Thursday, April 21, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Drinking With Shakespeare

Monroe in "Niagara" — vicious but still vulnerable.
by Liz Smith

Thursday's Tossed Salad: Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth ... Drinking With Shakespeare ... Doris Roberts ... Quest magazine celebrates Philanthropy ... Missing Joan Rivers; Now More Than Ever.

"APRIL IS Stress Awareness Month!!! Drink Your Stress Away at Happy Hour, Daily — 4pm-6pm."

This sign caught my attention outside the interesting-looking Shakespeare Pub on East 38th Street in NYC.
I don't know, the three exclamation marks in that sign actually made me more stressful. But it made me laugh, too. The place seems to have an interesting menu, and there are live performances as well. This month it's something called "Hamlet Isn't Dead."

Perhaps one evening when I'm in the mood for some mead and a bit of the Bard, I'll stop in. (I wonder if they serve margaritas? Although that isn't a terribly Elizabethan libation.)
Hamlet isn't dead at The Shakespeare Pub.
SPEAKING OF things Elizabethan, today is the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II and in her honor the Duane Park Patisserie (179 Duane Street) has created a set of petit fours that celebrate QE2. The dessert is infused with Boodles Mulberry Gin, which the shop declares is reminiscent of the British tradition of sloe gin.

The tasty treats are available in-store only today, but are available online at You know, for those times you want to feel like a queen, but would prefer not to wear a crown.
IN THE news frenzy over the election predictions, the death of Doris Roberts on Sunday seemed to get a little lost. Doris was a great broad, a great actress, and very no-nonsense. When she liked you, you knew it, when she didn't, you really knew it! Her credits — on stage, screen and TV — are too long and varied to list, but she did come into her own, totally, as the infuriating, overbearing mom to Ray Romano on "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Marie Barone — the exquisitely cruel nemesis to Patricia Heaton's Debra — was the ultimate distillation of the many characters Roberts played over the years — melding sympathy, ruthless butting in, good common sense, total irrationality and a big dose of I-can't-help-loving-that-crazy-mom-of-mine.

I will miss her. And so will millions of fans.
I'M a bit late coming to the April issue of Quest magazine, because we receive what seems like hundreds of magazines a month, and after a while, they all begin to look the same. Even the worthiest of magazines, such as Quest.

This is their Philanthropy Issue, and on the cover is a very chic Audrey Gruss, founder of the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. Ms. Gruss is wearing a black skirt, black heels, giant pearls at her ears and neck, and a simple white blouse. The white blouse, in a variety of styles is the fashion motif of all the women honored for their "substance and style." They are conservationist Edith McBean ... Mary McDonnell Davidson of Memorial Sloan-Kettering ... Michele Kessler, whose interests range from The Palm Beach Zoo to building schools in Afghanistan ... Dani Moore, of Palm Beach United Way ... preservationist Pauline Baker Pitt and Jacqueline Desmarais, one of the Metropolitan Opera's managing directors. All the ladies are beautifully photographed by Harry Benson.

Back in 2009, your own Liz Smith was cited as a symbol of "substance and style," also decked out in a virginal white blouse. Some people might say that's the first time Quest lowered its standards.  I say — I loved my white blouse.

In contrast to the coolly soothing black and white Benson portraits, Quest also looks at giants of philanthropy past, photographed mostly in color, also by Harry Benson! Some of these include Bunny Mellon ... David Rockefeller…William and Pat Buckley (and their little dogs, too) ... George Plimpton ... J. Paul Getty ... Jan Cowles ... Marietta Tree (who is wearing a diamond and pearl choker that could choke Mrs. Astor's pet horse) and the divine Brooke Astor, dressed in shades of violet, resting her auburn tresses against multi-colored pillows, holding a blue book. I think it's the most beautiful photo in the entire issue, and rightfully so. Brooke Astor not only knew how to spell philanthropy, she knew what it meant!
P.S. Harry Benson (aka Mr. Ubiquitous) also has a touching remembrance of Nancy Reagan, which includes a marvelous 1995 photo of Mrs. Reagan, wearing a gown in her famous "Nancy Red" with an adorable King Charles Spaniel, named Rex, cuddled near.
THERE'S NO getting away from Marilyn Monroe. Well, certainly not here, because we happen to think she was a fabulous star and a delectable comedienne. But we're not the only admirers, by any means. On newsstands now, is "Marilyn Monroe: The Movies, The Myths, The Men." This collector's edition is put out by Vanity Fair.

And while it is true that MM's death in 1962 enshrined her in a manner that wouldn't have happened if she'd lived, even if she'd lived successfully, her remarkable hold on the public imagination has to go back to Marilyn's own unique qualities, mostly the heart-tugging vulnerability that seeped into all her performances. (Even as the nasty femme fatale of "Niagara.")

MM was a legend in her lifetime and became a figure of mythology after death. Somewhere, she is pleased and having the last laugh.
ENDTHOUGHT: People keep saying, as the current political season grinds on, how much they miss civility and good manners, and a lack of vulgarity and rising above personal attacks and dirty tricks. (I wonder what political season they are referring to? One that exists in some parallel universe where politicians — Democrat, Republican, Independent, Socialist — aren't selfish, insincere egomaniacs?)

But do you know what I'm missing? More precisely, who I am missing? Joan Rivers. This insane past year was made for her. Can you imagine it — the Queen of Political Incorrectness up against Donald and Bernie and Hillary? She would have had the most fun, done her scorched-earth best with Trump, but everybody else would have gotten it as well. Joan was an equal opportunity insulter.

It's still hard to believe she's gone. Particularly at a point in time when she might have risen to new heights of making her fans scream with pleasure, while forcing others to run with hands covering theirs ears, shrieking, "Can you believe what she said? Let's get the torches and pitchforks."

Of course, Joan enjoyed that reaction even more than appreciative applause; it simply gave her more material.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.