Friday, September 9, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Silver linings

Morley Safer in his office in 1980.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Still Missing The Great Morley Safer.  Also, Winona Ryder (Yay!) ... Mel Gibson (I Like a Lot of His Work) ... Angela Lansbury (Do It — "GOT" Needs You!)  And The Lesson of Lena Dunham — When Will They Ever Learn?

“IRONING IS barbaric. Heating up a giant metal plate to slowly smooth out wrinkles is, at best, a tedious exercise and time consuming, and at worst it requires way too much set-up to be practical.”

This was part of a pitch we received for Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus, a “new iron that will save a dramatic amount of time so you can be on your way to the event or fashion show.”  
Yes, this miracle product was tied into Fashion Week, and Ryann Checchi, of Asylum Public Relations, was certain that we here are in danger of missing something glamorous on the catwalks because we’d be spending too much time ironing out our own couture. 

Funny!  Speaking for myself (Denis) I find ironing rather relaxing, although starch be damned, I invariably end up looking rather un-starched.  As for Miss Smith, I’ve never, ever seen her wield a giant, barbaric metal plate, but she always appears crisp and classy. Which goes to show — real star quality doesn’t require steam heat or tedious exercise.
THE death of Morley Safer on May 19th, deprived the art and culture world of its foremost fan and critic. The “60 Minutes” superstar was a man about the world -- witty, remarkably sophisticated, nattily dressed and could be a great friend on a more intimate and informal level. When Morley attacked modern art, he caused a worldwide scandal. I think of Morley as the eye of the world, and one is stunned by the work he did covering the fighting men in Vietnam.  He was a hero himself in those young, terrible days.
Morley Safer while on assignment in South Vietnam in 1965.
He made his every segment on CBS and “60 Minutes” an education for the viewer. And he had his quirks, like a pool table in the living room of his country house in Connecticut and a town house in Manhattan that shared a garage with fast cars. Women in his life? The wonderful anthropologist Jane Safer and his daughter Sarah. They gladly put up with Morley’s quirks.
Morley and Jane.
Of course, he doted on his grandchildren and his funeral was the most inspiring one ever at the synagogue on Lexington and 55th St. Now he will have a well-deserved memorial, laid on by CBS at Jazz Lincoln Center and that will be on the morning of Sept 15th.

Morley would have scoffed at such grand remembrances, but we will appreciate it even more because Morley’s life truly has been an adventure and an enlightenment for us in learning what Morley knew, that we should know. The art world reportage and his gift of friendship were just two enormous creations that he left to us.
SHORT SHOTS:  I’ll probably never yearn to sit and have a cozy cup of coffee, or — heaven forbid! — a lethal margarita, with Mel Gibson, but I do think he’s a terrific actor, a masterful filmmaker, and likely, still a troubled person.  However, glad he has directed another movie (“Hacksaw Ridge”) which was well-received in Venice. And I am interested in his plans for a sequel to “The Passion of the Christ.” (“The Resurrection,” natch.)
He’s apologized as much as he’s going to regarding his ugly, inebriated remarks of some years back. Sincere? Let’s just leave him to the heaven he cherishes on that. When the rest of you achieve perfection as human beings, please “alert the media.” (As John Gielgud famously remarked to Dudley Moore in “Arthur.”)
Hurray that Netflix’s “Stranger Things” has been picked up for another season.  I am mostly hurray-ing because it means more work and exposure for the divine Winona Ryder.  She really pulled out all the stops in her role as a distraught mother, whose son has vanished.  I’ve always admired Ryder as an actress and as a unique, committed-to-quirkiness person.
Too bad that Angela Lansbury’s people shot down the rumor that the award-laden legend would appear in season 7 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” The show could use another Dame.  Over the past several seasons, the great Diana Rigg has not only enlivened her every second on screen as Lady Olenna Tyrell, she’s often been the best thing about certain episodes.  For sure, last season’s death and supernatural revival of Jon Snow proved only one thing — dead or alive, he’s a crashing bore. (I know Jon has issues, but come on — back from the dead, kid. Goose it up a little.)
Finally, what has to happen to celebrities before they think prior to tweeting? The recent Lena Dunham debacle is so typical. She sat next to 23-year-old athlete Odell Beckham, Jr. at a fancy dinner, felt somehow ignored or judged, tweeted out her own narrow, narcissistic judgments on what she assumed he was thinking, found herself widely condemned. Then she apologized. Mr.Beckham by the way, has been a gent about the whole thing.
Listen up, stars and just plain folks — put down the iPhones and invest in therapists to unload on! I’ve come to like and depend on a lot of  technology that I once disparaged. But the need to express one’s innermost — or most shallow — thoughts (and photos!) compulsively, minute by minute has been a ruinous thing for a lot of people.

Will this aspect of popular culture and behavior — “I exist, I exist! I had clams for dinner and the waiter was rude!” — ever calm down?  To the extent that people might learn to navigate their emotions and itchy fingers more smoothly, yes.  But this genie is out of the bottle and our need to over-share is here to stay.

All this said, the tools of social media have been an invaluable, powerful, positive source in getting to the truth of serious issues.  There’s no denying that vital silver lining.

Contact Liz here.