Tuesday, December 20, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Tuesday's Tsunami

Zsa Zsa examining her greatest love.  
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Christmas Quest ... Tequila ... Dumplings ... Golden Globes ... Viola Davis ... Edward Snowden, and but of course — Zsa Zsa!

“ONE tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

That was George Carlin, on the effects of a good tequila.

I also like this one, from Lee Marvin: “Tequila. Straight. There's a real polite drink. You keep drinking until you finally take one more and it just won't go down. Then you know you've reached your limit.”
I GOT to thinking about tequila in a quite harmless way.  There I was, flipping through the luscious Christmas issue of Quest magazine. I’d already read Marcia Schaeffer’s piece on “Bunny Mellon’s Garden of Art” and Alex Travers’ history of The Rolex Oyster watch.  Elizabeth Meigher wrote about a big new book “In The Spirit of Gstaad,” by Mandolyna Theodoracopulos (daughter of the famously well-traveled and infamously acerbic Taki) and David Patrick Columbia offered up a touching remembrance of the recently departed Aileen Mehle, aka “Suzy.” 

But what really caught my eye was The Quest Holiday Gift Guide, “from rose champagne to rose-gold razors” as Quest’s Daniel Cappello notes. There are fur-accented Stuart Weitzman shoes ... gowns by Marchesa ... a lynx and cashmere faux-fur throw ... jewels by Bulgari ... paperweights with an engraved owl motif ... the Moustache Bubble Umbrella from Hunter ... the Jaguar XJ sports sedan ... a limited edition Pakek Phillippe Nautilus watch. (a bargain at $113,000!), and Bodum Eileen’s French press coffeemaker (a no-sarcasm bargain at $40—from Crate & Barrel.)
Click to order “Tequila Cocktails."
But as our readers know, we love us some good books here. So there, available in time to appear under my Christmas tree were such big tomes as Bob Eckstein’s “Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores” ... ”The Metropolitan Museum of Art Masterpiece Paintings” ... ”The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects” ... James Stourton’s “definitive” biography of Kenneth Clark, “Life, Art and Civilization.”

What jumped out at me, however, was a delicious-looking tome titled “Tequila Cocktails” from Assouline Publishing.  This is the fourth in a series of cocktail-shaking books by Brian Van Flanders. 

The cover alone made me want to rush right back to my old stomping grounds at the Murray Hill Mews, where the El Rio Grande downstairs used to — and likely still does — make margaritas out of gasoline.  The super-fresh tostadas, excellent guac and very good fish were always divine, but after even just one of those margaritas — which could power a moon launch, well — let’s just say it was a good thing the column was already done!

Ah, well.  Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, but tequila is forever.  (And it also helps empower nostalgia — everybody loves everybody after a good margarita!)
Just a few months back, enjoying my favorite lunch at El Rio Grande — an iPod and a margarita. Will Brian Van Flanders new book really teach me anything?
ANOTHER read that made my mouth water was “It’s a Wonderful Time To Be a Dumpling” in New York magazine.  This piece ranked fifty dumplings from spots all over the Tri-State area.  Also included — directives on how to make, shape, eat and digest dumplings. And what to dunk them in. 

... THOUGHTS on the recent Golden Globe nominations. Very happy for: Hugh Grant, giving perhaps the best performance of his career in “Florence Foster Jenkins” ... Thandie Newton, the savior of “Westworld” ... Riz Ahmed, so compelling in “The Night Of” ... the Netflix royal jewel, “The Crown” ... Naomi Harris and Mahershala Ali from the lyric masterpiece “Moonlight.”  (I will say, however, I was surprised that none of the actors who played “Chiron” at various ages — Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes — were nominated. All three are splendid.)  
And I am pleased with all the awards attention showered on “La La Land,” which is totally divine, but has not cured cancer or reversed the aging process.  (Not mine, anyway.)

And, crazy man or not, Mel Gibson deserves his director nomination for “Hacksaw Ridge.”  He remains an extraordinarily gifted filmmaker. 
Kudos also to best actor nominee Casey Affleck for “Manchester By The Sea.”  I have been perpetually underwhelmed by Casey previously. I’m still not sure he can really act.  But whatever  he does in “Manchester” — under the direction of Kenneth Lonergan — it is heartbreaking and unforgettable.
... I AM certain that I have read a profile or two on Viola Davis over the years. She has been on everybody’s stage and screen radar for at least a decade, with Tony and Emmy awards and two Oscar nominations.  But I have never been so aware or as moved by Ms. Davis’ story as I was reading John Lahr’s profile in the current issue of The New Yorker.  Wow! Was I not paying attention, or did the perceptive and sensitive Lahr capture something others have missed?  Read it, and be even more impressed by Viola Davis.  (I have yet to see the movie version of “Fences” which co-stars Denzel Washington, but sensational advance buzz seems to indicate another Oscar nod in the cards for Davis.)
Photograph by Awol Erizku for The New Yorker
... In the same issue of the New Yorker, another fascinating piece, Malcolm Gladwell’s "Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, and the Modern Whistle-Blower.”

Illustration by Javier Jaén
Mr. Gladwell finds quite a bit of difference between the distinguished military analyst (Ellsberg) who provided us with the Pentagon Papers and then stayed to defend himself against charges of espionage, conspiracy and theft. Snowden, little more than a hacker, spirited off a mass of classified NSA information, fled and sought asylum first in China; he now resides in Russia.

I don’t know what the incoming Trump administration feels about Snowden. Mr. Trump once said he thought Snowden should be executed for treason.  But mercury is stable compared to the president-elect, so I’d not be surprised to eventually see a smiling Snowden gliding through the golden lobby of the Trump Tower at some point, for a friendly tete-a-tete with President Trump.

As for me, Snowden remains a creep, childish, peevish and — if I want to give him some benefit of the doubt — embryonically naïve. He should stay in Russia with his thuggish pal, Vlad Putin.
WITH the holidays around the corner, we are a bit stressed by a year that has been fraught, one way or another for everybody!  We still need to shop and put up a tree!  So, until our annual Christmas column, running on Friday, we will hopefully entertain you with a couple of columns culled from articles we concocted for Q magazine (the quarterly sister to the above mentioned Quest.) One covers the career of Marlene Dietrich, the other, Joan Collins.  Both rather like Christmas trees, in their way. (Although Miss Collins, who never met a hairpiece or an eye shadow she didn’t love, is rather like a Christmas tree set up in a bordello — a classy bordello!) 
FINALLY, with tinsel and glitter on our mind, RIP Zsa Zsa Gabor.  I will always think of you at your zesty best in “Moulin Rouge” and at your campy worst, in “Queen of Outer Space.” (Which was, actually, your best!) 
You were a lot of harmless, glamorous fun for a long time, dahling. (Say hello to sister Eva, when you get to that big fur vault in the sky.  She was a real sweetheart.)
And Zsa, my dear, whatever you were, you were never, ever “the original Kim Kardashian.” 

And I’m sure Kim, a nice, clever girl who I believe has some sense of show biz history, would agree.
Contact Liz here.