Tuesday, June 20, 2017

LIZ SMITH: In Quest of ...

They shared hundreds of magazine covers and inhabited the fantasies of millions, but Jackie and Liz met only once, briefly, in 1976, in New York.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

In Quest of Jackie, Diana and Mary Tyler Moore. 

“SHE WAS a historical person to me, rather than a real person.  Therefore I had no expectations of whom she should be or how she should act. I accepted her on her own terms.  I felt she was owed this considering what she’d been through.  I never thought of her as saintly, as many quickly and absurdly did after the death of John F. Kennedy.

“She was a woman who had to make sharp, tough choices in her life.  Most women do, although most women don’t have to do it with the world staring at them.”

That’s David Patrick Columbia, writing about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the Spring issue of the quarterly Q magazine. This piece originally ran in sister publication, Quest, back in 1994.

The piece, titled “On Having Never Met Mrs. Onassis,” tells of David spotting Jackie several times around New York, relating a few anecdotes he’d heard along the way, and his feelings about this iconic, private-to-the-end woman.

She had, as Mr. Columbia points out, a knack for publicity.  And I feel she received some satisfaction from some of the attention. But she never gave the vastly desired “tell-all” interview or wrote the blazing autobiography the world wanted.  She was a great, smiling sphinx upon who millions applied their own fantasies.  

She worked hard to build and mythologize her slain husband. Her own legend just seemed to happen. (She was already as big a media star as Elizabeth Taylor, at the time of JFK’s death — they often shared fan magazine covers — after his assassination, her fame expanded exponentially and even more sensationally. The marriage to Onassis took her from saint to sinner, much as the widowed Liz was branded with a Scarlet A after Liz/Eddie/Debbie.)

David points out, that the soft voice she used in public was something mostly put on for the public. (Like Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe; the latter whom Jackie sounded a good deal like, in public utterances). There was a tougher tone, and person, beneath the exterior and the vulnerable voice was partially created, I think, to keep some distance between herself and the world. 

It’s a terrific piece of writing, and I am proud to say that it appears in the same issue of Q as our own tribute to Mary Tyler Moore.  In this remembrance of Mary we cite of the day she died.  At my computer, the news suddenly came up. Barely before I could register this, an “alert” appeared from New York magazine.  It said “A Very Bad Day for the Planet.”  I opened it thinking it was about Mary, and admiring in advance the swiftness of this writer.  It was not, as it turned out, about MTM.  But now, whenever I think of Mary, I do recall that it was a very bad day indeed for the planet, when somebody up there finally caught that famously tossed blue beret.
AND while I have Q and Quest on my mind, a shout out to Taki Theodoracopulos’ piece on Princess Diana in the June issue of Quest (cover devoted to the enviable environs of Greenwich, Connecticut.)  Taki has a famously sharp tongue but he spares Diana, whom he refers to as “a sweet young woman ... canny, smart as a whip, one who had taught herself whom to trust and mostly whom not to.” (This mistrust, by the way, is the emotional occupational hazard of all to step into the pitiless light of fame.)

Taki thinks the speculation that Diana was actually engaged to Dodi Fayed — who died with her in that Paris tunnel — is “as big a crock as I can think of.”  And Taki believes that it was he, not another journalist (unnamed) who was the last to speak to the princess. 

Taki says he rang her. She answered, “Hello, stranger.” He then asked her the question that was raging through London and around the world, “This is a professional call.  Are you about to go Muslim on us?”  Taki relays that Diana put on a tough American accent and said, “You gotta be kidding me.” She added “I’ll be in London tomorrow, ring then.” She died that night. 
Diana in 1997, the year we lost her.
MORE magazine:  Last week’s New York magazine had a cover story by Maureen O’Connor on the streaming sex site Porhub, titled “The Database of Desire.” 

But to me, the real object of desire in the issue was a massive take-out in The Culture Pages about the final episode of HBO’s series “The Leftovers.” As a sometime frustrated admirer of the show, this was fascinating stuff, written by Boris Kachka.  It told all that took place, all the planning, striving, angst, joy and difficulties that went into the last show; the different scenarios, the fine tuning. (If you’ve never watched, the show concerns itself with what happens to those “left behind” after an unexplained phenomenon occurs — 140 million people simply vanish from the earth.)

For those who perhaps have not checked their DVR or have stayed off social media, I won’t spoil.  However, after a season that had me gritting my teeth at times, I thought the finale as perfect as these things get, truly masterful television, and (to me) completely satisfying.

There was another article within the article, by Matt Zoller Seitz, “Do Endings Matter Anymore?”  It was about how, with all the new technology and new ways of watching TV (Netflix, Amazon, On Demand) that the much hyped finales of years ago, don’t matter quite as much.  This is a good piece and makes valid points, however, I think finales matter almost as much as they ever did.  After all, New York magazine devoted about 20 pages to the last episode of “The Leftovers.” Clearly, that mattered to somebody.
Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon in The Leftovers finale. Photo: HBO
ENDTHOUGHT:  Actress, producer, director Elizabeth Banks got herself into hot water recently at an awards show in Hollywood.  Onstage, she called out director Steven Spielberg — not unkindly, but with purpose — for not doing any movies for women. 

Immediately, she was blasted for forgetting 1985’s “The Color Purple” which starred Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg as well as 1974’s “The Sugarland Express” which had Goldie Hawn in the lead.  In some quarters, Banks was accused of racism because she “slighted” “The Color Purple.” Good grief, more political correctness run amok.
Banks likely didn’t plan her remarks, which only goes to show — be prepared. She was obliged to apologize, of course.  But, the point is, she has a point. Spielberg doesn’t make female-centric movies. Neither does Oliver Stone, for that matter.  Nor are they obliged to do so. And women have had good roles in their films. (Holly Hunter in "Always.")
However, wouldn't it be fascinating if these big, brilliant, powerful guys did do a “woman’s movie?”  I’d be fascinated!  (Take Howard Hawks, for instance, known mostly for rough and tumble movies, with the occasional screwball comedy thrown in — “Bringing Up Baby,” His Girl Friday.”  He went totally off the range with a musical, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” which immortalized Marilyn and also gave Jane Russell her greatest role. Working outside the box can yield astonishing results.)
After all, times are a changin’ but slowly, as usual. Why, Patty Jenkins, who directed the super-smash “Wonder Woman” (first female to direct in this genre) has yet to be signed for the sequel. 

So, Elizabeth Banks, always check Wikipedia or IMDB. And chastising people at an awards ceremony is less than politic. Discuss it over drinks at the Ivy.  But — you have a point.

Contact Liz here.