Liz Smith: Liz Gets “Intimate”

exumas“Leisure is the mother of Philosophy,” wrote Thomas Hobbes.

I recently spent a delicious week in the islands of the Exumas which are part of the Bahamas. This happened while New York and much of the rest of the country was suffering from a “spring” spate of cold weather. I’m not bragging; I was just lucky in my timing. (The writer Tom Wolfe once asked me of the Exumas: “Is that a place or a religious state of mind?”)

crusieI don’t want to say the name of where I actually was, as I don’t want to go there again and find it full of cars and other tourists and totally ruined for beauty and innocence in an excess of what has become of Nassau, for example. (Nassau used to be a place where people went especially to visit during the annual famous and colorful Junkanoo Parade. It is now a modernized mess of “civilization” with Ralph Lauren and Prada shops and clutches of horrible huge tour ships clogging its waters.)

Anyway, where I was visiting, the people are still happy and contented with their special small space and I felt charmed not to encounter the commercialism and the “resort” atmosphere that ruin much of what is left of the Caribbean. Maybe on such an island, once dedicated to the art of bone fishing, the much appreciated well-functioning schools for people of all ages … the British type standard uniforms … the many many churches, both evangelical and Catholic, plus no golf courses, may make the difference.

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IF YOU think Whoopi Goldberg and I are pals, you’d be right. I have admired this great star and generous personality since she first appeared on Broadway having been “discovered”, so to speak, by the great director Mike Nichols.

stripI had the gigantic pleasure in the past of leading the charge by the New York Landmarks Conservancy of making Whoopi a “Living Landmark” and at this time I also got to know her partner in business, one Tom Leonardis, a man who knows how to take charge without seeming to. Together, they are a formidable pair.

Now Whoopi has consented to have an open and “intimate” conversation with me on April 9th, a Tuesday, meeting from 6 to 8 at an undisclosed Manhattan east side location. We are inviting the select to join us in this effort to benefit the Maria Droste Counseling Services, which helps people sort out their woes when they can’t afford high-priced psychiatry. Whoopi is interested in such problems and so am I.

Our good friend Elizabeth Peabody leads this group and so we hope you will join us by emailing Peabody.E@Gmail.com, for details. Or call 212-889-4042. This is a reasonably priced charity. (You might have heard of this little fundraising group before … we have talked frankly with the likes of Marie Brenner and Pete Peterson, Gail Sheehy, Gail Collins and Christopher Buckley, and last year we had the one and only Bette Midler.)

The “conversation” starts promptly at 6:30, we’ll give you the location when you contact us, and believe me it will be worth while. There are cocktails at 7:15 after and then you can be on your way. Incidentally, this isn’t the only charitable contribution the dazzling Whoopi will make this month. On April 30th, she is being honored at the Third Annual Namesake Luncheon in the Metropolitan Club. That’s www.publicprep.org.

(But, please buy your tickets to Maria Droste first. Because I’ll be trying to do my stuff in person, with Whoopi, and I still like to score!)

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THOUGHTS AND prayers are with the great queen of cult actresses, Karen Black, suffering from cancer. I don’t know Miss Black’s exact prognosis, but unlike another fabulous woman, Valerie Harper, Karen, though weighing only about 95 pounds, is fighting back. Harper’s doctors told her that her brain cancer was terminal and she has been a model of serene acceptance.

Karen’s husband, Stephen Eckelberry, is trying to raise money to send Karen to Europe for special treatment. Black has been battling her cancer for two years, and just like ordinary folks, has been pretty much wiped out financially. The website gofundme.com is where you visit if you want to try and contribute a bit to Karen Black’s treatment and travel.

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spectorDID ANY of you watch HBO’s Phil Spector? with Al Pacino as the ranting, wildly be-wigged music mogul accused of murder, and Helen Mirren as his often appalled attorney Linda Baden? Baden came to believe there was “reasonable doubt” as to whether or not Spector murdered actress Lana Clarkson. That court case ended in a mistrial. Spector was tried again — sans Baden — and found guilty.

Well, it was quite a TV show. I was more impressed by Mirren than Pacino, but maybe his patented rants — even enlivened by a variety of crazy hairpieces — have palled.

Anyway, the real-life Linda Baden was in Manhattan recently at a private Friars Club roast for her friend, the well-known lawyer Michael J. Griffith. (A TV series is being prepared on his life and clients.) Linda decided to deliver a “eulogy.” She was introduced by her husband Dr. Michael Baden, the former NYC medical examiner.  Linda got big yuks from Griffith, former NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, his wife Rikki Klieman and Yoko Ono, among others. Linda did admit that she received some professional writing help polishing her remarks. Well, honesty is the best policy.

PERHAPS the name Stephen Wayda doesn’t leap at you in instant recognition. But you have surely seen his work. Especially if you are a guy. Over the past 30 years Stephen has photographed 300 Playboy Playmates and covers. (Pamela Anderson owes her once glorious image to Wayda’s talent.) He has also photographed Sharon Stone and Nancy Sinatra for Playboy.

Now Stephen is branching out. He’s offering his always flattering lens for “personal photo sessions” for the wives and girlfriends of men who want “boudoir photography” of the highest quality. But he’s still doing his stuff for Playboy.

You can go to StephenWayda.com to see the legacy of his work. There are worse ways to while away an hour than looking at beautifully presented pretty ladies.

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This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 3/28/13

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