Liz Smith: “Chicago” Rules New York

And more from Gossip Girl: Andy Warhol loved his Whopper…The Wahlberg Brothers love their meat…How a socialite became an actress

“WHATEVER HAPPENED to fair dealing? And pure ethics? And nice manners? Why is it everyone is now such a pain in the ass?”

“Whatever happened to class?”

That’s how the song goes in the great Fred Ebb/John Kander/Bob Fosse musical, “Chicago.”

* * *

WHAT HAS happened to class? Well, I can’t answer that musical query in general, but I can assure you that class is still alive and kicking on Broadway, at the Ambassador Theater on 49th Street. It is there that “Chicago” resides and the tale of murder, publicity, crooked lawyers and celebrity worship has become the longest running American musical in Broadway history, surpassing “A Chorus Line” with 6,138 performances.

This revival of “Chicago” has been running since the summer of 1996. The original production opened in 1975, starring Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera. The show only ran 936 performances, though it received huge publicity thanks to its legendary leading ladies, and even more hype when Verdon had to have an operation on her throat, and Liza Minnelli stepped in for a month. Despite the glowing reviews that the revival garnered, nobody could have expected “Chicago” to have lasted as long as it has, becoming a Broadway staple.

The current cast includes Charlotte d’Amboise as Roxie Hart, Nikka Graff Lanzarone as Velma Kelly, Christopher Sieber as Billy Flynn, Chris Sullivan as Amos Hart and Carol Woods as Matron “Mama” Morton.

Maybe “Chicago” will turn out to be the longest-running musical ever, period? It could happen. Look how far it has come, and without even one chandelier dropping from the ceiling.

* * *

SOME SAD theater news. Price Berkley, founder of the invaluable “Theatrical Index” passed away last week, at his New York City home.

Price published the first issue of “Theatrical Index” in 1964. He had 16 subscribers. Shortly, however, this guide to “who, what, where and when” in American theater became such a popular, vital source, it was called “the Bible” by insiders. Not long ago, Mr. Berkley said, “It was never my job, it’s just an extension of my hobby. The theater is the best friend I ever had.”

* * *

BURGER KING recently killed off its mascot, the king with the huge head. Many people do not mourn his being deposed, having found him rather creepy.

The Burger King franchise has not settled on another figurehead. Maybe they won’t and will just concentrate on the food. But I came across something the other day, and though some might find it even creepier than The King, a few thinking-outside-the-box ad men might consider it.

A video just surfaced of the late Andy Warhol, eating a burger. More to the point, he is eating a Burger King Whopper. At the end of the video Andy pipes up: “My name is Andy Warhol and I just ate a hamburger.”

I don’t know, maybe Andy can become the new face of Burger King? I’m sure he’d love the idea.

* * *

SPEAKING OF meat, Mark Wahlberg and his brother Donnie. No, no. This is not dirty joke! The talented brothers have licensed the name Wahlburger from a New York-based chain, owned by one Tom Wahl. Mark and Donnie intend to open their own burger dive in their own hometown, Boston.

The boys already own several restaurants, but the appeal of being able to serve a Wahlburger was too juicy to resist.

However, I do not think Andy will become the mascot for Mark and Donnie’s place. They are not ironic guys.

* * *

THE OTHER night at philanthropist Frances Singer Hayward’s vegan cocktail party/book-signing for Wayne Pacelle and his new tome, “The Bond,” celeb writer Gregory Speck zeroed in on the arrival of socialite and occasional actress Cornelia Sharpe Bregman.

Gregory, not a shy guy, asked the blonde stunner if it was true that back in 1973, producer Martin Bregman —Cornelia’s future husband — had given her a role in “Serpico” with Al Pacino because Faye Dunaway, who rather resembled Cornelia, had demanded too big a salary.

After recovering from the surprise of being asked about events of thirty-plus years ago, Cornelia sweetly said, “The truth of the matter is that Al Pacino was then hooked up with Tuesday Weld, who had been dating Frank Sinatra before moving into Pacino’s bed.” Cornelia paused for effect. “You see, it was Tuesday who put up such a fight to get the role for herself.” Another pause. “But not only did she lose the role, I got it, I ended up marrying Marty, and we got a wonderful daughter out the deal.”

Before heading in to look over vegan delicacies and perhaps pick up a copy of “The Bond,” Cornelia said, “I hope I gave you what you wanted, Mr. Speck.”

* * *

ENDQUOTE: “The American drabness all over every scene in ‘Breaking Bad’ is key to why it’s become the most painfully intense drama on TV — and how Walter White has become our most frighteningly ordinary criminal … Walter is no longer a high school chemistry teacher who cooks meth on the side, with noble intentions … at this point Walter just likes the work … he likes being the best at something. That’s the high he’s addicted to — not the money, power or excitement. And it’s the high he’s willing to kill for.”

That is the wonderful Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield on “Breaking Bad,” which has broken out this year like gangbusters.

7 comments so far.

  1. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Looking back . . . and I mean far far back to a time when there was not a Broadway musical I hadn’t seen, I remember the original cast of Chicago, finding it terrific.  But reading this made me think back at what I thought were the greatest musicals I had seen.  The absolute top had to be Gypsy – and seeing it once was not enough.  Ethel Merman was “an original” – one of a kind — her look, her voice, how she dominated the stage.  Loved the lyrics, the story, but Merman carried it. 

    And now I am remembering more of the “beyond the pale” Broadway musicals, makaing me wonder if anyone else still shows a bit of nostalgia for the old days – the original “Company”, “Brigadoon”, and about 10 more.

    The wonderful good old days.

    • avatar John Dillon says:

      I have to agree with you. I think my first B’way musical was Jamaica with Lena Horne or Happy Hunting with Ethel Merman. Of course I saw her in Gypsy too and as a replacement on B’way in Hello Dolly. I still regret not seeing New Girl in Town and L’il Abner. My absolute favorite has to be Follies tho. I saw it six times on B’way including it’s final performance. I envy NY’ers who now have the opportunity to see the revival that is gearing towards a Sept opening date with that luminous cast. In the past 20 odd years since I transitioned to the west coast, the B’way musical has ‘mostly’ transitioned to juke box musicals with built-in hits and no originality and populated with non-talented reality stars. “Woe is us!”

  2. avatar rick gould says:

    I never “got” the point of the Burger King mascot… but being home visiting in the summer, I get to watch TV.
    And I am just amazed at the number of brand name commercials that are painfully unhip, unfunny, ironic only in the stupid sense… I’ve riffed much funnier material at happy hour!

    My top current ”unfave”: The Progressive insurance commericals with “Flo.” Total zero on every level.    

    • avatar O E says:

      I agree about the Progressive commercial with Flo. Most annoying. Ranks right up there with the Geico’s gecko and Aflac’s duck. If that’s the mentality managing insurance companies this day, I prefer to maybe pay a little and stay with The Hartford, which inspires a sense of stability and serious business, without cartoons.

  3. avatar Lila says:

    Ha! Andy Warhol may have been the creator of the first proto-Tweet!

  4. avatar Lila says:

    YES, the Burger King mascot was creepy, and sometimes the ads were equally creepy. Like the one which is supposed to be a take-off on King Kong but makes Burger King look like a voyeur; or the one where a man wakes up to find the King in bed with him, watching him sleep. Ah, but all awkwardness is erased with a tasty burger! Ugh…

    For the record, though, I can’t think of ANY fast-food mascot that ever appealed to me. Ronald McDonald… the Jack-in-the-Box thing (well, OK on top of a car antenna)… the Arby’s oven mitt??!!

  5. avatar Rho says:

    Tuesday Weld dated Frank Sinatra??  Thia is the first I have heard this.  Are you sure?