Monday, October 17, 2016

LIZ SMITH: As old as fame

Manners maketh man — Warren Beatty and Julie Christie meeting The Queen at the London premiere of" Born Free," 1966.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Tiresome Twitter Feuds ... Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole ... President Obama and Doris Kearns Goodwin ... Warren and Marilyn (and Natalie Wood).

 “PUBLICITY IS as old as fame, but today’s Twitter feuds and competition bore me to death.  It’s all so predictable and dull. At least in the old days, the personalities involved made it fun!”

That’s a note from our friend, the writer and filmmaker Charles Casillo.  He was responding to our column last week on Kim Kardashian’s ordeal in Paris. (We offered up examples of past stars famous for their extravagance, others who’d been robbed, and still others who had gone too often to the troth of publicity, to be taken seriously.)

Interestingly, Mr. Casillo’s note about Twitter feuds arrived on the very day I was reading two massive articles in The New York Times — one about cyberbullying among celebrities, and the other on how fashion is being negatively affected by social media “oversharing.”  The authors — Amanda Hess and Vanessa Friedman, respectively — made compelling, and depressing, cases. 

The celebrity bullying, arguing and opining has reached such absurd levels — graceless, vulgar, desperate — even more so when conducted by people who are, more or less, big stars.

Vanessa Friedman’s fashion piece came down on the inability of people to restrain themselves: “Just because you have taken a picture does not mean you have to share it with the world.  Just because you have created a product does not mean everyone needs to see it ASAP.”  She also noted: “The user maw is ravenous and needs to be filled ... volume trumps selectivity.”

I leave the final words to Mr. Casillo: “Today, fame is based on nothing, really. Not even an interesting personality.” 
SAVE THE DATE!!! On April 6th, at the Nederlander Theater in New York, two of the great, grand divas of Broadway, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole will open in a new musical, titled “War Paint.” (It played to rapturous reviews in Chicago this summer.)

LuPone and Ebersole could rattle off the phone book (or whatever passes for a phone book these days) and bring an audience to its feet. But “War Paint” will present the stars as enacting cosmetic queens Helena Rubenstein (Patti) and Elizabeth Arden (Christine)   It tells of their rise, rivalry and battle to “change the face” of American women. This is gonna be fun!  Co-stars include John Dossett and Douglas Sills.
Patti LuPone as Helena Rubenstein and Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden.
Directed by Michael Greif, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, music and lyrics by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie, and a book by Pulitzer-Prize winner Doug Wright.

I’m definitely plastering on my war paint for “War Paint!”
SO there I was, watching “American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare” when who pops up but the great historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.  She is the author of many splendid books. Kearns is also a bastion of civility and intelligence whenever she appears on TV — especially this year, especially in comparison to the deliberately uninformed, talking-over-one-other unpalatable partisans who populate cable.
Kerns, on “AHS” was playing a historian, commenting on the happenings at a grisly haunted house — don’t ask for more of an explanation. Producer Ryan Murphy throws everything but the kitchen sink into each season of his horror anthology series. Anyway, I was particularly tickled to see Ms. Kearns Goodwin, as I’d just read her lengthy Q & A with President Barack Obama in Vanity Fair. (The sexy Benedict Cumberbatch cover.)    

This is such a remarkable last-time-out for Obama.  Unless he gives another massive interview in the next 25 days.  I won’t be foolish enough to recommend his thoughtful, amusing, elegant and realistic comments to those who hate him with unreasonable conspiracy-fueled passion.  This is for those who supported him through two terms. 
Perhaps these eight years haven’t been as “transforming” as supporters and the president himself had hoped.  But in reading through, one is not only impressed by Obama himself, we are also made aware what we are losing and what we face one way or another, very soon. 

During one point in the chat, Obama speaks of a moment “where the vanity burns away and you’ve had your fill of your name in the papers or big adoring crowds, or the exercise of power. For me, that happened fairly quickly.  Then you are focused on: ‘What am I going to get done with this strange privilege that has been granted to me? How do I make myself worthy of it?’”
Despite every effort to discredit and diminish him, Barack Hussein Obama is a president we can be proud of, one to whom history will be, I believe, more than kind.

Given the stress and depression levels that the current campaign and political process has wrought, the Kearns/Obama interview managed to bring down my blood pressure and remind me that if we could elect such a man, we are not as lost as we seem right now.

Katie Scarlett O’Hara always said tomorrow is another day.  And she said it with optimism. I’m taking a page from her book. (Although please don’t write in complaining that she is a politically incorrect Civil War figure.  I know all that. She had a remarkably positive outlook — I’m aiming for positivity.)
P.S.  There’s also in Vanity Fair, a big, fascinating take-out on Warren Beatty and his long a’ borning Howard Hughes movie, “Rules Don’t Apply.” Written by Sam Kashner, this piece is as generous to the two young stars of the film — Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich — as it is to Beatty. Warren is a legend, and as is noted in the piece, remains blissful in his home life with spouse Annette Bening and their children. He’s been there, done that.  He doesn’t require a slobbering magazine story.
"Well, there's something you should know about Annette ... she's perfect." Mike Nichols to Warren Beatty, prior to Warren's marriage to Ms. Bening.
Perhaps the most “gossipy” item in the Beatty piece is his tale of meeting Marilyn Monroe at Peter Lawford’s beach house shortly before her death. This is something he has avoided confirming for decades. (She was, says Warren, very beautiful, slightly tipsy, and they went for a “soulful” stroll on the beach.)

Beatty places the meeting on the night before her death — or the night of, really.  He says he received a call “in the morning” from an agent, telling him Marilyn had died. But the facts say otherwise.  MM actually refused an invite from Lawford the Saturday night she died.
MM with Peter Lawford.
Interestingly, jottings from Natalie Wood’s diary have recently been made public, via her family.  Wood — who was dating Warren at the time, and who adored Monroe — recalls encountering the star “days before her death” and commented on the “tense loneliness” she projected.
Warren and Natalie at the Academy Awards, 1962.
It’s most likely that Warren, fiftysomething years on, just forgot the exact evening.  It is a very tender and considerate memory, in any case.  This gallantry is typical of Warren, whose exes almost always adored him, even as they became his exes. 
The "tense loneliness" of MM, as noted by Natalie Wood, and photographed by Alan Grant.

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