Thursday, January 10, 2013

LIZ SMITH: "Some Girls" ...

Will The Rolling Stones Roll Out "Some Girls" Redux? David Bowie — Where Is He Now? Recording, Again, Thank Goodness! ... "DownTon Abbey" Returns With Smashing Ratings and One Surprising Disappointment.
Remembering AIDS Activist Spencer Cox.

by Liz Smith
Thursday, January 10th, 2013

work for love and sex/Ain’t you hungry for success, success, success/ Does it matter (shattered) Does it matter?”

Those were some of the lyrics from the Rolling Stones’ song “Shattered” from their epic 1978 “Some Girls” album. This collection told a lot about life on the streets of New York — uptown and way downtown. (There was a detour to the Deep South for “The Girl With Far Away Eyes.”) And it contained some of Mick Jagger’s most slashing sentiments: “Some girls they’re so pure, some girls so corrupt, some girls give me children; I only made love to her once!” That entire song — “Some Girls” — with its blatantly misogynist comments on women of various nationalities, caused quite the uproar. Jagger replied to critics with Bette Midler’s old standby, “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.” (Midler herself then went on to re-record one of the album’s big hits, “Beast of Burden.”)
“Some Girls” became the Stones all-time bestseller and revitalized the group during the height of punk rock. Modern artists felt the Stones, who had risen to fame in the 1960’s were becoming antiquated, out of touch with changing times. That didn’t — and still hasn’t! — happened. (The Stones have hinted in the wake of their extremely successful recent limited tour, that they will extend the concerts throughout 2013.)

Now there’s some talk that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards would like to do a follow-up/continuation to this legendary disc, returning to New York themes and recording studios. New York has changed a lot since the grimy glamorous1970s. What would the boys write about? How Times Square has been utterly Disneyfied — over-lit, over-crowded, totally generic? (I guess to youngsters seeing it for the first time, it’s still impressive.)

In any case, this Stones tale is only rumor. A fact is that David Bowie — after a decade of living quietly with his gorgeous wife Iman — went back to the recording studio and produced a new album, titled “The Next Day.” The first single “Where Are We Now?” is already being heard and well reviewed — music critic Jim Farber notes: “it tapes Bowie’s depth and daring.” Apparently Bowie wanted to do something special to mark his 66th birthday, which happened earlier this week. So, he put out an album.
The chameleon-like Bowie has been many, if not all things to his fans since he burst on the scene back in 1969. It will be interesting to see what persona he adopts for “The Next Day,” which debuts in March.
“DOWNTON ABBEY” hasn’t lost any steam in the U.S. The third season premiere over the weekend drew a whopping 7.9 million viewers to PBS stations across the country. This is especially impressive when one realizes that season three has already been seen in its entirety in England. Many “Downton” fans — even if they try to keep their eyes and ears shut — are thereby forced to become privy to various plotlines and shocking developments. For those of you who have managed to avoid all the spoilers, the secrets of “DA” are safe within the confines of this column, anyway.
THE SEASON opener was terrific; all the regulars were in top form, especially Michelle Dockery as the hot/cold, selfish/generous, arrogant/down-to-earth Lady Mary Crawley. (Actress Dockery’s intelligence and grace in creating this difficult character is a remarkable achievement.)

The good and the bad of Downton Abbey.
Maggie Smith need do nothing but lift an eyebrow to lift a scene magnificently and even Elizabeth McGovern, whose portrayal of Cora, Countess of Grantham, has sometimes been irritating (still not sure what her accent is all about!) seemed much improved.

However, there was one surprisingly disappointing note. The much-hyped appearance of Shirley MacLaine as Cora’s American mother, just lay there, lifeless, witless, pointless. I think I have to blame the script.

MacLaine was given not one clever line. The result was that in the hotly-anticipated jousting between Shirley and Dame Maggie, the latter chewed MacLaine up, spit her out and turned her into fertilizer for the lush gardens of the estate everybody is so desperate to hang onto.

Oh, well, MacLaine’s character doesn’t stick around, nor do a few others as the season progresses. The series is still delicious fun. Of course, it’s a period soap opera and of course, disbelief must be suspended. That’s entertainment.

And it is amusing how “black tie,” the tuxedo, replaces the white tie for dinner, in the world of “Downton Abbey.”
ON JANUARY 20th at Manhattan’s The Cutting Room, a memorial will be held for Spencer Cox. He succumbed to AIDS-related causes last week, at age 44. Spencer was an instrumental force in the fight against AIDS and helped form the focus organization, TAG (Treatment Action Group.)

Cox taught himself about the science of AIDS and the Byzantine workings of pharmaceutical companies and the government. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was quoted in Cox’s New York Times obit: “He wanted the facts and was always very meticulous about getting good data rather than just screaming for getting something approved. It’s a great loss. He was part of a historic group of people.”

With sad irony, Spencer Cox is one of the featured voices in David France’s current, acclaimed documentary “How To Survive a Plague.” This tells the story of how two coalitions — ACT UP and TAG helped turn AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable — if still perilous — condition. It is an important film, especially for a younger generation who know nothing of the terror of the 1980s and early '90s, a generation who risk their lives out of ignorance.

To learn more about TAG, log onto

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