Thursday, June 22, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Telling Men What to Think

Dorothy Thompson, the "First Lady of American Journalism."
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Time for a Movie About the Great Journalist Dorothy Thompson.  Justin Bieber Makes History? It's Twue! It's Twue! Also — Hedy Lamarr ... Sherlock Holmes (the musical) ... Dita Von Teese, and Holly Peterson.

“IT WENT like this: If you happened to agree with what she said, you called her brilliant.  If you disagreed, you called her a shrill, self-righteous scold: because there had never been a woman like her before, and some people either could not or would not accept her unapologetically de-genderized professionalism ... she invented something remarkable for the era. Dorothy Thompson became The Woman Who Tells Men What to Think.”

Click to order The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication — From the Algonquin Round Table to Truman Capote’s Ball.
That is Ethan Mordden, writing about the great American journalist and radio broadcaster Dorothy Thompson, in his delicious 2010 book, “The Guest List: How Manhattan Defined American Sophistication — From the Algonquin Round Table to Truman Capote’s Ball.”

I’d read this book back when it was first published. I thought I’d give it another turn.  I’d forgotten how vivid and trenchant it is, with its tales of Mrs. Astor, Dorothy Parker, Ethel Waters, Walter Winchell, Cole Porter, Charles Lindbergh and some very smart ideas about who and what really “Killed Society.”

But this time around I was struck with Thompson’s story — her fierce battles, all she said and wrote that was presciently correct. And the one observation about Hitler, very early on, that wasn’t. (She called him “ill-poised, insecure, the very prototype of the Little Man.” She did not take him seriously in 1932.)  

And then there was her volatile marriage to the Nobel Prize-winning author Sinclair Lewis. Great stuff, what a woman, and what a movie her life could make.  Surely someone has?  But no, I checked; there was a short-lived Broadway play, Sherman Yellen’s “Strangers” but no screen treatment of this remarkable female. I say, it’s time. 
Sinclair Lewis and Dorothy Thompson during their honeymoon caravan trip in England, 1928.
As Ethan Mordden observes: “Famous women in the late 1930’s tended to be movie stars or perhaps Dorothy Parker ... Dorothy Thompson became a summoning term for her genre of woman when she was its only example.  Even today there is no one quite like her or as big as she was, with a reach so compelling that heads of state took her calls.” 

Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Alicia Vikander, Elisabeth Moss, etc. — there’s a role waiting for you!
27-year-old Dorothy Thompson in 1920.

... Hedy Lamarr is back!  Well, the amusing and interesting play, “Hedy! The Life and Inventions of Hedy Lamarr” is back in New York.  This one-woman show, starring and written by Heather Massie, takes a different look at the woman who famously said, “Any girl can be glamorous.  All you have to do is stand still and look stupid!”  
Lamarr was not only a gorgeous, six-times-married MGM movie star.  She had a brain, inventing a technology intended for use in World War II, but eventually it came in handy for all sorts of things we fiddle with today — such as cell phones and WiFi.  (I know it is at odds with her “I am Tondelayo” image, but that’s Hollywood myth-making for you.) 

“Hedy!” will be at the LaTea Theater (107 Suffolk Street) until June 30th.  Call 866-811-4111 or visit
... I NEVER really thought I'd ever use the words “makes history” in a story about Justin Bieber. But never say never.  The young pop star is, according to Billboard, the first act ever to have three top-selling downloads.  (It’s a different music world now, one of downloads and digital and streaming, etc.)  

Bieber is featured in “Despacito” with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee ... DJ Khaled’s “I’m The One” which also has help from Lil Wayne and Chance the Rapper, and David Guetta’s “2U.”  Now, I wouldn’t know one of these songs if it fell on my head, nor with the exception of Lil Wayne, do I recognize any of the artists.  But it’s nice to print a story about Justin that doesn’t involve taking his clothes off, or behaving foolishly. Or both.  And all this success — including last year’s “Sorry” smash — sure takes the curse off the forgotten boy band Hanson recently declaring that Bieber’s music is “venereal disease for the ears.”  They have apologized. 
... SHERLOCK Holmes is an evergreen character, always ripe for re-invention.  Look what it did in recent years for Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr.   Now, in Manhattan, we have the latest in Holmes.  It is a musical titled “My Dear Watson,” the official selection of the 2017 New York Musical Festival.  Written and composed by Jami-Leigh Bartschi and directed by John DiDonna, the show is set in the late 19th century — Holmes’ own era.
John DiDonna as Sherlock Holmes and Kyle Stone as Dr. John Watson. Photos: Chris Bridges.
It combines elements of three Sherlock mysteries.  It is a dramatic musical that seeks to look into the chilly, very elementary heart of the detective.  Starring Justin Mousseau, Kyle Stone, John DiDonna, Liz Curtis, Jason Blackwater and Jackson McLaskey, “My Dear Watson” — which is partially funded by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — runs until July 16th at Peter Jay Sharp Theater (416 West 42nd Street.)  Call 212-864-1414.
... FINALLY, those of you who appreciate a good ecdysiast (stripper, if you want to be obvious) know of the delectable Dita Von Teese, International Queen of Burlesque.  Well, she has added two additional shows to her North American tour.  “The Art of the Teese” kicks off in San Diego on July 5th. Dita will do two more shows in that city, and another in Anaheim, on July 30th.  I saw Dita do her stuff — in a giant champagne glass — about five years ago at an event here in New York.  It was amazing, glamorous and highly amusing. For info go to  
MY pal, Holly Peterson, scored again recently when she went to Bookhampton in Southampton to promote her new sexy novel “It Happens in the Hamptons.”

Holly has lived an eclectic life as heiress, world traveler-reporter at ABC News, a wife, mother of three brilliant children, hostess par excellence, and she invented a brand new word with her first novel, “The Manny.”

She turned Bookhampton into another party, refusing to self-aggrandize by reading aloud from her new book, insisting that one and all attending “just have a good time.”
Holly's " three babies" and dear friend Jenny Landey tearing through Holly's novel at Bookhampton.

Contact Liz here.