Liz Smith: The Tale of Lena Horne’s Last Song

And more from our Gossip Girl: Miss Ciccone, don’t put your mother on the stage! … Matt LeBlanc, picked up (by Showtime!)

“ART IS clear thinking about mixed feelings,” said W. H. Auden.

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THIS was sort of the late Lena Horne’s time. Her personal effects were auctioned off by the Doyle Gallery after a big Harlem party. Then, the Academy Awards were punctuated by a tribute to Lena’s groundbreaking but not very happy career in movies. This was offered by the beautiful Halle Berry.

After I had written several tributes and memories of Lena recently, I received a missive from theater’s Terry Hodge Taylor and he told me quite a story:

“From 1982-1999, I presented ten tributes to Lena for various groups. The first event honored Rosa Parks, with Coretta Scott King present. This took place in 1982. Lena stopped the show halfway through, turned to the box where Rosa was sitting and did a royal bow. She said, “’I wish we would have started the movement sooner — and it went on, longer.’”

“In 1999, I produced the Four Generation All Star Salute for the Citizens Committee of NYC. First, I asked Lena to sing one last song at the end. She refused to answer me. I made the suggestion to her representatives, but still no answer. Then I hired Lena’s own music director from the days of conducting ‘The Lady and Her Music.’ Still, no answer. I also hired all the musicians who had worked with her on Broadway. Silence.

“I dropped the idea. But I heard a week before the Lincoln Center concert that she was calling all the musicians. I arrived for rehearsal and stepped onstage to get a view of the theater. Then, it hit me. I felt sure that Lena was going to walk on stage at the end with Alan King and Laurence Fishburne.

“Well, that’s what happened, they did and left her center stage. Applause was huge. People were screaming ‘Sing! Sing! Lena!’ She acted surprised, then turned, stood solid on stage and walked to conductor Linda Twine.Then she turned back to centerstage – AND SHE SANG!

“It was her last song in public. This was one of the greatest moments in my entire thirty year career of producing.”

Thank you, Mr. Taylor. This story is so like Lena. She did it her way.

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GOOD NEWS! Well, this will be good news if you’re a fan of the great singer k.d. lang and/or a fan of two of Showtime’s hot new series.

Miss lang seems to have “disappeared” since her heyday back in the 1990’s — but really, she hasn’t. The shy k.d. still makes records and still performs, but deliberately under the radar, for Nonesuch Records (an offshoot of Warner Bros.) She doesn’t enjoy all the “fuss” of a career. Anyway, k.d. has a super new disc on the way, titled “Sing It Loud,” backed by her very own band, Siss Boom Bang. The album arrives on April 9th, with a tour to follow, including a stint at New York City’s Beacon Theater on June 29th. Tony Bennett calls k.d., “The best singer of her generation.” Hard to disagree with Tony.

Over at Showtime, the network is gearing up for the spring debut of “The Borgias” starring Jeremy Irons, and they have picked up both “Shameless” and “Episodes” for second seasons. “Shameless,” starring Bill Macy, Emmy Rossum and Justin Chatwin is, well — shameless! “Episodes” offers Matt LeBlanc playing a canny erstaz version of himself. Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan are the British sitcom writers who have to deal with him. “Episodes” is an increasingly tasty treat. But it’s the lavish “Borgias” that whets my appetite.

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MADONNA DID not attend the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony last Sunday. She has never been nominated for an Oscar, but she did win a Golden Globe for “Evita” and performed twice, memorably, on the Oscar telecast itself.

However, as usual, Madonna did appear at the Vanity Fair after-party. Sometimes she lingers, sometimes she just goes to be photographed and lure VF partygoers to her own soiree. The latter was the case this year.

Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone showed up at the Sunset Towers hand in hand with her tall, beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Lourdes. The younger Ciccone wore an adorable miniskirt. She has great legs. Mama Ciccone was got up in what resembled a semi-transparent negligee with a faux-fur chubby (as we called them back in 1940’s) thrown over her shoulders. Mama has great legs, too. The gown was iffy — though I’m sure it was couture and cost a fortune. Still, I would have enjoyed seeing Madonna strut her peek-a-boo nightie across the Kodak Theater stage. Why not? Most everybody else was playing it so safe. (Except for Cate Blanchett.)

I will say that from the neck up, Madonna looked gorgeous. Everybody talks about the “work” she’s had. Maybe. All I know is at age 52, she’s more beautiful than she was at 25. And now that she is not touring, she’s put on a couple of flattering pounds.

The icon is still busily editing her film “W.E.,” which presents a new and intriguing look at the legend and influence of the Duchess of Windsor. I can tell you that they loved what they saw of it in Berlin recently.

Madonna is an inventive, inspired director.

3 comments so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    So what was the last song Lena Horne sang?

    • avatar Count Snarkula says:

      My guess is “Yesterday When I Was Young” but that could be wishful drinking on my part.

  2. avatar Trinity says:

    Lourdes’ last name isn’t Ciccone, it’s Leon.  Get it right Liz.