Kirk Douglas launches book, prepping for third bar mitzvah

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — At 95, Kirk Douglas has just released his 10th book and is prepping for his third bar mitzvah.

The iconic actor appeared at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on June 12 to launch the book and to reset his hand, foot and dimpled chin print in cement at the same spot he performed the ritual exactly 50 years ago.

Launching at the same time “I Am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist,” Douglas described his latest opus as “the most important book I have ever written.”

Douglas produced and starred in the title role of the 1960 movie “Spartacus.” By publicly crediting Dalton Trumbo, a former communist, as the screenwriter, he effectively broke the studios’ blacklist against professionals with communist ties.

“I was making a film about freedom at a time when freedom in America was in jeopardy,” Douglas said. “There are parallels to today’s political climate, and I thought it was timely to set down my recollections.”

The theater, celebrating its 85th anniversary, marked the occasion by screening “Spartacus” at the original ticket price of 25 cents.

Douglas jokingly grumbled that the original entry fee was only a dime and that Grauman’s was overcharging. He told the crowd, “If you don’t have a quarter, I’ll help you out,” and then tossed fistfuls of the coin to a mass of outstretched hands.

Douglas, born the son of an illiterate Russian-Jewish rag picker and junkman, found his way back to Judaism after a helicopter crash in 1991 that killed two younger companions but spared him.

At 83, he celebrated his second bar mitzvah, 13 years after the traditional allotted lifespan of 70, telling well-wishers at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, “Today I am a man.”

Douglas will be 96 when he repeats the ceremony in December. “I am still looking forward,” he recently told ABC-TV.

“I Am Spartacus!” is being published in print, eBook and audiobook formats, the last narrated by Kirk’s son, actor Michael Douglas, with a foreword by George Clooney.

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