Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rex Reed's Remembrances

Emmanuelle Riva, star of the groundbreaking 1959 film, Hiroshima Mon Amour.
Last week in the New York Observer our favorite film and theatre critic (and columnist/novelist/actor) Rex Reed published his annual obits list of those we lost in the year just gone by. I’m a habitual reader of obituaries, a habit I got from my mother (although I never understood her interest when I was a kid). You can learn a lot about the world in them. Rex’s list is full and rich and you can learn a lot just in his short comments about many of those he eulogizes.

The following few items are some of those he’s written about in the column “Remembrances” published on January 1st — Obituaries by Rex Reed: Everyone (Who’s Anyone) Who Died in 2017

Excerpted from the column:

Traditionally, I begin each new year with goodbye. So before plunging in for some hearty new hellos for  things to come, let's raise a farewell glass to the movers and shakers of the year just ending who will not be around to share the wonder and hope of the year ahead. 

In one of the coldest winters in American history, bumper stickers on the icy, dangerous roads read “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”.  To the tune of “Autumn Leaves”, the days grow shorter with each year, so we better make the most of each and every one of them.  I hope the next 365 days add up to more quality in the arts — not to mention more sanity in the politics of a country in crisis — than what we got in 2017, but tallying up the losses of the famous friends, foes and fools who waved “Adios” is not an encouraging sign.
Lester Persky, Rex Reed, and Liz Smith  photographed by Andy Warhol, circa 1978. 
This job is frustrating, and sometimes impossible.  How can I close the door on my friend and mentor, Liz Smith — or even find words adequate enough to express the impact her support and impact made on my life and career?  She gave me my first writing job in New York, published my first professional movie review, wrote the foreward to one of my books, defended and applauded my sometimes controversial opinions, and gave me valuable advice through thick or thin, remaining loyal and encouraging until the day she died in November, age 94.

A smart, sophisticated  New Yorker by adoption, but a Texas-born tumbleweed as warm, unpretentious and down-home as cornbread, she was unique in that she  could actually write with intelligence and wit, and uncommonly popular for a gossip columnist because on the rare occasion when she offended a bold-face name in print, she applied instant soothing salve to the wound, and all was forgiven. 

I wish I had a nickel for every margarita I shared with her in her favorite Mexican  joint on  the ground floor of her apartment building, and I will never forget her dinner parties, casual as a rodeo picnic, when everybody from Elizabeth Taylor to Barbara Walters watched her stir Texas cream  gravy and pound out her trademark chicken-fried steaks with a Coca-Cola bottle. I'll miss that drawl on the answer  machine: “Honey, call me back,  it's Lizzie.” There will never be another one like her and I miss  her already.
Liz after having enjoyed a margarita (or two) at El Rio Grande.
... We waved a heartbreaking musical “adieu” to the fabulous lyric soprano Barbara Cook, who never made a movie but who turned the musical stage into Technicolor by sounding like all the Heavenly angels rolled into one. After conquering Broadway, her second-act career as a cabaret diva made history from intimate watering holes to Covent Garden and Carnegie Hall. Her record albums are collector's items and she picked up a Kennedy Center honor in 2011. Many will try,  but there will never be another Barbara Cook.
... A few days apart, France surrendered some of its most beautiful  and enduring icons — Jeanne Moreau, the hauntingly alluring queen of French New Wave classics like La Notte and  Jules and Jim, who died a few months short of her 90th birthday; 100-year-old singer-actress Danielle Darrieux; and Emmanuelle Riva, star of the groundbreaking 1959 film Hiroshima Mon Amour, whose groundbreaking career as a doyenne of French cinema was at last rewarded in 2012 with her Oscar-nominated starring role in Amour.  They joined the massive Gallic exodus in 2017 that included Mireille Darc and Jean Rochefort.
Jeanne Moreau in La Notte, 1961.
Danielle Darrieux in La Fausse Maîtresse, 1942.
Emmanuelle Riva in Hiroshima Mon Amour, 1959.
Among the actors who galloped into the sunset in 2017 were Roger Moore, who played Agent 007 in seven James Bond movies ... (also, the) versatile John Heard; India's Bollywood star Om Puri; Jose Ferrer's son Miguel; Eddie Murphy's older brother Charlie; and Roger Smith, actor, manager and longtime husband of Ann-Margret, who helped me search the back stairs and rummage through the hotel trash bins the night my wallet was stolen in Chicago, and rescued me once in Vegas after I lost every dollar I had on the roulete wheel, stuffing my pockets with enough money to get myself to the airport.
Clockwise from top left: Roger Moore, John Heard, Om Puri, Roger Smith, Charlie Murphy, and Miguel Ferrer.
Ty Hardin, blonde hunk who re-defined the term  “beefcake” in forgettable TV cowboy shows and B movies, married 8 times, and fathered 10 children. We won't be seeing anyone again with the depth and range of chameleon-like character actor John Hurt, whose sensational turns on stage and film ran the gamut from Shakespeare to the Elephant Man. Best known as the wand expert in  the Harry Potter movies, he also earned cult status as flamboyant gay writer Quentin Crisp and the tragic  astronaut with the space serpent inside him in Ridley Scott's Alien.
Ty Hardin and John Hurt.
I will also miss Broadway's Thomas Meehan, a friend who threw great Christmas parties,  and a three-time Tony winner who penned the books for Annie, Rocky, and Hairspray, to name a few (when  he tackled The Producers, he toned down Mel Brooks' passion  for excessive bathroom humor and got even better reviews than  his boss) ...

And many more in the full Observer column.

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