Liz Smith: Number One Again!

“WHEN YOU’RE younger and have the early success I had — it sounds like the worst Hallmark cliché — but I didn’t have anyone to share it with. But when you have a family and children, you kind of see yourself reflected in them. I want to make the kind of movie that my kids are proud of. I have higher standards, in a way, for them.”

That’s Ben Affleck in Entertainment Weekly. Affleck is on the cover, as the # 1 “Entertainer of the Year.” This is in recognition of his critically acclaimed, box-office hit, “Argo.” That film — one of the very best of the year — clinches Ben’s “redemption” as a serious actor/producer/director.

He has regained his old “Good Will Hunting” glow, with the added burnish of maturity and a long baptism of fire as an object of gossip fodder. His nadir was the wildly publicized romance with Jennifer Lopez, that ended with her practically being left at the altar. Their joint film, “Gigli,” was also savaged. (Everybody knew Ben was in big trouble when he appeared in Jennifer’s video, and was seen literally kissing her famous backside.)

But despite personal and professional setbacks, Ben always remained a favorite of ours, like his great pal, Matt Damon. Ben was unfailingly polite and appeared genuinely flattered if you complimented one of his performances. I asked, after seeing him and Gwyneth Paltrow in “Bounce” how he managed to keep a tear glistening in his eye for what appeared to be a long time. Without that tear actually falling?

Ben laughed: “Oh, you noticed that? Let me tell you, it was hard. I thought it would be cheesy for him to cry, but he needed to show that kind of emotion. I had to will that tear not to fall!” (It was at this same event, that Gywneth Paltrow’s press rep literally moved the actress — about whom we’d never written an unkind word — out of the way and into a protective entourage, as if her delicate nature would be shattered by having to speak to a columnist.)

In any case, Ben Affleck is back, enjoying his career, his marriage to Jennifer Garner, being a dad. And to think, as he told “EW” — “I had very low expectations for ‘Argo’s’ performance. I just hoped over time people would find the movie.”

Well, they found it all right, and come February, Oscar might find Mr. Affleck standing at the podium at the KodakTheater.

THE LAST time I saw New York’s A-List event-planner Peggy Siegal, she had just gotten off a plane from L.A. and was rushing into the star-studded screening of “Les Miserables.”

“I was in L.A. for four hours. Now I’m here. I think I’m getting pneumonia, oh wait — I have to talk to Russell Crowe.” And she was off. Later, looking much refreshed, she changed into a denim and plaid-shirt get-up, like some glam farmgirl. That’s Peggy, a continual tornado in stiletto heels.

Now, here is Peggy again, in the new issue of Harper’s Bazaar, interviewed by Derek Blasberg. They give her four fab pages — including an incredible photograph of her from high school, as captain of her twirling team. (What, you think she could ever have been “just” a twirler?)

The piece is full of great observations about Peggy and hilarious quotes from her, including this: “I’m 65, but probably look 55. That’s not by accident.”

I must disagree. After getting off a plane, declaring herself contagious and then talking to Russell Crowe — always a delightful experience — Peggy looked about 45. And it’s not just makeup or whatever else.

She has the kind of energy that could power all of Manhattan. In fact, she does. Why didn’t they connect Peggy to an outlet during Hurricane Sandy?

I SEE that I am missing something, lots of things, actually. It never occurred to me what I was missing in not posting photos of the famous and infamous dogs and cats that I have known in my life.

I had to be watching “World News Tonight” to see Diane Sawyer introducing, at program’s end, photos of dogs, cats, raccoons, rats, pythons, whales, dolphins, sharks and other creatures for the delectation of the public signing off on serious matters around the world.

Just the other night, Diane showed some rescue dogs who had learned to drive cars! What will we think of next to take our minds off of serious matters?

And don’t get me wrong; my current house guest is part owner of the Pekingese who won the Westminster at the Garden last year. She was photographed the other night by the Wall Street Journal while looking at a service dog named “Oprah.” This was better for Iris Love than winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom!

So now I want to show you a book of photos and love letters from A Letter to My Dog: Notes to Our Best Friends with photos by Robin Layton and it is a handsome little Christmas gift for those of you who dote on dogs. And you are legion.

Here are just a few pictures by Robin with love letters from Tony Bennett to “Happy” … Kristin Chenoweth to “Maddie” … Fran Drescher to “Esther” … Hillary Duff to “DuBois” … Chelsea Handler to “Chunk” … Mariel Hemingway to Bindu” … Kathy Najimy to “Princess and Petie” … Rosie O’Donnell to “Missy” … Tatum O’Neal to “Mr. Pickle” … .Tyler Perry to “Aldo, Peter, Paul and Mary” … Kelly Preston to “Bear” … Robin Roberts to “KJ” … Oprah Winfrey to “Sadie and Luke” … Cynthia McFadden to “Sparky” and so many others.

Buy this book and contribute to the Humane Society of the U.S. Or contact the award-winning Ms. Layton at Chronicle Books. THIS IS A REAL MUST FOR YOUR DOG LOVER FRIENDS AT CHRISTMAS!

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 12/10/12

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