Monday, July 24, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Imbibing for the hell of it?

Acording to Ava, “A party isn’t a party without a drunken bitch lying in a pool of tears!” 
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Women Drinking To Excess In Movies — In this empowerment?   Also — "Curvy Widow" ... secrets of the Sistine Chapel…and Rosie's Kids to celebrate 20 years of "The Lion King."

“I envy people who drink. At least they have something to blame everything on,” said Oscar Levant.
DRINKING — over-drinking — has been a comic staple in Hollywood for eons.  From W. C. Fields in ... well, everything, to Dudley’s Moore’s “Arthur” to countless young-male-coming-of-age movies, or older-men-bonding films.  But now, there’s something else in the air, a new twist in the martini.  More and more, it is women who are the prime screen embodiments of imbibing for the hell of it.
Much of this stems from the continuing “empowerment” of women as comics who can hold together and carry a movie. Women can be just as nasty, outrageous, profane, raunchy as any guy.  And hold the same amount of liquor, too.  This is likely true, but I have already wondered here, why such behavior is something women should aspire to? Why should females in film feel this representation is at all empowering?  (Perhaps because there is an underlying double-standard and misogyny.  Drunk men, even at their most gross, are just drunk men, bros, guys letting off steam.  An obviously inebriated woman is considered “disgusting.”  In truth, she is no more disgusting than her soused male counterparts, but don’t tell that to a man. And, I suppose, don’t tell that to women in movies, who want parity in every way — from salary to onscreen marathon drinking.)

Now — last week, actually — along came Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s strong article in The Hollywood Reporter, “Why Is Hollywood Glamorizing Binge-Drinking for Women?”  (Abdul-Jabbar’s column is one of the best things in THR.  The basketball legend really knows how to make sensible, cogent points. I’d say he should be an MSNBC or CNN contributor, but he may be too intelligent for that.)
Illustration by Læmeur for THR.
Kareem writes, in part: “Relax. This isn't about booze-shaming or bringing back Tommy gun Prohibition. It's about how, in the guise of empowerment — ‘Look, everyone, girls can drink just as hard and act just as stupid as guys’ — women are more consistently being portrayed as insecure and needy. It's about the negative effects of perpetuating gender stereotypes that promote destructive behavior ... The success of Wonder Woman may give the impression that this is the Summer of Female Empowerment, with Hollywood firmly leading the feminist charge.

“Not so fast. While Wonder Woman exhibits the admirable traits of courage, moral commitment and self-reliance, Hollywood has been, in general, less kind with how it portrays average American women, especially their relationship to alcohol. Bad Moms, Rough Night, the women vs. shark film 47 Meters, and the upcoming Girls Trip (July 21) all feature women for whom alcohol is the obligatory catalyst to fun. When Amy Schumer joked on Stephen Colbert's show in May that she would go home and drink herself into a blackout, the audience cheered. On Today, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford call Tuesday ‘Boozeday’ and Wednesday ‘Winesday.’ Watch any TV series or movie featuring women over 30, and their default response to stress or boredom often is hitting the bottle.”
A scene from Girls Trip. Courtesy of Michele K. Short/Universal
Kareem also points out the serious spike in alcohol-related deaths among women, and the mixed messages Hollywood always sends out:  “In this case, the mixed message from Hollywood is, “Sure, women can be just as smart and competent as men (but they also are fundamentally flawed and need booze to cope with their insecurities). It's another version of the classic taunts thrown at successful women: ‘Yeah, but you're not married.’” (as used in Transformers: The Last Knight). You're welcome, feminism.
A scene from Bad Moms.
“A lot of comedy comes from people acting stupid and immature. It's actually refreshing to have movies like Rough Night and Girls Trip. The problem isn't in the occasional use of booze to create a comic scene; the problem comes when that becomes the dominant portrayal of women, and society starts to see women in general as jonesing for that merlot ... It's not that we can't depict women drinking; it's that we shouldn't always associate their drinking with emergency stress relief or the sole gateway to being fun. This infantilizes them, implying they are incapable of dealing with life's challenges as rational adults. Yes, they should eat, drink and be merry — just don't have them drink because that's the only way they can be merry.”

Thank you, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Long may you write for THR
A scene fromRough Night. Courtesy of Macall Polley/Sony Pictures
P.S. Years ago, back in glory days of Hollywood, and the golden era of “hearty social drinking,” Ava Gardner threw a party in London, inviting, among others, her MGM compatriot, Esther Williams. Asked by one attendee, no fan of Miss Williams, why Ava was insisting on her presence, Gardner replied: “A party isn’t a party without a drunken bitch lying in a pool of tears!”  Funny, actually, and very the pot-calling-the-kettle, considering Ava’s own relationship with booze. (Although Gardner was more apt to become violent, rather than weep.) But really, women of the 21st century, is empowerment now being that drunken bitch lying in a pool of tears?  I hope not. 

... I JUST love the title of this, and hope to catch it.  A new musical titled “Curvy Widow.”  This is the semi-autobiographical tale of Bobby Goldman, widow of the famous Oscar-winning screenwriter/playwright, James Goldman.  Bobby has had many lives and many adventures since her days as a Mrs.  She’s been a chef, an interior designer, a theatrical developer and — so it says — a boxer!
Bobby Goldman.
“Curvy Widow” tells the story of a 50-plus woman who throws herself into the choppy waters of the dating scene.  This stars Nancy Opel, Andrea Bianchi, Aisha De Hass, Elizabeth Ward Land, Ken Land, Alan Muraoka and Christopher Shyer. Book by Ms. Goldman, music and lyrics, Drew Brody and directed by Peter Flynn.  In previews now at the Westside Theater (407 W. 43rd Street) Opens on August 3rd. Call 212-239-6200 or visit
... AFTER writing here about the last days of the Sistine Chapel exhibition in Manhattan, artist/designer Bob Schulenberg emailed to advise we read “Sistine Secrets” by Roy Doliner.  This tells how Michelangelo “inserted secret imagery that ran against what the Pope thought was there ... I was stunned by something on every page.  This isn’t mere conjecture — Doliner explains and illustrates each discovery.  It’s like reading a great detective novel!” 
... FINALLY — Save the date!  On November 6th, at NYC’s Marriott Marquis in Times Square, Rosie O’ Donnell’s Theater Kids will honor the 20th anniversary of “The Lion King” on Broadway.   This is the annual gala for Rosie’s wonderful after-school performing arts program, which she founded in 2003.  I’ll write about this again, closer to the date.  But I feel I can’t push this program, these children and Rosie’s commitment enough.  I’ve attended a number of performances put on by these youngsters, underserved by the system.  Rarely have I been as moved and uplifted.  For info about this upcoming big night, call Buckley Hall Events at 914-579-1000.  To learn more about Rosie’s Theater Kids — and I suggest you do that — visit
Contact Liz here.