Liz Smith: Man is Certainly Stark Mad

“Man is certainly stark mad. He cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by the dozens,” wrote Montaigne back in the 1600s.

I am sitting here with a cup of coffee writing for my still-alive syndicated newspapers and for the Internet and I am wondering — are you still reading any newspapers/magazines?  Or, are you giving them a cursory glance on your computer or iPad or whatever else was just invented yesterday?

I went to a party on Monday night in the studio where ABC puts on “Good Morning America” and noticed the most popular spot was behind the set-up stage. There, a plethora of people had attached their cell phones to recharge during a charity fund-raiser about fertility, adoption, same sex marriage. There was a slew of cell phones increasing their energy … the speeches were mostly too long because the audience was already “converted” … but the good will and good feeling was rampant … there were a lot of faces I knew.

It was fun.

For the record the charity is the American Fertility Association, 888-917-3777 and it is expanding to promote families of all sorts, adoption, same sex marriage, etc.  Entertainment was provided by one of the many stars of “Annie” — Jaidyn Young.

Plus co-star Gavin Lodge.  He is my favorite actor in “Annie,” playing an FDR cabinet member, a man who can’t sing on key.

Rosie O’Donnell had not-just-a-few witty remarks about adoption that killed the crowd … Lisa Kudrow showed up on a video that had to compete with the blazing flashing lights outside in Times Square … that was ok because the night was called “Illuminations NYC 2012” … and the tall terrific star of “Dallas,” one Brenda Strong, presided as well and offered a tour of the Southfork Ranch.

Actor/producer/author Dan Bucatinsky and ABC’s correspondent Cynthia McFadden were given handsome awards for their work promoting adoptions. Dan is an adopting father; Cynthia is adopted herself.

I had the fun of telling “Annie” musical director Todd Ellison that on the occasion of naming the young Jimmy Nederlander a “Living Landmark,” I had asked him for ten tickets to Palace Theatre’s “Annie.” Jimmy said, “Call my office tomorrow. I will only charge you double!” I did and he didn’t, but believe me I paid for the ten and the figure on my American Express card gave me pause. (My nine guests paid me back later.) So much for the power of the press these days!

Well, the all-powerful press of the New York Times yesterday decided to up the pressure on the already performing play, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Reporter Christopher Isherwood writes, saying that the show, in a limited run, starring the one and only Al Pacino, is stiffing the critics although it will end its run at January’s end. Meanwhile, the Times critic says producers are keeping critical evaluations of the David Mamet play, at bay.

I do notice that more and more shows on Broadway are charging sky-high prices although almost every one of them is fighting for survival. The average person seems reluctant to tackle this art form that makes New York a special place. Theater!!

Yet, the Broadway League reports this was their strongest 52 week season in terms of attendance and grosses. They say 63% of the over 12 million people who attended Broadway productions were tourists. The long-running hit “The Book of Mormon” doesn’t even use its press agent to give out critical seats. It has behaved from the beginning as if it has no earthly use or need for publicity and maybe that’s right.  “Wicked” is another big hit with high prices and hard-to-get tickets.

Well,  competition is alive and flourishing on the Great White Way and elsewhere, but turning Times Square and environs into an impossible place to turn around in, to get to, to get out of, is a dilemma for many who want to go to a legitimate play or musical.  Maybe it’s anti-elitism and totally democratic as Mayor Bloomberg seems to think, but personally, I’d like to see Times Square go back to the way it was.

You can hardly even walk in it at night, the way it is now constituted.  You almost have to be able to afford a private limo with a driver who is willing to break the law in order to take and pick you up.  Taxi drivers increasingly refuse to go near there. So you can walk and the hordes of “Lookie Loo’s” make that difficult.

Yesterday, we also learned that Katie Couric is “sweeping to victory” with her new ABC talk show, killing the  rumors that she’ll leave the instant her contract is up and go with CNN’s new head Jeff Zucker … that Vanessa Redgrave, 75, and James Earl Jones, 81, will never give up and will team, as lovers in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Old Vic next September … that Howard Stern will re-up with “America’s Got Talent” and that he’ll go solo if no suitable critics join (and I think he is terrific in this role) … that the New York Post says Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to move to New York City and run for the job of the next Mayor … As Dorothy Parker would ask, “What fresh hell is this?” and I doubt that Hillary has lost her mind even in these demanding times.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 12/5/12

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