Thursday, January 12, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Good Behavior

Bob's photo of Suzy with Kitty Carlisle Hart and Elsie Woodward, c. 1976
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Vanity Fair Uncovers "Suzy" and Chris Pratt. Also — The Big Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Party, and will TNT allow Michelle Dockery more "Good Behavior"?

“WHY NOT write a book?”

“Bob, I don’t even want to write my name anymore!”

That was an exchange between Vanity Fair scribe Bob Colacello and Aileen Mehle, aka the late Society columnist “Suzy.” Bob was embarking on wide-ranging interview with the glamorous gossip who dominated her milieu for decades, and never met a competitor she acknowledged. We were all too dull and trite, and not nearly as pretty!

Colacello’s hugely entertaining take on Aileen, her final interview, appears in the current issue, decorated with tons of fabulous photos.
New York Mirror delivery trucks, circa 1960.
“SUZY” reigned over the International Set for what seemed like an eternity. Her big chat with Colacello describes among other things, Aileen’s love affair with Frank Sinatra, told in her own words.  (She says that Sinatra was charm itself, “until he wasn’t.” When she saw Frank’s dark side, she ended it.)
Mehle and Frank Sinatra (center), 1960s. Photo: From The Collection Of Aileen Mehle.
Aileen left nothing unsaid about her own meteoritic rise in journalism. She has finally “told all” about the Reagans, the Kennedys, LBJ, Grace Kelly, and Monaco etc.

Let’s add that she spoke lovingly of the New York Buckleys, Paleys, Kissingers and anyone else who mattered in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s. This article runs for pages and — I can’t emphasize this aspect enough — is full of glorious pictures by the most famous photographers, of Mrs. Mehle and her life and times.
Clockwise: Mehle, Cary Grant, Happy Rockefeller, British prime minister Harold Wilson, Betty Ford, James Callaghan, Margaret Truman Daniel, Danny Kaye, C. Z. Guest, and Van Cliburn at a Ford White House state dinner for Wilson, 1975. Photo: From The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
SEXY  movie star Chris Pratt is on the Vanity Fair cover, his muscular shoulders bare and wet — he appears to have been photographed in a lake or a pool, or the ocean. Tasty. (I loved him in the ridiculous “Jurassic World” which also featured Bryce Dallas Howard running around like mad in four inch high heels. I laughed at the serious criticism of this. It was quite clear the whole thing was an absurd in-joke — I mean, if you’re going to make a movie about dinosaurs come to life, why not have your heroine dash through the jungle in her treacherous Christian Louboutins?)

But who can concentrate on Chris, and his shoulders, when his image is surrounded, literally, by four, count ‘em, four cover blurbs on the president-elect and his family?  It’s a rather hilarious visual.

Of course, this overkill came before that reportedly “civilized” meeting between the man who will be Commander In Chief and the powers at Vanity Fair, Vogue and other glossy entities. The former real-estate mogul and VF’s Graydon Carter supposedly shook hands.  We shall see what future issues of Vanity Fair bring.

Oh, my favorite line in the Aileen article?  At her 97th birthday, two years ago, after accepting toasts from a tableful of pals, she rose and said: “I look in the mirror every morning, and I say to myself, ‘Aileen you are a very lucky woman. Look how good you look!  And you’ve only had one face lift — fifteen years ago!” 

Aileen Mehle — she stayed big, it was the columns that got small. And she was always ready for her close-up. 
Aileen Mehle, photographed by Cecil Beaton in 1967. Photo: From The Cecil Beaton Archive.
I RECIEVED — last night in my brand new small apartment overlooking Park Ave — a stunning invitation to the great big Clive Davis party, just before the Grammy Awards. It involves black satin and gold mirror enhancements. I took my time admiring it before I actually absorbed the information. The Davis invites are always striking, but this one begs to be saved and put on display.

"You're in, Liz."
Clive is a longtime friend, and in years past, I attended several of these grand annual events. It is one of those things that if you’re not invited, you make sure you have a great excuse to be oh-so-inconveniently unavailable. Or, check yourself into rehab — people always believe that! 

The Pre-Grammy Gala happens Feb 11th  at the Beverly Hilton, “Salute to Industry Icons.” (The Grammys will be telecast Sunday, the 12th, on CBS.) One of those being honored  is Debra L. Lee., the Chairman and CEO of Black Entertainment Television.

Clive’s night of nights is always star-studded and generally includes performances by big names and up and comers. Those up and comers always hope to be the next Whitney Houston, who was Clive’s most famous, and alas, most tragic discovery. Right to the end, Clive always believed Whitney would resurrect herself.  In an example of Hollywood Gothic to the max, Whitney died on the very night of Clive’s 2012 Grammy gala, at which she was supposed to be honored.  What Clive had intended as a tribute to her career and hoped-for comeback, turned into a memorial.  He was simply devastated.
Clive and Whitney at the signing of her contract with Arista Records in 1983.
The more I study this posh invitation — that I’m sure I won’t be able to throw away! — the more I’m looking for an old-fashioned Yves St. Laurent tuxedo I bought years ago. I was going to say it is hopelessly out of style, but “Westworld” actress Evan Rachel Wood wore a rather classic-looking tux to the Golden Globes the other night. She said it was an homage to Dietrich and David Bowie.  I can do homage!

Whether or not I manage to dust off my black tie and head for the coast,  it is always such a privilege to be invited by the great master Clive Davis.  He is never out of style, that’s for sure!
I can do homage!
MEMO TO the TNT Network — stop toying with us, and let us know whether or not the Michelle Dockery/Juan Diego Botto series “Good Behavior” has been renewed for a second season.  The tense, emotional season one finale aired on Tuesday night.

I said, early on, that the two main characters Letty (Dockery) and Javier (Botto) and the situation itself — she’s a con-woman out of prison, on parole, he’s a professional hit man — might be boxed in. Where to take it, without going beyond the always strained norms of suspension of disbelief? (In some ways, it might have made a better feature film.)
But the two leads, and the entire supporting cast (Lusia Strus as Dockery’s mother Estelle, especially) are so committed, have such great chemistry, it would be a shame to let “Good Behavior” die on the highway, which is where we last saw our protagonists. Ominous police sirens wailed in the background.

Come on, TNT, give “Downton Abbey’s” former Lady Mary — who’s no lady here! — another season to slug vodka, sex-up various men, shoplift, misbehave, agonize, compromise.
Contact Liz here.