'When Marlon Brando made me a Pessah offer I couldn't refuse'

Recalling Seder with Godfather on one side, and music legend on the other.

marlon brando 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy )
marlon brando 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy )
A few weeks ago, as he began preparing material for our Pessah supplements, The Jerusalem Post's Managing Editor Steve Linde placed a small ad in the paper inviting readers to submit amazing but true Pessah stories. More than 100 flooded in, several of which appear in our April 8 Pessah supplement - and none more wonderful than Minnesota businessman Louie Kemp's account of his Seder in a Los Angeles synagogue more than two decades ago with Marlon Brando and Bob Dylan. Kemp had gotten to know Brando years earlier through a mutual friend and would visit him in LA. "I was starting to become increasingly involved in my religion, and he would tell me with great pride and satisfaction about his support for Israel even before it became a state," Kemp recalls. One of his visits to LA happened to coincide with Pessah, and Kemp had made plans to attend a Seder at a local synagogue with his sister. "Marlon called me that very day and invited me out to dinner," he writes. "I graciously declined, explaining that it was Pessah and I was going to a Seder. "Marlon became audibly excited over the phone and said, 'Passover - I've always wanted to attend a Seder.'" Could he come along, he asked? "He had made me an offer I couldn't refuse." Later that same day, Kemp received another phone call, "from a childhood friend who had become a well-known singer/songwriter. Being Jewish himself, and hearing I was going to a Seder, he asked if he and his wife could go along. "I will never forget the sight of our table in the synagogue," Kemp marvels, with Brando on his left and that childhood friend, who just happened to be Dylan, on his right. At first, Kemp recalls, the Seder progressed normally without anyone noticing anything out of the ordinary. But after about 45 minutes, "the rabbi figured out that ours was not your average Seder table. "'Mr. Brando, would you please do us the honor of reading the next passage from the Haggada?' he asked. Marlon replied, 'It would be my pleasure.'" Brando rose and delivered the passage "as if he were reading Shakespeare on Broadway. Mouths fell open and eyes focused on the speaker with an intensity any rabbi would covet. When he was done, I think people actually paused, wondering if they should applaud." Next, writes Kemp, the rabbi approached another member of our table: "Mr. Dylan, would you do us the honor of singing us a song?" Don't miss Louie Kemp's full account of "My Seder with Brando," and a wealth of other enthralling material, in our Pessah 5769 supplement on Wednesday.