Liz Smith: Defining Roles

Bette-Liz-Diane-1998“I’VE THOUGHT very little, consciously …!” says the fabled actress Edie Falco to Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” This caused a big laugh from the audience.

EdieThis was after Stewart asked Edie if she defined herself, consciously, as having created two very separate memorable characters on TV in her roles as the wife of a mobster in “The Sopranos” and as the conscientious but-drug addicted medic in “Nurse Jackie”?

A chestnut-haired Edie, who you can see from now through May 5th at the Manhattan Theater Club in a play “The Madrid,” just laughed and said what a great thing it is to have two such roles in a lifetime and to be privileged to play them — but not quite have time to think consciously about what all that means. “I have just been very lucky,” says Edie who then told Stewart that she hasn’t seen much of “Nurse Jackie: “Because I can’t afford Showtime!”

Edie Falco, whom I know slightly, is one of the most human, most down-to-earth creatures in show business. I will never forget her startling acting onstage opposite Stanley Tucci in “Frankie and Johnnie in the Claire de Lune.”

And it would have been great if Jon Stewart had let her talk occasionally instead of his defining her!

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I WAS at a lunch last week where famous jeweler Angela Cummings was being celebrated — because —  because she is so unusual and such a sweetie. One of the foremost designers of our time, reflecting the beauty of nature and three-dimensional sculpture. From Austria, she studied painting in Perugia, Italy and then began her career at Tiffany & Co. She created a company in her own name in the 1980s and you can see her wonderful pearls and sea horses at Neiman Marcus … Richard’s of Greenwich … Mitchells of Westport and spots elsewhere.

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We were in the garden room of Michael’s popular cafe and I was wearing the only Angela creation I own, a pair of demure earrings. But while I sat with Angela, the invitees for lunch (about 12 tables of them) smart-looking New York women of accomplishment, kept coming up to speak with her and show that they were still wearing many of the precious things she has made in the past. The next day there was another cocktail “do” for Angela at the Grill Room of the Four Seasons. I gather that my dynamic pal, Michele “Mickey” Ateyeh, was the power behind this grandeur.

pearlsChatting at Michaels with the charming Angela, I don’t know why but I asked her what she thought of bank moguls and the wealthy of the world who don’t trust having so much cash and don’t trust the stock market anymore — well,what she thought of them turning to gold for financial safety? Angela avowed as to how gold, which started going through the roof not long ago, wasn’t all that good a safety valve. She added that the turn to gold, and the driven-up price, had worked a real hardship on jewelry design.

“I don’t think buying gold is that great an idea!” she said, candidly.

So, what do you know? The very next day the New York Times had a headline reading: “A Sure Bet Loses its Luster: Gold, Long a Secure Investment, Has Lost 17% of Its Value Since 2011.”

Sometimes I am just flabbergasted with the things I learn from smart women at lunch. Angela Cummings seconded guessed the gold slide in the New York Times by 24 hours.

Oh, here’s my favorite new Angela thing  — A beautiful seahorse in her latest collection.

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Tom-Hanks-letterIF THE one and only Tom Hanks decides to write you a letter, he types it himself on a classic old typewriter on new stationery that show his photo as the late reporter Mike McAlary.

(The Nora Ephron play “Lucky Guy” is a big hit at the Broadhurst theater and tells the tale of the end of tabloid journalism as we once knew it. McAlary represented this by winning the Pulitzer Prize before he died all too young after an astoundingly controversial career.)

Here are a few things that my pal Tom Hanks typed to me: “This play is all about Nora, as you nailed it … we hear her every day. Every. Day. and 8 performances a week. ’tis Bliss.”

It is truly wonderful when big talents love their work and don’t fluff it off like it’s nothing.

I AM BEING flooded by people coming up to me or calling me saying they have already seen a preview of the one-woman show Bette Midler is doing titled “I’ll Eat You Last.”  This is not the divine Ms. Midler doing her usual thing but doing a glimpse into the life of the late Hollywood agent Sue Mengers. I wondered if the great theater public would even know who Sue was these days? But evidently it doesn’t matter who Sue Mengers is/was. It only matters that one of New York’s First Citizens, the one and only Bette Midler, cares to assay some of Sue’s saucy wit and life.

liz and betteSo I am set to see this playlet on April 24th opening night at the Booth Theater. I bow to no one in admiration for Bette in real and show biz life and for Sue who was a product only Hollywood could have created. (Sue was supremely comedic about all who surrounded her and one of her chief talents was to always make you feel like you were a lovable idiot!) So many nice people asked me if they could go with me to see this play that I threw open the invitation and ended up having nine in my opening night party.

Never mind  — we nine are going to throw caution to the winds, grab our seats, enjoy ourselves and then go to chow down at the wonderful Barbetta, NYC’s oldest family-owned restaurant, on West 46 street. And that’s on Restaurant Row if you’ve been under a rock.

I guess when Bette gets to La-La Land with this show, a place that seldom made use of her ultra movie acting talents, there’ll be general merriment and dancing on the thruways! And as multi-billionaire David Geffen was Bette’s best friend and Sue’s best friend, they will mount a Statue of Liberty that looks like Bette and Sue out in the Pacific Ocean!

Hollywood has changed a lot since the days when Sue Mengers was queen behind the scenes. But there’ll always be room for the story of dramatic saucy naughty not-always-so nice characters who run everything, especially when they are magical females!

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This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 4/16/13

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