Monday, November 18, 2013

LIZ SMITH: New York's "Living Landmarks"

Brooke Shields saluting Liz at Thursday night's Living Landmarks Gala.
New York's "Living Landmarks" — Alive and Thriving at the Plaza Hotel ... Alice Crimmins — A New York Scandal Revisited.
Monday, November 18, 2013
by Liz Smith

“BROOKE, you were great. So funny! And I love your dress. But when you get home, for God’s sake take those shoes off!”

That was the dynamo Chita Rivera, outside the Plaza Hotel one night last week, talking with the beautiful Brooke Shields after both had made wonderful impressions onstage in the Ballroom at the “Living Landmarks” gala.

Brook and Chita at The New York Landmarks Conservancy's Living Landmarks Gala.
Brooke, given the new honor by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, was simply divine onstage and her white beaded dress was a stunner. But I wondered myself at the cruel high heels. She said of her honoring, “I thought they must have made a mistake!”

As emcee for this annual fundraiser, I noted that we had never had a spouse introduce a Landmark before, but the able Christopher Henchy did a great job of telling about his New York girl-actress-wife. (Mr. Henchy is a noted comic in private, a producer-writer of Will Ferrell’s hit movie last year, “The Campaign.”)

BUT every person made into a “Living Landmark” this year, and that person’s introducer — well, they were impressive and distinguished. And I want to note that people have become succinct in their brief and pointed acceptances. They were Dr. Bob Grossman, the hero of Hurricane Sandy who saved lives at the Langone medical center and school ... Mary Wells Lawrence, the advertising queen who broke the glass ceiling with her dashing ads in the '60s and '70s and the I Love New York campaign ... Wm. vanden Heuvel, friend of presidents and overseer of the completion of the FDR 4 Freedoms Park on the East River of Manhattan. (He led the audience in an offering of “Happy Days Are Here Again” ... the parks expert and historian Ann Buttenwieser who evoked the “Happy Hooker” in her own success, saying, “Your pleasure is my business!” ... the aforesaid Brooke ... and our divine honoree, Joel “Oscar and Tony” Grey who closed the show with his “welcome” song from “Cabaret,” sung acapella. (Joel was tellingly introduced by his Broadway admirer Miss Rivera!)
Living Landmark William vanden Heuvel, Lesley Stahl, and Living Landmark Dr. Robert I. Grossman.
iving Landmarks Ann L. Buttenwieser and Mary Wells Lawrence. Living Landmark Joel Grey.
Chris Henchey and Living Landmark Brooke Shields.
THIS night brought out many Landmarks from the past and the Empire State Building glowed with Conservancy’s red and white lights. It was a 20th anniversary for this organization and under the firm hands of Peg Breen and Scott Leurquin, it has just grown better and is more fun. The night raised over $900,000 going to saving New York’s great monuments, parks, churches, buildings, etc.
The Empire State Building’s red and white lights.
I WANT TO publicly thank the philanthropists Pat and John Rosenwald for playing host for this gala. I was able to link with them with some fabled Landmarks of the past, as when we honored Laurence and David Rockefeller and I couldn’t think how to encompass all their virtues, so I introduced them as “Party Animals!” They loved it!

The big question now is who will be chosen for “Living Landmark” status in 2014. Maybe you yourself will do something wonderful to earn this.
"Party Animals" John and Pat Rosenwald.
THE OTHER night, The Discovery Channel (“A Crime to Remember”) ran an hour-long dramatization of the infamous Alice Crimmins case. This event rocked New York’s boroughs back in the mid-1960s. (Alice, a free-living, beautiful red-headed divorcee was accused of murdering her two young children, so as to better lead the swinging lifestyle she preferred. Although the kids had never cramped her style before.)

Alice Crimmins was found guilty early the morning of May 28, 1968 of manslaughter in the first degree in the strangulation death of her four-year-old daughter Alice Marie. (AP Photo)
This particular episode was only an hour long. It was pretty good, and it certainly brought back memories of one of the most notorious crimes and trials in NYC history. One problem — the young woman who played Alice, bore a strong, remarkable resemblance to Lindsay Lohan. So much so, I kept thinking, “Did Lindsay sneak a movie in when we weren’t looking?” It was distracting!

This “take” on Alice made an excellent case for her innocence. Many people believe Alice was not convicted on the flimsy evidence — the notorious “woman in the window” who supposedly saw Alice and a male friend from afar, with a suspicious bundle, for instance — but rather spent ten years in prison because cops and much of the public were repulsed by her sexy ways. These were the '60s.

Watching this, I wondered why a good feature film was never made from the tale? It has everything — sex, mystery, murdered children, closeted homosexual, aggressive, sexist (and blackmailing) cops. And, in that backward era, a woman was not allowed freedom with her own body.

Even if Alice did do it, hers is a cautionary tale. No matter how far women think they’ve come, even in 2013, they are often negatively judged, because of what they wear, and how they behave.

Now, reality TV shows portray supposedly “strong” women. In fact, these creatures are presented in the most sordid light, encouraging bad behavior, coarse language, stupidity, cupidity and sluttish-ness without reason. And of course, they are produced by men.
Airen DeLaMater plays Alice Crimmins in "A Crime to Remember."

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