Liz Smith: Tom Cruise Soars

And more from our Liz: Lady Gaga demands … Maria Shriver reconsiders … Madonna remains romantic

“IT’S NOT a comeback! I hate that word. It’s a ‘return.’”

That’s what Norma Desmond told Bill Holden in 1950’s “Sunset Boulevard.”

Well, poor deluded Norma never came back or returned, though she turned out to be a dead-on shot with a pistol. However, Americans actually love a comeback, they do believe in second acts. And even third acts.

And though he was never really away, my friend Tom Cruise has roared back onto movie screens and is once again filling the coffers of Hollywood. His critically lauded “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” easily took the number one spot over the weekend, pushing the new “Sherlock Holmes” film to second place and easily trumping Daniel Craig’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” One trade paper exclaimed: “Tom Cruise — The Man Who Saved Hollywood!” Well, at least he has put some needed juice into the tepid holiday box-office.

Who ever thought of Santa Claus as a clean-shaven, darked-haired, muscular fellow with a dazzling smile? Last week, in reporting on the great reviews for “MI4” I hoped the movie would be the smash he deserves. Glad my wish was fulfilled.

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AS THE year comes to an end, show biz news becomes sillier and sillier. I mean, it just does. Everybody’s exhausted. Or perhaps everything just seems sillier.

I was laughing pretty hard when I read about one of Lady Gaga’s “little monsters” turning out to be a real monster. I do mean the Lady’s ex-assistant who is now suing the pop icon.

The woman, one Jennifer O’Neill, is demanding over $300,000 in unpaid overtime. Jennifer complains that working for Gaga was, well — hard. She says there were “no meal breaks, or even sleep breaks.” The former aide claims Gaga expected Jennifer to be on tap to handle “random spontaneous matters in the middle of the night.”

There were also matters such as providing Gaga with a towel as the singer — famed for her strenuous live concerts — came offstage. Jennifer had to “cater to every whim” of Lady G. This often included sleeping with the star because Gaga “doesn’t like to be alone.” For these agonies Miss O’Neil was paid $75,000.

Geez! Not to underestimate Miss O’ Neill’s tribulations but believe me, I could name other stars, producers, directors and just plain filthy rich people who treat their staff much worse and for considerably less compensation. (One very famous Hollywood honcho is known not only for abusive language, but also has a nasty tendency to throw things — phones, staplers, relatively inexpensive objects d’art.)

If you sign on to be the personal assistant to a famous person, expect “random, spontaneous matters” in the middle of the night, at 5:00 a.m., when you are sitting down to dinner with family or friends … when you’ve just come from or are going to a funeral … when you’re running a fever of 104 … when you’re in labor.

That’s show biz at its most high maintenance. And it’s not unusual.

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WELL, it hasn’t exactly garnered the headlines of fame-monger Kim Kardashian, but there was some surprise when singer Sinead O’Connor ended her marriage after 18 days. O’Connor, who recently shaved her head again — she’d grown it out since her controversial heyday back in the 1980’s/90’s — wed Barry Herridge on Dec 8th in Las Vegas. When they parted, Sinead blamed “pressures placed on Barry by certain people in his life.” She did not further elaborate. This was Sinead’s fourth marriage.

She has previously declared and insisted she is a lesbian. Then she revealed she is “three quarters heterosexual, a quarter gay. I lean toward hairy blokes.”

Hmmmm … perhaps Barry indulged in too much “manscaping” for her taste?

I guess Sinead’s next move will be to publicly tear up a photo of some impossibly smooth male model, declaring: “Fight the real enemy!” (You recall, of course, her infamous bit on “Saturday Night Live” shredding a picture of Pope John Paul II.)

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NOW, THIS news is not silly, though people’s reactions have been. There are rumors — unconfirmed by anyone — that Maria Shriver is reconsidering her divorce to Arnold Schwarzenegger. She has strong feelings about divorce, and, apparently, strong feelings still for Mr. S. to whom she has been married for a quarter century. Yes, his betrayal was epic — an affair with the housekeeper which resulted in a now teenage son. But, this is Maria’s life. I love the people who are jumping all over Maria, condemning her for even considering such a thing. If indeed she is. Look, Arnold didn’t betray you. (Yes, I mean you!) So leave Maria and Arnold to heaven and tend to your own lives.

I’d add the same sentiment to those to can’t stop bashing Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin. He wasn’t even unfaithful, just an exhibitionist narcissist. If her marriage is more important than her husband’s humiliating indiscretions, that affects you how? Now they have a beautiful baby — let it go. Let them have a second act.

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ENDQUOTE: “I’m thinking about possible subjects. But I am such a hopeless romantic, so I’m sure romance and love will be part of the story.” That’s Madonna, mulling the next movie she’ll direct. Well, her current “W.E.” is romantic to the max, and I have always said (and known) that M is far more vulnerable and dreamy about love than her image indicates. (Even she now acknowledges her “Sex Book” era was some sort of rebellion she herself barely understood.)

I’d love to see Madonna act in a real romance, but critics won’t give her a chance. They attack before a foot of film is shot, declaring the film a bomb and Madonna terrible. Even Madonna admits it is masochistic to try to continue an acting career. But … I bet she will, eventually. She hates to lose.

4 comments so far.

  1. avatar sandra b says:

    Hey Liz -  thought you said you weren’t giving Kim Kardashian any more ink – so why use her name to launch Sinead’s latest stupidity in your column?

  2. avatar JCF4612 says:

    If Maria goes back to Arnold … If Huma sticks with Weiner, then they’ll both deserve a big load of guffaws and be unworthy of any further sympathy from the public, no matter what encores their lousy spouses pull off.  

  3. avatar O E says:

    Dear Liz, it would so much easier for the public to let celebrities have their own lives and their “second acts”. The problem is the media, which finds it exciting to fill empty hours of “news” with every lurid, useless, insidious at time, details of the lives of entertainers, reality opportunists, or politicians. There are too many people out there with humdrum lives who take every event in the lives of people they don’t personally know, as if it were their own. They point fingers, they’re angry, they condemn, or they love unconditionally and drool over strangers on magazines or TV screens. The media makes them important, not necessarily because of their talent or their contributions to the human race, but because they are there to be picked at. I recently watched as a woman in the express line at the supermarket held the cashier captive while pouring out her love for Kate Middleton, and her sorrow at Diana’s travails and death. This woman didn’t know them at all, but for the rags she had plucked from the stand and added to her grocery list. This is the dumbing down syndrome at work.

  4. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Does anyone really care about the Schwarzeneggers? She lost me when the “groping” scandal occurred and she took a “blame the victims” attitude about it. I think it’s called karma.  They are probably both reconsidering at this point. Not because they love each other. Because they don’t want to end up alone. Who on earth would have either of them?