Thursday, March 3, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Giving Peace a Chance

The giant human peace sign organized by Yoko Ono in honor of John Lennon's 75th birthday on October 6, 2015 in Central Park.
by Liz Smith

Dear Yoko — Get Well Soon, and Let's Give Peace a Chance, One More Time! ... "Outlander" Returns — Hot Sex in Old Scotland Has Never Been So Kinky. And, Will Argentina Soon Cry for Us?

"WHAT'S THE best part of success?"

"Well, I don't know, because I'm not successful yet. We're not getting world peace!"

That was Yoko Ono answering a few question from Rolling Stone's David Browne, in the March 10th issue of the magazine.

This is a wonderful little Q&A, on RS's back page, The Last Word. Yoko is so honest and funny. When asked what her favorite memory of David Bowie was, Yoko answered: "He was one of the very few people who liked my work!"

As to writing a memoir, Ono said: "That would be a very tricky thing to do. I care about writing something that would make some people feel bad, even though they maybe were bad. I think about their children and their wives, and I don't want to hurt anybody. So the book would be rather ... boring."

Wow, what a revolutionary approach to celebrity in the 21st century!

Yoko has been on my mind this week, after she was taken to a hospital here in New York, suffering from a bad flu. (Her son, Sean and the singer/artist's reps insist reports of an illness of a more serious nature simply were not true.)
I love Yoko. She is gentle, brave, kind and totally uncompromising. She's tough, too. She suffered so much in loving John Lennon; blamed for the breakup of the Beatles — which was not true. She was victimized and demonized. They had at her in every which way. She was a temptress ... she was a plotting Asian temptress (her ethnicity, the undisguised xenophobia was always there) ... she was ugly (which rather contradicted the temptress theory, but what the hell) ... she was too ambitious ... she had no talent ... why didn't she just go away?

What conveniently escaped everybody — all those friends and fans who claimed to "love" John Lennon — was that Yoko was clearly his muse and soul mate; he wrote his most optimistically humanistic work during their marriage, including the epic "Imagine."

I won't say I "understand" Yoko's music and art, but I love the fact that she never sells out ("I don't take advice" she tells Rolling Stone, "I make records my certain way.")

I recall seeing her perform with her son, Sean, at a concert event in New York a few years ago. Maybe it was a celebration of Yoko's 80th birthday. (She is a vibrant 83 now.) What struck me was the great love and respect between mother and son, and also that the place was packed with young people, many of whom weren't even born when John Lennon was murdered. Yoko was brilliant onstage — although don't ask me exactly what she sang, or what it meant!

She has been re-invented and re-appreciated over the past ten years in a manner that is so fitting, I think. Her new album is "Yes, I'm a Witch, Too."
Yoko Ono is a good woman, a woman who saw her husband brutally slain right before her eyes. That alone would give her a pass in my mind. But she went on with her life and made something more of herself. She has cherished and honored John's legacy. He would be proud of her.

And, since we don't know what happens on the other side, maybe he is!

Get well, soon, Yoko. And in these dark days, let's give peace a chance, one more time.
THE STARZ network sometimes seems to be the poor, if very sexy relation of HBO and Showtime. But Starz is growing up. Maybe it began with the popular "Spartacus" series. Now, Entertainment Weekly magazine has put Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan on its cover. These two beautiful people are better known as Claire and Jamie, the protagonists of Starz's lavish time-travel hit, "Outlander," which has its second season debut on April 9th.

"Outlander" is fabulously entertaining. Claire, a married woman of the 1940s somehow stumbles back into 18th century Scotland, where her modern ways are very much in contrast to what women were supposed to be, back then. She's a handful, but irresistible to Jamie, who is some kind of embattled lord or is it laird? She's headstrong. So is he, and very confused, attracted, aroused and annoyed by Claire, who just can't stay out of trouble. There's sex and villains and some pretty kinky stuff all around.

The show is based on a bestselling series of novels by Diana Gabaldon, who seems to have a good head on her shoulders when it comes to her work being adapted: "I knew the constraints they were dealing with, that they had a limited number of 55-minute blocks, and within each block each has to have its own dramatic arc. They've done a very good job."
Caitriona Balfe (Claire Randall) and Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) in "Outlander."
Also refreshingly realistic is lead actress Caitriona, who says she in on board for the "long haul" (There are nine books in the series!) "I don't forget examples of people dying to get off shows that make them successful, and then you never see them again. Opportunities like this don't come along often."

We remember those actors, too, darling. And if we were feeling headachy and bitchy, we'd list those foolish people.

Anyway, I can't wait for the season premiere. Poor Jamie was put through a lot by his nemesis, Black Jack. We shall see if he can recover his, ah — "confidence" with the lovely Claire, as their adventures continue. "Outlander" is bodice (and trouser) ripping storytelling at its juiciest.
Oliver Munday for NY Times.
I WAS at a dinner recently where one of the guests was from Italy and she compared Donald Trump to the recently disgraced and outrageous deposed Silvio Berlusconi. Then, in the Times editorial section this week, there was a column by Roger Cohen citing Donald Trump as the Mussolini of our time.

Peggy Noonan compares America to the "protected "and "unprotected" and says the latter group could put Trump's finger on the nuclear button, because the "unprotected" don't see that the "protected" have done them any favors. So what have they got to lose?

Donald Trump started out intending to add to his brand, then he got carried away.

I hope this country will come to its senses both Republican, Democrat and the unassigned who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

But this way lies madness. On the other hand, do we want Ted Cruz with all his mean-spirited religiosity, and his calmly standing on stages where the expressed idea of putting homosexuals to death was met with cheers? And a smirk from him.

We are clearly in a bit of a pickle. Autocracy or theocracy, or democracy. It seems an easy choice, yes?
ENDQUOTE: From the wonderful The Week magazine: "We are not yet Argentina or Chile (or America in 1860), but our democracy is headed toward a dangerous place. Juan Linz, the late political scientist, always said the U.S. presidential system had been an exception to his rule only because of its 'moderate consensus' — a middle ground on which both major parties met in civil compromise. That middle ground is gone ... the 'social norms' that once kept a divided government functioning are disintegrating; for the first time in history, the Senate is refusing to consider anyone the president might nominate to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat ... Do cry for us, Argentina."
I know our editors, and some of our readers don't like us to stray away from the fun and frolic of show biz, but we are human beings here, with as much at stake as anybody else, as the political process unravels.

Sometimes, we must follow our hearts and heads, in matters that don't include who's doing what to whom — and how often — how much a movie grosses, why doesn't Justin Bieber just get it over with and pose totally nude, or when is Kim Kardashian gonna wise up and kick Kanye West to the curb? (After all, he says he's millions in debt now. Surely that must give the luxury-loving Kim a bit of pause? You can bet that Kris Jenner has her finger on the red eject button!)

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.