And more from our Liz: Christopher Hitchens … Japan … and Elizabeth Taylor’s “Cleopatra” handmaiden
“FRIENDS, ENEMIES and those of you who are not yet decided!”
This is how Malcolm X started all his speeches — and Malcolm has been gone a long time, so I have stolen it.
Well, anyway, I am just back from a quick trip to Harbour Island in the Bahamas. Every time I went out to dinner at this little vacation spot in the Bahamian Exumas, I just missed running into Revlon’s chief Ron Perelman, who has a house just down the pink sand beach. I have been announcing over and over that I am “the next Mrs. Ron Perelman!” — so I am pretty furious that he dared to marry another woman in the meantime. (I hear she’s very nice.)
* * *
GOOD GRIEF! See what happens when I am away a couple of days? I come back to find Lindsay Lohan not only determined to go to trial on that alleged jewelry theft, but wishing to rid herself of her last name, and be known only as “Lindsay.” Like Cher and Madonna and … Charo. Well, why not? When the media says “Lindsay,” we certainly know who that is. (Also — she despises her father, Michael Lohan. So, there are deeper issues.)
* * *
YOU’VE been reading everywhere about how Aretha Franklin has been all over town, out with the tycoon Clive Davis at Le Bernardin and elsewhere, being feted by this one and that. Funny! I didn’t see anything about last week when this giant of music turned up in a crowd at the best French restaurant in New York – La Grenouille – with her pal Smokey Robinson. No doubt the owner, Charles Masson, delivered his famous Dover sole to the Queen of Soul!
* * *
READING THE English press! Andrew Lloyd Webber turned 63 last week, and he is now being painted by artist Alan Hyde. ALW’s wife, Madeleine, commissioned the work — and nobody will say right now whether or not the finished oil painting will be hung in the National Portrait Gallery.
…THE RAGE in Great Britain is over – guess who? None other than George Clooney! But not the Hollywood matinee idol, statesman and influential politician behind the scenes — but the younger Clooney who starred in “E.R.” Television re-runs of George and his gorgeous co-star, Julianna Margulies, are the current rage for couch sitters.
…IF YOU visit the Galapagos and spy a biscuit on the ground, don’t pick it up and eat it. Scientists who prize the unusual native species have arranged for thousands of poisoned biscuits, unattractive to sea lions, birds, marine iguana and turtles, be dropped to rid the islands of its black rats.
…“NOTHING should be built here again!” says one beleaguered resident of the villages wiped out by the Japanese tsunami. But some of those who were wiped out are ready to build again. Seems to me they shouldn’t – not unless Japan can build a seawall 70 feet high. And maybe not even then.
…HELICOPTER SHOTS of masses of the cars destroyed so effectively by the tsunami brings home the fact that the world is over, and factories are now suffering from lower production and a lack of parts. GM closed a pickup truck factory in Louisiana last week and Toyota is lowering work schedules at its own plant in San Antonio, Texas. Honda is also seeing “interruptions” in getting parts. Mazda suspended orders from U.S. dealers. Mitsubishi also reduced production.
…THE FAMOUS atheist Christopher Hitchens, one of my all-time favorites, is being treated for cancer by a Christian evangelical doctor who is well known for debating Chris as to whether God exists. The doctor is Frank Collins, a geneticist with an experimental plan. Hitchens says: “I won’t say he doesn’t pray for me, because I think he probably does; but he doesn’t discuss it with me.” The two became friends after debating one another in public. (Incidentally, don’t miss Christopher Hitchens’ article in the April Vanity Fair as to why Egypt is not a country with an army, but an Army with a country!”)
…WHEN THE English actress Francesca Annis was only age 16, she was tapped to play the handmaiden Eiras to Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra. The company in Rome was moved to Ischia in the Gulf of Naples, where the star and her entourage were in a five-star hotel and Francesca was set to live with the crew at the other end of the island. “Elizabeth said, ‘There is no question of Francesca staying down with the unit. She’s too young. She must come up and be with me and the family.” Francesca says that she mostly stood around when filming thinking, “Gosh, this woman is so beautiful … but Elizabeth was also protective of young actors. During the filming, I remember one of the makeup women had a child fall ill and Elizabeth quietly paid all the doctor bills … In those days, bottled water was not the rage it became. But Elizabeth refused to drink it unless everyone in the cast and crew was supplied with bottled water as well. The public has instincts about stars. They have antennae. They know when someone is histrionic or when the causes they support are all an affectation. And they knew Elizabeth Taylor was genuine…Elizabeth was never one to stand apart on the set. I remember most her laughing a lot. And she was able to laugh at herself… When I went on to another film, the first day I found my dressing room filled with flowers from her – irises, a nod to the character I played in ‘Cleopatra,’ and a handwritten card of good luck.”
* * *
A COMMENT on Elizabeth from her real handmaiden, Liz Smith. I noted people giving tribute to Miss Taylor; people like Anne Hathaway, Debbie Reynolds, Joan Collins, Barbra Streisand. But why, I wondered, didn’t the international press seek out some of her other famous co-actors; for instance, Peter O’Toole, Warren Beatty, George Segal, Jane Alexander, Michael Caine, Geraldine Chaplin, John Goodman, Tom Skerritt, Tony Geary, C. Thomas Howell, Robert Wagner, Chad Lowe, Billie Whitelaw, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Harmon, Valerie Perrine, Diana Rigg, Cicely Tyson, Lesley Anne Down, Angela Lansbury, Len Cariou, Dennis Christopher, Susan Tyrell, Liz Torres, James Brolin, Kim Novak, Mia Farrow, or directors like Mike Nichols, Austin Pendleton, and Hal Prince. I would have loved to hear from some of these famous souls.
Maybe I just missed their words. Or maybe some sharp biographer ought to get on the ball!