Friday, April 28, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Harry, Glenn, and Frank

Harry immortalizing yours truly, dancing in Shubert Alley — when I could still dance!
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Harry Benson ... Glenn Close ... Frank Langella.

"NONE of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
MY good friends Gigi Benson of Seguin, Texas and her famous husband, the Scottish pride and joy Harry Benson, asked me out this week to celebrate his receiving the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Infinity Award.

Harry is the well-loved and respected photographer to the Queen of England — and to another queen, me Liz!
Harry's portrait of the Queen — 50 years after his first photograph of Her Majesty.
Photo: Harry Benson/Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Who could imagine, back in the Dark Ages, when Harry took me along because he was training his lens on Helen Gurley Brown and Prof. Iris Love as they swam with dolphins in New York’s Aquarium, that Harry would become so famous!     

Just this week I went with Gigi, Harry and Iris downtown to the Chelsea Piers to salute Harry!

Harry has come so far that nobody can believe he is not “all-business” when it comes to taking pictures. But he isn’t. He likes to fake it, keep it light and pretend he isn’t even focusing because he has such fun. No, it’s Gigi who is “all-business.” She takes care of all of Harry’s fame and fortune. She keeps his appointments and manages his awards and keeps up with their grown-up daughters and grandchildren.
Gigi and Harry.
Harry pretends he doesn’t know from “business.” He says things like, “I’m just having a good time! But I mind my manners when it comes to the Queen of England.”

These days when all the peons like to think of themselves as “photographers” because they can take selfies, Harry just shrugs. He has clicked Elizabeth Taylor, and every great star. And he was there, photographing The Beatles. He has taken 1000’s of pictures of them over the years!
One of Harry's photos of The Beatles at the George V in Paris.
Harry is rich and famous — and you and I are not. And what’s more, we don’t have Texan Gigi Benson minding our money and our next big paying appointment.

At the Chelsea Piers dinner and awards downtown I found myself kissed by the star Tommy Lee Jones, who foolishly asked, “Do you remember me?”
Tommy Lee Jones and Dawn Laurel-Jones.
I was seated with some of my favorite people — Jean and Dan Rather, John Loring who has saved Tiffany and Co. from the Donald Trump Tower, the Cycladic art collector and very rich man Leonard Cohen and his Kentucky born beautiful wife Allison, the theater maven Mr. Nederlander, and I am sure there were others I didn’t see.

Chelsea Piers is a mysterious place. Try to get out of there, after whatever!

Meantime, Harry. I was thrilled when your great photo of me appeared onscreen.
Harry with Jean and Dan Rather.
I AM going to the Theater Hall of Fame luncheon honoring the one and only Glenn Close at the Palm Restaurant on West 50th Street. This happens today April 28th.

The non-profit lunch saluting stars was originated back in 1971. It ain’t exactly the Tony Awards but it’s plenty important!

This year, I am attending with producer Judith Ann Abrams (“Kinky Boots”) and we’re sitting with Linda Lavin and Estelle Parsons, and when I say “we,” I mean to include journalist Pia Lindstrom, whom I’ve known since she was a pup. Add the incomparable producer named Roger Berlind.

What will Linda (a star herself) and Estelle (a star herself) and the mighty Glenn Close have to say when they get together? I’ll eavesdrop and tell you later.

As Glenn is winding up a triumphant revival of “Sunset Boulevard” in June — a role she starred in when she was too young for the leading role — it will be interesting to hear how she feels in today’s burgeoning theater.

If the awards won by these three actresses were piled on one table, it would collapse.
MANY of the people I know are creating documentaries. I, Liz, am involved now appearing in the making of two films about President Donald Trump. (You’d have to go back to the 1980’s to be interested in The Donald, Ivana, Marla, that I knew.)

Ron Galella's photo of Liz and Donald.
But I am told that the multiplicity of creative people I know who are rushing about making documentaries, rarely make any money from them or from the effort.

It takes a massive support system and an organization with some entity, like HBO or PBS, to make a documentary count.

And if I am not beaten over the head by talented friends, I seldom see any of the documentaries that are being made, unless they are produced by something grand like National Geographic, or a major studio.

I love seeing informative films that deal with science or technology or famous historical happenings.

But the thing is, with quite a few souls telling me they have made a documentary film; these are invariably followed by a P.S. documentary. For instance, someone writes and films a great restaurant in the mountains over looking the French Riviera. They layout its history with maps, photos of food, still life, art and old photos.

Then, comes the P.S. Someone else decides that’s not the total story. They, the someone else, make a film then about “the real” genesis of the restaurant, extra added details, another story of persons involved — what I call the P.S. documentaries that spawn other films, etc., Martha Stewart might someday mention it on air. Who knows?

There is seldom a payoff for all this effort. Better one should develop a lurid horror sex apocalyptic sensational fiction. You’d have a better chance to hit the jackpot!

OK! OK! There are exceptions. But if you think a documentary film will be your ticket to success, I think you are probably wasting your time.

You can show it to all of your family and friends because they wont be able to find it to see it otherwise.
OPEN letter to the actor and star Frank Langella.

I loved lunch! You are always the romantic Dracula to me, plus the Frost-Nixon triumph, the best Noel Coward ever, and so much more. Call me; we have lots of adventures still to come.

Love, Liz

Contact Liz here.