Monday, November 26, 2012

LIZ SMITH: Pure as the driven slush!

The Week After Thanksgiving
by Liz Smith
Monday, November 26, 2012

“I’M AS pure as the driven slush!” said Tallulah.

Finally, an evening where we didn’t even need Tallulah.

I thought I was the world class expert on fundraising evenings, but last week I received a big surprise when I trekked west, almost to the Hudson River, where something called Espace was the scene of the 20th anniversary of the Abingdon Theater Company.

What a great night! One can’t always say that about charities raising money to keep going. People truly want to help and cooperate but most of these sizzlers fizzle out and are so boring! Not the Abingdon one.
Shirley Herz, Tyne Daly, Lucie Arnaz, Jan Buttram, and Lesley Gore at the 20th anniversary of the Abingdon Theater Company. Photos: Jennifer Broski.
The celebration of this unique off-B’way producer of first rate unique theatre had been called off at the last minute by Storm Sandy. So what were the chances that everybody would still show up for a re-figured date? Well, the funny thing is — they did.

So we had a great dinner and great evening and I got to celebrate the very first friend I ever made in the New York theater — my Tony winning press agent pal, the unique Shirley Herz. I have known her since 1954. Then, there is her main man Sam Altman, a former garment creator and a mainstay of the Abingdon. (He is kiddingly often styled — “Shirley’s husband from Scarsdale!”)
Shirley Herz, Liz Smith, Sam D. Altman, and Iris Love.
This personal touch was only the beginning. Laurence Luckinbill, one of most talented and undersung men in theater today, and his charming gifted wife Lucie Arnaz, were the emcees. The crazy blonde bombshell, Julie Halston (queen of “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom”) introduced me and I talked about Shirley.

Then to make matters glamourous we had none other than opera star Marilyn Horne who introduced the brilliant actress Tyne Daly. (This was fitting, for Tyne is one of the many big theater names who has assayed the role of Maria Callas from “Master Class.”)
Lucie Arnaz and Laurence Luckinbill.
Marilyn Horne. Jonathan Hadary.
And finally we had Ms. Daly herself, one of the independent Tony-winning stars of today and one of the nicest women in the business. (She won for “Gypsy” of course!) She chided herself onstage for “not writing something down” but she has no idea how good she is on her feet and just being informal. Her co-star from “Gypsy,” the wonderful Jonathan Hadary, sang to Tyne a song against “being nice.” This was written by Jules Styne. The song had never made it into a show.

And director Mark Waldrop, the mastermind oversee-er of such divas as Bette Midler, Bea Arthur, Betty Buckley, Judy Kaye, Brooke Shields, Sutton Foster, Karen Ziemba, was also onstage doing his stuff. He knows from famous women.
Julie Halston, Tom Mardirosian, and Rosie O'Donnell.
I can’t even recount how many nice people made this all happen but Taylor Brooks, Jan Buttram, Michael Deep, JoAnn “Toots” Mariano, Carole Monferdini, Pamela Paul, Bill Shuman were all there and many evoked the memory of the late great June Havoc who inspired the Abingdon in her time. Also I happily ran into some friends — Rosie O’Donnell, looking just glowing in spite of her recent heart scare, and the one and only lyricist Martin Charnin who has “Annie” open again at the Palace Theater. And there was Enid Nemy, formerly of the Times, now a benefactor of theater thru the Dorothy Strelsin Fund.
Natasha Lyonne and Sia Furler.
Sotheby’s and Christie’s should be looking up the man who arrived out of the blue, conducted an auction from the stage that raised thousands and he was surely the nerve-test surprise of the night. His name is Peter Brouwer and he’s an actor and was simply great!

I never paid much mind to the Abingdon Theater before, but now, I know I should have.

Theater groups such as this one are the people who discover and maintain young talent and fresh ideas and they have changed the nature of show business on Broadway and off.
SAVE the date of November 28th at Doubles for the 25th anniversary of Quest magazine’s “Collectors Edition.” Nostalgia may indeed be over-rated but editor Chris Meigher has done himself proud with this look-back at a publication founded by Heather Cohane.

Brooke Astor is on the cover and it seems everybody she ever knew is inside. There are reminiscences and photographs about and by everyone who ever considered themselves to be “anything.” I’ll just drop a few names: Dominick Dunne and Andy Warhol and Jerome Zipkin, you know, people who loathed and loved one another.

C.Z. Guest, Nan Kempner, Nancy Kissinger, Warner LeRoy, Glenn Birnbaum; they are seen from 1993 on. I glimpse Kennedys, Hearsts, Lauders, Laurens, Mortimers, Nivens, Boardmans, Dudleys, Paleys, de la Rentas, Petries, as well as the 1996 New York Yankees.

But, of course, there are Slim Aarons and Diana Vreeland, David Patrick Columbia, Jackie, Lee and Maurice Tempelsman, and someone named Liz has written a paean of praise for Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Also Suzy and George Plimpton and Tory Burch and Graydon Carter and Bronson van Wyck and Albert Hadley and Barbara Walters and the institutions like The New York Public Library, featured in a great antique photo ... the Metropolitan Museum ... the Costume Institute ... MOMA ... the Frick ... the Museum of Natural History and let’s not forget La Grenouille restaurant, an institution in itself.

You are all in there in all your glory. This is a real keeper, this Quest, and I liked “Society’s New 400” as it appeared back in 1995. Are you on the list?

Come to the party on Nov. 28; crash if you want to although Taki and Chris and DPC might toss you out on your ear. But you’ve had that happen before, haven’t you?

Contact Liz Smith here.

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