Tuesday, January 17, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Urban Myth or Big Fat Lie?

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Liz, Michael, Marlon — Urban Myth or Big Fat Lie? Also — The Goods Works of the Versailles Foundation.

“A LIE can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” said pastor Charles Spurgeon.
THE STRENUOUS condemnation last week by Paris Jackson, daughter of the late pop icon Michael Jackson, has apparently resulted in Britain’s Sky News pulling its “satire” about Michael, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor fleeing Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks.

This TV episode, based on a tale first published a number of years ago in Vanity Fair magazine, is part of an anthology series titled “Urban Myths.”
Paris — Doing right by her father.
There was considerable controversy last year when news surfaced about the casting of Michael.  He is portrayed by Joseph Fiennes.  Much was made of a white man playing an African American, but that was part of the “satire’ you see, said the producers, because Michael had so radically transformed himself with misguided plastic surgeries. Hilarious, yes?  No.
However, Paris, in her latest statements, did not mention race. Rather, she focused on the indignity of further propagating a lie, a complete and utter falsehood.  She also defended Elizabeth. (It would have been nice if somebody from Taylor’s side had jumped into the fray at any point. Perhaps her four children just didn’t want to draw attention to it.)

Marlon and Elizabeth, and several hundred other celebrities were in New York when the terrorist attack happened, all gathered for a big Jackson concert at Madison Square Garden. It was a wacky and surreal event; a fantastic goulash of new and vintage stars, some of whom had no idea why they’d been invited! Like so many mere mortals, the celebs, too, were trapped in the stunned city.
Elizabeth and Debbie were at the St. Regis Hotel after the attacks.
I DON’T  know the exact whereabouts of Marlon and Michael, but I do know Elizabeth was at the St. Regis Hotel for about a week after the attacks.  She took in Debbie Reynolds (also in for the Jackson extravaganza) because as ET said, “I have more room here, please come.”  And when Debbie had to leave New York to make a nightclub engagement, Taylor arranged, through her ex-husband, Senator John Warner, to have Reynolds flown out.  Now, if Elizabeth could use her power like that, why in hell would she try to “escape” by car? 

The thing is, people actually believe the escape tale. It infuriates me.  Elizabeth was not much for enduring physical pain — she suffered so much of it, and usually fell back on various palliatives. To the end of her life, painkillers were a part of her life.

But, as Richard Burton once noted, Elizabeth was an utterly fearless woman, physically and emotionally. She was not the type to run away from a dangerous or unpleasant situation.  If she could face down Hedda Hopper (“I think it’s time for you to just shut the f**k up!”)  and demand, seriously, “Can I sue the Pope?” after being condemned by the Vatican, a terrorist attack was not going to send her into a panic.
“I think it’s time for you to just shut the f**k up!”
Also, by 2001, La Liz’s physical condition had begun to decline precipitously; she was hardly up for a “road trip.”  Ditto the fragile Michael and the massive Mr. Brando. All three traveled with secretaries, assistants for this and that, family members, doctors. The entourages would just allow them to go, vanish onto the highway? Sure.

I’m still shocked — and not Claude Rains, “I’m shocked, shocked!” from “Casablanca” — that terrific actors whom I respect, Mr. Fiennes, Stockard Channing (who plays Elizabeth) and Brian Cox, as Brando, agreed to this. I can’t believe any of them need money so badly.   Unless all bear various animus toward the three dead icons that we are not aware of?
I’M UP for satire. I accept an amusing or creative  frisson of mythology when it comes to legends. Sometimes, oddly, the myth is more accurate or more representative than the truth. Particularly when dealing with film stars and entertainers, creatures of smoke and mirrors and their own self-created, self-protective images.  But an outright, degrading lie, that makes these people look like cowards and nuts?  That’s NOT entertainment.
Also — minor stuff, but I’m just pissed off.  In this thing, Elizabeth is shown as driving the car.  Folks, Elizabeth Taylor hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car for years, believe me.  And, the fictional Taylor is shown with familiar dark hair.  But in fact, at the time, the real-life Elizabeth was going through one of her ill-advised blonde phases. (Although I must say, when she got up on stage at Madison Square Garden to introduce Michael, she looked marvelous and was in sprightly spirits, working a fuchsia feather boa like a burlesque cutie.) 

There! I got that off my chest. Watch — tomorrow I’ll read that the damn show has been picked up by Netflix! 
DID YOU know that the splendid bedroom of King Louis XVI at Versailles is being restored?

He was the most unfortunate of the Louis’ who ruled France.  The one who was forced from Versailles, and eventually beheaded at the height of the French Revolution. (The French thought freedom was a great thing, and decided to free as many heads from shoulders as possible, in pursuit of “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!”) 
King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette, and the dauphin.
Louis wasn’t a bad guy, just ineffectual and clumsy — he didn’t want to be king, at all.  But timing and marriage is everything, and Louis was married to the unfairly despised Marie Antoinette.  She was blamed for hundreds of years of financial mismanagement, poverty and anything else that could be thrown at her.  She, too, lost her head. (Having spent the first six years of her marriage as an anxious virgin, Marie became something of a shopaholic. Later — but too late — she calmed down.)
The King's Bed Chamber. The courtiers would gather behind the golden rail in front of the bed at the King's rising and retiring ceremonies — they could get no closer to their sovereign.
Louis XVI also was the king who funded and sent forth Lafayette to help win our own country’s fight for independence from the British Empire.  (I’d say the irony was not lost on Louis when his own countrymen revolted, but irony wasn’t his strong suit.  He liked making clocks and locks and forging things, like an ordinary man. He enjoyed huge meals. Mostly, he was confused.)

But Louis’ bedchamber is not the only part of Versailles being refurbished.  Statuary in the famous park outside the palace is being spruced up.  The Versailles Foundation is doing this job, and Barbara de Portago, the foundation’s president, is urging her friends to lend a hand, or a buck or two.  Her efforts make our old world a better-looking historical place.
For instance, there’s a project ongoing to re-bind the entirety of Claude Monet’s personal library. Another to restore all of Fredrick the Great’s clocks. The Versailles Foundation also wrote up the entire Watteau Collection at the Frick Museum in New York.

The Versailles Foundation is non-profit tax-exempt and does important cultural work. Think about contributing. 420 Lexington Avenue, NYC 10170.
The Versailles & Giverny Foundation completed the restoration of Claude Monet's first studio in 2011.
Contact Liz here.