Tuesday, December 29, 2015

LIZ SMITH: Females on the Beach

Liz and Joan in 1986.
by Liz Smith

Females on the Beach: Joan Collins turns deadly "The St. Tropez Lonely Hearts Club." Also — Mariah Carey ... Pamela Anderson ... "Homeland's" Miranda Otto and Nina Hoss.

"AH, YES, marriage. The deep, deep peace of the double bed after the hurly burly of the chaise lounge!"

So says Sophie Silvestri, "aging film star of the 1960s" in the latest Joan Collins roman a clef, "The St. Tropez Lonely Hearts Club." This is Joan's 18th book. She has written about everything from herself to beauty and fitness to fiction to, well, herself!
Joan reading from her latest novel, "The St. Tropez Lonely Hearts Club." Click to order.
Her new one — which begins with a sly homage to "Sunset Boulevard" — takes place in St. Tropez, and it's just the sort thing to read on the beach in St. Tropez. Or curled up on your couch with a hot toddy in New Jersey. As usual with this kind of thing, one is encouraged to look beneath the make-believe characters and find the "real" person. (Taking into account that in showbiz, the latter is mighty hard to come by.)

La Liz — "Remembered" by Joan Collins in "St. Tropez?"
So various pop stars, tycoons, heiresses and social parasites have personality quirks one might recognize from glancing at the gossip columns or glossy magazines. But it's all in good fun. Miss Collins devises a story that is highly improbable and hilariously entertaining — there's a good deal of murder, too.

One character I did recognize right off was the above-mentioned Sophie Silvestri. She seems to be a teensy-weensy bit based on Joan's dear friend, the gone but immortal Elizabeth Taylor. Naturally, it's not an exact portrait. Sophie has never been wed. But somehow that makes the comparison all the more obvious. It's not unflattering — Sophie is described as "sweet and sad." After all, Joan can only write based on her own experiences, yes? Or things she's heard about and been witness to. Although I doubt she's ever been at a dinner where everybody contracts food poisoning — killing a famous star. (As happens in her novel.)

Now, I don't want to imply that Joan harbors any enmity toward Miss Taylor. They were friends. And the last time I did imply such a thing — after they had appeared together — along with Debbie Reynolds and Shirley MacLaine — in the wretched TV movie "These Old Broads," I received a tearful call from Joan, and then — stunningly — a stern phone call from La Liz herself. So there. ("Joan and I are friends, Liz," said ET with silky severity.)

P.S. Joan dedicates this book to her sister, the late Jackie Collins — "For Jackie. I will never forget you."
Joan and Jackie.
JOAN HAS also been in the news with the sale of some of her clothes and jewels and what-nots at Juliens Auctions in Beverly Hills. She pulled in a nice chunk of change for her belongings, which included several "love letters" from Warren Beatty and a 1973 British MG roadster she never drove. (Collins admits to being a shade on the hoarder side.)
Joan in her 1973 MG Midget Mark III Roadster, which sold for $10,880.
Also sold in the same auction was Marilyn Monroe's certificate of conversion to Judaism, before her marriage to Arthur Miller. This garnered a whopping $70,000. It would be nice to imagine that whoever sold this intimate piece of Monroe's life might part with a few of those thousands and perhaps contribute to a charity Monroe herself might have endorsed — something for children or animals or acting. (Not the Actors Studio. They have fed off her quite enough.)
MM — Her Private Life, Up For The Highest Bidder — As Usual.
I WAS amused and charmed by photos of Mariah Carey sitting on Santa's lap and relaxing beside her Christmas tree. The star wore an adorable pajama/robe outfit that was surprisingly modest. I have the feeling Mariah would display cleavage if she met the Pope, but I guess for Santa, you've got to remember the old "naughty or nice" dictum.
PAMELA ANDERSON tells James Franco in the current issue of Playboy that she is looking to return to acting, although she says: "I still don't know if I'm any good at acting, but I'm taking it a lot more seriously now." What — more seriously than "Barb Wire"?

I've always liked Pamela, when I've seen her interviewed. She has an open, down-to-earth quality that is quite appealing. And don't snicker about acting career. The distinguished director Werner Herzog recently "had a meeting" with Pamela in Hollywood. He told her: "You are something special. You need to be on the big screen." (IMAX for sure.)

Aside from career potentialities, Pamela reveals, shockingly, that she has "a deep sensual drive" and is "something of an exhibitionist." Pamela's final nude layout for Playboy — the mag will soon dispense with T&A — was photographed at the Playboy mansion by Ellen von Unwerth. She is even more, ah — "impressive" than she was 26 years ago, when Playboy first put her on its cover. Maybe Quentin Tarantino should consider Anderson if he continues to make movies in 70mm?
BIG SHOUTS out to actresses Nina Hoss and Miranda Otto. Hoss, as a German CIA operative, and Miranda as a treacherous Russian plant, were just about the only really good things about Showtime's "Homeland" this year.

The characters played by Mandy Patinkin, F. Murray Abraham and Rupert Friend inexplicably lost all their bearings this season, behaving absurdly, even if we must suspend disbelief, this being just a TV show, after all. Claire Danes, as the bi-polar Carrie Mathison wept in almost every episode. Enough.
Miranda Otto as the treacherous Russian plant.
Nina Hoss as German CIA operative.
Miranda Otto, alas, received her just desserts in the season finale, which is a shame. She was an excellent villain, so smart and badass you rooted for her even as she committed all sorts of treason and mayhem.

In the last episode, Carrie insisted she would not return to CIA work, "I'm not that person anymore." I think she should be taken at her word. Let's dispense with Carrie and install Nina Hoss' Astrid as "Homeland's" new female protagonist. She is cool as a cucumber and if she ever shed a tear it would be an icicle before it fell from her cheek. The popular Rupert Friend seems to have been killed off. (And if he recovers from his drastic injuries it will drag this beyond any concept of suspension of disbelief!)
Claire Danes is the exec producer of "Homeland." It's her baby. She is a wonderful actress. But for the good of her show, she might consider rolling her role back, and letting Nina battle the bad guys.

New blood. And, of course, new bloodletting.
Contact Liz Smith here.