Friday, May 19, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Embracing objectification

"Sure. I'm meeting somebody, just anybody handy, as long as he's a man! "
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

The Evolution of Zac Efron — From Pin-Up Boy to "Extremely Wicked." (Not that you can't be both!) Also — The generosity of Elizabeth Peabody.

“NO MATTER how much a person learns about acting, that person is not going to dye her hair black, and wear dresses up to her neck.”

That was Marilyn Monroe, in 1956, trying to explain that being a sex-symbol was one thing. Being an actress was another. One could be both.  In MM’s case, alas, it was not so. At least not in America. She had to make up her mind, said her critics. She never did. 

Or, perhaps she did? Maybe she was just waiting for people to come around to her point of view. As Ella Fitzgerald remarked of Monroe:  “She was ahead of her time, and she really didn’t know it.”
Ella and MM.
ZAC EFRON is a sex-symbol who never has complained or explained his exploitation and objectification.  Indeed, since puberty hit, the now 29-year-old former Disney star, has enthusiastically embraced that objectification. Despite good performances in serious films such as “Charlie St. Cloud” ... ”The Lucky One” ... ”The Paperboy” and “Parkland,” Zefron has increasingly played to a crowd that wants to see him shirtless, or less.  (That none of those serious films did particularly well is also a factor.)

Over the last few years — as his body becomes more insanely sculpted and toned — he seems inching to a nadir of sorts with the “Neighbors” films, “Dirty Grandpa” and the execrable “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.”  He’s dangerously close to Jayne Mansfield territory (this is our day for blonde sex-symbols!)  The public has seen all of Zac that can be seen — almost.  Boredom and disinterest dead ahead.

Change is gonna come. It has to.  And so, in the time honored manner of all actors famed for their looks, Efron will take on a challenging, unsympathetic role. Think Elizabeth Taylor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” or Charlize Theron in “Monster.” More precisely, think Tony Curtis in “The Boston Strangler.”  Zefron will act out the life and crimes of serial killer Ted Bundy in a movie titled “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.” It’s also an indie, which gives further evidence of Efron’s serious actor cred.

And, Zac’s playing it semi-safe.  Although he has never appeared as such a loathsome character, Bundy was famous for his charm and good looks.  So, Efron can be bad, and act up a psycho storm, but look hot, too.  A win-win. 
Zac is a good actor, who has shown appealing sensitivity and a great deal of humor.  He has “Baywatch” upcoming, which might signal his unofficial farewell to movies seemingly built around his body. As he approaches the milestone of thirty (yeah, it’s a milestone for men, too), it’s time to get serious. 

By the way, I’m not suggesting the man never show another inch of flesh.  Heaven forbid!  It just seems it has been a requisite, up till now.  Maybe he should just scratch that clause from his future contracts.

Looking forward to something “Extremely Wicked ...” from Zac.
P.S.  Speaking of Marilyn, here’s the latest in an almost comically unending extension of her myth:  The star’s modest home — the only house she ever owned — in Brentwood, California, is up again for sale, for a cool $7 million. (She paid $75,000 in 1962, with a ten-year mortgage.)  Given that it is the place where she so controversially died, it has become a shrine to fans. Nobody seems to stay very long at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive. (Maybe they should just turn it into a museum?)
Lisa Optican / Mercer Vine
In Canada, a “Marilyn Monroe” tour is offered for those visiting Niagara Falls, in honor of the famous 1953 thriller she filmed there, “Niagara.” 

And finally, yet another stage play about the star.  This one titled “MM” by Barbara Schweitzer.  The play also features Frankenstein’s monster, because it examines what it’s like to be a creation of others, in Hollywood. (No, I don’t know if anybody screams, “She’s ALIVE!” the first time MM puts on a strapless gown.)   More than half a century gone and we can’t let go.
Kitty and Terry.
HERE’S a note sent to me by the theater’s Terry Hodge Taylor:

“I was once at a party given by Kitty Hart.  A classy gent named Sam Peabody joined my group. I introduced Sam and added, ‘His wife, Judith, is the Elizabeth Taylor of New York, because of all the AIDS work she does.’

“Sam beamed and said: “Judy will love that! I’m going to tell her what you said.’”

Now, with Judy and Sam Peabody both gone to their rewards, they have left their wonderful daughter, named — really! — Elizabeth Taylor Peabody.  She does mighty good works, just like her parents.

Elizabeth happens to be one of my pals.  She navigates with the Maria Droste Agency in giving helpful psychiatric counseling to those who can’t afford it.  Their fundraising event every April in New York is one of the more “fun” charity get-togethers of the year.   And one of the reasons “our” party is such fun is that celebrities give themselves up, in person, for questioning.

I have known two remarkable Elizabeth Taylors — one in Hollywood, one in New York.  Both were/are so generous!
Elizabeth, Sam, and Judy Peabody.
MAIL:  Our “pal in the desert,” Nancy Thomsen sent this:  “Thank you so much for including the video clip of Chita Rivera in today’s NY Social Diary article. Being stuck out here in the desert means that I do not get to see much of NY theatre or its inhabitants. This little clip gave me goose bumps! Something I do not get very often. Thank you a million times. It made me feel part of the world that I miss so much every day. And it gave me another opportunity to enjoy the magnificent Chita. I can’t thank you enough.”

Well, thank you, Nancy, and we thank our marvelous editor Jeff Hirsch who presents our column with such visual wit and intelligence. 

Contact Liz here.