Liz Smith: Celebrating New York

“MOVIES will make you famous; television will make you rich; but theater will make you good!” said actor/director Terrence Mann.

MANY READERS know about the Broadway theater even if from afar. If you ask a sampling who is starring on the Great White Way, a lot of them would enthusiastically tell you that the former Mrs. Tom Cruise (Katie Holmes) is bowing in an important play at the Music Box come Nov. 29th.

That’s name above the title kind of stuff.

But do people realize that NYC and environs boast hundreds of off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway shows, as well as theaters in garages, lofts, spas and off-hand places that used to be parking lots. And plenty is happening as people beg, borrow, steal to present their creative wares.

So it won’t be a surprise when the Abingdon Theater’s mission to produce new plays by American playwrights turns 20 years old right this very year.

And, next Monday night, this company, which has produced 77 unique shows, will be awash in stars.

Of course, I’ll be there but they didn’t ask me to award someone r-e-a-l-l-y big like Tyne Daly but I get to introduce two relative “unknowns” named Sam Altman and Shirley Herz. I have known these kids since the 1950s. (She is the most celebrated theatrical press agent alive. He is on the board of the Abingdon Theater.)

Although I worship Tyne Daly so I’ll go anywhere to see her; let’s add hosting by Lucie (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “They’re Playing Our Song”) Arnaz and Tony-nominee Larry Luckinbill and Jonathan Hadley. (Both favorites but, after I saw the latter in “Gypsy” I dreamed about him for a year.) Jonathan Hadary (another Tony-nominee) and Julie Halston will entertain, and you could rub elbows with the likes of Sharon Gless, Marilyn Horne, Terrence McNally, Rosie O’Donnell, David Hyde Pierce. This is happening that night and I’ll be up there telling all about my longtime first ever friend in the theater, Shirley, how she met Sam and as he is on the Board of the theater — well, it’s no wonder they want to give her an award. You have to be there!

If you’d care to spend a measly $400 and help the Abingdon, call 212-868-2055. You’d certainly see $400 worth of worthy celebs, VIPs and you’d get to see me do my stuff on Sam and Shirley.

MY STAFF and I went to the oldest one-family-owned restaurant extant in New York City the other eve for a birthday celebration, to honor our pal Diane Judge.

We were impressed, as always, with Barbetta on the so-called “restaurant row” (West 46th Street) where Laura Maioglio has reigned in all her Piemontese glory since she graduated magna cum laude in art history from Bryn Mawr. Her late father, Sebastiano, started things here in 1906.

This gorgeous and exotic café boasts a magnificent candelabra which was a gift from the first king of Italy to his mistress “La Bella Rosina.” It also has a signed Fabbri 1631 harpsichord in its foyer. No wonder Barbetta was landmarked by the Locali Storici d’Italia and cannot be altered in any way. (I wouldn’t change a thing!)

We were offered a wonderful dinner by chef Abdul Sebti, who is from Morocco. We felt young in Barbetta because the restaurant itself is 106 years old and one of Manhattan’s finest. It also boasts a beautiful garden designed in Florentine style, where one can dine “al fresco” in good weather and feel as if you are actually in Italy.

“HOMELAND,” Showtime’s totally unrealistic but compellingly watchable espionage soap opera has been picked up for a third season, only three episodes into the second. Claire Danes is now slightly calmer, knowing that she was right all along about former POW Damien Lewis, but she’s still too neurotic to be believable as a CIA operative. However, her bi-polar outbursts are what her admirers enjoy. Anyway, it’s only a TV show.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes might occur in the third season of “Homeland,” depending on who wins the election. Ditto on that for HBO’s “The Newsroom.” Also the incredibly smarmy, bad-taste-fest, “Political Animals,” which might come back, despite soft ratings. (Let’s face it, it was fun having Sigourney Weaver on TV every week, impersonating Hillary Clinton.)

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 10/25/12

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