Monday, April 3, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Birthdays, bars, and books

Happy Birthday, Doris!
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Happy Birthday, To You, Doris Day! Also — Charles Masson's Majorelle ... James Patterson's "The Black Book."

“I LIKE joy; I want to be joyous. I want to smile and I want to make people laugh. And that’s all I want. I like being happy. I want to make others happy." – Doris Day

Today is Doris Day’s birthday. She is 93. Over the years we’ve written a lot about Miss Day — about the odd twisting of her image, which bears no resemblance to the films or characters she played in the majority of her movies. About her (almost) unprecedented supremacy as a box-office attraction.
(Day vies with Betty Grable, another unfairly dismissed blonde, as the female star who appeared most often in the Top Ten of money-making stars. Both ladies were more popular with movie-goers than the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and even Elizabeth Taylor.) 
We’ve praised her always underrated talent as an actress and seeming dismissal of her exquisite velvet singing voice, wondering often if her success as a movie AND a recording star somehow, along the way, diminished both.  (She had a vocal instrument to compare with Sinatra and Ella, and one that was certainly better cared for and controlled than Garland.  But Day is rarely cited as the supreme singer she was.) 
And then there was her beauty — that open, scrubbed (even when made-up) face, freckled and beaming. And the body, a modern body that would pass muster in any gym today. A good bosom, a firm, flat tummy, strong arms, backside and legs that could make a man weak in the knees. (No less a connoisseur of feminine attributes, Day’s “Teacher’s Pet” co-star Clark Gable said for the record, “She’s got the best ass in the business!”)
In “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” her appearance in fitted Capri pants turned a family-friendly comedy into something of a happy leer-fest.
SHE could act, sing and dance.  She was a credit to the Hollywood community, and to mere mortal communities as well.  Men abused her, she lost and regained her fortune (through grinding hard work), her beloved, only son, Terry Melcher, passed on in 2004, crushing her.  She has become the standard bearer for animal rights and a symbol of dignified withdrawal from the hurly burly of intrusive media. 
Doris with her beloved son, Terry Melcher.
Perhaps if Doris was more like other stars, hanging on to fame, she’d be “better known” today.  Perhaps the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would have honored her with a special Oscar?  They have refused, apparently, because Day doesn’t really care, and has declined to accept such an award in person.  Or, to be filmed, as in the infamous Mary Pickford Oscar debacle of years ago.  Not a vain woman, but realistic, and as always, open to hurt. Why put herself through a situation that a cruel social media would likely make hay out of?  (Kim Novak, anyone?) 
The 30th Academy Awards in 1958: Clark Gable, Doris Day, Carl Foreman, and Kim Novak.
At her best — and Doris Day rarely gave anything less than her best — she was  a bracing, strong-minded, able-bodied, independent female during an era in film that sought to harness women as destructive or simpering sex-pots, fey, sexless sprites or ice princesses. (Her least successful starring role was in “Midnight Lace,” victimized by her evil hubby.  Doris Day was simply nobody’s victim!) 

Even after the great success of “Pillow Talk,” the smash-hit that began to warp her image — Day played mostly wives and mothers afterward — how could she ever have been known as “the eternal virgin?! — there were pleasures to be found in her continuing, very successful moviemaking. Doris really doesn’t care. As her song goes, “Que sera, sera.”
But we do.  Happy birthday, you grand star, and even grander woman.

P.S.  If you want a truly comprehensive, affectionate and erudite overview of Miss Day's career and the mysterious morphing of her persona, do delve into Thomas Santopietro's 2008 book, "Considering Doris Day."
PEOPLE are always talking about EATING! Everything connected to food — how to eat, where to eat, why to eat — is perpetually examined. (While the rest of the planet is starving.)

Exotic, high-priced restaurants are flowering all over. But most of the well-loved and understated “little” cafes have shuttered. We point to the beloved Gino’s in midtown Manhattan. It’s gone.
You know what? The Gino’s type cafes have been turned into manicure-pedicure salons, tattoo parlors, cupcakes for sale, etc. Old-favorites are gone because high rents drove them out. Many ordinary buildings have folded, only to be destroyed and become future high-rises full of astronomical apartments.

But the rich and powerful and well off have to live too. Without them, I guess New York won’t continue to exist. And as long as places like La Grenouille abound, NYC will keep barreling ahead.
Speaking of Le Grenouille, Charles Masson, for years, managed to keep that eatery open in what was a family work of art. Now, my good friend Charles has opened Majorelle on East 63rd Street between 5th and Park Ave.

Charles powered his respected reputation into the Paris-originated Majorelle. People high and low are pressing into the newly opened “Library” of Majorelle. It’s the place to see and be seen. Or eat and ...
The dining terrace ain't half bad, either.
HEY, all you would-be and working novelists out there!

I suppose you gulped with envy at the full-page advertisement that appeared on March 27th everywhere people still read.

It said: “I think ‘The Black Book’ is my best work in 20 years.” Signed by James Patterson.     
Mr. Patterson is one of the richest men in publishing, so he can afford to show off his next sure-to-be hit, co-written with David Ellis.

What’s more, in an untidy world, author Patterson has every word he has ever written catalogued in easily available neat files, along with all his notes and everything else. He has rooms solely dedicated to his every thought.
It’s not the money he has earned that we envy. For those of us buried under paper, books, ephemera, etc., it’s the thought of the order.

P.S. Aside from well justified self-promotion, James Patterson has also placed large ads exhorting us to save our libraries, to save tactile, page-turning, in-your-hands books.  To save the culture and meaning of reading and the great buildings that store and make available books. (All libraries, no matter their size, are “great.”)

Contact Liz here.