Tuesday, May 30, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Literacy Partners Raised the Roof

Sheila Nevins (with Katharine Raymond Hinton and Liz by her side) reading from "You Don't Look Your Age … and other Fairy Tales" at Literacy Partners Evening of Readings, which raised close to $1 million.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Literacy Partners Raised the Roof, and One Million Bucks!   What Tale Has Johnny Depp's "Dead Men" Told at the Box Office? 

“NO matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” Said Confucius.
SHEILA Nevins knocked their socks off when Literacy Partners honored her by giving her "The Lizzie Award” last week at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York.

This irrepressible woman read to us from her new book "You Don't Look Your Age … and other Fairy Tales," which just hit the New York Times Bestseller list.

Sheila and Liz had an argument. Sheila wanted to read from a "tragic" chapter. Liz wanted her to use instead the "face-lift" chapter. Liz won! (“Sheila,” Liz cautioned. “It’s a school night. People are all trussed up in black tie. Many of them will be giving money. This will inevitably run late. Some are still recovering from whatever shocking things cable news is reporting.  Nobody wants sad!”)  
"Okay, you win Liz!"
Sheila offers her rules for success! "My motto: Be unexpected! Self deprecate! And remember no speech is too short!”

Elizabeth Peabody and Sheila Nevins with Liz.
Literacy Partners, the charitable endeavor to which I have been long associated, is dear to my heart because I so deeply believe in the positive power of reading, and because I happen love reading, still. Books, newspapers, magazines. 

Most of my close friends are readers, and the man with whom I have worked with, in this space for many years, Denis Ferrara, is as book-mad as I am. And we also share the same love of the tactile nature of reading — an actual book, a real magazine, a newspaper that might require you to wash your hands after — newsprint still smudges.   Never once has Denis said, “Really, you want to write about another book?”  This has gone a long way with me.

The Literacy Partners reading has already been covered pretty extensively on The New York Social Diary online, and by Michael Gross for Avenue magazine — I love Michael’s title, “See Liz. See Liz Raise Money.”  (Michael, next I want you to write “See Liz. See Liz MAKE Money.”)

So, I won’t belabor. Much. Aside from Sheila Nevins being honored, there was USA Today’s Joanne Lipman ... CNN's Fareed Zakaria ... John Josephson, Chairman and CEO, SESAC.  All mighty impressive.  New York’s well-known (and very attractive!) newsman Maurice DuBois hosted.  Jill Kargman (creator and star of Bravo’s “Odd Mom Out”) read from her book “Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave: Observations, Rants and Other Uplifting Thoughts About Life.”
Gala honoree Joanne Lipman.
Literacy Partners board member John Josephson was honored with the Champion of Literacy Award. Jill Kargman reading from “Sprinkle Glitter on My Grave: Observations, Rants and Other Uplifting Thoughts About Life.”
Gala honoree Fareed Zakaria.
Presenters included Peter Brown, who is definitely keeping a portrait in his attic someplace, and Katie Couric, also hiding some supernatural artwork and navigating on heels so high she was significantly closer to God that night!
Katie Couric and Joanne Lipman.
Katie's heels!
Peter Brown, who introduced Fareed Zakaria.
The absolute emotional highpoint was student speaker Marchette Hellams.  This is always the most moving part of the night, the students. People actually put down their wine, stop nibbling, gossiping or wondering what are in the gift bags?  (Books, of course!)  

But Ms. Hellams transported us all to a higher place after her emotional remarks.  She sang.  I mean, she literally lifted the ornate Cipriani roof with a rendition of “Winner in You.”  This young woman took the audience to one point of appreciation and admiration to another. Jaws were agape.

Marchette Hellams.  Remember that name.
Student reader (and singer extraordinaire) Marchette Hellams.
Auctioneer Hugh Hildsesley from Sotheby's did a great job — it’s not easy to get up and make people shell out, even for a good cause.  Guts, it takes guts!  Literacy raised almost a million. 

I am never less than full of pride and a sense of accomplishment after a Literacy Partners event. I have worked after all, for many years in what can be seen as a silly business.  I felt that sense of accomplishment more keenly than ever this year.  And I believe so did our generous audience.  We keep hearing about very important world leaders who don’t care to read.  This, I find scary.
Members of the Literacy Partners Board.
I could fill this column with marvelous quotes about reading.  Maybe on some truly lazy day I will.  But I will leave you now with three of my favorites.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” — Fredrick Douglas

“Read in order to live.”  — Gustave Flaubert

“People say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.” — Logan Pearsall Smith
WE WILL know today how the latest (last?) of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies fared at the weekend box-office.  Andrew Saffir’s Cinema Society had a nifty screening of the movie last Tuesday,  at the Crosby Hotel, downtown in NYC. (Remy Martin & Frederique Constant co-hosted — drinks were potent and had names like “Pirates Potion” and “Trident of Poseidon.” Cute, but the important thing is the buzz.)

A very nice group, packed with Andrew’s usual selection of superhumanly attractive models, rising actors and just plain big stars were on hand, at the screening and later, the party, at Chef’s Club. 
The superhumanly handsome Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, and Orlando Bloom.
Kathleen Turner, Patti Smith, Gina Gershon, Steve Van Zandt, Paul Haggis mingled, as did a number of the film’s stars — Javier Bardem (so much more handsome in person!) ... Brenton Thwaites (just AS handsome in person, which means one can’t look at him directly — it’s too much) ... Kaya Scodelario and Orlando Bloom. Orlando was spotted early the in evening sweetly explaining to several fans where he fits into this one, subtitled “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”  Nice.
James Haggis and Paul Haggis. Rachel Ann Weiss and Kathleen Turner.
Orlando Bloom and Gina Gershon. Patti Smith.
As for the movie, it’s time, I’m afraid to sink this ship.  “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the fifth in the franchise, although it somehow seems like the twentieth!  And, frankly, the title is apt. There are no more tales to be wrung from this cinematic corpse. Whatever charm the first (and perhaps second) “Caribbean” movie displayed, has been buried under confusion and CGI. Much ado about Johnny Depp looking bored.  It seems even longer and is definitely darker (as is “what the hell is going on?”) than even previous long, dark “Caribbean” entries. 

Good grief.  I just read that another sequel is planned!  How about trying this 110 minutes, filmed in daylight and with a script?   I know, I know — a revolutionary approach, but why not?  At the next premiere the audience perhaps might not be so anxious to down as many glasses of “Pirates Potion” afterward.
Pirates Potion: Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal, brown sugar, and bitters.
CORRECTION:  The Seersucker Day event we noted last week, happening in New York will be celebrated on June 8th, not the 6th.

Contact Liz here.