Thursday, July 13, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Shows and Tales

One of my prizes is the UPI photo Lauren Bacall gave me of herself and Elizabeth Taylor at Sardi's, circa 1981, laughing uproariously and with my caricature on the wall right behind them.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

“The Cher Show” — The Icon’s Tale, On Broadway — we have to wait just a bit. Also: “Claws” ... Lauren Bacall ... Gina Lollobrigida ... and rare Liz Taylor on TCM. 

“WE NEED the sweet pain of anticipation to tell us we are really alive,” said Albert Camus.
IF YOU didn’t think you could endure the “sweet pain” of  waiting until next year to see “The Cher Show,” a Broadway-bound musical based on the life of — you guessed it — Cher, you don’t have to. 

In October, in Manhattan, there will a “lab presentation” of the show.  I guess to work out any kinks, see how an audience responds, etc. 
Babe ...
The Cher Show is directed by Avenue Q and Pitch Perfect’s Jason Moore, with choreography by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli (Newsies, South Pacific) Flody Suarez and Hamilton’s Jeffrey Seller are producing the project.  The show’s book will be written by Rick Elice (Jersey Boys).  The score? Cher’s hits, of course!  From, “I Got You, Babe” to “Believe.”

Cher will be played by three different actresses, representing the icon at various points in her life.  The three Chers will be called “Babe,” “Lady” and “Star.”
Lady ...
I assume other important figures in Cher’s life will be portrayed as well — her mother, Georgia, Sonny Bono, without whom, it is safe to say there would be no Broadway-bound musical about Cher.  Perhaps Greg Allman, David Geffen and Rob Camiletti, as well? 

Maybe a cameo appearance by somebody supposed to be Madonna.  Please — can any tale of Cher ignore her classic remark on The Big M?  “I like her.  I think she’s very talented.  But why does she have to be such a c**t?”  Cher said this live, on morning TV.  It was quite a moment.

More than ever we need amusing distractions.  Now that I know I can see this — in some form — in three months, I will happily savor the “sweet pain” of anticipation.
And Star ...
AFTER TNT’s “Claws” debuted I wrote here that I enjoyed the series a lot, despite it being a bit of a hot mess.  Four episodes in it’s still kind of hot-messy but very entertaining. In last week’s episode, the series star Niecy Nash and her girls put a fabulous spin on Patti LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” — joyfully dancing to the song in their nail salon, while unknown to them, a terrible act of violence is happening — an interspersed segment of happiness and horror. 

I’ve already raved about Ms. Nash.  Now I want to offer shout outs to Carrie Preston as hopeless semi-hapless con-woman Polly.  She can serve homemade cupcakes with an icing of intimidation that is beyond delicious.  Also Judy Reyes as Quiet Ann, an unabashedly butch lesbian who does more with a half smirk or an eyebrow lift than others can convey with two pages of dialogue.
Niecy Nash, Jenn Lyon, Carrie Preston, and Judy Reyes in Claws.
WE GET MAIL: Inspired by our column of stellar quotes from the coming book “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet”  the theater’s Terry Hodge Taylor sent along this warm reminisce about our old friend Miss Lauren Bacall.  Terry writes:

“In the early 90's I was producing a Salute to Jimmy Nederlander at the Waldorf. Lauren Bacall accepted my request to emcee. In the early evening she arrived at the hotel walking thru the lobby shouting my name. She got to the ballroom ... waltzed right up to me and started screaming how ‘no one met me at the curb when my limo pulled up." I listened and walked her back stage to a table. She kept yelling in my ear. As I turned to my director Tony Stevens and asked him to tell her about the staging ... she finally said ‘Anyone with three names is Stupid!’
“Then she turned away and looked across the table ... staring back at Miss Bacall was ... Mary Tyler Moore. Miss Moore coolly said ‘Hello Lauren.’  I don’t recall if the rest of the evening went smoothly with Bacall, but for a moment at least she was silent and chastened.” 

(Everybody has a terrifying Bacall story.  She was a fabulous woman, and did mellow in time, but ... not easy.  My good friend, the PR woman Liz Rosenberg, has a Bacall tale to freeze the blood.  Maybe someday I’ll persuade her to allow me to tell it.)
SOMEBODY else wrote in to remind us that on July 4th, Gina Lollobrigida turned a still-vital 90 years old.  La Lollo, as she was affectionately known, became a huge international star in the 1950’s (“Beat the Devil,” “Trapeze,”) and carried that stardom well into the ‘60s (“Come September,” “Woman of Straw” “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell.”)  Although she never quite achieved the heights of her supposed “rival” Sophia Loren, Gina was charming, not without talent, and was indisputably one of the most beautiful women in the world in her prime — and what a body!
Gina Lollobrigida in “Trapeze."
That body is most fetchingly displayed in 1959’s “Solomon and Sheba.” This howler exists only to gape at La Lollo at her peak.  (Yul Brynner replaced Tyrone Power as Solomon, after Power suffered a fatal heart attack during filming.) Yul is awful, but Gina, as The Queen of Sheba, goes much further.  She’s sublimely ridiculous, not one word is convincing.  It’s terrific. Her costumes, made out of tissue paper, are glued to her, and when she dances to her pagan god, showing as much skin as 1959 allowed, her hypnotic hips cause an onscreen earthquake. (No doubt in real life, there was some quivering at the drive-ins.) You can watch this one with the sound off.  It’s a visual valentine to Gina.
Lollobrigida as The Queen of Sheba.
Finally, our friend Bill Goulding emailed, telling that Elizabeth Taylor is “Turner Classic Movies “Star of the Month.”  The news out of this is that TCM is showing a Taylor rarity, along with all the better known classics.  This is “Night Watch” ET’s 1973 thriller (her only venture into that genre). It is based on the hit Lucille Fletcher Broadway play.  Miss Taylor, dressed to the nines by Valentino, plays a woman who insists she’s seen a murder.  “Why won’t anybody believe me?!” she shrieks, tossing masses of hair and chewing vigorously on the exquisite décor of her London townhouse. Laurence Harvey, Liz’s old “Butterfield 8” co-star, is her patient but dubious hubby. Tons of fun. With a twist. 
Now, if only TCM could obtain some of Taylor’s other entertaining oddities from the '70s — “X, Y and Zee,” “Ash Wednesday” “Hammersmith is Out,” “The Driver’s Seat” or even the unfairly maligned “A Little Night Music.”  I suppose I could throw in “The Bluebird” just to be totally perverse. And I might as well include 1980’s “The Mirror Crack’d,” which has a very good Taylor, and a hilarious Kim Novak. (Not kidding — it’s a comic turn for the ages.)
Liz in “X, Y and Zee."
Liz in “Ash Wednesday.”
Liz in “Hammersmith is Out.”
Liz in “The Driver’s Seat."
Liz in “A Little Night Music.” 
Liz and Kim Novak in “The Mirror Crack’d."
Taylor does some very interesting, always entertaining work in this High Rococo period of her career (which actually began in the late 1960s with “Boom!” and “Secret Ceremony.”)

Taylor’s box-office had inevitably fizzled but she was having a hell of a time in these films.  As Pauline Kael put it, reviewing “X Y and Zee” — “she is finally enjoying being a movie star on screen.”

OK, TCM, you have your assignment. 
Contact Liz here.