Wednesday, May 3, 2017

LIZ SMITH: A taste of stardom

Set Rendering: James Noone.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Wednesday's Rap: Glenn Close ... Chita Rivera ... Final Words on "Feud" and Advice on The Civil War.

"TO BE
a star is to own the world and the people in it. After a taste of stardom, everything else is poverty."

So said Hedy Lamarr, who might have made a very convincing Norma Desmond!
THE LAST I heard, the current smash-hit revival of “Sunset Boulevard” is set to close on June 25th — unless there is another extension. I still hope to see this show, starring the great Glenn Close, before that date. Or perhaps most excitingly, on that date. As thrilling as opening nights can be — we are still coming off the high of Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!” — closing nights can be even more thrilling.
But for fans of Miss Close — and we are legion, yes? — if you work fast, you can see the star, and her “Sunset” cast on May 22nd at New York City’s Birdland (315 West 44th Street).

This will be a one-night-only concert titled “Vintage Hollywood” — a musical celebration of the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals. It will be directed by Michael Patrick Walker.
Photo: Joan Marcus
Miss Close is not doing this just for hell of it. “Vintage Hollywood” is a benefit for Bring Change 2 Mind, which works to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. In fact, this organization was co-founded in 2009 by the Close's family, after a sister and nephew were diagnosed with bi-polar and schizoaffectrive disorders.

So, in all ways, this is an important evening in Manhattan; a good, glamorous and exciting deed in a naughty, needy world. For ticket info visit www.birdlandjazz.com or call 212-581-3080.
BUT BEFORE you decide on whether or not you want to be a part of Glenn’s special night, why not consider eleven special nights with the one and only, legendary, iconic, words-always-fail-me Chita Rivera, as she returns to NYC’s CafĂ© Carlyle (May 9th to the 20th) Chita received raves and SRO crowds last year at this spot, so she’s back, doing that voodoo that she do, so well.

The excitement and humanity that Chita carries within her, and conveys to her audience has only been burnished by time. She is an artist (and a human being) non pareil. Speaking as we were, above, about great opening and closing nights, Chita’s for “The Visit” a little over a year ago, remain in the top five most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had in a Broadway theater. I mean, just the ovations. Then she performed!

For reservations call 212-744-1600.
©David Andrako
MOST OF you who read this space, followed for weeks our ongoing critique of Ryan Murphy’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” which purported to tell the tale of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, working together in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and “Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte” (the latter film Crawford withdrew from after several weeks of shooting, replaced by Olivia de Havilland.)

Susan Sarandon who played Bette, and Mr. Murphy’s muse, Jessica Lange, as Joan, gave brilliant Emmy-worthy performances.
Still, right from the start, despite the fine work of the ladies, not to mention Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner, Kathy Bates as Joan Blondell and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Olivia de Havilland, the series couldn’t help but fall into inaccuracies, exaggerations, and a rather grisly camp mentality.

This was exemplified most vividly when Murphy set up a scene between Joan and her William Morris agents. It was staged almost exactly as was Faye Dunaway’s famous “Don’t fuck with me fellas” moment in “Mommie Dearest” with Crawford facing off with Pepsi-Cola execs. (Indeed Jessica had to utter that profanity as she raged at her agents.) One has to assume Jessica Lange was unaware of this. She said she’d never seen the controversial “Mommie” and would never do so, in fact.

Her goal — and that of Mr. Murphy, supposedly — was to “rehabilitate” Crawford’s reputation and to show what both women had to contend with, in a Hollywood not kind to aging women. “Feud” certainly had its moments, and much was made of Crawford’s insecurities stemming from a terrible childhood, but the exploitation aspects seemed at times to overwhelm the “good intentions.”
Last week we received this note from Rick Gould, who writes the very smart movie blog, “Rick’s Real/Reel Life.” I’m going to give Mr. Gould the last word:

“I watched ‘Feud’ with mixed feelings. What always amazes me about Ryan Murphy is how he can provide a genuinely moving scene one moment, followed by one that feels false and sensationalistic.

“The scenes with Joan's increasingly lonely way of life were touching and that many of us with aging family could relate to. But the opening scenes, depicting Joan bombed and bumbling around on the ‘Trog’ set, even trying on the Trog mask ... egads! Plus, didn't producer Herman Cohen of ‘Trog’ and ‘Berserk’ debunk these myths? So, why show this if you claim to be ‘rehabilitating’ Crawford's image?"
“And the same with Bette. I do not believe she ever made the infamous ‘Crawford dead ... good’ quote. Did this come from Charles Pierce's nightclub impersonation of Davis? Then it became a meme. Now it's been depicted on ‘Feud.’

“And now accepted as truth.”
“THE practice of people owning other people is called slavery. The owned people are called slaves. They have to work for the owners, doing whatever the owners ask them to do. In the past, many societies had slavery. Now almost all societies consider slavery to be wrong. They consider personal freedom to be a basic human right.”

Children in India carry candles to mark International Human Rights Day.
That is the definition of slavery in the Britannica Encyclopedia for Kids.

Now I’m sure all my readers know the definition of slavery, and they don’t need to have it defined for them as if they were children. But some people, some adults, still need help with history.

Just the other day, a very powerful man who works in our nation’s capital, wondered why the Civil War couldn’t be stopped? Couldn’t somebody have made a deal? Apparently nobody ever explained to this powerful man that the horror of slavery is what caused the Civil War, and no “deals” could be made on the trafficking, ownership and abuse of human beings. It seems simple enough, but we must not judge this man — who holds the fate of the world in his hands on a daily basis — too harshly. He is after all, very busy praising dictators around the non-free world. He was impressed that one of them gained power so young — “a smart cookie” he called this man who likes to execute his enemies with massive machine guns. Or poison.

So, to not know American history, to not understand why something as horrible as the Civil War happened — we can’t expect busy adult men to know everything. Thank goodness for the Encyclopedia Britannica, for kids.

You’re welcome, Mr. President.

Contact Liz here.