Thursday, May 30, 2013

LIZ SMITH: The Loss of a Great Champion ...

Jean Bach. Photo: Carol Friedman.
We Lose a Great Champion of Jazz Music — Jean Bach ... Old Observations Are New Again ... Will Renee Zellweger Sign on For One More "Bridget Jones?" ... All We've Lost in New York City.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
by Liz Smith

“WHAT people think of me is none of my business!”

This has been attributed to Oscar Wilde, Mae West and Gary Oldman. So, who do you think said it?
THE music world lost a great champion over Memorial Day. She was Jean Bach, a beauty in her 90s who reigned over the jazz and music world from her adorable Washington Square Mews house and then moved upstairs to One Fifth Avenue, staying loyal to Greenwich Village her entire life.

Here is Jean in her favorite photo with her disobedient friend, Dinah (Washington?) Want to know more about Jean Bach? She was profiled by The New Yorker in 1993; The Times carried her obit yesterday. Photo: Carol Friedman.
She knew everyone from Benny Goodman to Artie Shaw to Bobby Short to Lawrence Brown to Lester Young to Thelonious Monk to Mary Lou Williams. In 1995, she won an Oscar nomination for her film based on an Art Kane photo of 59 jazz musicians posing together on a stoop in Harlem. The documentary was titled “A Great Day in Harlem.”

(After the film was released, dozens of copycat photos began appearing. Jean’s favorite being the Smithsonian Magazine showing black Harlem businessmen with Bill Clinton in the center.)

For years, Jean was wed to TV producer Bob Bach who worked for Steve Allen and Mark “What’s My Line?” Goodson. She referred to her husband before him as “the first Mr. Bach.” When I first knew Jean she was producing Arlene Francis at the height of the latter’s stardom in the '50s and '60s.

My personal favorite of Jean Bach’s gracious correspondence is where she reported on being out with Artie Shaw and Bob Bach. “We talked of you and the men agreed you would be the most appealing date ever!”

I think that’s one to go on my tombstone.
Jean and Bob Bach with Bobby, Joe, and Louis.
Jean and Dizzy. Jean and Arlene Francis.
Jean and Bobby.
NOW here’s something I wrote over ten years ago, on June 5, 2002 to be exact. I have altered only one or two words:

“Now look, you see pictures of Tom Cruise with a three-day growth of beard, staring intently from the cover of Premiere magazine. You see newcomer Colin Farrell on Vanity Fair, with his great grunge look. Yeah, I like these bad boys, and I’ve said so.

“But, honestly, what kind of real-life image is that? I’m getting really sick of it. These fake machismo poses look like police mug shots, which I suppose is what they’re aiming for.

“Whatever happened to glamour and mystery and insouciance and charm and charisma? Whatever happened to shoe shines, tailoring, clean linen. Somebody give these guys a bath and a shave. Wash their hair.

“We’re living in a world where celebrity men all look like they just escaped from Folsom Prison, and the women are all so underdressed that they could be posing for customers in the windows of Amsterdam. Female fashion is now a joke, since it’s only wisps of cloth uncovering acres of enhanced bosoms, navels, hips and everything else just scraping along above the bikini fault line.

“I know, this is Old Fogeydom at its worst. But really ... where will it all end? Males stars wallowing in the mud?”

And today I am looking at the cover of one of the rare successful print magazines — Adweek. Its cover shows Luke Hagel of “Tough Mudder” and inside it’s all about the “getting down ‘n’ dirty” on reality “mudventure” shows that are driving the market. They say Reebok, Miller Lite and Advil are all jumping into this military-inspired crawling through the muck offering.
SO the British author Helen Fielding is bringing the appealing character, Bridget Jones, up to date. “Bridget,” as played by Oscar winner Renee Zellweger in two movies, will find a newly mature romantic and professional life in a third book to come out in October.

This one will be titled “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy.” Knopf is publishing in the U.S. (The AP says “Bridget” was highly popular in the two previous novels of the 1990s but now she must cope with text messaging and social media.)

The big question is will a more mature and independent Renee Zellweger want to go down the “Bridget Jones” road once again to complete the trilogy on film?
Clockwise from top left: Lee Radziwill and Truman Capote outside the Colony, 1968; the Duchess of Windsor and C. Z. Guest leaving La Côte Basque, 1962; Le Pavilion; The menu from Le Voisin.
NOSTALGIA FACTOR from Ellen Easton: "I miss the great restaurants where the tables were set far apart, the room was quiet, so one could actually taste one's food and hear the conversation, women dressed, men looked like gentlemen, the service was seamless and non-intrusive and the food was delicious, not tortured: Quo Vadis, Le Pavilion, Chambord, Le Voisin, La Caravelle, Lutece, La Cote Basque, The Colony are just some of the greats that no longer exist. There were novelty restaurants — Trader Vic's, The Hawaiian Room, the original Lindy's, Pen & Pencil, Dinty Moore's, Rumplemeyer's, Hick's, Schrafft's, Patrick Murphy’s Popovers, NY Women's Exchange Tea & Lunch Room, Horn & Hardart — all gone.

"There was a texture to the City that no longer exists. Not for the better. La Grenouille still exists on East 52 Street and it is great as well as the Veau d'Or in the Bistro aspect of 60th Street.

"What's left? Corporate versions of the Four Seasons, the 21 Club, Serendipity 3, but those are no longer the same. The Plaza's Edwardian and Persian Rooms gone, The Waldorf's real Peacock Alley and Starlight Roof for dinner-dancing. The Cafe Pierre — gone. The Savoy Plaza, the Stanhope, Westbury, and Drake are all offices or apartments. The 52nd Street jazz clubs-gone. The original Copa! The music clubs were better — the Fillmore East, the Electric Circus, Le Jardin, Studio 54.

"My parents' world is completely nonexistent — Le Club, El Morocco, The Stork Club, The Cotton Club, and the stores — the original Henri Bendel, Bonwit Teller, B. Altman's, De Pinna, Best & Co., too many, too long to continue."
La Grenouille still going strong.

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