Monday, April 17, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Manic Monday

Baez & Turner — “Girl, what you need is a wig!”
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Manic Monday: Chuck Berry ... Joan Baez ... "Veep" ... Narcissists in power ... Michael Musto,  and grand opera doings.

“GIRL, what you need is a wig!”

That’s what Tina Turner, who certainly knows her hairpieces, said to Joan Baez, back in the 1980’s when Tina was making her big comeback as a solo act, and Joan was struggling somewhat through a decade in which she couldn’t find her footing. 
Justin Kaneps for Rolling Stone
This tasty tidbit comes out of David Browne’s big profile on Ms. Baez, in the current issue of Rolling Stone.  If the magazine held only the Baez piece (the legendary folk/protest singer is really quite funny!) it would be worth the newsstand or subscription price.  But this issue is packed with great stuff. 

The recently passed Chuck Berry is on the cover, and inside is a brilliant, massive tribute — written by Mikal Gilmore — to this genius musician and sometimes difficult man. (Keith Richards and Marc Jacobson also contribute significant essays on Berry.)  The result?  Amazon is already on order with a number of Chuck Berry discs heading my way. Including Berry’s last, out now, “Chuck.”  Writer Gilmore describes the work on this final Berry record so evocatively, it was impossible to resist.  (I already have plenty of Joan Baez albums.)

But wait, there’s more! For those of us consumed with current Washington-based events, there is “The Pathology of Narcissism” about (who else?) the man who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Warning. This article, by Alex Morris, is likely to give you the vapors — many doctors chime in — so don’t read without a fan, smelling salts or a stiff drink. 

Also, if you’ve never watched HBO’s “Veep,” Rob Sheffield’s review of the new season would be enough to make even the uninitiated binge-watch to catch up. As Sheffield writes: “’Veep’ remains swifter, nastier and spikier than any other comedy on the air, a non-stop firestorm of bile ...”
Kudos to all the journalists mentioned here, and to editor/publisher Jann Wenner, who continues to put out a fascinating, informative magazine, now half a century on newsstands. 

Oh, on the Random Notes pages, we do get Justin Bieber, stripping down in a bar, in Australia.  Hey, it’s still rock n’ roll.  Sort of.
Lucy the Slut, In case you were wondering.
SAVE THE date: On Monday, May 22nd,  Michael Musto, of the Village Voice and every other print outlet, it seems, will be roasted by gazillions of his closest friends.  The night, which benefits the Callen-Lorde Organization, happens at The Actor’s Temple in NYC (330 West 47th Street).

Among those scheduled to hand Michael his head will be Michael Riedel ... Michael Urie ... Rosie O’Donnell ... Bruce Vilanch  ... Johnny Skandros ... Elizabeth Ann Berg ... Randy Rainbow, Crystal Demure and Lucy the Slut.  (It’s a Musto event, of course there’s going to be somebody named Lucy the Slut.) 

Michael says it’ll be good nasty fun for a good cause; Callen-Lorde provides health-care and others services to NYC’s LGBT community.  But he did laugh a bit nervously when I said to him, “I guess this means you’ll arrive by bicycle as usual, and have a stretcher waiting to take you home?”  (The event is, after all, called "Fork on the Left, Knife in The Back.")  For tickets visit
“THAT was so awful. Beautiful ... sad. She died!  You know I really didn’t think she was gonna die. I knew she was sick. I mean, she was coughing her brains out and still she had to keep singing!”

Among the many marvelous and endearing moments in the movie “Moonstruck,” one of the most endearing is Cher’s emotional reaction to going to the opera for the first time (with her besotted lover, Nic Cage) and seeing “La Boheme.”
Although I haven’t been to the opera in several years, it’s never less than a thrill, a unique theatrical experience (the reactions of the audience are sometimes as exciting as what’s happening onstage. Opera lovers are a passionate bunch!)  Nothing quite equals the famous Metropolitan Opera chandeliers dimming and rising to the ceiling before the curtain goes up.  That moment always makes me feel like — well, Cher! (With some regret, I have to say this is the only time I ever feel like Cher.)
Our friend, the former columnist, author of a coming book on The Met, and opera lover, Jeannie Williams, sent over the following about a special opera-related evening.  I thought I’d pass it along because we haven’t had any on-the-spot opera items in ages, it’s interesting, and maybe somebody at the Met will remember when we did cover that art form, and extend an invitation. Too obvious?  I’ve always said, if you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.

Here is Jeannie:

“The Opera News Awards gala dinner at The Plaza last Sunday, April 9th was a lovefest for favorite opera stars Frederica von Stade and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who presented her best mate "Flicka", as von Stade is known, with her prize. Broadway's Kelli O'Hara, who has a Met role next season, sang from "My Fair Lady" and "The Bridges of Madison County" but Winthrop Rutherfurd Jr., Metropolitan Opera Guild chairman, did not, despite Flicka's telling the crowd she recalled his singing from 45 years ago ("Old Man River"). (Win and Richard J. Miller Jr., Guild president, still have a group that sings at private clubs.)

“It was a night of subbing for ill presenters; Renee Fleming popped in to present to Robert Carsen, director of the new Met "Der Rosenkavalier", which opened last night; Fleming sings the Marschallin who will lose her young lover. The star soprano took a moment to say that despite reports, she is NOT retiring from the opera stage: "I'm a workaholic!" 

Yannick Nezet-Seguin, future Met music director was ill and mezzo Elina Garanca, who sings with that young male lover, stepped up to present and accept for him. Latvian Garanca, always outspoken, quipped that now she has Yannick's award so he will have to call her and she can ask him about future Met roles! (She was the only one who made a reference to our current president, indirectly, referencing her orange makeup in a Met "Carmen" with Yannick.) 
A photo of Yannick Nezet-Seguin and Elina Garanca played on the big screen while Elena accepted his award.
“Opera News editor in chief F. Paul Driscoll presented to soprano/Long Island native Christine Goerke, a future Met Brunnhilde. Goerke's Twitter handle is "heldenmommy," and she recalled meeting her husband online, as well as giving a shoutout to the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Program. Former Met GM Joe Volpe subbed for ill Anna Netrebko to present to tenor Matthew Polenzani, who was quite emotional. He also told a funny story about being so nervous stepping into Rosenkavalier in 2000, with a stagehand pointing out pink stains on his music from a lozenge that Pavarotti had sucked!  Polenzani was outstanding in the recent "Idomeneo".
"heldenmommy" accepting her Opera News Award.
Frederica von Stade accepting her Award.
Matthew Polenzani accepting his Award.
“Editor Driscoll cooks too — he will be sous chef in a live-auction item of a private dinner to be made by countertenor Anthony Roth-Costanza, who is in fact a master chef —  even makes his own ricotta; that item went for $8,000 under the gavel of Christie's Robbie Gordy. A Met Orchestra private chamber concert went for $10,000, and one by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe for $11,000. Driscoll reminded guests of Christie's June auctions to benefit the Met Guild and Met Opera. On June 15, 90 lots of rare musical manuscripts and memorabilia will be sold, and on June 20, two unusual pieces will be offered in the Magnificent Jewels auction.”
Matthew Polenzani adds his signature to the Opera News cover that will later be up for auction.

Contact Liz here.