And more from our Liz: Racquel Welch accepts her defects … remembering Mrs. John Warner
“PLEASE, MY darling, do not try to be perfect — because the defect is very important!”
That is what the great Italian director Vittorio De Sica told a young and insecure Raquel Welch, back in the 1960s. Raquel says she took that advice to heart, and recognized that “my authentic self, with all its flaws, real or imagined, was the most important quality I had to offer.”
This vignette comes from Raquel’s recent, often quite touching book, amusingly titled “Beyond the Cleavage.” It is now out in paperback.
And indeed Mr. De Sica was correct. All the great stars have a defect — often more than one! Even beauty is more interesting when something is a bit off. Probably the most perfect female face out of Hollywood (via Austria) was Hedy Lamarr. But Hedy was … kind of boring onscreen.
I do have a great Hedy column upcoming. Offscreen she was not boring! If perhaps not the great scientific brain of legend.
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BROADWAY IS BURSTING with bubbles of joyous musicals so far this season. Adding to the glow is the fiftieth anniversary production of the Pulitzer-prize winner, “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” starring the one and only Daniel Radcliffe of “Harry Potter” movies and onstage “Equus” fame. Oh, wow! Is he a winner! So charming, so sweet and so talented. And can he sing and dance? Oh, boy, can he ever! A highlight is Daniel’s rendition of “I Believe in You,” singing to himself in a mirror. Surely he has the “cool clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth.” (You don’t get to hear music and lyrics like this too often.) As J. Pierrepont Finch, he’s a miracle — but then the entire cast is perfection. John Larroquette is scrumptious as J. B. Biggley and Chris Hanke as Bud Frump is a delicious villain. Tammy Blanchard as Hedy La Rue is delightful and Rose Hemingway is gorgeous, making her Bdwy debut as “Rosemary.” Remember that song? Well, the sweet and sassy score by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows still remains a winner fifty years later. The production, as directed and choreographed by award-winning Rob Ashford is a “Don’t Miss” of the season. The entire company never stops dancing and is dazzling. The sets are fantastic, as are the costumes. So hurry on to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
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SOMETIMES PUBLISHING houses, even in these awful times, do things that are splendid and surprise us. For instance, Random House, via its Vintage label, has brought out a new paperback edition of the national bestseller “Haywire.” This has a new introduction by Buck Henry and an epilogue by the author Brooke Hayward. The Times originally pronounced the 1977 memoir “A Hollywood childhood memoir, a glowing tapestry spun with equal parts of gold and pain. An absolute beauty.”
Hayward can really write, and the evocations of a Hollywood-Broadway growing up with two talented, tempestuous parents and their new wives and husbands and their divorced “formers” and the children of all those unions in just non pareil.
People have waited ever since for Brooke to carry on and splash her considerable talent in a new book. Until she does, this fresh edition of a classic will have to do. Talk about glamour run riot: this is it. And the cast of characters is incredible.
When I was writing the old Cholly Knickerbocker column back in the 1960s, I would see Brooke’s father, the agent-producer Leland Hayward, every single day. Before he entered the exclusive bar of The Colony restaurant, they would place a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label at his table. He did considerable damage during lunch, but I was never introduced to this legend even though, later, I heard him praised to the skies by none other than Katharine Hepburn — a former romance.
And I never met Brooke’s famous mother, either. Margaret Sullavan was a unique talent, then only seen by me on the silver screen, which she soon deserted for Broadway.
Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, the old Vanity Fair, the New York Times and all the rest are recalled vividly in “Haywire.” Newsday said Brooke had told of her life “as Fitzgerald might have — with the glow and the glamour, and finally, the heartbreak.”
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CLASSY, ELEGANT remarks from John Warner last week on the passing of his ex-wife Elizabeth Taylor. “I will remember her as a woman whose heart and soul were as beautiful as her classic face and majestic eyes.”
He justly credited Taylor with helping him win his Senate seat in 1978, which he maintained until he retired two years ago.
Despite all the negative publicity about Elizabeth’s weight during some of that marriage, her turn as Mrs. Warner, the Senate wife, was rather appealing. And after she lost weight and returned to films such as “The Mirror Crack’d” and her stage triumph with “The Little Foxes,” it looked like an enduring relationship — one in which both partners were busy with their own careers.
But it could not be. Elizabeth needed a man who tended to her 24/7. One thing you did not say to Elizabeth Taylor was, “I can’t. I’m busy. You go ahead.” John said it once too often, and he said it while Elizabeth was here in New York, lavished with praise and attention for “Foxes.”
And she felt — perhaps with some justification — that she had never been too busy to campaign for him.
I did always find it amusing that she insisted that “she tried not to be famous” during the Warner era. I recall an evening in Manhattan in 1977, shortly after Warner announced his run. Elizabeth was attending some show biz event at the Waldorf Astoria. She wore a flimsy green Halston caftan, cut so low and slit so high you could see all the way to Virginia. (She sat next to Donny Osmond, who appeared transfixed by her copious cleavage.) The famous Burton emeralds were on display.
She perched on a chair as the paparazzi pounced. They were delighted to shoot down the bodice of her Halston. Elizabeth crossed her legs and the dress hitched way up! The photographers went berserk. She placed her drink on her lap, in a dainty attempt to appear ladylike. She looked overripe, gorgeous and very famous. But perhaps she thought they really wanted pictures of Donny. Not little ole Mrs. Warner.