And more from our Gossip Girl: A night in New York with a crazy “Tabloid” … our Liz on what makes a really big star
“THE SEARCH for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women,” said Betty Ford.
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A FOND farewell this week to the groundbreaking Betty Ford, who brought reality to the role of First Lady. She was a first class human being, resolved to being down to earth and realistic in an unrealistic role.
I had one wonderful experience with Betty Ford, after she left the White House, but I think it reveals what a terrific person she was.
Mrs. Ford’s memoir had been written with the help of an old friend of mine, Chris Chase. One day I complained to Cris that my alcoholic brother Bobby needed “help.” Chris suggested I send him to the Betty Ford Clinic for treatment. I was mulling what to do about my beloved Bobby when my phone rang one morning. “Liz, this is Betty Ford. I passing through the Wichita airport and I wanted to ask about your brother and try to be of some help.”
I stuttered and stammered and finally said that I’d like to send him to the Betty Ford Clinic. Mrs. Ford asked where he was living? I told her Austin, Texas. There was a brief silence and then Mrs. Ford spoke: “Liz, don’t spend your money sending Bobby to my clinic. It’s very expensive. There are numbers of great therapeutic places in Texas, just like mine. Send him to one of those. I’ll send you a list. They all ascribe to the AA principle, and one is just as good as the other.
“I wish you luck my dear, but in the end it will be up to Bobby to decide if he wants to recover. Good luck to you.”
That was Betty Ford — thoughtful, commonsensical, practical, realistic. Unable to brag on her own creation or to say that the Betty Ford Clinic was the best.
I have never gotten over my appreciation and regard for this First Lady, who didn’t know me from Adam, but stopped in the Wichita airport to give me good advice!
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SPEAKING OF Betty Ford leads me to think of my old friend Elizabeth Taylor, the first celebrity to check into Mrs. Ford’s clinic, essentially putting it on the map. Elizabeth emerged from her experience a different person, and though she slipped back and had to undergo treatment again, a few years later, the downward spiral of her life had been altered. She never would have had the discipline and drive to spearhead her AIDS work without the lessons learned at Betty Ford.
And on the subject of La Liz, I want to say thanks to the New York Times’ mighty columnist Maureen Dowd. In her July 10th column she asserted that not even the great director Martin Scorsese can do justice to the epic love story of Elizabeth and Richard Burton (should Scorsese go ahead with his idea to make a movie about the fabulous couple.)
Maureen gave me the last word on what constitutes a star at the end of her column.
“As Liz Smith once observed, ‘Whenever somebody says so-and-so is a big star, I say, ‘Have they been condemned by the Vatican?’”
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THE AUDIENCE at Monday night’s screening of director Errol Morris‘ “Tabloid” documentary didn’t know quite how to react to the real life tale of Joyce McKinney, the Southern beauty queen who became obsessed with a Mormon missionary, followed him to Britain, kidnapped him and became, for a time, one of the most notorious women in the UK, a darling of Fleet Street scandal sheets.
Joyce is clearly “barking mad” as one of the tabloid editors describes her, but she is also extremely intelligent and quite appealing, even so many decades after her 1970’s heyday. (In later years she became infamous all over again, when she cloned a litter of puppies.)
“Tabloid” is 88 minutes of crazy. Depending on your taste for that sort of thing, it is very funny or quite unsettling. (Think “Grey Gardens.”) And while Joyce herself is no bed of roses, the men who made a living pursuing her come off even worse — smirking and laughing and unashamed about prying into every aspect of her life.
I will say this: “Tabloid” is mighty convincing anti-Mormon propaganda. When Joyce gets started on how Mormonism is really a cult, well … let’s just say this will not be a fave at Mitt Romney’s house.
The screening was at the IFC Center, way downtown. There was an after-party at a place called The Westway, near the Westside Highway. It used to be a gentlemen’s club.
Courtney Love, Kirsten Dunst, Spike Jonze and others wandered about. Parker Posey and Joan Rivers were promised, but seemed to be missing. (Actually, Joan was just an honorary co-host and was not really expected.) I will say the food was impressive. Pizza. Big boxes and big slices of excellent pizza. None of the usual teeny burgers and crab cakes and crackers enlivened a dab of something scary-looking.
As Village Voice scribe Michael Musto said, “Screw Parker Posey. I’m having pizza. I’m happy.”