Wednesday, February 10, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Joy and Pain

Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster in The Rose Tattoo (1955).
by Liz Smith with Denis Ferrara

Wednesday's Rap: Marisa Tomei ... Alan Cumming ... The Monkees! ... China's Big Movie Day ... Madonna and Child.

“THERE IS no joy in Hillary’s campaign!”

That’s what was said repeatedly yesterday a.m. on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Yes, folks, you have to be “joyful” to run for president. Just like Donald Trump, that happy-go-lucky fella.
When Trump himself appeared on the “MJ” set, in New Hampshire, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and the rest of the crew all but bowed to him. It’s become embarrassing, but what the hell, Joe probably thinks he’ll end up in Trump’s cabinet. Likely he will — along with other knickknacks.

I don’t know; being president of the United States is not a joyful occupation. The world is not a joyful place. I want my president to appear to know what he or she is doing, not concern myself as to whether they are having fun. That goes for the candidates as well. Be intelligent, be compassionate, have an idea. The minute the oath of office is taken, joy flies out the window.
Anyway, today we know the New Hampshire results. As I’m writing this, Trump is expected to win big, and Hillary is expected to lose to Bernie Sanders. And while cable news will boil over with opinions — who has triumphed, who is “toast” — nothing is certain at all. Really.

I mean, former New York Mayor Bloomberg keeps making noises about entering the race. Fine, but remember, Mike — be “joyful.”

The great Marisa Tomei will star in a new production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo,” from June 28th to July 17th at the summer season of the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Tomei will be the widow Serafina, who is coaxed out of her excessive grief by a lusty truck-driver. (Film-goers recall Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster in the 1955 movie. Magnani took an Oscar for her performance.) For tix info on this and the rest of the Williamstown schedule go to
Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster in The Rose Tattoo.
... Alan Cumming’s new CD, “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs (Recorded Live at the Café Carlyle)” is in stores — if there are any record stores left! — now. This, from Yellow Sound Label features Cumming doing his stuff on numbers such as “Goodnight Saigon” ... ”You, You, You” ... ”If Love Were All” ... ”Liza” ... ”And So It Goes” ... ”The Ladies Who Lunch” and “A Musical Condom Commercial.”
... Next month Tovah Feldshuh, Michael Urie, Rachel Dratch (of “SNL”) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (from Broadway’s super-smash “Hamilton”) will join in the fun at off-Broadway’s long-running “Celebrity Autobiography.”

"Celebrity Autobiography" creators Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel.
This is the show in which choice bits from the life stories of celebrities — Donald and Ivana Trump, Kris Jenner, Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, etc., are read aloud to a hysterical audience. And the audience is invariably hysterical. You want to talk about “joyful?” Catch this at Stage 72, 158 West 72nd Street. Go to:

... Believe it or not, this September will mark the 50th anniversary of ... The Monkees! The four boys — Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and the late Davy Jones were a cultural phenomenon whose music and wacky, much-beloved TV show, overshadowed the Beatles at one point. It is said that Micky and Peter will tour later this year.

For certain there is a tribute concert planned for The Pantages Theater in Hollywood. The big question — will Mike Nesmith, the wealthy Liquid Paper heir, who never much cottoned to the way The Monkees were handled — participate in any way? He has generally not wanted to look back, but it’s half a century, darling. Just do it.
... China just had its biggest one day ever at the movie box-office, with films taking in over $100 million dollars. The three top earners were “The Mermaid,” “The Man From Macau” and “The Monkey King 2.”
ENDTHOUGHT: I have refrained until now from commenting on the matter of Madonna and her 15-year-old son, Rocco, who has recently declined to return to the United States and live with his mother, preferring the more lackadaisical lifestyle of his father, director Guy Ritchie. (Madonna married Ritchie in 2000. They divorced in 2008 and he — already a wealthy man — took the pop icon for about $75 million bucks.)

I have no inside information, other than the fact that Madonna is crushed by this turn of events. I know her quite well. I have seen her with all four of her children. I have heard her speak privately about them in the most glowing — and intelligent — terms. She is a stickler for education, self-discipline and motivation.
Madonnna and Rocco.
Despite the professional image and stage persona she often embodies, Madonna is a very good mother, and not, appearances to the contrary, a hedonist or self-destructive. No drugs, no drinking, no dissipation. The male company she has kept since her divorce from Ritchie are separate from her role as a mother. She is not given to wild or inappropriate behavior in front of her children, or anyone else, for that matter.

A tender mother/son moment.
(I, along with others, might roll my eyes at some of the things she wears, or how she presents herself in photo shoots or on Instagram. But that’s not her daily life. She marches to her own drummer and refuses to be categorized or held back by what others think is “suitable” for a woman of 57. She enjoys making us crazy.)

I am fairly certain that continuing with her current “Rebel Heart” tour has been agonizing, but it would be out of character for Madonna to cave, give in, give up. And what would it gain her? Bad press, enraged fans, and her son would still be in England.

This unhappy situation will likely sort itself out, but that the situation exists doesn’t surprise me. I wondered what was going on in Guy Ritchie’s head when he put Madonna in a film short as a movie star abused by her driver, and then starred her in “Swept Away,” as a wealthy woman abused by one of her servants.

Madonna entered her marriage to Ritchie fully committed. To such an extent that photos of the wedding were never made public.  Her nuptials were not grist for the PR mill. Madonna’s two “I do’s” — to Sean and then to Ritchie were absolutely sincere. That Catholic girl from Michigan always lurks beneath the “outrageous” star.

I don’t think Madonna regrets her marriage to Penn. They have remained friends. I believe she regrets most of her marriage to Ritchie, except for their son, Rocco.

Good luck with all this, honey. You are a good girl.
"Love conquers all."

Liz Smith is still recuperating. Denis Ferrara is still pinch-hitting.

Contact Liz here.