Wednesday, September 13, 2017

LIZ SMITH: The Times They Are A-Changin'

Charles Busch striking his "Bob Dylan" look back in the day stripped of feminine attire
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Charles Busch Sings the Sixties ... Doris Day Honored in her
Hometown ... Brevity Becomes Armie Hammer. 

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

Bob Dylan on the cover of "Times They Are A-Changin."
Who of a certain age — oh, any, age, really — doesn’t know these Bob Dylan lyrics to his great 1964 song?

And who hasn’t covered it?  Everyone from Nina Simone to Simon and Garfunkle, Peter, Paul and Mary, Phil Collins, Bruce Springsteen, The Bryds, Tracy Chapman, Eddie Veder, Richie Havens, Franky Perez and Los Gaurdianes del Bosque, Josephine Baker and now — ta-da! — Charles Busch.

Playwright/actor Busch — Tony nominee, Drama Desk Lifetime Achievement honoree, two-time MAC Award Award winner, and al-around adorable human — will soon tackle the Dylan classic along with songs composed by Henry Mancini, Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach, the Beatles, Kander and Ebb, Sondheim, etc.  This melodic mélange happens at Feinstein’s 54 Below, where Busch often appears.  His latest act is titled “Charles Busch: My Kinda 60’s.” 

Charles will tell tales of his New York childhood and his now-famous Aunt Lillian, who gave him encouragement and perhaps left a tube of Max Factor Pan-Stick lying about, for curious inspection/application. Busch will be accompanied on his journey with his longtime musical director and arranger, Tom Judson — a marquee name if there ever was one!
Charles Busch and his Aunt Lillian.
You can catch this unique and personal glimpse at a tumultuous — and musically diverse — decade on October 17, 19, 20, 21.  Seven p.m. Visit

Way back in 1987, I first experienced Charles Busch in “Psycho Beach Party.” (Friends who had seen him in “She-Bitch of Byzantium” and “Kiss the Blood off My Castanets” had urged me to travel downtown.)  It would be a few years before we knew him personally.  I thought then, “clever, so clever ... but can he sustain?” 
Charles in the Off Broadway production of “Psycho Beach Party” in 1987.
Charles (with Kimberley Davies) in the 2000 film version.
Cut to the year 2000 and “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” and I felt like a proud parent as he took his “Author! Author!” bows with his cast, Linda Lavin, Tony Roberts and Michele Lee.

And here we are, 2017 — Busch is now an assured cabaret performer/raconteur, whether in sequins or a sweater and slacks.  He has transformed, he has indeed sustained. 

... ON September 27th, the city of Cincinnati, will honor home girl Doris Day who has never won an Oscar!!!!! — on September 27th at City Hall. Details are a bit sketchy, but this is what we know — a street may be named in her honor, there will be a screening of “Pillow Talk” at the Esquire Theater, and a fundraiser for her Doris Day Animal Foundation on the 28th.  Clips from DD’s films will also rotate on screens at a Cincinnati video store, which will also serve “Day-inspired drinks.”  (Watch out for the “Love Me or Leave Me” margarita!) 

Miss Day — who has never won an Oscar!!!! — deserves every honor she gets.
Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk, 1959.
... REMEMBER the other day we told you about the re-release of the Rolling Stones album “Their Satanic Majesties Request”?

Well, here’s more Stones news of a sort.  On every Thursday of next month at NYC’s Pangea club, singer (and “scabrous satirist” as the NY Times has called her) Tammy Faye Starlite will perform “Just a Kiss Away: Tammy Faye sings the Jagger/Richards Songbook.” 

She will interpret a different Stones album each week, beginning with “Beggar’s Banquet.”  (She’ll also perform “Let it Bleed, “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street.”  The press release notes “most of it,” referring to the latter album.)

For tix and info visit
ENDQUOTE:  “Didn’t you date a 19-year-old when you were 60?”  That was actor Armie Hammer’s brief Twitter response to James Woods, after Woods expressed his displeasure with the new, acclaimed, gay-themed movie, “Call Me By Your Name,” in which Hammer stars.

Woods had sent out the message: “As they quietly chip away the last barriers of decency.”  Woods hashtagged his tweet “#NAMBLA.”   That is an acronym for the North American Man Boy Love Association, which the vast majority of gay people disdain. (Woods was going for the all-homosexuals-are-pedophiles theme. Charming.)
Timothée Chalamet  and Armie Hammer in “Call Me By Your Name."
“Call Me By Your Name” concerns a 24-year-old (played by Hammer) who has a romantic relationship with a 17-year-old (Timothée Chalamet).  Advance buzz has been rapturous. It is set to open in November.

Woods, who is now a cranky 70, has always been known for his taste in much younger women.  In fact, actress Amber Tamblyn jumped into the fray by claiming Woods had once hit on her and a friend when they both 16.  Woods says absolutely not so.  I don’t care. (And Mr. Woods is entitled to his unpleasant, sight-unseen opinion on “Call Me By Your Name,” by the way.)
But Hammer is my new hero, simply for the brevity and laser beam preciseness of his response.  (I’ve also admired Mr. Hammer in “The Social Network,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” and “J. Edgar.”  He has been forgiven for “The Lone Ranger.”)  I hope Hammer just lets his initial remarks stand and declines to be drawn into a tiresome “Twitter feud.”

Which brings me — Denis Ferrara — to my own experience with Woods. More years ago than I care to contemplate I interviewed him.  Time and tide has washed away the memory of whatever film he was promoting.  He was already something of a controversial figure, in the wake of suing actress Sean Young for “stalking” him.  He was also known for his pursuits of women and pride in his ... equipment.  A press rep I knew at the time made me a bet that at some point, Woods would mention his endowment.  I laughed that off and took the bet.  After all, how could that be relevant to any conversation we might have? 
Sean Young and James Woods in "The Boost."
I met with Woods, who was charming and smart.  If he was a rabid conservative at the time, it didn’t show, and discussing politics wasn’t on the agenda anyway.  But at some point, in what was admittedly a jolly chat, he did indeed mention his package — the colorful phrase “like a beer can” stuck with me.  I laughed.  I wasn’t shocked or offended, a bit surprised however — and hated to spend the money taking my prescient friend to dinner at Le Cirque later that week.  I also wondered that if my boss Liz Smith had conducted the interview would Mr. Woods have been so free with what was a rather pointless revelation. Although no prude, she is, after all, a lady. (I suppose Mr. Woods concluded I was no gentleman!)

When it came time to write up the interview, I carefully included Mr. Woods’ prideful reference. Our editors cut it. 

I think they referred to his boasting as more or less “chipping away at the last barriers of decency.” 
Contact Liz here.