Thursday, March 30, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Fighting tools

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Larry Kramer ... Tom Wolfe ... Ancient Art, Powerful Emotions ... and Russell Crowe — He Ain't What He Used to Be, But Who Is? 

“I DON’T consider myself an artist. I consider myself a very opinionated man who uses words as a fighting tool,” said the opinionated artist, Larry Kramer.
THE Gay Men’s Health Crisis guys and gals tried to give President Bill Clinton, their annual award downtown the other eve.

President Clinton had agreed to happily accept this great group’s Judith Peabody Award, but was unable to show up. He was in Ireland at the funeral of Martin McGuinness (the Northern Ireland hero). But Chelsea accepted for Daddy. She was fine.
I’ve written quite a bit through the years recording how Mrs. Peabody and GMHC “wrote the book” about the fight to stop AIDS worldwide. No matter what some think of the Clintons, how can you gainsay their fight to kill the disease? AIDS is still preventing Africa from becoming safe and secure in order for independent government to function.

It’s not just saving lives, there is a chance new democracies might flourish if they weren’t decimated by disease in Africa and else where.
This night gave me the chance to be photographed with Larry Kramer who is a god in the fight for the death of bigotry everywhere. We two used to be enemies but “wise people change their minds” and Larry and Liz both changed. He went on to write the affecting and important play “The Normal Heart,” and I went on to keep writing some of what’s happening for you. Larry and Liz raised more money for GMAC by having our photo taken together with handsome young Jared Spencer. (VP Corporate Communications, Barclays.)

He wrote, “I know I’ve made it when I’m at the same party as Liz Smith. I was honored to escort you onto the red carpet and then I got to be in a photo with both you and Larry Kramer. Characteristically generous of you.” (Oh, pish-tosh, Jared, we needed you to make sure we didn’t fall down.)
Jared, Liz, and Larry.
THE dear old Landmarks Conservancy which “saves” building sites, monuments and other New York treasures advises me that come, November 1st, they will make a “Living Landmark” of the famous writer Tom Wolfe. This happens at the Plaza Ballroom where annually the Conservancy tries to keep other great NYC spots from going the way of the immortal Penn Station.

I, Liz, actually remember this glorious building. In September 1949 my train from Texas deposited me there. It was only four years past the end of WWII. As a gentleman tried to get inside the phone booth with me, I knew I had arrived in New York.
New York Penn Station, 1949.
Tom Wolfe has plenty of other “honorings” to his credit. I sat with him just the other night when the Hunter College writing folks gave him an award at Doubles in the Sherry Netherlands. He was in his all white with touches of black. Most of the famous grit their teeth when honored, but Tom just loves a little warmth. He made a nifty speech accepting, speaking of how people don’t read anymore and there will soon be an award for “best blogger!”

I once compared Tom to Tolstoy. Maybe that’s what gives him the courage to go on being good-natured about being honored.
Hunter College president Jennifer Raab with Tom and Sheila Wolfe at the Writing Center's 7th anniversary.
THE New York Times ran an intriguing article by Holland Cotter recently. It dealt with the love of ancient Greek sculptures and how most of us venerate Homer and the past world that produced so much art. Cotter pointed out that most of us don’t think, when we are gazing at some fabulous sculpture, that this usually represents murder, patricide, hate, death, sacrifice, war, horrible accidents, torture, cannibalism, etc. Ancient art usually has such negative emotions.

In this exercise of loving what we’re seeing and taking no lesson of remembering the meaning, Cotter adds this about ancient politics, “If enough votes were collected banishment (of the voter) followed. This was, in short, impeachment by grass-roots emotion.”
Marble head of the Amazon warrior-queen Penthesilea, a Roman copy of the Hellenistic original, in "A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 B.C.-200 A.D.," at the Onassis Cultural Center New York. Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig
Did that expression have a little morality lesson for us today?

You can go to the Onassis Cultural Center in New York to see many sculpture examples of love and hate. The Center is in Midtown Manhattan; only a stones throw from the now infamous Trump Tower. It is unknown to many, but charges no admission and puts on magnificent displays of art. You can walk right in, it’s tucked away below street level, in the Olympic Tower Building. Cotter says you have to know it’s there to find it. “It’s some kind of gift out right.”
The particular show installed right now, goes on until June 24th. Choice selection of Greek art as well as “on loan” pieces of note.

I am proud of myself because I’ve known of this well-hidden display center for years. To my way of thinking it constitutes the true worth of the popular Onassis name and that erases all the tawdry international tabloid scandal attached to the name.
ENDTHOUGHT:  I never thought we’d come to the defense of Russell Crowe.  This column had testy times with the Oscar-winning actor back in the day.  The circumstances escape me, although I seem to recall we chastised him for his temper or rude comments he’d made.  He shot back.  At the 2001 Oscar after-party (probably Vanity Fair) we attempted to make nice and congratulate him on his “Gladiator” win.  No deal — a muttered imprecation and a turned back.  Eh, no harm in trying and he’s always been an excellent actor.  We all can’t be loved!
Russell, the night of his Oscar win.
However, I was astounded by two of the major New York newspapers putting photos of Crowe on the front page, with big, accompanying stories inside about his being heavier than he was seventeen years ago!  

Aside from the fact that, as Blanche DuBois mourned, “Physical beauty is passing — a transitory possession ...”  Russell Crowe was always a beefy lad, even in “Gladiator” — he looked good, but compared to the ripped and cut and often CGI-enhanced bodies we see today, he seemed like a normal guy.  As the years rolled on, he looked, well, more normal. (Like many actors, Russell enjoys punishing his body with weight gains and losses.)  He never seemed particularly interested in keeping up with the Ryan Reynolds or Hugh Jackmans or Zac Efrons of the world. He’s 52; he’s not the Roman soldier with a sword and a grudge anymore. And he was photographed kicking around a rugby ball. THIS is a front page story? 
On the one  hand, it’s refreshing that a woman is not, as usual, being body-shamed, on the other hand, nobody should be. 

So, Russell, throw another shrimp (or ten) on the Barbie, have a meat pie, a sausage roll, a Lamington (that’s a popular Australian dessert) or a fried potato cake. But don’t give up rugby — good exercise! 

Oh, and in the manner of the old fan magazines, which would promote a star’s next movie at the end of every story — Russell Crowe will soon appear in yet another “Mummy” remake.  He plays Dr. Henry Jekyll (of Jekyll and Hyde fame?)  Tom Cruise is the Mummy-fighter and the undead Egyptian is a woman, this time out, Sofia Boutella. 

Well, the original “Mummy” novel, was written by a woman, Jane C. Loudon, in 1827. It was titled “The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century.”  Ms. Loudon's reanimated guy didn’t just stagger around scaring people; he was up for handing out advice and reflections on life in the often prescient future world the author imagined.

Actually, that sounds like a more interesting concept than the usual revenge-obsessed mummy we’ve come to know since the days of Boris Karloff.

Contact Liz here.