Friday, September 23, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Looking up

Happy 58th Joan Jett!
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Friday Fry-Up — Jared Leto ... Andy Warhol ... Gerald McRaney ... Toni Basil ... Joan Jett ... Betty Buckley ... Molly Pope. And please, do as Andrew Sullivan commands — Put Down That Phone!

“JUST LOOK around you — at the people crouched over their phones as they walk the streets, or drive their cars, or walk their dogs, or play with their children. Observe yourself in line for coffee, or in a quick work break, or even just going to the bathroom. Visit an airport and see the sea of craned necks and dead eyes. We have gone from looking up and around to constantly looking down.”

This is Andrew Sullivan writing in New York magazine. Sullivan’s piece, “I Used To Be a Human Being” tackles his own (and the rest of the world's) addiction to the distractions of our devices and 24/7 connection to the Internet. Sullivan’s take is intense, personal and spot-on!
Based on: Hotel Room, by Edward Hopper (1931). Photo: Kim Dong-kyu
And I adored the witty New York cover, which orders us to “Put Down Your Phone.”  It is a rendering of the famous Mary Cassatt painting “Girl in the Garden.” But instead of sewing, which occupies the young woman in Cassatt’s original, she is shown as obliviously occupied on her iPhone.  (She looks too sweet to be slide lefting, but, who knows? These are harsh times.)
SHOUT OUT to Gerald McRaney who was so very good on the pilot episode of the new NBC series “This Is Us.” I liked the show quite a lot, even if I didn’t quite feel as if I’d been “beaten up with a pillow soaked in tears” as James Poniewozik of The New York Times did. (That was a real money review! I made sure to watch the show after reading his critique. Good work, James!)

I don’t know if Gerald will be back — he’s only listed as appearing in one episode — but he made his every minute onscreen count.  I love this guy, and his divine wife, Delta Burke.
Gerald McRaney as the good doctor in “This Is Us.”
GREAT CASTING! I do mean Jared Leto as Andy Warhol in a coming big screen bio-pic about the artist. Oscar-winning Leto will co-produce, along with Michael De Luca (“Empire” “The Wolf of Wall Street”) 

Don’t know yet if the film, titled “Warhol” will cover all of Andy’s life or just a portion.  Jared looks famously, eerily younger than his years, so he could be convincing taking on Warhol, from the odd commercial artist of the 1950s, to the outrageous groundbreaker/icon of the '60s '70s and '80s.  (If only fame-obsessed Andy — who died so suddenly in 1987 — had lived to see the rise of social media. I often wonder — would have felt validated or horrified?)  
Jared Leto also has something of Andy’s perpetually wide-eyed expression as well as a certain sexual ambiguity. That, along with Warhol’s small voice, and his penchant for sly aphorisms was often interpreted as strangely innocent or harmlessly daffy.

But Andy’s public image disguised a tougher, more manipulative center. (Much like two of the celebrities he initially immortalized on silk screen, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy, and another star who fascinated him, Michael Jackson. All of them knew the power of the “little voice.”)
HAPPY, slightly belated birthdays: to Toni Basil and Joan Jett — 72 and 58, respectively. They celebrated their natal days yesterday.  Basil and Jett were two of the powerful women who so dominated the early, fabulous years of MTV. 
Joan Jett and Toni Basil, today.
Toni’s self-choreographed music video, “Mickey” was a one-hit wonder, in terms of her recording career (she was already a famous choreographer in 1982) but it was played so relentlessly, and was such silly infectious fun, that it put the song on the top of US and British pop charts. Basil is still at it — she has the energy and attitude of a woman in her 20s. Just a few years ago did the choreography on Bette Midler’s “The Show Girl Must Go On” concert residency in Las Vegas. You can also spot Toni the actress in films such as “Easy Rider,” and "Five Easy Pieces.”
"Oh Mickey, you're so fine ..."
Joan Jett was (and is!) the sizzling, snarling, hard-driving personification of sex-fueled rock and roll.  Her songs — “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” “Cherry Bomb,” “Do You Wanna Touch Me?,” “Bad Reputation” and, of course, “I Love Rock and Roll” dominated MTV and the charts in the wonderful/terrible 1980’s. She is a feminist, a vegetarian and known as “The Godmother of Punk.” Nobody looks better in skin-tight leather.
I Hate Myself For Loving You!
Oddly enough, when I think about Joan Jett, there’s an Elizabeth Taylor connection!  Back in 1997, just before La Liz was operated on for a brain tumor, she appeared — very much against doctor’s orders — at a gala 65th birthday event/AIDS fundraiser in Hollywood. The show featured many stars — Madonna, Cher, Kevin Bacon, Patti LaBelle, Michael Jackson, Dennis Hopper, Roseanne (who appeared on a chaise lounge, as Cleopatra.)
Taylor and Jackson at her 65th birthday bash. Hours away from brain surgery, La Liz really didn't give a damn about her bad reputation!
Along with the live acts, a number of amusing videos were shown, saluting Taylor.  One of them highlighted the star’s sensational life in headlines, tabloids, fan magazine covers. The accompanying music in the video?  Jett’s “Bad Reputation.”

From my seat in the audience at the Pantages Theater, I looked over at ET. Would she be offended — by the somewhat lurid visuals (“Liz Steals Eddie!” “Liz Steals Burton!”) — or the song? Not at all, she was cackling madly, taking to heart Jett’s lyrics: “I don’t give a damn ‘bout my reputation/I’ve never been afraid of any deviation!”
CABARET LIFE: Catch her if you can. I do mean Broadway’s legendary Betty Buckley, now at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette Street) until the 25th. She is performing her eclectic “Story Songs” act — this has something for everyone! Call 212-967-7555.
Also — we told you a while back about Molly Pope’s one-night-only "A Star is Born” concert, in which she performs the entire score from the famous 1954 Judy Garland/James Mason musical behemoth. This happens on September 28th at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Now Ms. Pope has added something new, a recently discovered Harold Arlen-Ira Gershwin song, “I’m Off the Down Beat.”  This was written for the film, but never used or recorded by Garland. (Although Pope does not attempt to imitate Judy, comparisons are inevitable. So this new number at least allows an interpretation that is not up against the familiar, plangent sounds of Garland.)

Don’t know if there are any tix left, but no harm in trying.  Call 646-476-3551. 

Contact Liz here.