Tuesday, September 11, 2012

LIZ SMITH: My Memories of Liberace ...

Vanity Fair Sparks My Memories of Liberace, and Intrigues with Its "Power People" and "Hall of Fame."
I Don't Care About The Brides of Tom (Or How They're Got) I Only Care That He'll Be Great as my hero, "Jack Reacher."
by Liz Smith
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

MY THEOLOGY, briefly, is that the universe was dictated but not signed!” wrote Christopher Morley.
WONDERING why nearly every month I talk about Vanity Fair? It’s because most of you out there have stopped reading magazines and newspapers. So I’m here to encourage you and tell what you might be missing.

This magazine for October is amazing! We have the photos showing us how actors Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (big woman-loving-he-men in their private lives) can imitate or illuminate the souls of gay icons such as Liberace and his own chosen, betraying lover (I mean Scott Thorson. He finally blew the whistle on L. in a palimony lawsuit and brought down the elaborate artifice of both their lives.) In fact, the screenplay chooses hanging lights as a metaphor for those Liberace days. The film will be tellingly titled “Behind the Candelabra.”
This represents the moment when I personally knew Liberace. But I could never get him to level with me — and/or Scott. I went to visit these two in Las Vegas and was shown the museum Liberace had made for his unusual life, the ridiculous over-decorated house where they had the Sistine Chapel painted on their low ranch house ceiling and the eye-catching candelabra hanging over their coffee table at eye-level.

The ailing AIDS-afflicted Liberace, when he appeared with me on WNBC’s “Live at Five” show, was saying he was on “the watermelon diet.” He died soon after — a really lovable absurd human being, adored by millions of middle-aged women fans. And living a fable of glamour and prosperity. I can’t wait to see the movie because I lived a part of it.
THE magazine’s “The Powers That Be” is page after page of people you have seldom heard of — mostly tycoons of our Internet times. For 2012, they move Michael Bloomberg to number one and most VIP’s go up a notch, including Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and Alec Baldwin.

More fascinating is their “Hall of Fame” which adds designers, attorneys, investment bankers and Lo! — Lorne Michaels of “Saturday Night Live” to the interesting list of  immortals (other than business owners and Wall Streeters.)

One of the best things in this October issue is the fairy tale ad for Disney Parks with Queen Latifah as “Ursula,” the sea witch from "The Little Mermaid." 

Another ad is for the magazine’s own “business journalists” and they actually show us their seldom-seen photos. (Kurt Eichenwald, Bethany McLean, William Cohan and Bryan Burrough. Evidently, they couldn’t find Michael Lewis for this sitting.)
OPINION!  I don’t want to decide my likes and dislikes of public figures because of their professed religions. So I deliberately have not paid much attention to Tom Cruise and Scientology.

He is a really big star, one who does his own physical stunts and is box office to the max. Actually, he is Hollywood’s top grosser; his net worth being $270 million a year.

I try to have the same attitude about our top pols — Barack Obama the Baptist-leaning Christian protestant ... Mitt Romney the Mormon, the Roman Catholics Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  

Thus, I will pass over Vanity Fair and Maureen Orth’s revelations about how Scientology selects girlfriends for Tom Cruise, etc.  If people are adults and over 21 and they agree to be “controlled” by their religion, they are free to do so. (If they are being controlled against their will or criminally used, then that’s another matter entirely.) But I am for proof and if there’s no proof, then freedom of choice reigns. To each his own when it comes to religion.

So, Vanity Fair stays in the mainstream as a kind of “movie magazine for adults.” It inquires into social values and high level happenings and yes, very high level gossip, questions, and fabulous photography. It’s my kind of entertainment.
THAT SAID, I can’t wait to see Tom Cruise at Christmas playing my hero, Lee Child's vigilante “Jack Reacher.” Mr. Child’s books have a champion he dreamed up in readable novel after novel.  The latest Reacher book is titled “A Wanted Man;” it’s out now from Delacorte Press.  

I have often wished for a Jack Reacher. This guy would have been, in the recent past, played in the movies by Clint Eastwood.  Now we will get Tom Cruise undertaking the hero in the film “Jack Reacher.”

This character, a veritable Robin Hood, shows up suddenly without luggage or credit cards or a vehicle he hasn’t commandeered.  He throws away his clothes when they get dirty and buys new cheap ones with cash, travels with only a toothbrush and never seems to need a dentist, oculist or heart doctor, subsists on hamburgers, scrambled eggs and coffee, never eats a green veggie, makes ardent love to willing women and moves on, rids towns of local despots, foils arcane pseudo-scientific plots with his brain and two fists and maybe a little borrowed fire power.  But doesn’t “carry.” Afflicts the powerful for the powerless and then stands on the highway,  thumb out.

He isn’t worrying about robots, super-villains, vampires, the undead, the supernatural, other universes or the apocalypse. Earth-bound troubles provide Reacher with enough to do. 

I think Tom Cruise can carry off this character even though he doesn’t physically resemble the hero. When he does, we won’t be thinking about Scientology, or whether or not he is gay (how can he be; he isn’t any fun at all!) and I’ll bet your own private life is much happier than any movie star’s.

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