LOS ANGELES -- Seventy-nine years late, Occidental Petroleum's chieftain Armand Hammer will celebrate his bar mitzvah, the Jewish rite of male coming of age, in a swank ceremony studded with Hollywood celebrities.
The ceremony next month comes as concerns grow about the health of the 92-year-old industrialist, one of America's best-known business figures.
It will be held not in a temple but at a Beverly Hills benefit for two Jewish institutions, before a black-tie dinner crowd including Merv Griffin, Lee Iacocca, Bob Hope and Gov.-elect Pete Wilson.
The bar mitzvah, a Jewish male's public acceptance of religious duties, is traditionally held on a Saturday morning at a synagogue. It's generally celebrated at age 13.
Hammer didn't immediately respond to a request for an interview about the bar mitzvah. He appeared feeble at a bash Sunday night celebrating the opening of his new art museum, and Occidental officials acknowledged getting inquiries about his health.
But Occidental spokesman Frank Ashley and Denn said the benefit had been planned for several months, and warned against reading too much into it.
"I think it's just Dr. Hammer standing up and saying, 'I'm proud to be a Jew.' I think it will be a very emotional thing for him," Denn said.
Ted Turner is the honorary chairman and Elliott Gould the emcee at the dinner Dec. 11, the first night of Hanukkah, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Hammer and Ida Nudel, a noted Jewish activist he helped escape the Soviet Union, will light a "festival of lights" Hanukkah candle, Denn said. He promised other "very emotional moments" but wouldn't reveal details.