Wednesday, August 3, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Ship-shape shape

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Channing Tatum is in ship-shape shape for Disney's remake of "Splash" ... Tommy Tune remembers "James Needleheimer" ... and we remember the Mars Bar!

“FORGET TRYING to be sexy. That’s just gruesome,” says Colin Firth.

Oh, Colin, we remember sitting behind you at a luncheon for “The King’s Speech.”  The way your hair was just a little too long in the back, curling over your collar. That was sexy, not at all gruesome and you weren’t trying.
YEARS ago, Madonna called upon photographer Herb Ritts to direct the video for her lighthearted hit song, “Cherish.”  Ritts and the Big M collaborated on the concept. Madonna — at one of her physical peaks — romped on a California beach, flirting with hunky mermen. (Per Colin Firth, Madonna has rarely been sexier than in “Cherish” — maybe it was the sea, the sun, the short casual hair, the not-looking-like-she-was trying.) There was also a sweet merchild.

The song was a smash. The video, as all her videos were back then, classic.  Frankly, I thought the merman concept couldn’t get any better or more alluring than what M and Ritts had created.
That is, until word came that stripper-turned-box-office-champ Channing Tatum will star in Disney’s remake of “Splash” the very successful 1984 movie starring Daryl Hannah as a stranded mermaid and Tom Hanks as the human who loves her.  

And I bet you thought we'd do something obvious.  But we always say, a man never looks better than in black tie.  Even when we know what's under the Gucci.
Ah, but for 2016, things are switched up.  This time, Channing is to be cast as the beauty from the sea, and Jillian Bell plays  the startled, infatuated landlubber.  I know, why mess with the whimsical perfection — or at least high entertainment value — of the original?

Oh, come on — it’s Channing Tatum!!  I love this guy.  For some obvious reasons — incredibly easy on the eyes.  But he’s so honest and good-humored about his early days, and everything else, it seems.

He’s so funny that he takes the curse off his good looks.  And while he is not a bad actor at all, he clearly enjoys his status as a sex-symbol.  No tiresome, “please don’t objectify me!” statements. 

Not to mention the fact that he cleverly fictionalized his brief career as a stripper and turned it into the “Magic Mike” movies. 

As “Gypsy’s” Mama Rose belted it out:  “Some people got it and make it pay. Some people can’t even give it away.  This people’s got it/and this people’s spreadin’ it around!” 

Channing Tatum’s got it, and makes it pay.  Now he’ll make it pay with a tail. 
ONE OF our favorite human beings is Mr. Tommy Tune, winner of nine Tony awards for directing, acting, choreography, and for all we know, making costumes.  He can do anything.

Tommy gave it his all at the funeral for Broadway’s great producer/theater-owner and universally beloved guy, Jimmy Nederlander.  He was 93. (Jimmy leaves behind lots of other Nederlanders to keep his legend alive and Broadway thriving.)  The emotional high point of the funeral — of which there were many — was Andrea McArdle, the original “Annie” singing “Tomorrow.”  Dry eyes were in short supply.
Margo Nederlander, Tommy Tune, and Jimmy Nederlander.
Tommy Tune said that JN “was associated with almost everything that was good that happened to me in my career!”  Speaking of that career, Mr. Tune is currently rehearsing the Japanese troupe that made such a hit at Lincoln Center. They will open Tommy’s version of the musical “Grand Hotel” in Tokyo, early next year.
The original Broadway production of "Grand Hotel."
Oh, for all of Jimmy Nederlander’s great accomplishments, his honors and the affection by which he was held, his premiere moment was probably the 1981 Tony Awards.  During a long, hilariously jumbled introduction of nominees, Elizabeth Taylor, then triumphing with “The Little Foxes,” mispronounced several names (“I’m not very bright. I can’t read!” ET laughed.)  Finally, her piece de resistance — she called out, “James Needleheimer!”  La Liz broke into her famous cackle, the audience went wild, and later, Mr. Nederlander remarked he intended to change his name to “Needleheimer” — “Elizabeth said it, so it must be so!”
P.S. At the time, some cynics wondered if Elizabeth had planned her very funny performance. She’d been nominated for “Foxes” but had lost — as she’d merrily predicted she would.  Was she trying to make the most out of her loss? (She was the final presenter.)   I doubted it, at the time.  When ET took the stage that night, she began by thanking the Broadway community for welcoming her. Suddenly, realizing how lengthy her thanks were, she gasped, “This is not an acceptance speech!” began to giggle and never quite recovered herself. 

I often think of that season in New York.  Lena Horne was also there, with her magnificent “The Lady and Her Music” show.  Talk about MGM glamour girls come to life, onstage, in the still-luscious flesh, wowing audiences! (Lena was finally getting her due as a great star, and La Liz was resurrecting herself from several years as a plump, bored Senator’s wife.)
The Ladies and Their Magnificence — Liz and Lena in New York, 1981.
I WOULD like to say a word about candy.

The New York Times told us the other day about the death of Forrest Mars, Jr. He was referred to as “the scion of the reclusive family that satisfied America’s sweet tooth with Milky Way bars and M&M’s.” (It was a nougat and caramel-filled candy that resembled the more famous Milky Way.)

Times writer Sam Roberts continued: “The family suffered from paranoia and insecurity.  They were so protective that they refused to allow their popular M&M’s to be E.T.'s favorite in the Spielberg movie. Reese’s Pieces were used instead and sales boomed.”
Forrest Mars Jr. in 1963.
I love certain candy — mostly the less expensive kind.  Once, when I was lucky enough to interview my friend Robert Redford on a Texas movie set, he asked what my favorite candy was?  (He knew how to steer a nosy writer off rumors of his romantic life.)

I said, “Mars Bars!”  Redford sighed, “Ah the Mars Bar. I miss it!” (The candy wasn’t discontinued in its original form until 2002 but it did seem more difficult to find, even then.)

So we bonded, and when we occasionally meet, we invariably say at some point, “Ah, yes! The Mars Bars!”  We sometimes pick a substitute, as long as it’s not Godiva, which for all its fame and expense, I’ve never much cottoned to. 

I asked my pal and confrere, Denis Ferrara if he thought an item about candy bars was “too silly.”   He said, typically, “You’ve met me, yes?”

Then he told me that in Europe, where the Mars Bar retains some aspect of its old self, it is advertised with the slogan, “Mars, pleasure you can’t measure.”

He looked as innocent as a choirboy, but something about the way he said it ...
Contact Liz here.