Liz Smith: Judith Light Belongs To The World

DAMN! They love her as much as I do! writes my longtime pal Harry Haun in the New York Observer’s arts section.

He’s talking about actress Judith Light, who is on a three-year Broadway winning streak and everybody who cares about acting on stage, onscreen and on television should read The Observer’s web page. I was especially struck by the writer’s evaluation of this actress and her work for Broadway Cares/EquityFights AIDS and numerous other good works, as well as how she frequently passes for “unknown” while scoring hit after hit.

Harry claims Judith Light as his own and so do I. I suppose I thought she was my private “find.”

You’ve seen Judith Light as she rose to several Emmys in the soap opera “One Life to Live” … the delightful executive with Tony Danza on “Who’s the Boss?” … as someone who came across in “Phenom,” “The Simple Life,” “The Stones,” “Ugly Betty,” numerous “Law & Orders” and on TNT’s revival of “Dallas” most recently.

Maybe you saw her onstage in “Wit” … Tony-nominated as the wife of Vincent in “Lombardi” … winning the Tony in the recent “Other Desert Cities” … and now opening April 17 at the Manhattan Theater Club in “The Assembled Parties.”

Harry includes the rest of Ms. Light’s virtues and greatness as a human being in this article. And here I thought I “discovered” Judith Light.

THE TEXAS Film Hall of Fame used to have other names but it’s a hot ticket at the University of Texas in Austin, that blossoming only Democratic enclave left in the Lone Star State.

Leaving Texas to the majority of the natives who crave to secede and spend their time remembering the Alamo, let’s get right to the movie culture that thrives in and around Austin.

(And anyway, there isn’t too much to remember about the Alamo except Mrs. Dickerson and her baby being allowed to leave while the men were shouting versions of “Give Me Liberty or give me death!” which latterly, they frequently then received. I have often thought of Mrs. Dickerson walking sixty miles all the way back home to Gonzales, Texas where the town’s entire contingent of men had marched to the Alamo only days before and every last one of them was wiped out.)

OK, it’s a good thing I’m not going to the Texas Film Hall of Fame this year because I’d probably be lynched. But the last time I was there was glorious because I was introducing Oscar-winner and friend, Renee Zellweger. In ice cold air conditioning, this big star sat with her parents and friends, uncomplaining in a sleeveless evening dress. I will never forget how gracious and charming she was.

This March 7th event happens at the same time when a lot of locals will be at Lincoln Center in New York celebrating the opening of the play about the late Gov. of Texas, Ann Richards, starring actress Holland Taylor. But Austin Film buffs will have their fun anyway!

Annette O’Toole and Henry Thomas will be honored by Sissy Spacek and Jack FishStephen Tobolowsky will get the nod from Julie HagertyRobin Wright will do her stuff with none other than Rob Reiner introducing her … and the star of the Texas Award will bring back 1993’s movie “Dazed and Confused” to celebrate its 20th anniversary. You can go to austinfilm.org/tfhof for tickets and more info.

WHERE ARE all the musical comedies now that we need them? That is — I’m speaking of the all-American musicals that don’t come from England’s West End. I’m talking USA stuff.

Well, let’s take my young, talented, award-winning pals; Anne Berlin, the comedy writer, Andrew Bleckner, the composer, Valentina Fratti, the director. They are bowing with a developmental reading of “Howling Hilda” at The York Theater on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. (The York is such a pleasant place to go, situated in The Theater at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lex, entrance on 54th street.)

E-mail Valentinafratti@aol.com to reserve the limited free seats.

I think baseball fans will go wild crazy for this original new show and there is the fabled Mary Testa in the lead. She is the twice-Tony-nominated natural successor to Ethel Merman and she’ll portray the real-life woman who became the No. One Fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers back in the day. Baseball as it used to be!

While I’m at it, kudos to artistic director Jim Morgan who keeps The York mounting and remounting B’way musical history and new shows, too. He helps keep theater alive on the East Side of Manhattan.

I DON’T OFTEN watch the FX hit, “American Horror Story,” but when I do, I am always impressed by what’s going on and the quality of the performances and production. I am especially impressed with Jessica Lange, who this year played a grim asylum matron. (The plot of the show changes every season, most of the actors — those who haven’t been killed off in some grisly manner — remain, playing different characters.)

Well, I might have to watch “American Horror Story” all the time next season. Miss Lange is back, reportedly in a role more glamorous than her current character. And she’ll be joined by somebody new — the great Kathy Bates, who’ll be her friend. Or is she?

Miss Bates created one of the most terrifying characters in movie history, as James Caan’s “biggest fan” in “Misery,” a role which won her the Oscar. (Lange has been nominated six times for the Academy Award, winning for “Tootsie” and “Blue Sky.”) Fans of the show are already salivating at what the writers have in store, hoping for numerous high-voltage Lange/Bates confrontations.

I WANT to announce a new blog from the Tony-winning Broadway star Phyllis Newman. It’s headline is: “Phyllis Newman (This Girl Is On Fire!) Is Back!”

“Hi, haven’t the last eighteen months just zipped by? Profound, deep and multi-layered apologies for my self-inflicted sabbatical from writing my blog. After my dog ate the last two or three on or around August 2nd, 2011, I felt my life wasn’t working; the dog wasn’t fulfilling my companionship needs or my literary recognition. 

“I took a year and a half off and plunged into cyber-dating: J-Dates. ChristianMingle (I know, I know), SexySeniors … AgnosticAncients … MaimedMates … LastRite Pals … and like that.

“Suffice to say, Mr., Ms., or ever Uncle Right did not come along. So I decided to come back to my true love, entertaining, informing and irritating you. Hence, I present a series of stories, real and unreal, called “The Last Time I looked.” 

Click here to read the first chapter: www.phyllisnewman.com

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 2/28/13

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