Wednesday, June 1, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Legends

by Liz Smith

Marilyn — Today She Would Have Been 90!! ... Also Scott Dreier's Musical Tribute to Doris Day ... and a Rex Reed One-Man Show?  Maybe.  

"NO one who knew Marilyn Monroe intimately would have ever said, at any time. "She's such a happy girl" — although she was capable of summoning up an infectious, joyful façade. It was her own disapproval of herself, her self-loathing, the demons of her childhood, which drove her to excel and reach ever up and beyond. (She could call on Isak Dinesen, Truman Capote and Carl Sandberg as friends.)
"Her struggle was heroic, and her accomplishments are ill-served when placed in the mode of inevitable failure and victimization. In her last interview, to Life magazine she said, 'That moment, between me and the camera. I want it to be perfect. As perfect as I can make it, anyway.' Always unhappy about the results of her work, she had not despaired of a great career high — though she hardly expected it to be the trouble-fraught "Something's Got To Give." (Fired for "chronic absenteeism" she was about to be re-hired at the time of her death.)
"She also said, in those final weeks: 'Fame has its compensations. It does. But it also has its drawbacks. And I've experienced both. It's like caviar. It's good to have caviar, but not when you have it every damn day. Too much caviar!' And her summation of what she'd worked for? 'Fame may go by. And, so what? I've had fame. It's something I've experienced. But it's not where I live.'

"Had she lived, the white hot of that fame would have inevitably passed by. But in a cooler climate, she might well have found all she desired. We would not talk of her as we do now, as an almost mythological figure, a repository of endless fantasy and speculation. She would speak for herself. And her work, which mattered to her more than people realized, would speak as well.
"Marilyn Monroe's death was an accidental blip, one wretched night she couldn't escape. I do not believe she "planned" to die. (And sorry, most of you — I don't believe she was murdered.) Had she risen above it, been saved, thought it over, she would have survived. She would have been ... Mrs. Robinson! (Could Mike Nichols have resisted casting her in "The Graduate"?) The legendary 'correctness' of her passing — the right place, the right year, the right age — works for historians, conspiracy buffs and fans. The woman herself would have wanted more time.

"This was Marilyn speaking weeks before she died: 'I used to think if I could find myself as an actress, I would fulfill myself as a person. Now I feel if I fulfill myself as a person, I'll find myself as an actress. The thing is, it seems like I have a superstructure with no foundation. But I'm working on the foundation!"
The above, long quote was part of an article that appeared in Parade magazine a few years ago, bylined by one Liz Smith.

Today would have been Marilyn's 90th birthday. Hard to imagine her as an elderly woman, or even middle-aged. She died two months after turning 36, in the full bloom of her womanly beauty — already concerned about fading youth, but still fresh, and very lovely.
Her career was short, with few truly memorable films (She benefits her material more often than it benefits her.) But when she died on August 4th, 1962 The New York Times referred to her as "One of the most famous stars in Hollywood history ... her death has international impact."

The continuing interest — plays, operas, photo exhibits, biographies — rests on her intangible quality of vulnerability. Yes, scandal and rumor have fanned the flames, but young people today go to YouTube and see her in clips or video tributes, or pick one of the endless books of photos. They know nothing except this radiant image and they ask, "Who is that?!"

Just as moviegoers did, way back in the day, when she appeared, shiny and new, in "The Asphalt Jungle."
"Do I have to talk to him? Can't I just ... talk to you?" Monroe in "The Asphalt Jungle."
NOW SOME news on a still-living legend, the great, great Doris Day.

A singer named Scott Dreier sent me a note and a CD. The disc, which is very stylish-looking is titled "The Doris Day Project." The cover shows Scott laying down next to a record player, surrounded by Doris Day albums.
Click to order "The Doris Day Project."
It is, as you might have guessed a tribute to Miss Day, whose strong velvet voice was incomparable — and far more insinuatingly sensuous than her inaccurate screen image suggests. As Mr. Dreier reflects in his liner notes, Doris conveyed a remarkable intimacy, it was one of those voices that seemed to be singing/speaking straight to you, to your heart and soul. (Day was one of the rare ones, to have both a tremendous career as a recording artist and as a movie star. And yet, I feel she is now disregarded and under-rated as both.)
Doris Day singing "It's Magic."
Scott puts his own spin on such DD classics as "Shakin' the Blues Away" ... "Secret Love" ... "Que Sera, Sera," "It's Magic" ... "Everybody Loves a Lover" and about ten more. This is utterly charming — Scott really sounds nothing like Doris — he's a guy, after all — but there's an essence and a respect, love and genuine musicality that is marvelous to hear. This is only his second album.
And here's the best part. A great portion of the proceeds of this album go directly to The Doris Day Animal Foundation (

Everyone who reads this column knows how much I admire Doris Day, and how irate I continue to be about her not receiving an honorary Oscar. This wonderful CD is not an Academy Award. But it is presented in love, and I'm sure Doris appreciates it much more than a cold little golden guy.
I TOLD you about violinist Aaron Weinstein last week and how he'll appear at NYC's Pangea, playing with his instrument, and introducing the columnist Michael Musto in song. I was fascinated to find out — from Aaron himself — that Rex Reed, film critic extraordinaire had warbled a few notes at Pangea, the last time Aaron appeared there.

Aaron says he is trying to encourage RR to put together a one-man show, telling of his storied adventures with all the great stars he's known and interviewed, as well as singing! (I assume Rex must have been pretty good!)

Apparently Rex is iffy on this — he's so shy? — but Aaron says "I'm going to keep at him about it!"

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.