Liz Smith: Cher Loves Movies

IT LOOKS like he must have stopped eating all those chips on his shoulder!”

That’s what New York writer Matthew Rettenmund remarked to me, on the drastic weight loss of pop star Boy George. Matthew did admit, “a friend said that to me.” But as he didn’t reveal the friend’s name, you get the credit, Matt.

Boy’s super-skinny new shape has caused some alarm. He insists he’s just “eating healthy.” Let’s hope this time it’s salads and a fresh outlook that have whittled the singer away. He has tweeted that he is exercising like a mad thing.

WHAT’S BETTER than watching old movies on Turner Classic Movies? How about talking to a really famous star who loves old movies?

So the other day the phone rings.

“Liz” says the instantly recognizable voice on the other end, “It’s Cher.”

“Cher, hi, it’s so good …”

But the Oscar-winning star cut me off, “Honey, I’d love to chat, but I’m on the TCM set, with Robert Osborne, and we’ll be talking about some of my favorite movies. Now, you know the movie ‘Mildred Pierce,’ right?”

“Well, of course I do, in fact I just saw it the other night.”

“Okay, do you remember what Ann Blyth, Veda, says to Joan Crawford when Joan walks in on them making love?”

I thought a minute. “Cher, I think it goes like this: ‘It’s always been me, it’s never been you. Monty’s going to divorce you and marry me.’”

And then there’s a big juicy close-up of Ann and she says, “And there’s nothing you can do about it!”

Cher shrieked,  “That’s it! I knew it. I knew I was right, see that, Liz?”

I was confused, but then I realized she was talking to her longtime press rep, Liz Rosenberg, who was there with the star.

Then Cher said, “What does Joan do?”

“Well, then there’s a big juicy closeup of Joan Crawford, and she says, ‘Now, Veda …’”

Cher to Liz R. “I was right, again!”

Cher will be discussing her favorite movies with Robert Osborne all through April. Another of her top picks is “Stella Dallas,” which contains a bit of dialogue from Barbara Stanwyck that Cher adores: “Whattaya, mean? I got style. I got stacks of style!”

Cher then said, “Liz thank you so much for letting me bother you.” (Oh, yeah, that was a real bother.) “I’ll call again when I have more time and we’ll talk about my upcoming album. It’s really good. Thank you, love you, bye!”

I’d like to say, just another day in the Liz Smith office, but that was adorably special. I love Cher.

TONY LO BIANCO is bringing his acclaimed one-man show, “The Little Flower,” about New York’s Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, to Manhattan for a limited run, after it plays in Washington D.C. for members of the Senate and The Wounded Warriors Foundation.

In New York, “The Little Flower” will only play 16 performances (they say) at the Dicapo Opera House. Many of those are already sold out. This happens in mid-March so hurry and call 212-868-4444 or log on to www.Smarttix.com

AS FAR as I am concerned, Frank Sinatra was the greatest male singer ever. Nit pick if you must, but that’s my opinion.

This year something very special is arriving for fans of Francis Albert. A new CD version of one of Frank’s lesser-known, but brilliant, albums. It’s called “The Concert Sinatra.” Despite the title, it’s not a live album, but critics consider it the peak of his work at Reprise Records, which is saying a lot.

“The Concert Sinatra,” recorded in 1963, was arranged by Nelson Riddle with a much larger orchestra than they usually worked with. Frank delivers definitive versions of “I Have Dreamed” … ”Lost In the Stars …” This Nearly Was Mine” … ”My Heart Stood Still” … ”Soliloquy” … and others, including a version of “Old Man River” that is thunderous and majestic.

Fans say this is the one Sinatra album to have, if you are unaware of his genius as a vocalist, or even if you know his work — it is a revelation. (Just as they say, “If you don’t know or understand the Judy Garland cult, go get the Carnegie Hall album.”) “The Concert Sinatra” has been beautifully re-mastered.

I ADMIT it — though many of you already know — I am a bit addicted to the BBC’s fabulous series “Downton Abbey.” I’ve grown to love many of the characters — even the loathsome ones, like O’Brien, who tends to Lady Crawley and stirs the pot endlessly.

In any case — and I won’t give it away for those who missed it and will watch in repeat, but I was so shocked by the fate of one of the major characters I literally gasped in disbelief. (I suppose if Maggie Smith had been sitting with me, the Dowager Countess would have provided something to bring me out of the vapors.) I have since learned that the actor wanted off the show. I guess nobody considered re-casting the role, so — this character is gone for good.

Well, that’s life and death in soap opera. Even high-toned soap opera.

SPEAKING OF getting caught up in things, a big shout-out to the Encore network, which has been showing wonderfully restored versions of all those great 1980’s mini-series, like “The Thorn Birds” and, most recently, “North and South.” The latter is as compulsively watchable as it was back in 1985 — “Dynasty meets the Civil War.”

It stars the late Patrick Swayze and the ravishing Lesley Anne Down, and it’s chock full to the brim with wild cameo appearances by the likes of Wayne Newton, Olivia deHavilland, James Stewart, Lloyd Bridges, Linda Evans, Morgan Fairchild and Elizabeth Taylor, who plays a New Orleans madam.

(Hers was the most highly publicized appearance. And when asked how it felt to play a madam, Taylor cackled and said, “I suppose some people might think it’s a role I’ve been preparing for all my life!”)

Two other performances of note: Terri Garber, as a wicked nymphomaniac Southern belle (Scarlett O’Hara gone totally bonkers) and Kirstie Alley as an obsessed abolitionist — her every scene is “big” and she looks fabulous.

They really just don’t make ‘em like that anymore. And mores the pity. Primetime TV is pretty much a reality-show wasteland now.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 2/21/13

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