Monday, December 12, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Monday's Manic Mix

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Madonna ... Katie Holmes ... Shirley Bassey ... Nicole Kidman and the chicken bones of Helena Rubinstein.

“MY FAMILY is everything. I will go to war for them. Whatever I’m fighting for, it’s for my daughters and my sons. I want them to have a good future. I’ve created an unconventional family and we have discussions at the dinner table about all sorts of things. My 11-year-old son, David, can speak eloquently about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and James Baldwin. My daughter Mercy plays the piano and can talk to you about Nina Simone. I’m really proud of that.”

That’s Madonna, talking to Elizabeth Banks in Billboard magazine. (Madonna, whose “Rebel Heart” tour grossed $170 million, has been chosen Billboard’s Woman of the Year.) 

This interview caused a bit of controversy, when the subject came around to the elections. No, Madonna didn’t exactly trash Donald Trump, whom she met once, years ago. She found his macho posturing “amusing” and said “People like that exist in the world. I’m okay with that.  But they can’t be heads of state ... I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since the election.”

What raised eyebrows were her remarks that Hillary Clinton lost because “women hate other women.” Clinton’s loss was more complicated than that — or, perhaps not so complicated at all.  But maybe in Madonna’s world, her experiences, she feels comfortable with the concept of women hating women. 

However, it is the opening quote that I relate to, in terms of how I know Madonna.  I’ve seen her with her children — Lourdes, Rocco, David and Mercy.  I’ve spoken to her over the years about motherhood. She has expressed herself with an open, honest candor about her parenting (strict), her insistence on her children knowing everything there is know about all aspects of life, and her general feeling about being a mother (an all-encompassing passion.) 
"Reasons to be thankful for."
I said to her once, “I wish people could see you like this, hear you.”  She laughed, “They’d say, ‘It’s just an act.’ I got used to that a long time ago. You can’t expect people to believe you’re sincere. I learned that the hard way. You just live honestly, for yourself.”  (She has made it a point to include all her children in the work she does for Malawi, in Southeast Africa.)
Madonna dismisses talk of “relevance” (“It’s a catchphrase people throw out because we live in a world of discrimination”) and rages against sexism (“When Leonardo DiCaprio is 60, nobody is going to be talking about his ‘relevance.’”)  Still, at 58, she is at a crossroads in her music career.

She would not agree with this. Madonna continues to make the music she likes to make, and rejects any suggestion she is attempting to court a younger audience with that music.  However, her recent “Tears of a Clown” mini-concerts, while not quite cohesive, are indications of a change in the air. It is unlikely she will ever be the evening-gowned, classic chanteuse of my imaginings (“I’m not doing a Dietrich!” she always assures me with considerable head-shaking and eye-rolling.)  But she might be considering the occasional, intimate alternative to the massive tours, the stadiums, lucrative as they are. (I'm not so crazy about Madonna's elaborate clown get-up, but ... she does not care what I'm not crazy about!  If she did, I'd be worried.)
She will never self-destruct, that’s for sure, and her strength in that area, has always been, I think, something of a thorn in the side of those who want to see her, even for a moment, become one of show biz’s lost, lonely ladies; too much booze, a few drugs, on the skids financially. Not gonna happen.

For one thing, she’s got four kids to think about.  She takes the name Madonna, quite literally.

P.S. For those of you nostalgic for early Madonna — before kids and causes — check out the new book by Richard Corman, “Madonna 66.”  It’s a collection of sixty-six Polaroid’s of The Big M in 1983, just before the release of her first album.  She’s sporting the classic sexy street-urchin look that swiftly obsessed the world.

... Katie Holmes wore Zac Posen to the recent New York screening of her “All We Had” movie.  Zac was a good sport about it, but eventually asked Holmes, “wouldn’t a dress have been an easier choice?”  Just kidding. Katie wore one of Posen’s designs, and looked terrific at Andrew Saffir’s Cinema Society event.  Her glamorous appearance was at striking odds with how she allows herself to look in “All We Had” playing a down-on-her-luck woman, trying to support her teenage daughter. It is also Katie’s directorial debut. (Jane Rosenthal is the producer.) Holmes says she is eager to direct again.  No reason she shouldn’t have the opportunity; this is a very solid debut, and her performance is terrific, gritty, real.  She has come a long way from “Dawson’s Creek.”
... One associates Dame Shirley Bassey with many things — glamour, great big notes, held for an interminable length, sequins, sex-appeal, dramatic intensity. What we don’t associate with La Bassey are soothing Christmas carols. Now the legendary singer has joined with the boy band Blake, and has recorded her very first holiday tune, “The Christmas Song.” Yep, we will hear Bassey crooning “chestnuts roasting on an open fire ... etc.”  But don’t worry, Bassey fans, she does not abandon her signature style. The Dame gives it her all: “chestNUUUTTSS roasting on an open fire ...”  Fab!
... Back in 1971, Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman and a cast of young, mostly unknown actresses, starred in one of the creepiest, most evocatively perverse movies ever, “The Beguiled,” directed with dreamy tension by Don Siegel. 

Based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, set during the Civil War, Clint played an injured, but highly attractive and manipulative Union soldier, “captured” by the twitchy Miss Page and her restless girls, at a dilapidated boarding school.  It gets complicated.
Now, Sofia Coppola is remaking “The Beguiled” for Focus Films. Get this cast — Colin Farrell as the sexy soldier who understands women — he thinks! ... Nicole Kidman, as the headmistress of the school ... Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst as two of Kidman’s “girls” who don’t mind tending to the Yankee’s wounds at all.  Rounding out Kidman’s perfect young ladies are Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard.  Even for Oscar-winning Coppola, she has a task at hand. “The Beguiled” is a true cult classic among cinephiles.  (Geraldine Page, as was her wont, chewed scenery and her co-stars to bits, but Miss Kidman is no slouch at neurotic characterizations. I look forward to this remake.)
ENDTALE:  We’ve written here several times about the coming sure-to-be-fabulously-fun musical, “War Paint” starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole.  This is the tale of the rivalry between two great cosmetic queens, Helena Rubinstein (LuPone) and Elizabeth Arden (Ebersole).

Licking my chops in anticipation over this show (previews begin March 7th) I was reminded of a story about Rubinstein — whose preemptive highhandedness was legendary — from a pal who once had the “pleasure” of being interviewed by the lady; he was seeking a job.
Patti LuPone (Helena Rubinstein) and Christine Ebersole (Elizabeth Arden) in “War Paint."
Miss Rubinstein ushered him into her office while she sat devouring an enormous lunch. He stood. She did not invite him to sit down. While masticating loudly and messily, she peppered him with questions. After answering as best he could under the circumstances, Rubinstein looked up from her meal, and dismissed him by spitting a chicken bone onto his highly polished shoes. She waved him out. 

It was only until he reached the street that he realized the chicken bone was still stuck to his shoe. So much for “glamour.”
Helena Rubinstein.
“War Paint” opens on April 6th at the Nederlander Theater. Book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie, choreography by Christopher Gattelli.  It is directed by Michael Greif.

If only I’d known this show was in the works a year ago. I might have contacted somebody and relayed the chicken bone story. From such minor incidents whole musical numbers have been created!
On like a chicken bone!
Contact Liz here.