Guest Diary

LIZ SMITH: Friday Fry-Up

Madonna accompanied by her father on stage during her Blond Ambition tour, 1990.
Friday, February 27, 2015
by Liz Smith

Friday Fry-Up: Madonna, She's Not Like Other Girls — And Never Will Be ... Joan Rivers — Gone, But Oscar's Goof Made Sure She is Not Forgotten!

“I LIVE my life like a masochist. Hearing my father say/’I told you so, I told you so. Why can’t you be like other girls? I said: ‘Oh no, that’s not me/And I don’t think it ever will be’.”

Those are some of Madonna’s lyrics from the title track of her upcoming “Rebel Heart” album.

Whatever Madonna does, whomever she marries, beds, or no matter how many children she has, whatever her age, she will never ever be like “other girls.”

Also, apparently, Madonna will never reconcile her issues with her dad. (One of the star’s most powerful songs, with an accompanying haunting video, was 1989’s “Oh, Father.”)

Madonna refuses to bow down to any tiresome convention relating to her art or to what is expected of a woman over 40. (Her recent accident on stage in London, wound up too tightly in a cape, causing her to fall, has unleashed the usual ageist trolling vitriol on social media. When did 56 become “old?”)

La Ciccone’s new album is a source of tremendous controversy already. Half of it was hacked and leaked, forcing the star to officially release six songs. The deluxe version of the disc contains 25 tunes. England’s most popular newspaper, The Sun, says “Rebel Heart” is the greatest album of Madonna’s long career, and reviews ten of the albums unreleased songs.
Baby Madonna with her parents, Silvio "Tony" & Madonna Louise Ciccone.
THE pop icon also decorates the cover of Rolling Stone magazine yet again, profiled by the excellent Brian Hiatt. (I keep waiting for Madonna to become “irrelevant” but somehow that never quite happens.) Madonna talks of many things — her chronic insomnia (although she can’t relate to people “who sleep 12 hours a day”) ... her four children ... her parenting (“bossy — but what parent isn’t?”) ... what she might have been (a schoolteacher in Detroit) ... the sexism inherent when a woman displays herself ... how Guy Ritchie didn’t approve of her image (who did he think he married?) ... Kanye West (“He's a beautiful mess. I love him”) ... still trying to understand the “degrading” remarks made about her age ... her mortality (“In some respects I will never die. Because art is immortal”) ... Lady Gaga (There is no feud: “Here’s the thing. One day everyone’s going to have to shut up about it. You’ll see! I have a plan.”)

And finally, writer Hiatt asks her if she is still open to falling in love again?

“Definitely. Yes.”

“That was a fast answer.”

“I don’t doubt love for a second. Come on, listen to my songs!”

Well, for all the blatant behavior — for which she makes no apology — underneath, Madonna has always been the ultimate romantic. That’s why I think her mournful/wistful/slow burn ballads will be better remembered in years to come than her dance tracks.
"This is what a 56-year-old ass looks like!" Madonna tells Rolling Stone, discussing ageism in pop culture.
ROLLING STONE also reviews “Rebel Heart,” giving it three and a half stars, calling it a “long, passionate, self-referential meditation on losing love and finding purpose in chilling times ... Madonna does have a rebel heart and you can’t fault her for reminding us that pop music is all the better for it.”
TWO final thoughts on Oscar (but, nothing is ever really “final.”) People have complained about the lack of glamour and interest, both of which seem to be decreasing precipitously.

Well, it’s not just that old geezers watch the show and don’t know who many of these youngsters are. There is the problem of the endless red-carpet ceremonies, on E!, ABC-TV and over the past few years, CNN. By the time the actual Academy Awards lumbers out, we have seen the gowns, heard the stars react to dozens of absurd, ill-informed, fatuous questions, and watched the camera zoom in, in brutal HD, on fashion failures and faces revealed as merely mortal.
All glamour and mystery, such as it is these days, has been sucked dry. For myself, I tried to avoid most of the pre-show ceremonies. I start promptly at 8:30. Not that in the end, it made much difference.

P.S. Speaking of the red-carpet, it is fascinating to contemplate the whys and wherefores of leaving Joan Rivers off the “In Memoriam” segment. Rivers all but invented what the late 20th and current 21st century have come to know as “the red-carpet,” with its reliance on fashion questions and critiques.

Joan was a symbol — like her or not — of how show biz has transformed, with so much emphasis on marketing and product placement (“Who are you wearing?”) And the relating of borrowed gowns and fantastic jewels. One actress/model whom I’d never heard of, was actually wearing a necklace that had once belonged to the Duchess of Windsor!

Joan also took her snarky insult persona, which had laid waste to countless celebrities in her TV appearances and stand-up routines, and brought it all to bear on Oscar night. Nobody and nothing was off-limits. Joan and the gang on her “Fashion Police” took no prisoners. Joan would say it was all good fun, and celebrities should have thicker skins. (Though her skin was notoriously thin.) Her foes often found Joan cruel, especially in later years, when her own appearance, obviously enhanced by plastic surgery, came in for a lot of comment. Can it be that somebody at the Academy simply didn’t want to honor a woman who represented the modernity of the Oscar telecast, at the expense of its mystery?

Was it revenge? If so, who was the winner? The Academy for not honoring her? Perhaps, but they were then bombarded by Twitter and Facebook protest.

Or did Joan win, by co-opting so much attention? How little her name would have been mentioned had she simply been included. Somewhere, in some other universe, Rivers is sitting around, polishing her QVC jewelry line, and barking, “Oh, grow up!” to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
THE other Oscar thing. By the end of the show, Edith Piaf’s stirring, classic rendition of “No Regrets” was going through my mind, endlessly, and I was more pleasured by that than most of what I saw on Oscar night. But why was Piaf in my head? I realized the next day that during the Oscar telecast a commercial for Cadillac ran numerous times, and it is accompanied by The Little Sparrow’s song — in its original French. (“Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein” was one of Piaf’s last great hits.)

I have to give Cadillac credit for using the song. And I wonder how many, who don’t know from Piaf, perhaps took the time to find out? (These days a few clicks on the computer and you can discover the answer to anything!)
Final, final note? Polly Bergen. Many wrote in to mention that the lovely actress and singer was also not part of the “they who have passed on” segment. Polly made about 25 feature films, including the classic 1962 thriller “Cape Fear.” She won an Emmy for her TV performance in “The Helen Morgan Story” and was married to one of Hollywood’s most powerful agents, Freddie Fields.

She will be memorialized in New York City at the American Airlines Theater at 3.p.m. on March 26th. Her great friend Rex Reed will preside. The public is invited.
MARYLOU Whitney's big dinner at the Everglades Club in Palm Beach is tonight, celebrating her husband, John Hendrickson's 50th birthday. There will be more than 100 guests and dollars to doughnuts all of them, I bet, said it would "never last" back when Marylou and John married in 1997.

Contact Liz Smith here.