Liz Smith: A Night On The Town

Gigi and Harry

“WE FIND the defendants incredibly guilty,” says the jury in Mel Brooks’ musical “The Producers.”

NEW YORK Upper East Side: Leaving one of those high-toned Park Avenue clubs where they never want their name mentioned, it’s a balmy May night. I had been in the Unmentionable Club after congratulating Gigi and Harry Bensons’ celebration of the impending wedding of their daughter, Tessa to Tucker Tooley.

Tessa is tall and gorgeous, looking like a movie star all in white satin and silver, but she is instead the west coast editor of Self magazine. Tucker is the Oscar-winning filmmaker, prexy of Relativity Media, and they haven’t yet decided when to tie the knot but know they’ll be living in the Pacific Palisades.

I always adore being with Gigi and Harry Benson — he one of the world’s most celebrated photographers — she, the petite blonde from Seguin, Texas, who is his firm right-hand. (The Bensons will next be sent all over Europe by Taschen Publishing, promoting Harry’s great enormous photo book on the Beatles.) There’ll be another NYC party given for them early in June.

I had fun chatting with Harry’s aide Jon Delano and asked him, “Jon, when are you leaving Harry to go on your own?”

He laughed: “Liz, I’ve been asking myself that for 20 years!”

I met one or two other Texans in this crowd, none more impressive than the fabled Suzy J. Finesilver. Sometimes she is “down home” on the San Antonio River, eating at the famed Mi Tierra restaurant. Other times she is in her Park Avenue apartment where her neighbor is none other than the Post’s reigning gossip queen, Cindy Adams.

Mrs. Finesilver’s real name should be Finegold/Fineplatinum/Finediamonds. She has a lot of all of these and says it took her only 90 plus years to accumulate same.

Tessa and Tucker/Harry with daughter Wendy

The party itself was crammed with some of the best-looking, tall, terrific pretty girls in short lace dresses and sky-high heels. They make all those dull guys in dark three-piece suits look good.

When I sat down with my old friend Harry, he was a standout from the crowd in a putty-colored suit with a green hankie at his breast. This Scottish Presbyterian seemed a tiny bit morose about losing his daughter to being grown-up. And, indeed, I gulped myself when I saw her, remembering her at nine, swimming with dolphins down in the old Aquarium near Wall Street.

OVER ON Lexington, en route to Donohue’s hamburger and comfort food emporium near 64th street, I ran into Marjorie Reed who was trying to hail a taxi while her husband, Ellery Gordon, was still on the street corner telling a joke. I tried to tell him my own joke but he went on with one about two prostitutes in the subway.

Marjorie Reed Gordon and Ellery Gordon

Finally, Marjorie dragged Ellery into the cab and they sailed off yelling out the window that they’d see me tonight at the Literacy Partners event at Rose Hall in jazz@lincolncenter where none other than the wicked Bill Maher will lead off our readings.

It was still broad daylight and what was happening between Park and Lex as people poured in and out of the subway? I saw a handsome man in a dinner jacket, pushing through the crowd. I felt, with pleasure – “Things are OK. It’s New York City; it’s spring, and some people still dress for dinner.”

And now I will tell the joke I tried to tell Ellery, even though perhaps it’s not politically correct to be telling jokes right now about the Greeks and the Italians:

A Greek and an Italian are arguing:
The Greek: “We built the Parthenon!”
The Italian: “Well, we built the Colosseum!”
The Greek: “We invented theater!”
The Italian: “Well, we invented opera!”
The Greek: “We invented sex!”
The Italian: “But we introduced it to women!”

I DO WANT to congratulate the recently revitalized New York Daily News for printing the photo of all photos from the Cannes Film Festival. They showed us the incredible Jane Fonda, dubbing her “Still Sexy at 74: Jane Dazzles at Cannes.”

Jane told me recently that she has finally come to fully embrace herself as a person and a glamorous woman. I’ll say!

via NY Daily News

DIM ALL the lights … what a shock — Donna Summer‘s death from cancer last week. A little bit of my relative youth gone. How well I recall nights at Studio 54, and other clubs of the 1970s and ’80s, with Donna’s groundbreaking music blasting.

In 2003, I attended Bette Midler’s Hulaween Ball. Donna was the special guest entertainment. She had been laying low for a few years. The audience was tense with anticipation. Donna appeared, gorgeous. She opened her mouth, began to sing and it was Studio 54 all over again. Still magnificent. The entire audience went berserk. By the time she finished, delirium had set in.

Donna Summer and Bette Midler at New York Restoration Project's Sixth Annual Hulaween Ball. Getty Images.

Shortly after this, I read Donna’s autobiography, and reviewed it positively. The day the item appeared, Donna Summer herself phoned to thank me, for the review and for my previous writing about her appearance at Bette’s gala. She was a doll — charming, funny, appreciative. And the very next day, she sent a lovely note and a CD of her greatest hits.

That’s my Donna Summer experience. She was way too young for her “Last Dance.”

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 5/21/12

2 comments so far.

  1. avatar marywells says:

    Donna Summer. Loved her voice. Yes, “a little bit of my youth gone”.
    So it was with Robin Gibb.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      A reminder that we’re getting older. Shame about both of them but a reflection of the reality for all of us with regard to cancer. Suddenly it’s just there.  Some of us survive it. Some of us don’t.