respectively. Like most actors of his generation, he dropped his ethnic name, lest it add to the many difficulties all actors face when they try to make a living at their craft. Bronson and his almost lifelong friend, actor JACK KLUGMAN, exemplify this uphill climb. These “poor boys” met while both were working on the Jersey shore in the ’40s. Later, Klugman and Bronson shared a cheap room in New York as they tried to break into acting. During this time, Klugman sometimes sold his blood to make ends meet. (But he managed to hold on to his original last name.)
Both became overnight successes in the mid-1970s. Bronson finally became a big American movie star with the success of “Death Wish.” Meanwhile, Klugman hit the jackpot with “The Odd Couple” and “Quincy, Medical Examiner.”
13 GOING ON 30
NIKKI REED, 15, must have set some Hollywood record for youngest screenwriter. She is the co-star and co-writer of the recently released film “Thirteen,” about two affluent girls who live the fast life of drugs, sex and petty crime. Reed wrote the film with director Catherine Hardwicke. It is somewhat autobiographical — although Reed has matured quickly from her wild days. “Thirteen” has received good-to-great reviews. However, it might be best to use this fairly graphic film as a discussion tool between parents and teenagers — rather than just sending teens off to see it on their own. In a profile in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, Hardwicke noted that both Reed and co-star EVAN RACHEL WOOD, 15, are Jewish. Wood has been in a regular in TV’s “The Profiler” and “Once and Again.”
Nate Bloom is a is the Oakland-based editor of www.Jewhoo.com