Thursday, June 23, 2016

LIZ SMITH: The Part Barbara Cook Plays

Barbara Cook as the original Cunegonde in the 1956 production of "Candide."
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Barbara Cook Remembers — And It Wasn't ALL Gay and Glittery! "Orange Is The New Black" Cast Will Liven Up GMHC's Rooftop Gay Pride Fundraiser.


"AND YET of course I rather like to revel, Ha ha!/My wardrobe is expensive as the devil, Ha ha!/ I have no strong objection to champagne, Ha ha!/ Perhaps it is ignoble to complain ...

"Enough, enough, of being basely tearful! I'll show my noble stuff by being brave and cheerful! Ha ha ha ha!Ha!"

So trilled — and thrilled — the great singer Barbara Cook in the legendary 1956 production of Leonard Bernstein's "Candide." (Cook was delivering her famous "Glitter and be Gay" number.)
Click to order "Then and Now: A Memoir."
BARBARA Cook's autobiography, "Then and Now: A Memoir" came out earlier this week and is being eagerly snapped up by her legion of fans. Whether you read this book or not — and I urge that you do! — I have want to print her preface because it is so self aware and unusual I thought you should see it. I also think it gives a fine indication of the treasures within her book. Ms. Cook writes:

"Sometimes I wish we were all cell phones. Yes, phones. The new mobile phones that exchange information with one click. Then I wouldn't have to write this whole book. It's not the time and the work involved, it's the talking about the hard stuff. I believe I'm an optimistic, positive person, but, you know, it's the painful stuff that really sticks out.

"I have had so many amazingly beautiful things happen in my life, but I think perhaps it's the difficulties and the bone-crunching crappy things that have really shaped who I am. I wonder who I would be if my little sister hadn't died when we were both so young. Oh, and how many times have I wondered who I would be if my father hadn't left when I was six years old.
Max Adrian, Louis Edmonds, Barbara Cook, and Robert Rounseville in a scene from "Candide."
"I have been asked several times through the years to write my story. Frankly, most of the time I thought, 'Who the hell cares?' But now I do feel that this book might help some people through bad times, might help them see that they can come out the other side and have a new life. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: 'There are no second acts in American lives.' Well, he was wrong. That's exactly what happened to me.

"I did a lot of good work in the theater. God, how I loved it.

"And then I became a drunk. I was depressed, and unemployable."
"My life fell apart in lots of ways. My son chose to live with his father instead of me. At the time I thought that might kill me, but of course he made the right decision.

"Then Wally Harper came along and helped me work again. What a coming-together that was. I stopped drinking a couple of years after we met. He was my accompanist, arranger, and friend for the next thirty years, and while I hated it when people said I had begun a second career, that's exactly what it was."
Barbara Cook with Wally Harper in 1980. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
"So here it is — the parts I can talk about. I don't want to hurt anybody. Of course a lot of people in my story are dead and can't be hurt anymore. I'm eighty-eight now, and that's one of the things that goes with age, isn't it — all kinds of loss.

"But let me also tell you some of the great things about this business I've been in practically all my life. Because I never thought little Barbara Cook, sitting there dreaming on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta, would have anything resembling the life I've led — and, by God, I'm still having it."
IT'S PRIDE week in New York City which means there are galas, parties and fundraisers all over the city. One not to be missed is GMHCs Rooftop Gay Pride Celebration on Saturday, June 25th hosted by Geoff Hoefer and Thomas Wei in their gorgeous Chelsea penthouse apartment that has been featured in ads from Apple TV to Hugo Boss and a myriad of TV shows.

The fundraiser is sponsored by Svedka Vodka and Kim Crawford Wines and benefits the world's first and leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy.

Tamara Torres, Lori Tan Chenn, and Lin Tucci from Netflix's Orange Is the New Black are all expected to appear, along with Grammy-winning music producer Bennie Blanco (Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran), and Fox Business Channel's Kennedy.

The goal this year is to raise $25,000 and tickets are going fast so click here if you want to spend the night hobnobbing with some of New York's glittering elite — gay, straight or otherwise undeclared.

Contact Liz here.