Guest Diary

LIZ SMITH: Seeking "Equity"

Kate Betts, right, with her mother at Café de Flore in Paris, 1986.
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
by Liz Smith

"Breaking Bad's" Anna Gunn Finally seeks "Equity" ... "Spider-Man" Must Always Remain the Same ... Kate Betts has a "Paris Dream" that Became a Reality.

“WHEN YOU are a strong woman, you will attract trouble. When a man feels threatened, there is always trouble,” says Barbara Taylor Bradford.
REMEMBER Anna Gunn’s character on the late lamented “Breaking Bad” series? She played, Skyler, the wife of Bryan Cranston’s chemistry teacher turned-meth-criminal, Walter White. She began the series confused and concerned — Walter has been diagnosed with cancer and their finances are shaky. She moves through the series with increasing assurance — as well as fear, once she realizes what Walt is up to. She became a strong woman, albeit with conflicts and issues and self-preservation of her family on her mind. Skyler was not — understandably, I think — very nice to Walter on occasion. She was not an audience favorite. (Despite Walter slipping deeper and deeper into crime, he became a beloved anti-hero, along with his partner, Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman.)
In fact, Anna’s character was so disliked that Anna herself addressed the issue several times — “Breaking Bad” fans would verbally assault her, not to mention the online drubbing she received.

"It was a character issue."
“They actually confuse me with the character I play!” Anna was pretty good-natured about it, but it did hurt her feelings at times. (Although the Emmys she collected for playing Skyler assuaged her wariness more than a little bit.)

You’d think Anna had had enough of strong women? Nope. She is to star in a movie titled “Equity,” which is being promoted as “the first female-driven Wall Street movie.” She will play an investment banker, caught in a corruption scandal.

Meera Menon will direct. (Menon won the Nora Ephron Prize for groundbreaking female filmmaker at the Tribeca Film Festival two years ago.)

The production company putting this film together is Broad Street Pictures, founded by actors Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas. It will specifically create movies with strong, empowering female characters and non-exploitive storylines.
WE RECENTLY remarked on the latest “Spider-Man” re-boot, asking what more can they do with this story, which has already been a big-screen franchise for two leading men — Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield? As we pointed out, fans never seem to be totally satisfied anyway. We suggested an African-American Spidey or a woman or even transgender. Something original! An original idea, people!

Now Stan Lee, Spider-Man’s co-creator has made a few observations about his hero. No matter how many times Peter Parker is translated to the screen, Lee would like him to be just as he has always been — a white teenager, male. But, Lee says he doesn’t have any problem with a black superhero, or a gay one or Latino or Chinese for that matter. But you just can’t mess with his Spider-Man.
“AMERICA’S ID is running for President!” said the irrepressible Jon Stewart, indicating an onscreen photo of Donald Trump.
I don’t know about you but Monday and Monday night was a full-of-surprises 24-hours for me. Watching the Supreme Court mulling from right to left and back again on so many issues was a big treat.

We’ve seldom seen these high and mighty Nine Supremes in so much action and acting out and pouting and fuming and surprising us over and over again. I kept MSNBC on much of the evening because at least this cast of characters tells you things nobody else will and they are very good at “explaining” what is really going on. Their liberal bias is so blissfully obvious that you are able to discount it if you disagree.
"Hate is very strong, but love is stronger."
I was particularly struck by Lawrence O’Donnell showing footage of actress Tyne Daly speaking to her “It Shoulda Been You” Broadway audience, at the curtain call.

Tyne said she was proud of the Supremes for passing the same-sex marriage law, explaining, emotionally, that some 40-plus years ago, she had broken the law of the land when she married an African-American man — actor/director Georg Stanford Brown — and risked drastic penalties for the “crime” of miscegenation! (Most of us, even those like me who should have remembered, had long ago forgotten that it was once against the law for races to marry in the good old USA.)
Tyne Daly and her then-husband, Georg Stanford Brown.
Even though Tyne and hubby parted ways in 1990, hurray for her courage, and for his too! It made me think of my own dear old misguided racist father, whose motto was: “Wise people change their minds!”
Click to order “My Paris Dream."
A NEW BOOK that has caught the eye of sophisticates is from Kate Betts, titled “My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine.” (From Spiegel & Grau.)

Some people sniff at this work as being like reading a resume and it is, indeed, a young woman’s memoir of the days when she escaped from Princeton, deserted New York and went to live as fulfilled people of Paris do. “Go!” said her wise mother, “You can always come back.”

Kate determined to be a true child of Paris. She dumps the boyfriend in the U.S., finds a suitable Frenchman to love and proceeds to work slavishly to the top, eventually all the way to John Fairchild who pronounced the law on who was “in” or “out,” back in the day when he was king of fashion journalism in the 1970s and '80s. (Her portrait of Fairchild is beyond the beyond, it’s so accurate!)

This book proves it isn’t really a question of Paris or New York, but that the author can really write. She gives us a French fashion history lesson beginning with Chanel and on to Dior after World War II.

Then she cites the rise of the huge couture names, ending with Yves St. Laurent. Her descriptions of Paris in the '60s, '70s and up though the rise of rock n’ roll and the decline of grandeur are masterful.

Ms. Betts marks the fall of Fairchild, the continuation of the importance of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and she even works for Time. She becomes a reporter to the max. I found all my fashion pals in this book and couldn’t put it down, I loved it!
Kate and Karl in the late '80s.

Contact Liz Smith here.