Liz Smith: The Oscars, Then and Now

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And more from our Gossip Girl: The “Borat” sequel … New York’s glittering cabaret scene

“ONE OF THE nominated films is ‘The Black Hole.’ A black hole is an empty void in which anything that enters is never seen again. Those of you in the business know it as the William Morris Agency.”

So spoke Oscar-meister Johnny Carson back in the days when he gloriously emceed the Academy Awards — and when stars were really stars. We call them “the good old days.”

Wonder who’s writing the dialogue for Anne Hathaway and James Franco?

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REMEMBER the country of Kazakhstan? Oh, yes, you do. It was the star of the Sacha Baron Cohen film “Borat” – a sleeper spoof where the creative Mr. Cohen made himself a star overnight, by making fun of this former Soviet republic. (Cohen described Kazakhstan’s national pastimes as “disco dancing, archery, rape and table tennis.”)

Now a leading Kazakh movie director named Erkin Rakishev is releasing a so-called “sequel” to “Borat.” It is titled “My Brother Borat” and it shows Kazakhstan as a modern and prosperous country. Director Rakishev will promote his effort with a life-size blow-up doll of Sacha Baron Cohen, and he’ll end up punching the doll saying, “Cohen, you were not right!”

I do hope the doll will be wearing Sacha Baron Cohen’s favorite get-up, a sling-shot brief “bathing suit” that goes up over the shoulders and reveals almost the entire male body. It was Mr. Cohen’s answer to the female mini-bikini.

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LAST week history was made in the international art market but in spite of crushing crowds at both Sotheby’s and Christie’s in Manhattan, the major newspaper, The New York Times, managed not to give this unusual happening a notice in print.

What these auctions proved is that the big money in modern art and in the rare Impressionists is no longer limited to “recent” creations. A 33-inch Roman marble bust of Antinous, listed in catalogues as being worth $2 to $3 million, was sold for $23,800,000. It took eleven minutes of bidding for this to come to pass.

Christie’s, in the same week, sold a Cycladic marble figure (very early, early Greek) which was estimated at $3 to $5 million. It sold for $16,900,000, which was a world record for Cycladic art, dated at 2400 B.C. Other ancient Greek and Roman works of art sold for three to five times their highest estimates.

Impressionist art has been selling at high, high figures for several decades. But now ancient art seems to be catching up.

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NEW YORK’S major cabaret scene, meaning Feinstein’s at the Regency, the expensive former home of the late Bobby Short and the current home of Elaine Stritch – the one and only Carlyle Hotel –  are playing host to big big stars, to wannabe’s, and even to a few people who make you exclaim “Who dat?’

Speaking of Feinstein’s, there’ll be two shows on New Year’s Eve: Michael Feinstein “Himself,” and “Herself” – the one and only Barbara Cook. Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks will join them.

Judy Garland’s own baby girl – Lorna Luft” will sing “Songs My Mother Taught Me” from January 4–9. Then we can add Melinda Doolittle from Feb. 22-March 5. Sheldon Harnick and Kate Baldwin hold sway from March 8 – 12. The beloved Shirley Jones will preside March 15 –19. We can dig Little Anthony and the Imperials April 5-16.

Throughout there will be A Special Concert Series starting with Late Night Swing on Wednesday nights. Then comes Louis Prima, Jr.Pamela RoseMartha Lorin … Terri White … Jarrod Spector … Bruce Vilanch … Raissa Katona BennettMarianne Chalis … Connie James … Judy ButterfieldBariele TranchinaLinda PurlKate Taylor … and Raquel Bitton.  Whew!

THE CARLYLE HOTEL will be slightly more staid and glamorous. Currently, sweetie-pie, Steve Tyrell is doing his great thing in “I’ll Take Romance.” On December 31 at 5:30 one can enjoy Steve’s “The Time of Year,” with cocktails and canapés and a glass of champagne. At 9 P.M. The Carlyle’s Black Tie Gala Dinner and Show will be offered featuring a four-course dinner from Chef James Sakatos, an autographed Tyrell CD, and champagne — all for just $550.00 per person.

On January 11th the wonderful, absolutely wonderful, Christine Ebersole will play a three-week engagement. Wow!

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HERE’S NEWS we can use. The Fred Ebb Foundation has announced that its 2010 donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids will total $1 million dollars, making it the largest in BC/EFA history. I don’t wonder at Fred’s generosity; he was the soul of soul who, with his partner, John Kander, created such gems as “Cabaret,” “Liza With a Z,” Flora the Red Menace,” “Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” “Chicago,” “ Women of the Year,” – oh, I give up!

I am happy to say that the New York Landmarks Conservancy made Fred Ebb a “Living Landmark” only a few years ago. Hey Up There, darling Fred, how about shooting a few dollars our way so we can save some other city. Landmarks?

9 comments so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Bobby Short,  Elaine Stritch, and Eartha Kitt are names that come to mind when talking about cabaret. So that leaves us with Elaine Stritch.  These others? Well maybe the tourists don’t know any better.

    • avatar Erika Muller says:

      Bobby Short and Eartha Kitt have left this mortal coil and Elaine Stritch (at least for the moment) is strutting her stuff in “A Little Night Music”.  You have to be kidding me if you are looking down your nose at the amazing Christine Ebersol as a cabaret performer.  Snooks, you should know better than that!
      Seriously Snooks, perhaps another glass of egg nog would improve your mood?

  2. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    A little “Grinchy” Snooks.  I completely agree that some of the names are not “household”.  I am sure that, Bobby, Eartha and Elaine weren’t always automatic either.  To keep the genre going we must support the newbies.  As far as the tourists go; I don’t live in NYC but spend as much time there as possible living the cabaret and Broadway life as possible.  Long live cabaret.
    All the best of the season, Snooks.  I normally agree with you

  3. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Tough room today.  I’m sorry but the cabaret I know is the intimate connection made which turns a piano bar into a living room. I don’t know how else to put it.  It’s not for everyone. Nor can everyone pull it off. 

    • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

      You’re right about the intimacy and the connection.  I still believe that we have to give a chance to the newbies to keep the genre alive.  Elaine won’t live forever or maybe she will.  We can dream.  Barbara Cook is about the same age.  Andrea Marcovicci is in her 60′s I think.  Some of the younger singers really are wonderful and can make me feel very much at home.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I forgot about Andrea Marcovicci.  Who is one of the ones who can pull it off.  Some of the others perhaps. I’ve not seen them all nor heard about them all. Some I have.  I guess my point is that the “genre” is becoming too generic so to speak. 

  4. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    I’m a bit protective and defensive of  cabaret.  I still hope in this life or perhaps another to have the opportunity to bring that feeling of “piano bar to living room”.  As I have said in emails to Johnathan Schwartz; I am a singer of no renown but oh how I love it.
    I fear you are so correct about generic.  I will keep defending with a loving heart and perhaps a more realistic attitude.

  5. avatar Merlindbear says:

    One quick aside – speaking as a stereotype, I’m beyond jealous of the buffet of choices you have.
    It’s one thing to bitch because you don’t have anything, it’s completely another to bitch about too many choices.
    I’m in the culturally bereft South, I’d kill to have the options you do.  

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I’m afraid it will be awhile before cabaret comes to the South where even piano bars are still looked upon with disdainful eye so to speak.  Eartha Kitt did bring her living room to Houston once as a “one-night benefit” and suffice it to say she wasn’t planning on a “return engagement.”  Houston is still more “honky-tonk” than cabaret. Along with the rest of the South.  Eartha Kitt was many things but “honky-tonk” was not one of them.  Roaring with the memory. In the book I will never write.