Wednesday, February 8, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Cinematic in quality

"His face hadn’t aged, but his hair had turned to wood and rose from his forehead in hard ridges ... he looked like a carved Austrian bottle-stopper.” So writes Joan Juliet Buck in the current issue of New York magazine.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Joan Juliet Buck says "Au Revoir" (No, not really — wait for her book!)  Also, — Tony Danza, Paris Jackson, and the World Domination Chair — our readers decide where it should go.

“MAXIM’s,’ Pierre Berge said when I told him. ‘At lunch?’

“Maxim’s,’ Helene Rochas said, ‘That’s a little vulgar in the daytime.’”

This was one of at least six moments that leapt out at me on the very first page of Joan Juliet Buck’s article “Au Revoir to All That” in the current issue of New York magazine. (Oscar nominee Naomie Harris is on the cover.)  

Ms. Buck has been everywhere, done everything — from editor-in-chief of Vogue, novelist, actress, all-around dazzling ornament to any event, city, continent.

The New York piece is an excerpt from her coming memoir “The Price of Illusion.” These are probably the most delicious magazine pages I’ve read in months.  If her book is only half as entertaining as this snippet, it is sure to ravish the best-seller lists. 

Just a few bits:  “What about fashion,” he asked. “French women know how to dress for an assignation,” I said. “They want to know what to wear when they’re not having sex.”

Yves Saint Laurent’s friend Charlotte gave a luncheon for me. Yves had become bloated and vast.  He was 58; his face hadn’t aged, but his hair had turned to wood and rose from his forehead in hard ridges ... he looked like a carved Austrian bottle-stopper.”

Karl Lagerfeld ... was as cerebral as he was gossipy.  He’d adore then loathe the same person in less than a week. He was critical of the living, enchanted by the dead, and thought his hands were ugly.”
“I gave the first big party during couture. Isabelle Adjani peered in through the door, fled and called me from the street to say, ‘I can’t go in. Too many models.’”
And nothing better describes the tense, weird atmosphere of a fashion show, as Joan does, recalling a Bryant Park affair in 1994. Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington reprimanded Joan for attempting to powder her nose: “Don’t ever do that!”  Ms. Buck then noticed, not only was Coddington’s mouth set in an expression of “incipient disgust ... I looked at the other faces, front row faces, second row faces, PR-girl faces, photographer faces, famous-guest faces. Everyone looked miserable.”

I can’t wait for “The Price of Illusion.” And if Elton John and Paul Rudnick need some help on their coming “The Devil Wears Prada” musical, give Joan Juliet Buck a call. She has the experience, the wit and the wisdom.

“Don’t See it Alone!”  That’s how The Frog and Peach Theatre Company is promoting its current production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”  Frog and Peach does The Bard just a bit differently — and inexpensively.  Their interpretations are said to be “cinematic” in quality. Directed by Lynnea Benson, and starring Erik Gonzalez and Kate T. Billingsley as Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth, the show closes on the 12th.  Call the Sheen Center Black Box Theater (18 Bleecker Street) for tix. 212-925-2812.
... IF anybody had told me back in the 1970s or '80s, watching Tony Danza strut around in those painted-on jeans in “Taxi” or as Judith Light’s sexy housekeeper in “Who’s The Boss?” that he’d evolve into one of Manhattan’s top cabaret attractions, I’d have rejected this out-of-hand.  But he did, and he’s been knocking audiences out with his songs and patter for years, now.  He is so appealing, smooth and comfortable in this persona, one can almost forget those “Taxi” jeans. Almost.  Tony will be back at Feinstein’s/54Below, six performances only, from February 24 to April 1st.  Call 646-476-3551 or visit 
OUR FRIEND, press rep deluxe Dick Guttman, author of “Starflacker” called here laughing after he read our history of the emperor Caligula in film. He recalled that years ago, he, the late gossip columnist Shirley Eder, and one of Dick’s young daughters, Danielle, visited the set of Bob Guccione’s “Caligula.” Dick and Shirley were under the impression it was just a typical sex-and-sandals epic. Like “Quo Vadis?” or “Spartacus.”  Maybe a bit of cleavage; a scanty tunic or two.

Dick said: “When we got to the set, there were giant wheels, and naked people hanging from them, and everybody was doing rather, uh, intimate things. Shirley was appalled, but she didn’t want to leave a good story, so she clapped her hands over my daughter’s eyes, and took notes, mentally. This went on for about ten minutes!” 
I KIND of hate to agree with TV’s Wendy Williams, but she had a point when she questioned why, exactly, was Paris Jackson, daughter of the late Michael, on the cover of Rolling Stone?  Paris is a very pretty girl (despite innumerable tattoos) seems sweet and not dumb, dabbles in this and that (some modeling, music, art) but aside from revealing that she thinks her father was murdered, not even the marvelous RS writer Brian Hiatt could  make Paris a relevant cover story. 

To be honest, Stephen Rodrick’s “The Radical Crusade of Mike Pence” should have been the cover. (Required reading, folks, especially for those of you who hope that the sitting Chief Executive will be impeached.  The Pence alternative is perhaps an even stickier proposition.)

As to why I was hesitant to agree with Ms. Williams — well, she can sometimes be a bit too gleefully “frank.”  (Isn’t speculation about the biological relationship between Michael and his children — which Wendy dived right into — o late 1990s?  If Paris wants to identify as African American, that’s her business.) 

But, take-no-prisoners sassiness is what has made Wendy wealthy and extremely popular. And you’ve got to hand it to a woman who goes out of her way to look like she wasn’t born a woman.  She revels in her artificiality, and that is kind of appealing.
MAIL:  A while back we ran an item on a horrendously vulgar piece of furniture, the “world domination chair” from a Parisian designer — all purple velvet and 24 carat gold-plate and shaped like a giant skull.  We innocently wondered who on earth would covet such a thing?  Dozens upon dozens of emails later, the verdict is in.  Lots of people think it would be a perfect addition to the décor of the current White House.  One reader mused: “It will show up at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for sure.  I thought a pair at first, but the president would surely want the only one!”
Oh, I don’t know about that.  I can see a pair.  One for the president and one for his top lieutenant, Steve Bannon.

Speaking of Mr. Bannon, I was amused to watch MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough vehemently deny that Bannon — Time magazine’s current cover person — is the power behind the throne, or the soon-due Skull Chair. 
It’s all the president, says Joe. It’s hard to make out whether Mr. Scarborough thinks this is a bad or good thing.  But we did have to hear, yet again about his glory days as a congressman. 

Even his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, who actually likes him, looks blanker than usual when Joe mines his undistinguished past.
Contact Liz here.