Liz Smith: On the Mend

MR. Sinatra … I am an Italian!” said the comedienne Kaye Ballard, currying favor way back when.

“And I’m an American,” harrumphed Sinatra right back. (Funny, the things that turn up in old files.)

OUR friend Cindy Adams of the Post settled it once and for all about the popular Barbara Walters. She is back in New York at home recovering from chicken pox with her pet people, Ikadel and George, watching over her.

But Barbara sounds just great according to her pal Suzanne Goodson and she is so glad to be home among her “things” …. Hoping to see her soon and sending “get well quick” love.  A special pet goes to Cha Çha, her ever faithful dog.

THEATER’S national treasure, the musical comedy star and very good actress Elaine Stritch and I celebrated our Groundhog birthdays the other night at Swifty’s emporium. Our combined ages were so horrific that Robert picked up the check and brought us a blazing birthday cake.

Miss Stritch says she will do a one-week show in the Bobby Short Room of the famous Carlyle Hotel and then, in springtime, she plans to forsake New York and go live in Birmingham, Michigan among her Stritch relatives. She’ll have her own place from which to drive them all crazy.

Elaine would object to my using the word “forsake,” as she points out that Birmingham is only a few hours away from Broadway and when people start humming “Curtain up! Light the lights!” — well, she’ll be back.

ONE OF my Smith relatives of whom I’m so very proud is Anna Deavere Smith who will be presented with the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize by JP Morgan Chase & Co. on Feb. 13th at 1 Manhattan Chase Plaza, on the 60th floor.

Lillian Gish was one of the first heroines of silent cinema, having been directed by D.W. Griffith with her long hair glued to an ice floe back when actors had to do all their own stunts — or else. (The movie was 1920’s “Way Down East.”)

Miss Gish was a charmer and so talented. She lived and worked until 1993 and just before she went to her reward, she told me that Bette Davis (in a last movie “The Whales of August”) was “the worst person I ever had to work with.”

Then Lillian promised me that I would, at any memorial to her, tell the following story. Lillian was standing in a cocktail party given by the agent Milton Goldman. The room was crowed with stars and famous Broadway actors. One such was witty Anne Meara who was sitting on an over-crowded couch.

“Anne,” demanded Lauren Bacall, “get up and give Lillian your seat!”

Anne looked over at the 99-year-old Miss Gish and said, “Why? Is she pregnant?!”

Maybe this won’t throw you on the floor with laughter but this was Lillian’s own favorite story.

Maybe Anna will tell this story herself. Former recipients of the Gish award include Ingmar Bergman, Bob Dylan, Arthur Miller, Peter Sellars, Robert Redford, Pete Seeger, etc. Nobody deserves it more than Anna who has moved and used comedy to elevate social problems.

YOU could get yourself invited to The Bowery Mission’s 14th Annual Valentine Gala honoring Sandra Lee, the Emmy winning TV host and Childhood Hunger advocate if only you knew Maria Bartiromo. She’s the host and I wish I’d met her years ago before I started watching her on CNBC’s money shows and trying to decide what to do with my own.

I am going as the guest of chair Veronica Kelly, the lucky woman (or maybe he’s just the lucky man) of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. We’ll be living it up February 14th at The Plaza.

Call Blair Nordby at 212-684-2800, #152 if your black tie or whatever is pressed.

IN SPITE of those incessant BP advertisements that pollute the airwaves telling that people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, etc. are happy now, despite that oil spill a few years ago; that they have all completely “recovered” — people in New Orleans are still raising money to help the Preservation Resource Center of N.O.

The other night they had native Patricia Clarkson emceeing a party at The Box, featuring the Grammy-winning Soul Queen Irma Thomas, pianist David Torkanowsky and the Derek Douget Band.

Already PRC has restored nearly 1400 properties and helped countless individuals get their lives back without help from BP. You probably could only see this in the Big Easy, but some aerialists slid down silk ropes and then danced to “Lady Marmalade” — “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” Christie’s John Hays had a live auction and much was made of the restoration of the iconic Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel. Those people know how to live!

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 1/30/13

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