Friday, October 21, 2016

LIZ SMITH: For the cause

Mildred Wirt Benson, who was the ghostwriter "Carolyn Keene" for 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

HBO's "Westworld" — Can It Last, Or Will It Go The Way of "Vinyl?"  Linda Fairstein's new heroine — Devlin Quick. (The new Nancy Drew?)

“NOTHING IN all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963.

Does one need to say anything more regarding the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in Sin City?

I’m just counting the days until November 8. I don’t want to listen to, or even read another word on either candidate. Enough.
BUT something good came out of Las Vegas a little while back, so let me give a belated shout-out to Elton John and Billie Jean King. The two icons of music and sports hosted the 24th Annual All-Star charity tennis benefit on October 10th.

The event raised more than $600,000 to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation. There was also a live auction prior to the game, which took in an additional $150,000 for the cause.
Kudos to the hosts and their players: Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe, Taylor Johnson and Mark Philippoussis.

Good deeds in a world gone mad still happen and matter more than ever.
WELL, we are only three episodes into HBO’s ambitious, expensive, expected-to-run-for-five-seasons, series “Westworld.”

Now, I’m all for a good slow burn. Everything doesn’t have to be spelled out right away.  My attention span will not wander if there isn’t a graphic murder or gratuitous nudity and/or sex every ten minutes. Good dialogue and the promise of fascinating future doings are my cup of tea.

However, at the risk of seeming very 21st century, and afflicted with ADD, I do hope “Westworld” begins to goose it up, and soon!
So far, extremely repetitive — I mean, how many time do we have to see poor James Marsden die? (I’m sure there’s a point to his never-ending fate.)

And I’ll say again that the concept of creating the robots of Westworld in such a lifelike manner, then having them go off and interact with each other — as well as the human guests — is extraordinarily confusing. (Fans of the show will likely say we are meant to be confused.)
I realize there’s a deeper theme here — I think! — about what it really means to be human, how desensitized we are, or can become, to violence. What kind of a world are we dealing with that spends so much time and money on this sort of interactive fantasy; one in which some people play out ghastly, brutal scenarios? As yet, we don’t know. And speaking only for myself, as yet, I don’t care.

If the series follows the Michael Crichton book and the famous 1973 movie, starring Yul Brynner, the robots will finally tire of being abused, and rebel.
I say, by episode five the rebellion ought to get underway.  The “slow awakening” of the robots is rather tedious. (The most engaging scenes, so far, have been back at the home base, where the robots are created and various humans have their own conflicts.)

Performances by Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris and Sir Anthony Hopkins are excellent.  No complaints there.

We’ll see what Sunday night’s episode brings.
NO SURPRISE that our column on Bette Midler, celebrating the re-release of her debut album, “The Divine Miss M” stirred up many fond memories.  There’s a lotta affection — and that’s putting it mildly! — out there for Miss Midler. (The record-breaking advance box-office on “Hello, Dolly!” speaks for itself.”) 
One of the most enthusiastic notes we received came from Susan Neal, a fan from way back.  She wrote:

“Love, love, love The Divine Miss M! My memory of La Bette .... She came to an underground club in the 70’s here in Raleigh NC. I was maybe 18 or 19. Barry Manilow was her pianist."
“K-I-L-L-E-R show that was very low key — bar wasn’t so big and she was beyond fantastic. Fast forward to the late '80s and early '90s when she was touring amphitheaters/concert venues. I never missed a performance. She was still puttin’ on the BEST damn show ever.

"How in God’s name she changed into those mermaid costumes so quickly is beyond me! She never missed a beat.

"Even with an intermission that was about 10 to 15 minutes, the backup singers kept everybody entertained.  “The fascinating thing was that even when I went to see her at a larger venue, her performance and attention to the audience always made it feel like I was seeing her in that tiny underground bar in the '70s.”

Miss Neal hit the nail on the head.  Along with all the brash brass, Sophie Tucker jokes, the “big” moments, the gaudy costumes, Bette conveys striking delicacy and intimacy in her performances. 

It has never failed to impress me, whenever I’ve seen her onstage, how wonderfully graceful she is. Her arms and hands convey as much as that voice and her unique, lively, piquant face.
WERE you a Nancy Drew mystery fan back in the Dark Ages? Did you huddle under the covers in bed to read about young Nancy’s unusual sleuthing? Millions of girls from ages eight to adolescence  adored these books. But I’ve known adults who doted on Nancy — an innocent guilty pleasure. (The books were written by a variety of authors over the decades but the “classic” early Nancy adventures were credited to Mildred Wirt Benson, who created the tales under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.)
Nancy Drew's The Secret of the Old Clock.
Now Linda Fairstein,  famous for writing about adult crime in Manhattan, will bring out on November 15th  from Penguin Random House Books, a new young adult series — her first venture into that genre. These will have some of those unmistakable Nancy Drew elements.

The first book will be called “Into the Lion’s Den (The Devlin Quick Mysteries)” This means an adventure with “Patience” and “Fortitude,” the stone guardians of New York Public Library. (Devlin attempts to solve the mystery of why a rare book was stolen from the library.) 
Click to pre-order!
Linda, can be seen all over the East Side of Manhattan. She is out dining at Primola, Donahue’s and such spots with her new husband Michael Goldberg.

The dynamic writer was long a fixture in solving actual sex crimes for D.A. Robert Morganthau. Her many best sellers are said to have inspired TV’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Linda says that Nancy Drew inspired her! 
Here comes Devlin Quick — following in the footsteps of Nancy Drew. Run along with her!
THE Women Who Made New York Foundation have advised me that someone named Liz Smith is among this gang of movers and shakers.

These worthies, who do or did, good works are meeting in The Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center on Nov 1st at 12noon.

There are 126 on the list and their admirers and supporters are legion, past and present. I am duly impressed, because on the list are Gloria Steinem, Linda Fairstein, Nina Zagat, Betsy Gotbaum, Ariana Rockefeller, Nancy Spector, Geraldine Ferraro, Bella Abzug and many more.

Get in touch with Julie Scelfo at

Contact Liz here.