Wednesday, August 10, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Real or Not Real

The girl's got lungs, that can't be denied. (Because the girl can't help it.)
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Coming Soon — Mariah Carey's "Real" World. Is the real world ready for it?  Also — Betty Buckley at Joe's Pub ... Lorenzo Lamas in "The Fantasticks" and remembering Fernando and Lana.

“THERE’S NO way that I was, like, ‘Oooh, ‘let’s do some kind of reality thing.’ Like, I don’t even watch reality. I don’t even know what reality is, literally, like, in terms of like, real or not real.”

That, my friends was — and could only be — Miss Mariah Carey, last week in Hollywood.  She was speaking at a press conference to promote her coming reality TV series, “Mariah’s World.”

But, we shouldn’t really describe it that way, because as the star herself says, she doesn’t know what reality is.

Folks, truer worlds were never spoken by a major celebrity, and “Mariah’s World” might turn out to be highly entertaining indeed!

I love Mariah. Although one of her role models is Marilyn Monroe, Miss Carey reminds me more of a major league Jayne Mansfield; Jayne at her brief, but dazzling peak.

Everything was grist for Mansfield’s publicity mill. She adored attention and played along with her image.  She was full of confidence and good humor and always wore clothes that announced from 20 miles away that she was a sex-symbol, and that her image was far more important than comfort. (Jayne was a far more confident and assured personality than Marilyn, who was riddled with self-esteem issues. Unfortunately, as genial and smart as Jayne was, nobody wanted to see her in the movies!)

Carey, of course, is famous for her startlingly brief outfits that often look more like stage costumes, even when she’s out “casually dining” with friends. Her heels are generally so treacherously high, that members of her omnipresent entourage seem always to be lifting Carey from place to place. She is determined to dress inappropriately, even during a blizzard.

(At the press conference to announce her series she was carried in to face the press by five or six shirtless, glistening guys. Because who would notice her, if not for that, right?)
However, underneath the image, as much fun as it is, lurks a serious businesswoman. Those who work with her at the Hallmark Channel — she recently signed a three-movie deal with the network, after the success of her Christmas movies — say she is smart, knows exactly what she wants, and one should not be fooled by what one sees, or even hears from the lady herself.

At five feet eight inches tall — adding the inevitable, eternal five inches of high heel — the air up there around Mariah’s lovely head might seem pretty thin, but as a genuine multi-tasking mogul, her oxygen mask is always firmly in place. (Her signature emblem is a butterfly, most likely made of titanium.)
More good news for fans — Mariah will appear as a guest star on the popular series “Empire” which deals with all sorts of machinations behind the scenes of the music industry.  Don’t worry, Mariah is not wasting this opportunity by attempting to stretch her acting chops — which are not bad, by the way, the infamous “Glitter” notwithstanding.  Nope, she'll impersonate a fabulous pop star named Kitty, who will hopefully mess up the litter with Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie.  This happens Oct 5th. 

Thank you, Mariah Carey; autumn will be a little less grim!

... On September 22nd, Broadway’s legendary Betty Buckley returns to NYC’s Joe’s Pub for a seven-show stint (425 Lafayette Street, between E. 4th and Astor Place.)  Titled “Story Songs” Miss Buckley will offer an eclectic mix of music from Stephen Schwartz to Radiohead!  She’ll be accompanied by Christian Jacob on piano, Tony Marino on bass and Ben Perowsky, drums and percussion. Call 212-967-7555.
Bettty Buckley at Joe’s Pub.
Miss Buckley is, at the moment, starring in a much-acclaimed production of the musical “Grey Gardens” in L.A. She is an astonishing artist, always.

I’ll never forget her as Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” on Broadway (after Glenn Close had moved on.)  I’ve seen a lot of Normas, all of them splendid — that includes Patti LuPone in London, before Andrew Lloyd Webber changed his mind!

But Betty brought a certain delicacy and vulnerability to the deluded movie star that nobody else quite captured, in my opinion.

She had a moment in the show, very brief, standing at the foot of the famous staircase, and she made a slight gesture, almost accidental, but it wasn't; conveying so much about the character that it took my breath away. 

I went back to see her again, perhaps for that one moment, which she did repeat, and it was just as powerful. In the theater, little things can mean a lot.
Betty as Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard."
... LORENZO LAMAS, sex-symbol, TV star, and since 2006, cabaret and stage performer, will join the cast of off-Broadway’s now-and-forever entity, “The Fantasticks” for a limited engagement at the Jerry Orbach Theater. (Oct 24-November 6th) Lorenzo will play the smooth, sexy narrator, Gallo. Call 212-921-7862.

Lorenzo is the fabulous offspring of two of Hollywood’s great beauties — MGM’s flame-haired Arlene Dahl, and the late screen and TV heartthrob Fernando Lamas.
Lorenzo Lamas in his "Fantastick" 1980's salad days. Lorenzo today, still looking good!
Fernando and Arlene.
Fernando was a storied ladies man, married four times.  After Miss Dahl — who has long since been the happy Mrs. Marc Rosen — Fernando wed another great MGM star, Esther Williams, a marriage that lasted until his death in 1982.
Fernando and Esther.
But perhaps his most famous fling was a steaming romance with Lana Turner (he liked the well-toned horseflesh at MGM, obviously!) They danced, they partied, they made love; they made a movie together — “The Merry Widow.”  Hollywood adored Lana and Lamas, until they battled spectacularly at a nightclub.
Party! Party! Lana, Lamas and pals in Hollywood, 1952.
Accounts varied on who did what — was he flirting with another? Was she? Did she slap him?  Did he slap her? (Luckily for everyone, the intrusive all-seeing cell phone was decades away.) 

It ended that night, and Fernando did not have the opportunity to star again with Miss Turner in “Latin Lovers.” He was replaced instantly with Ricardo Montalban.  Lana was an easy-going gal, but there were limits, especially in public.
Turner’s desire to maintain some level of decorum prompted her fatal decision to leave gangster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato home alone on Oscar night, a few years later. She, her daughter and Johnny himself would pay dearly for that reticence.

It is still an astonishing thing to recall that Lana's career actually survived the fatal scandal that left Stompanato dead on the floor of her pink boudoir, and Cheryl charged with killing him. (A jury found that it was justifiable homicide.) More astonishing is that Cheryl grew into a lovely, well-adjusted woman, who remained devoted to Lana, until the star died in 1995.

Contact Liz here.