Thursday, August 18, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Regime Change

Alexis Smith as Phyllis in "Follies," 1971.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Atlanta's NeNe Leakes Will Sing the Blues at NYC's BB King Club ... Yoko Ono in Iceland! ... Re-appreciating Felicity Huffman and "Transamerica" ... The fans still love Barbra and Madonna!

“WE ARE fighting for a peaceful regime change.”

That’s what Donald Trump said the other night in what was billed as a “serious” press conference.

I have never in my life heard such language — “regime change” — come from a candidate for president of the United States of America.  Mr. Trump has already made it clear that he will not accept Hillary Clinton possibly winning the race, leaving it to his fans to do something about her “cheating” him.
I’m sorry. We’ve tried to give you a good time here, and we will again, just a few items down, I hope. But we are only human.  And Americans; living in a free democracy; at the moment.

What will be, will be, in November.  But que sera, sera doesn’t translate for Mr. Trump. That is more than slightly unsettling.
However, as we lead up to November 8th, I would like to advise my very intelligent, very well-intentioned friends at MSNBC to please pull themselves together.  Stop laughing, giggling, smugly dismissing Trump and all but predicting a “landslide” for Hillary — based on recent, somewhat encouraging polls.  There is not one funny thing about this campaign.  Not one. Can anybody over there report what’s happening without being so utterly self-amused?  Try it, please. What will you all do with those rictus grins if Trump becomes Commander in Chief?  Because he just might.
As for CNN, it has disgraced itself in too many ways to count.  When New Year’s Eve rolls around I hope the network has the good taste to tone down its annual festivities. People in high places over there need to end the year and begin the new one, pondering what they’ve wrought.
ONE MORE serious note. Farewell to John McLaughlin, the famously, often amusingly, abrupt host of “The McLaughlin Hour” for 34 years. Perhaps his politics weren’t mine, but for a long time, his show was part of my Sunday morning lineup of news/opinion programming.  

Now and then a temper flared, but it was all pretty much civilized discourse, although the unpleasant seeds of what now passes for discussion were sown in those comfy-looking armchairs.

I admired his determined, outsized personality — at least what he showed on TV — along with his knowledge and the surety of his positions. You can be sure of something and be smart or be an idiot. McLaughlin was no idiot.  And, if I recall correctly, he let people speak, even if those people sometimes didn’t allow their opponents to speak.  His program was difficult to find in recent years, but when I did there was something very soothing there, even in political bickering.

“The McLaughlin Hour” and the man at its helm will be missed.
NENE Leakes!!  There, I told you fun stuff was coming.  Ms Leakes, as I think all of you know, is one of the stars, one of the most famous and appealing stars, of “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” 

I don’t watch reality TV.  True, I was fascinated, along with the rest of the country, by the Loud family saga on PBS many moons ago, and I admit I occasionally peeked at MTV’s “The Real World” back in the '90s. But today’s reality programming is fairly loathsome and stupid and hardly “real.” 

However, whenever I’ve come across NeNe on other shows, as a guest, she has amused and charmed me.  Although I would not venture into a strong disagreement with her!

She has branched out and made quite a career for herself, including stints on Broadway (“Chicago” and “Cinderella”)  NeNe also contributes a considerable amount of charitable time to issues of women suffering domestic abuse.  So I am totally fine telling you that the outrageous NeNe will perform at the BB King Blues Club in Times Square on September 8th.  This is part of her aptly named “So Nasty, So Rude” tour. Call 1-800-840-9227 for ticket info.
SPEAKING OF reality TV, “I Am Cait” the “real” story of a wealthy, white, transparently fame-addicted transgender person has been cancelled. Cait herself, a spawn of the Kardashian family/franchise will likely find other publicity outlets.

Some say that “I Am Jazz” another reality show about a likeable (and well-to-do) teen in transition is more palatable.  Perhaps.  Although visibility — even reality TV visibility — is important, I think transgender people need proper protection and legislation first and foremost.  Most are poor, disowned and disenfranchised. I suppose that reality is not suitable for E! or TLC.
The Jennings family in "I Am Jazz."
While the subject is on my mind, I recently caught, on cable, the 2005 feature film “Transamerica.”  This starred Felicity Huffman as a pre-op (male to female) who encounters her long-lost son.  I recall when the film was released, being tremendously moved by Huffman’s delicate, emotional performance. I hoped that once nominated, she would win the Oscar. (Reese Witherspoon took the Best Actress gold that year for “Walk The Line.” And while Witherspoon was very good, hers was essentially a supporting role.) 

Watching again, I was even more taken with Ms. Huffman, and also Kevin Zegers, who is exceptional as her son. 

“Transamerica” deserves to be better known.
IT’S ALWAYS nice to receive an invitation from Yoko Ono, whom I adore. (As Paul McCartney remarks affectionately in the current Rolling Stone, “She’s so Yoko!”)

And truth be told, I’ve never been to Iceland.  Yep, on October 9th, in the city of Reykjavik, Yoko will attend the 2016 Lennon Yoko Grant for Peace Awards, and the lighting of Imagine Peace Tower.
Other than the handing out of the awards and the Tower ceremony, all I know is that “light refreshments” will be served.  Don’t complain to me, it’s Iceland.  They eat healthily.

I’m sure many people received this invite.  But I’m going to pretend Yoko really wants me in Iceland.  If you care to attend — Yoko, honey, I can’t, tempting as October in Iceland is! — contact Or Sybil at the same email address. 
Neck and neck: Madonna and Barbra.
WOW!  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that Barbra Streisand or Madonna have, in any way, lost their mythic standing among fans. Recent columns — a tongue-in-cheek assessment of Madonna’s movie career, and a review of Barbra Streisand in concert — have resulted in a little avalanche of mail. Both ladies are still very much revered and considered quite relevant.

The consensus seems to be that although she might never go down as a great actress, Madonna should try again, and screw the critics; relax and go for supporting roles.

One fan mentioned the long a’ borning idea of finally putting Sondheim’s “Follies” onscreen, with La Ciccone as either Carlotta or Phyllis. For those who know their “Follies” these are the Yvonne de Carlo and Alexis Smith roles, respectively. (Yes, I know there were other productions — some quite wonderful--but the 1971 original is still the platinum standard.)
Alexis Smith and Yvonne De Carlo in "Follies" 1971.
Madonna would either belt out the brassy survival anthem, “I’m Still Here” or scorch the earth with the bitter “Could I Leave You?”  I could get on board with that!

As for Barbra, some fans — those who have seen her splendid current tour — say, yes, let her do “Gypsy.”  Others do not hold so much enthusiasm for that dream. 

I have a compromise.  Allow Streisand to direct, which I think might be a brilliant idea. Or, and this is because I think Barbra really, really wants to tackle the score, just go ahead and record it, the entire show, “Barbra Streisand’s ‘Gypsy.’”  A soundtrack without a movie.  Why not?
The rest of the cast? That shouldn’t be a problem.  Her coming “Encore” album alone attests that there’s not a person on earth who sings, or aspires to, who can resist Barbra’s siren call when she asks, all buttah-like, “Would you like to work with me?”

Contact Liz here.