Liz Smith: A Little Drama

“IN REAL life things are rarely as exciting or dramatic as we make them out to be in the press,” said Joaquin Phoenix.

Hmmm. That is only sometimes true. And if the news of Jennifer Lawrence braving a bad case of pneumonia to attend the SAG Awards wasn’t exactly in Liz Taylor tracheotomy territory, it was enough to pique my interest. Would she faint at her table? Collapse onstage if she won? Wheeze her way through an acceptance speech?

None of these things happened. Thanks to her youth and hours of preparation, Miss Lawrence looked the picture of health onstage accepting her Actor for “Silver Linings Playbook.”

The SAG Awards, though not on the tipsy revel-level of the Golden Globes, has its pleasures. Chiefly, no silly presenter chat and the show moves through its two hours like 90 minutes. As for the winners, in the major categories, everything’s still very much up in the air. It seems to be coming down to a bloody battle between “Lincoln,” “Argo,” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” (The latter movie is extremely popular in the Hollywood community, and though some say David O. Russell’s personal, intimate tale doesn’t stand a chance against the more “epic” aspects of “Lincoln” and “Argo,” I say never say never when Harvey Weinstein is the man behind the movie.)

Nobody at the show disgraced themselves onstage, which is always a little disappointing, when it comes to writing it up.

My friend Alec Baldwin, who keeps getting younger-looking and better-looking, did exclaim, “This is ridiculous!” when he accepted his 8th SAG Award. Perhaps not ridiculous, but maybe after four consecutive wins people might opt to take themselves out of the nominating process. Just a suggestion. That’s what Candice Bergen did during the long run of “Murphy Brown.”

I was happy “Modern Family” beat out “30 Rock” and I loved Sofia Vegara’s opening remarks at her table: “My father told me if I went into show business, I would look like a hooker. And I said to him, ‘with these humongous bosoms I inherited from your mother, everybody already thinks I look like a hooker!’”

I thought Daniel Day-Lewis’ “everything flows from Steven Spielberg” was a bit much. So far as I know Spielberg possesses no divine powers.

And now, on to Oscar night.

REAL MUSIC lovers have never forgotten Bobbie Gentry, though she has not recorded and has lived a private life for many years. She has become the Garbo of country music.

Bobbie, who wrote all her own material, and produced her own albums, rocketed to stardom at the age of 23, with her dark song “Ode to Billy Joe.” So evocative and mysterious were the lyrics that everyone from Lennon & McCartney to Ella Fitzgerald were impressed. (Ella recorded a cover to “Ode.”) There was even a movie, “Ode to Billie Joe,” with Robby Benson. That film had its own idea of why — as the famous lyric goes, “Billie Joe McCallister jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge.”

Now, Miss Gentry is having something of a revival — though she herself is not cooperating. The Shout Factory record label has released “Chickasaw County Child: The Artistry of Bobbie Gentry.” This is a collection of her greatest hits from masterpiece albums such as “The Delta Sweete” and “Touch ‘Em with Love.” Also, a documentary on Gentry is now being produced by singer Sheryl Crow and other artists (such as Faith Hill) who have always admired Bobbie.

The overwhelming success of “Ode to Billy Joe” somewhat overshadowed the rest of Gentry’s career, which might have been one of the reasons she eventually abandoned it. But her unmatched artistry still lingers, beyond that one sad, sultry impenetrable song.

P.S. Yesterday, I told you about a New York Landmarks Conservancy party held downtown in the massive building originally named The Alexander Hamilton U.S.Customs House. (The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan helped the Conservancy save this giant building for posterity!)

I didn’t receive the James Salvano photo of “Landmarks” chief Peg Breen, and our two leaders, Robert Tierney and Stuart Siegel, in time to include it.

But here we all are — and we may not be movie star quality — but along with our excellent board, we are trying to save from destruction — buildings, memorials, churches, statues, etc. in greater New York

As you will see, I work so hard for the “Landmarks” that they let me sit down for this photo.

ENDQUOTE: “Yes, The Entertainment Will Be Memorable!”

That’s what it says on the classy black and gold invite to Clive Davis’ annual, legendary, pre-Grammy gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 9th. And yes, it always is!

This is a huge event, with Clive generally introducing some super-talented new discovery. The crème de la crème of the music world attends and also performs. (Movie and TV stars clamor to get in. Often Clive’s bash is more star-studded than Oscar night.)

No doubt there will be a significant tribute to the late Whitney Houston, who died at the Beverly Hilton just a few hours before she was to appear at Clive’s party last year. In an agonizing decision, Clive went on with the event, greeting hundreds of guests with the terrible news, while upstairs, Whitney’s body was still in her luxury suite, surrounded by police, family and entourage.

It was one of the most Gothic, dramatic events in Hollywood history. I’m sure even Joaquin Phoenix, who gave us our opening quote, would agree.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 1/29/13

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