Wednesday, August 24, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Freewheeling Bacchanals

Leo making the rounds.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Wednesday's Rap:  Leo's Charity Troubles ... The Bad Old Days of David Caruso ... Happy Birthday Lesley Ann Warren (Miss Scarlett,  to you "Clue" Fans.)


“MULTIPLE attendees describe the annual Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation galas as freewheeling bacchanals in which wives feel outnumbered by suspiciously pre-disposed Slavic women in bustiers and couples cavort openly in bathroom stalls.”

While reading The Hollywood Reporter’s massive take-out (take-down?) on possibly shady business involving Leonardo DiCaprio’s environment-saving foundation, the above sentence leapt out at me like, well — a Slavic lady in a bustier!
DiCaprio with LDF global finance chairman Milutin Gatsby.
Being a huge movie star and a still firmly committed bachelor takes a lot of time.

Even for less occupied stay-at-home types, keeping up with the intricacies of a massive foundation can be tricky. Leo has his hands full, in every way.
Constance Jablonski, Joan Smalls, Doutzen Kroes, Lily Donaldson and Anja Rubik just before Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation's gala in St. Tropez.
So it is probably best that the star can’t host a Hillary Clinton fundraiser in Hollywood this weekend. Not that there’s anything to worry over in the mass of  investigative reporting that went into THR article by Gary Baum. (It is titled, colorfully, “How Many Bottles of Champagne Does it Take to Save The Planet?”)
But presidential candidate Clinton is battling issues — quite different, less lingerie-laden issues, let us emphasize — regarding her own Clinton Foundation.  Why borrow trouble? 

Leo is extremely busy working on a big environmental documentary, and it is likely he would have passed his hosting duties to Justin Timberlake anyway.

It’s not easy being green — or charitable!
AND AS if The Hollywood Reporter’s story on Leo’s foundation isn’t juicy enough — albeit, rather complex, as such tales are — the issue also includes a book excerpt by TV’s creative legend Steve Bochco of “Hill Street Blue,” “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue.”  
This excerpt is not complex!  It tells of Bochco putting together “NYPD Blue” — the usual frustrating issues with networks, censors, etc. — and his choice to star David Caruso along with Dennis Franz as the two lead cops. 
Franz and Caruso during NYPD Blue's first season, which aired in 1993-94.
Bochco was warned against Caruso, but considered him an excellent actor, who would be, and was, terrific in the role.

However, being advised that the actor was a “malcontent” seemed soon to be only the tip of the psychological iceberg. 
Caruso at the Golden Globes in 1994. Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images
Bochco writes: “Caruso’s behavior was, simply put, cancerous.  He was emotionally unavailable to everyone, and he was volatile, moody or sullen, depending on the day.  Most people don’t function well in a dysfunctional environment, but Caruso loved it, because he was the source of all the discontent, and it empowered him.”

There’s more, but I’ll let you all read the rest.  In short time, Caruso was out, determined to become a big movie star (he didn’t, in spades) and the wonderful Jimmy Smits was in.
Smits, Bochco, Franz and James McDaniel on the NYPD Blue set in September 1994.
I WAS particularly interested in this story because years ago I interviewed David Caruso.  Whether it was during his time on “NYPD Blue” or after, when he was attempting a feature film career, I can’t recall. 

But I do remember that it was the worst interview experience of my career.  I mean literally the worst. 

This column has a reputation for bending over backwards being “nice” to stars. If in the long tenure of this pillar we’ve had a consistent critique it was that we were too willing to take stars at their word, give two sides of a story, defend where others attacked. On the rare occasions we take somebody to task, we receive a wildly diverse response: “At last, you’ve shown some spine!” or “I’m shocked.  I’ve depended on you to be different than the others!” 

In any case, stars knew they’d get a fair shake from this column. David Caruso’s “people” whoever they were certainly knew that.  But the actor himself behaved as if he’d never heard of me — a possibility, though we were riding high at the time — and/or what he’d heard was so distasteful he’d be as uncooperative as possible.

We were shaken and stirred to anger and insecurity by the time the interview was over. One always examines their own behavior in such a situation; Caruso’s resistance was a major blow to our view of ourselves as fair and eager and charming. Had the wrong word been uttered? Had we not been charming or flattering enough?  Apparently not!

However, to call on the wry aside uttered by Judy Garland in “A Star is Born”—“she recovered!”  I wrote up the Caruso story, indicating it had not been an unalloyed joy for either of us, and went on chatting with celebs who at least pretended to like me.

David did not triumph on the big screen but he did land quite successfully on “CSI: Miami” where he solved crimes for ten years.

And yes, if the opportunity arose, I’d sit with him again. Why not?  In response to Bochco’s remembrance of ego past, Caruso told THR: “Young actors sometimes do very dumb things. I was no exception.” He went on to credit Bochco “for all the wonderful opportunities I’ve had in the 22 years since ‘Blue.’”
Caruso (left) and Steven Bochco (right).
Lesley Ann Warren as Miss Scarlet.
A VERY happy slightly belated birthday to Lesley Ann Warren.  I adore this girl, who is somewhat past girlhood, but is one of those women who has an eternally young vibe and energy. She perfected a sensitive/sexy/vulnerable thing that always reminded me of a cross between Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe, with some Judy Holiday thrown in. (She was rightly Oscar-nominated for her great comic turn in “Victor/Victoria.”)

Lesley Ann’s birthday came to my attention when I heard that the movie “Clue” was going to get a remake.  Oh, well, no new ideas! 

Fans are already roiling in objections, as the 1985 screen version of the famous board game was simply hilarious, perfect.

It is difficult to imagine Wadsworth, Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Professor Plum, Mr. Green, Colonel Mustard and Yvette being played by substitutions for Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKeon, Martin Mull and Coleen Camp.

Not to mention Lesley Ann Warren herself as Miss Scarlet. Whether in the library with the candlestick or the cellar with the poison, Lesley Ann’s Miss Scarlet looked like a woman who could commit murder and be swiftly acquitted as long as the jury of her peers were men! 
Oh, and a long-overdue bravo to “Clue’s” costume designer Michael Kaplan.  All the outfits were great, but the number he devised for Lesley was a miracle of seductive construction.  Despite a lot of physical activity, Miss Scarlet’s gown stayed up and on when at every second it looked to be perilously close to falling down and off.  

The real mystery of “Clue” wasn’t the murder, but how Lesley Ann Warren held up that dress? (Two good reasons, obviously!)

Contact Liz here.