Friday, March 3, 2017

LIZ SMITH: The Talk

Cher with the The Talk hosts wearing her iconic looks. "I love these outfits!"
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

In Bed With Cher — And Turner Classic Movies ... Glenn Close Conquers Broadway Again ... "Ushering" in Jon Steiger. (Remember the name.)

“I WAS taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy,” said Madame Curie.
I DON’T know how many of you saw Cher on “The Talk” earlier this week.  The chat show devoted an entire hour to the goddess, her current Vegas residency and forthcoming “Classic Cher” tour.

Cher does not suffer fools gladly.  So I have no idea if she thought any of the hosts, or the Cher impersonators who popped up, or the questions she was peppered with were fools or foolish, but she was as game as a gal could be, full of merry good cheer, no matter what she was asked.  She looked terrific.  When footage was shown of her, performing her current concert, Sharon Osbourne said, “You know, when they first ran this for us, I said ‘No, no, wrong, this is from years ago!  I was stunned when they told me it’s from Vegas, last week!” 
My favorite part was when Cher revealed her favorite thing to do alone:  “Get into bed and ... watch Turner Classic Movies!”  And she’s not kidding.

I’ll never forget sitting with her for an hour backstage before a show some years back.  We just talked movies. Her knowledge is encyclopedic and spot-on. I almost fell off the couch when she launched into a brilliant critique of Marilyn Monroe’s performance in “The Prince and the Showgirl,” which ended with Cher saying, in definitive tones that brooked no argument, “Now, that was an Oscar worthy performance.”  She got no argument from me.
Monroe in "The Prince and the Showgirl." Cher thought she deserved an Oscar. We go where Cher goes!
Cher, she really is the one and only. She said on “The Talk” — “I guess these ‘farewell’ tours have to end sometime.”   But her expression said, “Not really.”   (Cher is always resistant to start working again, lots of insecurity and procrastination.  But then — watch out, she can’t be stopped.)

Also, asked what the least true rumor about her is, she laughed: “Uh, that I’m dying! They’ve have me on my deathbed for over a year.”  (Longer than that, actually.  I recall the “Last Days of Cher” tabloid tales three years ago.)
WHENEVER I’M out and about these days, one of the inevitable questions I am asked is: “Have you seen Glenn in ‘Sunset Boulevard?’”  (No last name.  I mean, are Glenn Beck or Glenn Greenwald warbling “As If We Never Said Goodbye” on Broadway?)   Alas, the answer, so far, is no.

On the morning of Glenn’s opening, it was snowing madly; news reports said it would get worse. I decided not to brave what was being advertised as an epic adventure in slipping and sliding. As it happened, things didn’t turn out so bad.  But by the time that was clear, I’d given up my ticket, and it was surely snatched away, instantly.
Glenn Close reprising her Tony Award-winning role as Norma Desmond.
So I have had to abide by the unanimous raves of critics, especially my friend Ben Brantley of the New York Times, to gauge the extent of Miss Close’s second triumph in the role of Norma Desmond. (Not to mention all the people I know who have seen it, and fall about describing the star’s brilliance.)

Clenn in 1993 production of “Sunset Boulevard."
I had the good fortune to see Glenn when she played “Sunset Boulevard”  in Los Angeles, in 1993, prior to Broadway.  It was a Barbara Davis charity event performance, and almost everybody who was anybody was there.  Almost, because it was not quite opening night — that would come a few days later, on December 9th.  (I recall the tumult around Elizabeth Taylor and her hubby Larry Fortensky — 20 years her junior — the night I attended the show. I wondered if Elizabeth saw anything of herself in the onstage tale of the movie star and her young lover.  But then, watching as Taylor was buffeted and chased by the paparazzi, I realized how could she find any similarity; Norma Desmond had been forgotten. La Liz?  Not at all.)

The star, Miss Close, was a revelation. I’d seen Patti LuPone — very good indeed! — in the London production of “Sunset” and even became a part of that drama, when Patti poured out her unhappiness to me over not being chosen to bring the show to America.  But, everybody’s bruised feelings healed — more or less.

Glenn was spectacular and in “real life” off-stage, it amazed me at how youthful and attractive she was, what a transformation had been wrought through her performance, and the costuming, lighting and makeup.

Almost a year later, Glenn would open “SB” on Broadway to rave reviews and a Tony Award.  Once again, backstage and at the opening night party, I noted her exquisite unlined skin, and a body that wouldn’t quit, in a close-fitting gown.  It brought me up sharp that she had performed a miracle onstage.
Glenn and Andrew Lloyd Webber at the New York opening of Sunset Boulevard in 1994.
Now, 25 years later, more “age appropriate” (although still looking damn good as herself) Glenn has done it again.  New York is at her feet, and from what I glean from reviews, from friends who have seen it, she has brought something even more vivid and poignant to the role. 

Don’t be foolish, as I was.  Don’t allow weather — or even an impending threat of apocalypse — keep you from seeing Glenn Close in “Sunset Boulevard” at the Palace Theatre.  I do hope to see her before this run ends. I love the theater, and I love that it is simply booming these days.
I did happily attend the opening night of “Sunday in the Park with George” (there was a cloud in the sky, but I ignored it) and found myself reassessing what I believed was not a favorite Sondheim musical.  And, on April 20th, even if there’s a meteor shower, I intend to be part of the hysterical opening night audience for Bette Midler’s “Hello, Dolly!”  Yes, I am expecting hysteria.  This will be, after all, the very first time Bette has starred in a Broadway musical.  (The TV spots for Midler and “Dolly!” have been brilliant, by the way.)

Long live the theater!
Jon Steiger.
SPEAKING of the opening night of “Sunday in the Park with George,” I’ve been meaning to give a thankful shout-out to one of the ushers, who was particularly attentive and good-natured on that tumultuous and revelatory evening.  I ran into him again at the New York Public Library after-party for the Sondheim revival.  His name is Jon Steiger, actor/writer/artist.  (That’s what it says on his card, which he had handy.) 

So, he’s a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, has worked in theater, TV, web series.  His resume is chock full of varied projects — apparently he can play Shakespeare and sing, too! (tenor).

Special skills include juggling, parkour, Irish, English and Cockney dialects.  He paints, draws, builds sets, and can whip up an amazing caramel corn.  Also, he makes a good impression on folks. Obviously.

Jon Steiger — remember the name.  
From usher to star in just 4 weeks!

Contact Liz here.