“NO DRUG, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of our society. If we are looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power,” said P.J. O’Rourke.
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MY FAVORITE meth-lab drama, “Breaking Bad” and my favorite it-wasn’t-so-great-in-the 1960s show, “Mad Men” have both been profiled endlessly in the glamorous new Hollywood Reporter magazine.
First, everybody went nuts and seems to remain so over AMC’s “Mad Men.” “Breaking Bad”— also aired over AMC — was a slow-growing sensation, initially under-publicized. But it, too has found its stardom, pushed by Sony Pictures. (It is averaging 4.3 million viewers an episode in its fourth season, nearly double what “Mad Men” delivers.) We are going to see “Breaking Bad’s” ending in the next “super season.” AMC may break it into two short seasons, or simply run the last 16 episodes next summer.
I am happy to brag that I think I was just about the first journalist to write and have high expectations for “Mad Men,” and also, then, for “Breaking Bad.” I raved so much about the latter that the star Bryan Cranston sent me a “Breaking Bad” wrist watch. I have to be careful where I wear this as people think I’m hustling crystal meth.
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MUSIC! MUSIC! MUSIC! As Teresa Brewer sang out back in the 1950‘s.
I have it in my hand, the gorgeous deluxe edition of Barbra Streisand’s “What Matters Most” album. This is her self-produced tribute to her old friends, the great lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman. If the Bergmans didn’t quite “invent” Barbra, in the manner of John Kander and Fred Ebb, a la Liza Minnelli, they are responsible for so many of Streisand’s signature tunes—including the score for “Yentl”—that they have become vital to Barbara’s enduring legend. The Bergmans know her voice, her personality, her heart. (As for Liza, I think out of her fondness for Kander and Ebb, she has somewhat exaggerated their impact—after all, she was singing!)
“What Matters Most” is a two-disc set. The first disc is ten Bergman songs never recorded by Barbra, the second disc contains ten more familiar tunes—“The Way We Were,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” “Papa, Can You Hear Me?”
But it is on the first disc that Barbra truly soars. Listen, it’s worth the price just to hear Barbra a’capella on the first bars of “The Windmills of Your Mind.” Barbra has retained the exquisite upper register of her voice, but the tones have deepened—beautifully. Age has not withered her gift and life experience has given it much more resonance.
In a world of phony, over-hyped “talent,” I’m glad a true artist like Barbra is still here, working and reminding us that “perfectionist” is not a dirty word.
AND STILL more music: I loved the press release from Liz Rosenberg about Michael Buble’s “Christmas” album, produced by David Foster and Bob Rock. Along with listing some of the tracks—“Silent Night,” “White Christmas,” “Jingle Bells” and Michael’s own composition, “December Night”—Liz R. included her own opinion: “Did we mention that this is the most incredible Christmas record ever? Well, we’re mentioning it now…it’s the most incredible Christmas record EVER!”
I don’t doubt it, because Michael Buble is one of the greatest singers, EVER. But I love Ms.Rosenberg’s enthusiasm and devotion to her clients. She is the real deal. And her clients are the real deal. I remember back in the day when she’d send me an advance look at one of Madonna’s new videos. “Liz,” she’d say, “Brace yourself. This is going to change your life!”
And you know what, those little works of art, like “Bad Girl,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Express Yourself,” “Material Girl,” “Oh, Father” and “Vogue” were life-changing. They made me appreciate and understand Madonna as an artist. This from naïve me, who once asked my office staff: “Why is this Madonna creature on the cover of Time magazine?”
Anyway, I can’t wait to hear what the adorable Mr. Buble does with “Jingle Bells.”
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ON PAGE 114 of Susan Kelly’s book, Elizabeth Taylor: Her Life In Style, there is a photo of Miz Liz and George Hamilton, strolling through Paris, circa 1987. Elizabeth wears a stunningly chic and well-tailored white suit, open-toed pumps, a wide-brimmed hat and appropriate jewels. She looks like a dream walking.
Of course, on the next page she is shown with Malcolm Forbes, wearing a purple cocktail dress that looks like a malevolent, carnivorous orchid, about to devour her. Elizabeth’s “life in style” was a circus of extremes. She knew couture. She knew what good taste was. She just didn’t care to have good taste most of the time—wretched, expensive excess was her style, and she reveled in it. (See “X Y and Zee” for Elizabeth at her best—and worst.) Elizabeth’s cheerful, sexy vulgarity was one of the things that so excited her public, and drove Women’s Wear Daily to distraction.
Susan Kelly’s book is a lovely tribute, and respectful of Elizabeth’s iconic image. The photos end in 1993, just before Elizabeth’s health began to decline so drastically. (There are some stunning caption errors, but I assume these will be corrected in the next printing.)
However, I do wish Kelly had shown more of “mad, mod Liz” in her teeny mini-skirts and hot-pants. I did have a nostalgic laugh when I came to page 101. There is Elizabeth in Paris again, in 1968, at the premiere of “A Flea In Her Ear.” She was filming “The Only Game in Town” with Warren Beatty—a tale set in Las Vegas, but movie studios moved mountains for Elizabeth then. I was attempting to interview her for Cosmopolitan. She was very nice, as usual, but never answered a question, so I simply wrote about what she ate, drank, said and did en passant.
At this event, she wore her famous Bulgari emeralds—gifts from Richard—and sported a feather boa. She had attached feathers into her elaborate Alexandre de Paris hair-do. “You look like a fabulous chicken” I exclaimed upon seeing her.
She looked me dead in the eye and said, “Liz, I look like a chicken’s ass.”
And that was Elizabeth Taylor’s real style.