Liz Smith: Liza’s Latest Milestone — 65 Years Young

And more from our Liz: HBO’s “Big Love” goes wild as finale draws near … Miley Cyrus and Snooki — must youth have its fling?

“WILL YOU still need me, will you still feed me/When I’m 64?” So sang the Beatles.

Of course Paul McCartney wrote that little ditty back in 1967, when the age of 64 was considered fairly ancient —especially to a culture that proclaimed distrust of anybody over 30. Times have changed. Sixty-four is viewed as considerably more vital, “younger” than it once was.

Look at many of your friends and family. Or if you prefer a show biz reference — I do, because this is a show biz column — look at, say, Liza Minnelli. Liza — the eternal, bubbly, giggly, singing/dancing gamine. She turns 65 this Saturday.

How will the legend spend this milestone? Well, she just played a couple of well-reviewed dates in Austin, and picks up again in Biloxi on the 18th, continuing her “Confessions” tour. I think Liza might actually … relax. In her 65 years, I think she’s had about a year and half of genuine relaxation. She is always on the high wire, personally and professionally, often without a net.

Maybe this time she’ll be lucky and be surrounded by friends who won’t make her get up and sing or otherwise “perform” as Liza Minnelli. A big cake, a lot of presents, and the proud realization that she hasn’t “gone like Elsie.”  And never will.

* * *

WE RECENTLY wrote about the Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus debacle (Daddy cursing the day he put his little moneymaker into the hands of Disney.) Having seen Miss Cyrus performing a few times, and “acting” on “Hannah Montana,” I can’t say that I thought she had anything but youth and energy.

But now after watching her hosting “Saturday Night Live,” perhaps it was the confines of her sitcom that muted any real talent. I found her charming and funny and self-deprecating, going so far as to mock Disney in a skit on learning “the Disney technique to acting.” It was so spot on I think Disney producers and directors might take note — and get better acting coaches for their stars. And Miley was really very good indeed imitating teen dream Justin Bieber, as well as Lindsay Lohan (LL is another Disney alum, slightly older and considerably more train-wrecked than Miley.)

So, while I can’t predict an Oscar. Or even a Golden Globe, Miss Cyrus is not as bereft of talent as I imagined. And at a mere 18, she has plenty of time to hone her skills.

* * *

ALL I can say about the final season of HBO’s “Big Love” is — it’s like a weekly acid trip that ends each hour with a massive blow to your head. You’re not tripping any more, but you are stunned. I mean this is in a good way. The show has never been better, more compelling.

The entire polygamous family is falling apart in every which way, and the extremities that each character goes through or perpetuates are fantastic. Every aspect of every character that had tinges of humor in seasons past have morphed into epic tragedy and unendurable stress.

Bill Paxton has never been less sympathetic … Jeanne Tripplehorn never more conflicted … Chole Sevigny never more intense and — yes! — poignant. As for Ginnifer Goodwin, her character is heartbreakingly near the edge.

And that’s just the four main characters. What’s going on with the kids, the protagonist’s parents, assorted brothers, nephews, wild nuts and downright trash is just as electrifying.

Only two episodes left before the series is history. Take your blood pressure medication.

* * *

I HAVE watched two episodes of MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”  Oh, sure, I believed all the negative reviews. But how to ever mention it in any way without having had some exposure? Of course, it was loathsome to me. Stupid, unattractive people doing stupid unattractive things. (Or at least, that’s the way it is edited and presented.)

So when Rolling Stone rolled into my office, I hardly jumped for joy to see “JS’s” Snooki on the cover. She is straddling a rocket. “Snooki’s Wild Ride: America’s # 1 Party Girl” trumpets the cover.

But after reading about Bill Maher, I really didn’t want to read about “My Years In the Most Depraved Band Ever” by Sammy Hagar.

So, at a loss, I opened up to Erik Hedegaard’s article on Snooki and was mighty impressed. Perhaps not so much with Nicole Polizzi herself (she truly prefers that to “Snooki), but with the grindingly intimate, claustrophobic, often dead-end image the author paints of “Jersey Shore” — and in essence, all “reality” shows. Miss Polizzi is the latest poster girl launched from this debased genre, which MTV itself launched back almost 20 years ago with “The Real World.”

Feeling trapped by her odd success, Nicole assumes with tired resignation that a life of some sort of fame and/or infamy will follow, even after “Jersey Shore” sinks into the Atlantic. This girl is painfully aware that whatever she really is, her small-screen persona defines her. “It’s hard for people to see you one way, but you’re really the other way, so it’s kind of like, ‘Who am I, who are you?’  Sometimes I even confuse myself.”

Nicole does seem sweet, if not truly fascinating. However, writer Hedegaard’s portrait of fame in the world of instant fame is fascinating. I’ll never watch another episode of “Jersey Shore.” But if I ever run into Miss Polizzi, I might just try to give her a hug.

9 comments so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Television today is everything the late Steve Allen wanted to save us from. As for “reality tv” it is not reflective of the reality of the majority of Americans who do not live in a sewer. And who will not be dragged down into a sewer which apparently is the intent of the producers of some of these shows.  If you want to see what has contributed to the collapse of America, you need oly turn on the television.  “Anything goes” does not go with everyone. 

  2. avatar Richard Bassett says:

     Liza certainly is eternal, bubbly and giggly. Born in 1946, she grew up at the end of the golden years of Hollywood and came into her majority in the 1960′s. So, I feel confident to say that she has lived through it all. To a degree, her personal life (like Elizabeth Taylor) was like a public roller coaster ride. The Warhol Diary details her life in the late 1970′s/ 1980′s. To me, I think of her past as a cocaine induced regular at Studio 54…with Warhol, Bianca, and Halston. Though faced paced, to a 21 year old boy from Boston, it seemed like a glamorous life. In truth, Liza was an addict. Maybe Mr WoW remembers this period much more than I do. He lived there, I assume. Liza is a great example of what can be done with both prosthetic (artificial) hips. On Joy Behar, she revealed that her job as a child was to hide her mother (the star) from the crowd of reporters that plunged onto Judy everywhere she went. Not quite the paparazzi, but reporters still the same. Joy seemed a little confused by Liza’s statement…do did I. Liza is a survivor, not allowing the bad decisions of her life to keep her down. I think her last marriage to David Gest (with Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor in her wedding party) has taught her to be a bit more cautious with her personal life. But that wedding party was something surreal. I hope that Liza performs forever…but “Cabaret” wasn’t my favorite movie of hers.
      Yes, Liz, Miley has plenty of time to grow and experiment as a performer. “Saturday Night Lives’” performance was not a surprise to me. She has the industry history behind her  teaching her to spread her wings. I don’t listen or read about Billy Ray, starving for more fame by riding on his daughters coattails. I rarely watch SNL these days. I am fast asleep.
      I’ve never watched “Jersey Shore” or most other reality shows. In their infancy, they had a certain appeal. I have seen Snooki but she will soon be a flash in the past. Now they are a nuisance and dominate the TV airwaves. I don’t know the characters (not celebrities, mind you) and do not wish to know them. Rather than frantically searching for something decent on TV, I simply turn the TV set off (unless “V” is on).

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Ah, yes…I remember it well.  NYC in the 1970′s.  Fun. Fun. Fun.  Everybody had fun until 1981.  That’s when the music died.  Alongs with thousands afflicted with AIDS.

      I saw Liza, Liz Halston and that crowd a lot. (Saw them–was hardly” in” with them.)  They all had  alot of fun too, from the looks of it.

      I was only at Studio 54 once in my life.  Somehow, a good friend of mine persuaded the dragon at the door to allow not-very-interesting Mr. Wow in.  It was the night Elizabeth, Liza and Betty Ford were attending something for Martha Graham.  Miss Taylor was at the peak of her weight troubles.  It was quite an evening. All were insensate.  Steve Rubell had quite a time getting La Liz into her car–the infamous car shot, remember? 

      Miss Minnelli is truly a great survivor. The spectre of her addiction is always there.  And she always deals with it, as soon as the phantom begins to materialize.  She is a good girl.  And has never spoken badly of her mother.  Those thoughts and secrets she will take to her grave. 

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        Who can forget that May 1979 photo? It is a one of a kind. I’ve seen other photos of that evening, as well. She is wearing a flowing gown so the weight isn’t as obvious as it was when she got into the back seat of the car. I think that photo was motivation enough to turn things around (although it would take years). Warner (of course) was against her frequenting the club. I think he spent a few minutes of her 47th birthday with her at Studio 54, but soon left her alone. Guess he wasn’t a ‘disco’ person. Halston was the supplier for most of the cocaine and Liza was taking, ’any drug that she could get her hands on’. Sadly, they tried to reopen the club a few years after it closed…but the ‘disco’ era was gone.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Yes, Warner briefly accompanied ET to Studio on her 47th.  Which was also (finally!) thr NYC premiere of “A Little Night Music.”  The film was well received by that audience, I must say.  (I saw it again  later in the week at a movie house on the East Side and there was plenty of apprection for Miz Liz, Diana Rigg and the whole thing.  Critics!)

        La Liz was using a cane that night (hip issues, even then) and looked all worn out when she left the premiere after-party at Ginger Man.  But, whatever happened to her in the limo on the way to 54, perked her up considerably.    She threw aside her cane and had a hell of time with Halston and his crew.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        The 1970s. One blessing of age is the blurring of the memory.  I suspect everyone was “insensate” on something. But otherwise everyone was well-behaved compared to everyone today. And the discos. There were discos. And there was Studio 54. There was a side door as I recall. Maybe it was the front door. I don’t remember dragons at the door so I suspect it was the side door. I don’t really remember much to be honest at this point.  I don’t know that anyone does. Maybe Sylvia Miles remembers. She’s about all I do remember.  Vaguely.  What happens when you date Jack Daniels.
        I think Liza is one of those who simply manages to “keep it all in check” never really recovering but never really relapsing.  If it works for her, why not?

        The 1980s.  I no longer dated Jack Daniels. How do I sum up the ensuing years? I think I was better off with Jack.

  3. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    I was fortunate to see Liza’s show here in Austin last Thursday night.  Second row.  She looks great, she moves great, and as long as she stays out of the upper register, she sounds great.  A full 90 minutes, no intermission.  Her, Billy Strich, and his orchestra.  What can I say?  It was magic?  It was.  She is a living legend?  She is.  She gives her all when she performs?  She does.  Will I ever forget that night?  No.

    • avatar KarenR says:

      I love sitting and watching the way Liza works a crowd. I’ve seen one or two nights (casino crowds) that didn’t connect as well but she usually can grab the audience and lead them all over the place, seemingly with no effort. It’s amazing and I’ve never seen anyone do it as well.

  4. avatar Laura Ward says:

    I met Liza Minelli when I was a teenager in Houston after she performed at Jones Hall around 1970. She was so sweet and enthusiastic with us as she signed autographs and asked us about ourselves. She had put on an energetic show and still had time for us.