Magazine article The New Yorker

Caloric Sounds

Magazine article The New Yorker

Caloric Sounds

Article excerpt

Bruce Ratner, the real-estate developer, arrived the other day at Lansky's Old World Deli, on the Upper West Side, where he quickly spotted his friend the violinist Itzhak Perlman.

"How are you?" Ratner asked.

"I'm cold," Perlman replied. "My tuchus is in the draft."

The maestro and the developer, sixty-seven and sixty-eight, were meeting to discuss Perlman's upcoming event--an evening of cantorial music, featuring the world-famous Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, who will be accompanied by Perlman himself--at the Barclays Center, Ratner's Brooklyn arena, on February 28th. The two men first met more than thirty years ago, through their daughters, and they are close enough that, for example, Ratner knows that Perlman, whom the world sees as one of the greatest living musicians, is in his heart a Borscht Belt comedian, and will always start a joke, "Have you heard this one?" (Ratner also knows: "You never say you have heard this one.") A few days earlier, at Ratner's invitation, Perlman had performed the national anthem on the violin at a Brooklyn Nets game. ("No finger-synching!" he exclaimed, in reference to Beyonce's rendition of the anthem at the Inauguration.)

They moved to the back of the restaurant, where it was warmer, and where the talk turned not to cantorial music--Jewish liturgical singing, usually performed in synagogues--but to food.

"I wish they had a diet seven-layer cake," Perlman said, sighing.

"I grew up on seven-layer cake," Ratner said. "My mother would bring it home to us in Cleveland."

"Huh," Perlman said. "I always thought it was only a New York deal."

"We called it Doberge," Ratner said.

"No, Doberge is not seven-layer cake," Perlman replied sternly, in his rambling baritone. "Doberge has a hard, candylike icing."

Ratner: "Mine had the light chocolate on the outside, and then the darker chocolate. You mean that wasn't Doberge?"

Perlman: "Of course it wasn't Doberge! It was seven-layer cake. Your mother mistakenly called it Doberge."

Ratner, who has a you-go-first, self-deprecating quality that has served him well in dealing with the community groups that have opposed his development projects over the years, responded, "You mean my mother was wrong about something?"

Circling back to the Barclays Center event, Perlman explained that, in addition to Cantor Helfgot's magnificent voice, there would be klezmer music, played by him and others, and Yiddish standards would be sung. …

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