Issur Danielovitch Demsky will celebrate his 94th birthday this year on December 9th. That’s hardly a show-stopping announcement, except that Danielovitch Demsky, the son of poor, illiterate Russian immigrants to America, would later change his name, upon arriving in Hollywood, to Kirk Douglas.

In his heyday, Douglas was known for his ego, super-sized even by Hollywood standards, and as a loner and womanizer of epic proportions. He also made 87 movies, among them such favorites as Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful, Lust for Life, Paths of Glory and Spartacus. In Cast a Giant Shadow, one of three films he made in Israel, Douglas portrayed American colonel Mickey Marcus, who lost his life fighting in Israel’s War of Independence.

As befits his more mature years, Douglas issued a manifesto on his 90th birthday addressed to Generation Y, introducing himself as having survived “World War II, a helicopter crash, a stroke and two new knees.”

He urged the younger generation “to rebel, to speak up, write, vote and care about people” – because, he wrote with capital-letter emphasis, “THE WORLD IS IN A MESS.”

Even in his more hedonistic days, when he frequently starred as a Nordic-looking action hero slaying legions of Romans and Vikings, Douglas always knew he was a Jew.

As he recounted during his second bar mitzva at age 83, “I always fasted on Yom Kippur. I still worked (on the movie set), but I fasted. And let me tell you, it’s not easy to make love to Ava Gardner on an empty stomach.”

Excerpt from an article in THE JERUSALEM POST

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