Monday, September 18, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Tis The Season To Be Honored

Bing Crosby with Judy Garland, the "most talented woman” he’d ever worked with.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Tis The Season To Be Honored — Just Ask Sean Penn, Robert De Niro, And Kenny Rogers; Loretta Swit’s Animal Alliance; JUDY! JUDY! JUDY! (And Bing!); The Big News in Vanity Fair

“AWARDS are lovely and always welcome,” said the great actor Max von Sydow.
Max von Sydow in Hour of the Wolf (1968)
TIS the season to be honored, apparently — and this is even before the “official” season begins, with Golden Globe, Oscar and SAG campaigning.  (Last night Emmy gave out its statuettes — we’ll chat on that tomorrow.)

A few of those who are receiving “lovely, welcome” awards include:

... Sean Penn, at the Mill Valley Film Festival on October 7th, in San Rafael, California. He will be honored for his screen work and, no doubt, his humanitarian efforts. Visit
... On October 12th, at the Hudson River Park Gala, Robert De Niro, Michael L. Corbat (CEO, Citi) and Justin Sadrian (managing director, Warburg Pincus) will be feted.  The big draw (for me, anyway) is a performance by Gloria Gaynor. For ticket/tables inquiries contact
... Kenny Rogers will be celebrated on October 25th at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.  This will be a “farewell” concert, featuring the likes of Reba McEntire, Chris Stapleton, Lady Antebellum, Wynonna and Naomi Judd, Idina Menzel, Alison Krauss, The Flaming Lips, and of course Kenny’s frequent onstage partner, Dolly Parton. (The press release promises “the final performance together” by the pair.)  For all details on this event — which will be televised — go to or
... And on November 9th, in Beverly Hills, the divine Kate Winslet will receive the “Actors Inspiration Award” from the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.  This happens at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.  Also being honored — Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and producer/director Judd Apatow.  For more info go to
OH, and here is a date to save, right here in Manhattan. On Friday, October 20th, at Sardi’s restaurant, the SwitHeart Gala Fundraising party happens.  This is a terrific event put on by actress Loretta Swit’s Animal Alliance, created to prevent cruelty and help end animal suffering. Ms. Swit’s concern for animals is wide-ranging — domestic, farm, exotic, wild and native.  This is an easy, fun thing — casual dressy (you know what that means — don’t stress!), full bar, edibles and a light dinner, live music.  If you care for the creatures of our world, email  or
JUDY! JUDY! JUDY!  Until Capitol Records comes along with a complete and deluxe set of Miss Garland’s albums, singles, outtakes and likely unreleased songs from that label we must content ourselves with other astonishing Garland releases. 

I do mean the current “Judy Garland: Classic Duets.” This four-CD set features 251 offerings!  There are songs from her MGM movies, with Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly, Charles Winninger, Tony Martin, etc.

But the bulk of the collection concentrates on her radio work, specifically with Bing Crosby — there are also luscious and rare collaborations with Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mercer.  But Garland and Crosby enjoyed such a terrific rapport, you can feel — hear! — the respect and affection they had for each other. (Much of her work with Bing came after her final dismissal from MGM.  She needed the money and the exposure and he gave it to her.  Later, Crosby would declare that Judy was the “most talented woman” he’d ever worked with.) 
Garland and Crosby.
Garland’s radio work — duets and solos — are perhaps the most interesting aspect of her long and glorious career.  On radio (as she did later on her controversial TV series) she performed many numbers she’d never do again, or officially record.  And, in peak voice! 

Check out this gem of a CD  on Amazon.  It is remarkably well-priced.  And even if it was twice the amount, well worth it. 
I KNOW the “big” news in the current issue of Vanity Fair is the cover story on actress Meghan Markle, the beloved of Prince Harry.  She seems a lovely girl, although it was only recently I realized who she was — one of the cast members of a popular show I rarely watch, “Suits.” She plays Rachel, girlfriend to one of the cute lawyers.  (When I have caught it, I’ve been more impressed by Sarah Rafferty who appears as the super-efficient Donna, as well as the astonishing scenery chewing delivered by Rick Hoffman as Louis.)

But Markle’s in-between fame/career is perfect for a relationship or marriage to Harry.  She’s not overwhelming.  And for sure that interview by Sam Kashner with beautiful but careful shots of Miss Markle — no cleavage, no legs, no kink—were all conducted with an eye out for, and the possible approval of, Queen Elizabeth. Good luck, Godspeed to Meghan and Harry, who seem wonderfully well-suited.

However, it was the VF excerpt from Jeff Fager’s coming book, “Fifty Years of 60 Minutes: The Inside Story of Television’s Most Influential News Broadcast” that moved me.  Particularly for this description of the late, and very much missed Mike Wallace:

“Mike Wallace was an imposing figure at 60 Minutes. He was edgy, fun, compassionate, occasionally mean, full of life, and difficult to work with. When he was around, everyone knew it. If you had gained a few pounds, he would remind you. If he didn’t like your story from that past Sunday, he would tell you. If he liked it, he would tell you that too.

“He kept everyone on his or her toes whether you were on his team or not. And if you were on his team — and I was not — the rest of us considered you with a mix of respect and pity. Mike expected his producers and associate producers to make him and 60 Minutes the No. 1 priority in their lives. He would call at all hours and be mad if they were with their families and unavailable. He would go out with them on a story and complain the entire time that the story was not good enough — certainly not as good as they had told him it was. He would second-guess, pull practical jokes, yell, laugh, and punish everybody around him: the producer, the subject of the story, Don Hewitt, his son Chris, or his stepdaughter, my pal Pauline. He would walk into an office, measure its dimensions, and inform the occupant that the office of her rival was two feet bigger. And here’s the best part; almost everyone loved being around him.” 

Correct! Also, hearing from him on the phone, writing to him, and receiving his witty, wry responses.  A light in this world went out when he left.

And as author Fager notes, Mike’s battle with depression, his eventual openness, was incredibly helpful to others — others much less publicly self-assured — who struggle with this disorder. 
Contact Liz here.