Monday, July 25, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Standards and Stories

Liev Schreiber — from Ray Donovan to Valmont.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Liev Schreiber comes back to Broadway ... Tony Danza returns to cabaret ... HBO's "The Night Of" ... is insanely intense! ... Get well, soon Shannen Doherty

"WOMEN ARE obliged to be far more skillful than men. You can ruin our reputation and our life with a few well-chosen words. So, of course I had to invent ways of escape no one has thought of before. And I've succeeded because I've always known I was born to dominate your sex and avenge my own."

That is the exquisitely vengeful Marquise de Merteuil, in Christopher Hampton's adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' 1782 novel about cruel 18th century bedroom games, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses."
Glenn Close as the "dangereuses" Marquise.
I think of the Marquise always as dazzling, steely-eyed, coldly sensual Glenn Close in the 1988 movie version, opposite a seemingly miscast but fascinating John Malkovich. (I also quite enjoyed the other movie version of this tale, 1989's "Valmont" starring Annette Benning as the marquise and Colin Firth as the man she loved but toyed with tragically.)
Colin Firth and Annette Benning in "Valmont."
In October, at the Booth Theater the acclaimed Danish actress Birgitte Hjort Sorensen will make her Broadway debut in a revival of Christopher Hampton's play as the driven marquise. Playing the hopelessly libidinous Vicomte de Valmont, will be one of my favorite actors, Liev Schreiber. (He is now toiling away on Showtime's increasingly disorganized "Ray Donovan.") Janet McTeer will also star. Josie Rourke directs.

The Donmar Warehouse production run is limited. I can't wait! Tickets are available through or call 212-239-6200.
Birgitte Hjort Sorenson — soon to be leading men to their ruin on Broadway.
SAVE THE DATES! ON July 26 & 27, August 9th and 10th and Setember 8th and 9th, our eternally sexy pal Tony Danza returns to cabaret at NYC's Feinstein's/54 Below (234 West 44th Street) with "Tony Danza: Standards and Stories."

I recall years ago attending Tony's first venture into cabaret. Maybe it was at the old Rainbow Room. I was nervous. Nothing about him or his career to that point had prepared me — or anybody else! — for Tony in this guise. But he was so charming, so accomplished! He really could sing! I can't put it better than the NY Times, who last year wrote about this show: "He's a live wire who tap dances, plays the ukulele, tell stories ans radiates irresistible charm." For tix go to Or call 212-764-7900.
And he could sing, too!
BIG SHOUT-OUT to HBO's latest crime series, "The Night Of." Two episodes in and I'm hooked. This eight-episode show chronicles a seemingly naïve young Pakistani man (attractive and appealing Riz Ahmed) accused of a dreadful murder. He panics and does everything wrong. Be warned. It's grim, dark, and moves — so far — at a pleasurably (to me!) slow pace. It is intense to the max. The two other major characters so far are a seen-it-all detective (Bill Camp) who just wants to get it over with ("you'll feel better if you confess") and the kid's lawyer, quirky, down-on-his-luck John Turturro. I don't know if "The Night Of " can sustain the intensity or if the slow pace will become maddening. Right, now, it's perfect!
Riz Ahmed as Nasir Khan, a Pakistani-American college student accused of murdering a girl on the Upper West Side.
SENDING all good thoughts to actress Shannen Doherty. I hadn't realized until late last week, that she is suffering from cancer. I was running through my favorite gossip guilty pleasure, the D-Listed site, when I came across a story, accompanied by photos of Shannen shaving her head, in preparation for chemo.
Shannen with her pal Anne Marie Kortright.
I'll never forget meeting Shannen years ago, after she left "90210" and seemed to be in and out of a lot of trouble and was rumored to be the devil incarnate. We'd written well of her — I liked her style, and was intrigued by her offbeat beauty (one eye was slight highly than the other, and it gave her a unique, provocative look.) and she wanted to meet and get her side out. Nervous, but willing, we agreed. Of course, she was lovely, quiet, intelligent, hurt by the gossip, impressively sensitive. She laughed a lot when I confessed how nervous I'd been. "I don't want to break my image, she said," vastly amused. "Shall I toss a glass, or slap you or abuse a waiter?" That afternoon, she was certainly a doll. And to my knowledge, although she has never quite recaptured the fame of her early years, she's lived and worked (consistently) pretty quietly. Her wild child days are long gone.

Get well soon, Shannen. And come visit me again in New York!
Shannen Doherty at her iconic "90210" peak.
P. S. This reminded me that I once interviewed another "bad girl" Tara Reid. Lord knows what adventure Tara was coming off, that she wanted coverage in the "nicest" gossip column. We met, if I recall correctly at NYC's Oak Room. She looked beautiful and far less dissipated than I'd expected. She proceeded to give a performance Garbo would have envied, complete with real tears. (I recall several harsh glances from other patrons — what was I saying to that poor girl to drive her to weeping?) I wrote it up sympathetically. Soon she was back to her old self. Today she appears on a reality show, raging and vulgar, which is the only way to be on these programs. Still, I remember her rather fondly. She's a better actress — judging by my experience — than she's been given credit. And I've enjoyed her in the "Sharknado" movies.
"Skarknado" queen Tara Reid.
WE HATE to brag on ourselves. No, that's NOT true! Why hide our light under a bushel? Especially these days, when the bushel grows so aggressively?

Only July 16th, The New York Times ran a great big story about massive layoffs and cuts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An unhappy thing. But it was no news to us. We'd written on March 24th that there were big doin's among the ruins of the Temple of Dendur; new blood was coming in and old blood was about to be shed. The galleries would be awash!
It was our pal of many moons, Jim Fragale who tipped us off to this seismic change in the venerable museum. Jim, has, over the years, had had fingers in many pies — record producer ... songwriter ... magazine scribe and novelist. His first book was "The Answer to Life." The follow-up is titled, appropriately: "F.U.! (Follow Up!) The Answer To Life Revisited."

I don't know if there is an "answer to life." Honestly, I think it's tequila. But thanks to Mr. Fragale for giving us something we don't have much of these days — a scoop.
Our pal, Jim Fragale.

Contact Liz here.