Liz Smith: The Rise and Fall of a Supergroup – The Cowsills (Really!)

The Cowsills

Rosie O’Donnell Remembers Brunch With Elizabeth Taylor … Golf, It’s Not Boring! … and American Cancer Society Joins up With “Follies”

“ALL THAT we see or seem is but a dream within a dream,” said Edgar Allan Poe.

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IF YOU are of a certain age you certainly remember the singing family pop band, The Cowsills. They hit it big in 1967 with “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things,” “Indian Lake” and their hugely popular version of “Hair.” (There was something deliciously subversive about the innocent Cowsills singing a song from that notorious, groundbreaking musical.) The Cowsills were actually the basis of the TV series, “The Partridge Family.”

From the outside, they were simply perfect — a sunny, shiny, all-American success story — but behind the scenes there was a brutal, tyrannical father/manager, sexual abuse, drugs, all manner of things that were so not the Cowsills image. After only a few years, the group splintered and disbanded.

Now filmmaker Louise Palanker is set to release a documentary, “Family Band: The Story of the Cowsills.” She has worked on this movie for seven years and has edited it to a concise and compelling 90 minutes.

Our PR pal in Hollywood, Hal Lifson, who is also a devotee of all things 1960’s, says Palanker’s film “is not just the story of a dysfunctional family, but of a tumultuous dysfunctional era.” Lifson thinks the Cowsills tale is so powerfully conveyed that it might even spawn a feature film. Well, why not? We’ve just about exhausted early Sixties nostalgia, let’s give the later part of the decade a go?

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MOST PEOPLE know David Lynch as the director of such odd and brilliantly disturbing fare as “Eraserhead,” “Blue Velvet,” “The Elephant Man” “Mulhholland Drive” “Twin Peaks” and, of course, the incredible “Dune.”

But real Lynch fans know he has many talents, including musical. He has released several “electro pop” singles in the past few years, and coming soon is an entire album, titled “Crazy Clown Time.” Lynch sings and plays guitar on fourteen original songs. He describes his efforts as “modern blues.”

“Crazy Clown Time” will be released later this year.

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I know I’m an old-timer, someone who worked producing television in the black and white days of the Fifties; then someone who lived through the rise of “color”and the efficiency and surprise when they invented satellites to transfer signals around the world. And then, I was “on” local TV news for WNBC for almost 15 years, winning an Emmy on the original “Live at Five.” I still appear for Fox News entertainment on weekends.

So, TV is still a miracle, no matter how most younger enthusiasts spend their time looking at tiny moving pictures the size of their hands.

Television sports are just incredible. They stay big and they stay thrilling. There I was, sitting last Sunday evening, waiting to catch my pals and idols on “60 Minutes” when I realized they weren’t going to appear at 7 p.m. after all. CBS was covering the end of the 93rd PGA Championship at Georgia’s Atlanta Athletic Club.

How boring! I thought. Who wants to watch golf? And how wrong I was. While waiting for Lesley Stahl and company, I was served up an incomparable thrill as newcomers Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley slugged it out at the end of their quest for the Wanamaker Trophy, matching one another on long, torturous, winding, hazard-riddled drives.

Then the very ending came up aces in thrills as young Bradley won the major with a long putter. He ended by acing Dufner with one putt. I was taught a good lesson. Golf isn’t always boring to watch — not when you are as good as the appealing Bradley who makes one forget all about that guy  — what’shisname — Tiger something.

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HERE’S ONE of the most important cultural, charitable and appealing parties of the year, coming up from the American Cancer Society on September 21st.

You could buy a ticket and strut your stuff “like a Ziegfeld or a Weismann” at the newly opened revival of “Follies,” one of (in my humble opinion) the greatest musicals ever presented.

The Cancer Society has laid on an event the starts at the New York Yacht Club for cocktails and dinner, then everybody goes to see Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein, Ron Raines and Elaine Paige onstage at the Marquis theater in Times Square. The musical will have opened only days before so you’ll be in the vanguard.


I saw the original of this great panoramic musical in 1971 when it was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and it won seven. The brilliant minds behind it were Stephen Sondheim (words and music) James Goldman (book) Michael Bennett and Harold Prince (directors). What a thrill this will be!

Call Diana Feldman at 212-237-3888 about tickets. You’ll be doing a good deed in a naughty world and also you’ll be doing a good deed for your own enjoyment.

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ROSIE O’DONNELL is preparing for her new talk show on Oprah’s OWN network. At a party the other night in Manhattan, Rosie sported a deep tan, a shoulder-length mane of hair, a cleavage-revealing top, some dangling jewelry, Capri pants and sandals. She looked terrific. In fact, one party-goer approached O’Donnell and said, “You know, you’ve a got a whole Liz Taylor in ‘The Sandpiper’ thing going on here!” Rosie was thrilled.

Rosie then recalled what she refers to (with a great comic roll of her eyes) as ‘my Hollywood days” when she was invited several times to Sunday brunch at Taylor’s home in Bel Air. “It was always the same. Everybody would arrive at around 12:30. We’d eat, we’d drink, we’d schmooze. Finally, around four o’clock, Elizabeth would appear in some dazzling caftan, hair done, full make-up. She’d drift through, say hello sweetly to everybody and then vanish upstairs, forever. Nobody minded because by then her health was failing. But I thought it was a pretty impressive way to have a party — make ‘em wait, give ‘em a quick big dose of glamour and leave ‘em begging for more.”

10 comments so far.

  1. avatar Mary says:

    I had to laugh about watching golf on TV.  I never saw the sense to it and wondered how anyone could entertain themselves with watching a ball being hit in hopes it would land in a hole.  More perplexing to me however is how in the world anyone can be entertained by watching a program involving FISHING!

  2. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Dear Mary…

    I could never watch a show about fishing because I would end up feeling so bad for the fish.  And I’m no vegan. 

    I don’t “get” most sports, though soccer seems active, at least.  And swimming.  Guys in speedos–what is not to like?

  3. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    If you grew up in Rhode Island during that time, as I did, you pretty much knew all about w.hat was going on with the Cowsill family. The documentary was screened August 10th in Rhode Island followed by a Q&A with Susan and Paul in attendance and Bob on video chat. Barry drowned in Hurricane Katrina. It took seven years to make it because they stopped it to deal with talking and resolving their feelings about their Dad. They are happy with the results and are living good lives now.

  4. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    The Cowsills existed when I was 11 (whoever they were) By age 13, I never heard another word about them again. I guess “The Partridge Family” in swooped in a year later. I was 14 then, and listening to music. A rite of passage in 1969 and at least they had a TV series. I just came in a little late regarding the Cowsills fame. 

  5. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    14, incidentally, was also the year I had my first man. 

  6. avatar longyanas says:

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  7. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    The remark about the first man was not by me, it was generated from a hacker. I’ve been hacked into for weeks now. Working on it. The bar was just raised. 

  8. avatar Richard Basset says:


  9. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    You know this is not generated by me. I have a hacker, I hope you know that. I’m working on that.