Guest Diary

LIZ SMITH: Celebrating George and Barbara

This image of Barbara Walters in 1965 was reproduced on one of the throw pillows in the Rainbow Room for her 85th birthday celebration.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
by Liz Smith

George Clooney DID Get Married — Who Lost Their Bet?! ... Celebrating Barbara Walters.

“ONE OF the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he could do what he was afraid to do,” said Henry Ford.
A LOT of money changed hands this weekend. Many people had to fork over cash, buy dinners, roll their eyes and say, “you won!” Some probably had to negotiate out of “If it happens, I’ll sleep with you!”

I do mean the marriage of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin.

And although I wouldn’t make any bets or promises on it myself, there’s no denying I didn’t see an actual wedding coming. (I read somewhere that Leonardo DiCaprio would probably arrive by helicopter, toss George a rope, and pull his pal into the chopper, which would be packed with gorgeous twentysomething models.) Married once, George seemed serene in his relaxed, glamorous bachelorhood. He behaved beautifully with the women who accompanied him often enough to receive the “girlfriend” title. He stuck around, didn’t play the field. He seemed to move smoothly on to the next, with no rancor from either side — a class act. (No nude pix. No ridiculous confessions or denunciations.)

Conservatives dislike him because he is an outspoken celebrity liberal. His behavior is always smart, spot-on and non-salacious. He has a brain. He has a heart, and also terrific parents, Nina and Nick Clooney, whom he adores. George put the icing on the cake of his celebrity when he began making smart, upscale films with meaning, while still doing his handsome leading man stuff, too.

When Clooney announced his engagement to Amal, I couldn’t help thinking of Warren Beatty. Warren, also a big movie star, was a much more high-profile Lothario. He romanced many famous women, from Natalie Wood to Leslie Caron to Julie Christie to Diane Keaton to Madonna. (Clooney seemed to stick with model-types.) Warren, the world assumed, would never settle down. Then he met Annette Bening and before Hollywood could gasp, they were married and soon having children.
Joined by his parents and sister, bride Amal Alamuddin's brother, and several other relatives and close friends, Clooney sets sail for the Aman Canal Grande Venice hotel for his wedding ceremony on Saturday.
There are differences, of course. Warren married another actor. George has married a lawyer. The issue of children is up in the air. Prior to his marriage to Miss Bening, Warren never indicated a great longing to procreate. But — surprise! — the fertile Annette produced four offspring. Warren was 55 when he married Bening. Clooney is 52. His bride is 36. Obviously, the kiddie window is still open.

In any case, Mr. Clooney is not only one of my favorite actors, he is one of the favorite people I have come to know in a long career of “knowing” actors and other famous souls.
He never seems false, or forced or awkward. He says what he wants to say when he wants to say it. He does what he wants to do when he does it. He has been unrelentingly nonchalant through decades of speculation about his private life. I admire him so much.

Dear George and Amal — best wishes, all happiness.
The birthday girl all glammed up outside the Rainbow Room for her 85th birthday bash.
THE powerhouse names of little old New York got together last week and tossed a birthday party for Barbara Walters, the working girl to end all stories of working girls, still thriving after these many years.

When B.W. herself stood up at her No. 1 table (all the tables were No. 1) to thank her hostesses and the room, she referred to "my 85th birthday" and then chided the attendees for not shouting back "no!" at her. She looked about 40 and I think was a vision in grey and pink. She was seated between former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Dr. Henry Kissinger. And she was just a hard roll's throw from her niece Nancy Shevell and her niece's husband, what’s-his-name — Paul McCartney. And Barbara wasn't safe yet, for she had Cindy Adams in a devil of a big black glam hat and me, with my understated charm, nearby as well. (I guess we neutralized one another.)

But I won't go on dropping too many names; most of them were there in person to prove to Barbara how well she is regarded, if she had any doubt. The guests had no doubt after seeing Babs’ portrait done up in flowers ... throw pillows in the bar in the Rainbow Room showing her through the years ... several showgirls all glammed up in feathers moving among the crowd. And the caviar was mighty nice.

The whole party was flawlessly orchestrated and Princess Firyal of Jordan greeted and met us all with open arms. The other hostesses were Mercedes Bass, Annette de la Renta, Diana Taylor, Marie-Jose Kravis, and Nicole Seligman. And these are the women who make the mares go — I do mean the Opera, the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, Sony and various other financial domains.

I must say Mr. Paul McCartney was the hit of the night. When dinner ended and tycoon Bloomberg made his toast, the orchestra started their oldies-but-goodies hits, which this gang all danced to and thought were daring way back when. It was then that McCartney really took over. He danced with anybody who came near him, he boogied, he twisted, he teased, he gave the lie to the old saw that musicians don't like to dance. Many a heart was made glad again by his charm, his smile and his warmth.

Numerous throw pillows (which guests took home) showing Barbara through the years.
Me? I was standing at the downtown side of Rockefeller Center's Rainbow Room looking at the incredible view which was blazing with lights and so translucent that One World Trade Center (known by its nickname The Freedom Tower) was crystal clear. A tall handsome man joined me — David Koch, one of the famous Koch brothers, the industrialists so beloved by Republicans.

We discussed the renovation of Lincoln Center, which he funded to the tune of $65 million dollars. Speaking of the fountains, he said they could have been much greater looking and grander if he had not been stymied in what he had wanted originally to spend. Lincoln Center’s State Theater was renamed for him. Looking out over sparkling Manhattan I said, "What do you think ISIS would make of this?" Koch responded, "Liz, ISIS will never get here to make anything of it!" 

He asked if I was still doing work for Literacy; I said yes and thanked him for backing us some years ago. A woman came up to him then and gave him an affectionate embrace. When she departed, I said, "She is a leading ardent Democrat." He said, astonished, "Is she really?" I said, "Yes — did that ruin it for you?" He said, "Almost!" We laughed.

Who says conservatives and liberals can't get along?

Contact Liz Smith here.