Liz Smith: Holland Taylor Triumphs as Ann Richards

Holland Taylor as Ann Richards

And more from our Liz: Ricky Gervais — not such an “outsider” … Charlize Theron, Hollywood’s brilliant “Young Adult”

“I HOPE Ann (Richards) would like this play. People loved to please her … one of her children said to please her was to get hit with a million suns,” writes actor Holland Taylor.

I found this in the “note from the playwright” program at the Eisenhower Theater when I went down to Washington’s Kennedy Center to catch Miss Taylor in her big hit, “Ann.”

Producer Bob Boyett is searching high and low for a Broadway theater so this wonderful show about the onetime governor of the State of Texas can be seen in New York. (Ann Richards lived the last five years of her life as a devout Manhattanite.) Holland’s show has been received all over Republican Texas with open arms. Also in Chicago and Washington. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saw it in its last week in D.C.

I have often written about Holland Taylor, a longtime friend, who won an Emmy for her role as an over-sexed judge in “The Practice” sometime ago. She is currently seen on TV as the realtor mother-from-hell in “Two and a Half Men” and recently ended up, onscreen, in bed with Ashton Kutcher.

I attended the closing night in Washington last weekend, for I knew Holland was rushing back to L.A. to be feted by her onetime producer Norman Lear. Then, she was returning to Washington to accept an award — and I don’t wonder — she may be accepting many more of these.

Acting onstage like the late Ann Richards is one thing. However, my ultimate appreciation comes from a review of this work of history. KEY-TV in Austin: “This is a gem of a play!”

And, it is. Not many actors can get credit for creating their own starring role, but Holland deserves it. She’d just say she was totally inspired by the life, career, and death of the great Ann Richards.

* * *

Here’s a P.S. to that. The closing evening performance I attended was also Holland’s birthday and the red-jacketed ushers at the Eisenhower Theater had made her a beautiful birthday cake. In turn, she and her gang feted the ushers with champagne backstage in the green room.

The ushers told me that in all their history, although there have been many many stars at this theater and many plays, no one had ever before invited them to come backstage, or to be welcomed into the green room.

Holland says, “It isn’t that they were ever kept out of the green room or away from performers. It’s simply that it never occurred to anyone to invite them. And the reason it did occur to me is because it would have occurred to the person I am playing on the stage.”

* * *

The New York Times seems to have disagreed with me (they don’t know or care that they did) about the effective wickedness of Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais. Their reporters Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply say he “made good on his promise to aggressively mock the A-list stars seated directly in front of him.” I wrote that “the audience didn’t seem to want him there anyway … not out of outrage or nervousness at what he might say — just boredom … and maybe a little contempt … ”

Hey, maybe we did agree after all. The Times reported that the stellar audience was “less than thrilled … a chilly reaction. ”

But on reading further under the Barnes/Cieply byline I discovered some quite entertaining things about Ricky. First, the reporters reminded us that Ricky, on the “Ellen” TV show, had brushed aside criticism, saying, “Stars need to get over themselves.” Here, I agreed with Ricky. He went on to say quite accurately and derisively: “It wasn’t a room full of wounded soldiers. These are the richest, most privileged people in the world.”

Then, second, Barnes/Cieply gives their own verdict: “The outsider pose is something of an inside joke. Mr. Gervais has starred in almost a dozen movies with cumulative world ticket sales of more than $1 billion, is represented by the powerful William Morris Endeavor agency and has a net worth that has been estimated at $80 million. He only talks like the denizen of an Occupy camp.”

O.K., will the Hollywood Foreign Press association invite Ricky back again? They got quite a lot of mileage out of him already. I can recall that before they even thought of Ricky Gervais, they were once the laughing stock of Hollywood. But, times change. Laughing stocks seem to have come into their own.

Ricky himself has announced he won’t be back.

* * *

One fascinating thing about the Golden Globes was their cameras referencing certain faces over and over. We often got glimpses of the gorgeous actress Charlize Theron.

She looked simply great but she always seemed to be wearing a kind of lofty pose of disdain, as if she were wondering how she ended up there. (Charlize mentioned to several reporters on the red carpet that she was still suffering from a lingering cold, so maybe that accounted for her less-than-sunny countenance?)

Miss Theron is one of Hollywood’s most daring, bravest actors. She gained many pounds to win an Oscar in “Monster, as a sinister serial killer. Recently, she played a role, in “Young Adult,” that most stars would refuse — a narcissistic over-the-top former golden girl who returned to her high school hometown to wreak havoc. The character as written was so despicable on the surface, that one would think Charlize might have tossed this screenplay in the trash can. It didn’t make a very good movie and it telegraphed itself all the way. But she gave an unsparing performance. I think Ms. Theron deserved a Golden Globe of her own, but she lost to Michelle Williams. Still, an Oscar nomination for Charlize is not out of the question. Can’t wait to see what she does next!

One comment so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I love Holland Taylor. Ann Richards, not so much. Ann Richards and Bob Strauss went to Washington and sold Pamela Harriman on Bill Clinton. Now Pamela Harriman didn’t know that Bob Strauss was good friends with George HW Bush. But Ann Richards did.