Thursday, April 5, 2012

LIZ SMITH: My "Favorite" New York City Scandal!

by Liz Smith
Thursday, April 5, 2012

“WELL, that’s that. She shot my son, and Truman Capote murdered her and so now I suppose we don’t have to worry about that anymore,” said high society’s beloved Mrs. William Woodward – known as “Elsie”– back in the 1970s.
WELL, DON’T you dare miss New York magazine’s April 9th issue “Three Centuries of New York Scandal!”

The social historian Steven Gaines interviewed me about “Bad Behavior in Boldface” and the upshot is, I don’t think I managed to say much, but we had fun talking aspects of loyalty, cowardice, access and gossip writing of a kind that doesn’t even exist these days.    
In the entire issue about New Yorkers behaving badly, I  would have to pick the killing of William Woodward in 1955 by his wife Ann as my “favorite” scandal.  

It had everything – ex-showgirl wife says she mistakes hubby for a prowler or intruder, shoots him dead.  Then, the last of the truly social leaders, the elder Mrs. Woodward, sides with her detested daughter-in-law rather than expose her two grandchildren to further loss and indignity. Elsie Woodward displays preternatural calm; the younger Mrs. Woodward eventually commits suicide in Switzerland because of something Truman Capote wrote in his controversial 1975 Esquire piece titled La Cote Basque.

Dominick Dunne took this real-life tale and turned it into a delicious novel The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. The success of that roman a clef  began Dominick on his Vanity Fair path. The other result was a fabulous 1987 TV movie, based on Dunne’s book, starring Claudette Colbert and Ann-Margret.

Dominick Dunne with Claudette Colbert (right) as Alice Grenville and Ann-Margret (left) as the younger Mrs. Grenville.
It would be Claudette’s last film and it is a performance for the ages. (The counterpoint between Claudette’s icy correctness and A-M’s jittery, flamboyant emoting is something to see!)

And does anybody else remember that the incredible actress Sian Phillips has five memorable minutes as the Duchess of Windsor in the Grenvilles film? 
Also in this issue of New York – William Norwich’s piece, “She Was Ripe for Seduction” which is all about Jackie Kennedy marrying Aristotle Onassis, after the deaths of her husband, JFK, and her brother-in-law, RFK. The media of the time were initially horrified and then reveled in the creation of  “Jackie O.”
Speaking of Jackie and Ari, Secret Service man Clint Hill has his own two cents on that marriage in his new book, Mrs. Kennedy and Me. Clint was the one who leapt onto the trunk of President Kennedy’s car seconds after the shooting, assisting the bloody and terrified First Lady. (You can see Mr. Hill in person at Barnes & Noble today at 86th and Broadway, 6 p.m.)
LAST YEAR we ran an item about the possibility of Paul McCartney’s son, James, putting together a band with Dhani Harrison, son of  the late George Harrison, Zak Starkey, son of Ringo, and Sean Lennon, the first son of slain Beatle John Lennon. 
Reaction everywhere was “It’ll never happen ... it’s just wishful thinking ... are you joking?” Well, we weren’t joking, and apparently the “boys” aren’t joking either. There is talk that the “Fab Faux” – as they have already been dubbed – will perform together. 

Even after all these years, it’s still a bit of a thrill to say, “You heard it here first!”
The “Fab Faux!”
HBO BROUGHT back “Game of Thrones” in bloody style last weekend – slaughtering children ripped from their mothers’ arms and various other atrocities. Everybody’s meaner and/or crazier than ever, in this fantasyland of woodland vampire beasts and dragons. (Although for the moment, the dragons are babies, quite adorable, actually.)
But Peter Dinklage, who plays the witheringly acerbic Tyrion Lannister, might have already bagged another Emmy or Golden Globe, with his delivery of one line alone – “Death is so boring.” Clifton Webb or George Sanders couldn’t have done it better. 

Come to think of it, George Sanders’ suicide note read: “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored.” 
“Death is so boring.” 
Valerie Smith of East Hampton’s The Monogram Shop is always thinking up great slogans to put on glasses, cocktail napkins and other things. Now she has outdone herself and placed the infamous motto “I Ride Inside” on napkins.

This refers to the tale of Mitt Romney’s family dog, strapped to the roof of a car.  The motto originated in 2007 at

It’s $18 for fifty of these beauties and I do hope Valerie sent some to the New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who never lets Mitt forget for one minute the dog on the roof of the car.

So these would be the talk of your cocktail party for the next few months. I happen to dislike columns that tell you all about something you might want but then don’t tell how to get it. So, would reach her if you are interested, disinterested or uninterested.
Here is Mary Tyler Moore answering Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire query, “What is your idea of perfect happiness?"

MTM: “Getting to the point in life where I can accept that the truth is there is no perfect happiness.”
Group hug on the final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

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