Liz Smith: Remembering Carrie and Debbie
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara
Remembering Carrie and Debbie and Tommy Thompson … Drinkin’ and Confessin’ With Don Lemon … Malfunction at the Junction with Mariah Carey
“REALLY, MOTHER, you couldn’t have given me a few days of separate coverage? — you just had to horn in!”
I FEEL, somehow, that is how it went when Carrie Fisher greeted her mother, Debbie Reynolds, in that big dysfunctional movie set in the sky last week. And then they hugged and laughed and went off for drinks with Liz and Eddie. (In my idea of heaven, everybody’s young, perfect, forgiving and forgiven. Nobody’s addicted, nobody gains weight, nobody care about who stole whose husband, or how crazy one’s childhood was.)
Believe it or not, folks, adultery was a big thing back in the day!
The great scandal saw Debbie and Elizabeth Taylor’s careers soar. Eddie Fisher was not so lucky. For once, the man paid the price.
The shock of Carrie and Debbie’s death has worn off some — it was made even more mind-bending in that pop icon George Michael had just passed at the age of fifty-three. 2016 was rocketing to its stunningly awful end.
There’s a Greek tragedy element in Carrie/Debbie, to be sure — two iconic movie stars, totally reprehensive of their respective generations, mother and daughter, dying less than 48 hours apart. Unbearably tragic for those left behind, but somehow fitting and right for the two women who had often been at odds, but had more in common than not.
Debbie and Liz, long reconciled, on the set of “These Old Broads” in 2001. This would be Taylor’s final film.
Carrie Fisher and La Liz, both looking great, at the GLAAD Awards in 2000. (ET was being honored for her AIDS work.)
The surreal drama of it would have suited the MGM fantasy world where Debbie found stardom, and it would have amused to no end, the perversely brilliant writer/observer in Carrie. (Is it not the perfect, inevitable show-biz postscript to Fisher’s mother-daughter rivalry classic, “Postcards From The Edge”?)
They were tenacious, funny, wildly talented women, who survived through wit, grit and genius. (And if you don’t think Debbie Reynold’s laser-beam vivacity, charm, singing, dancing, acting wasn’t genius, go look at her amazing career.) They suffered a lot — in their own lives and entwined with each other — and through their pain, came together in a loving acceptance of each one’s inevitable, inescapable flaws and virtues. Or, as Carrie put it, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die!”
Todd, Debbie, and Carrie.
Debbie, Carrie, and Billie.
Debbie and Carrie, may the Force be with you both, forever, in peace and love and a hell of a lot of laughs.
Now, my dears, you can really laugh, and it will never again be followed by tears.
Debbie and Carrie in their iconic, signature roles — “Singing in the Rain” and “Star Wars.”
MY LONGTIME friend, the artist Mary P.R. Thomas, known to everyone as “Tommy,” left us some weeks ago. I wrote here then that she was far ahead of her time.
“Tommy” began by making fascinating “found” sculpture, figures, signs, photos and paintings reflecting the real world. And she has left a multiplicity of new sculpture-cum-paintings called “Feminists.” I wasn’t aware she had anything new, as I’d seen a lot of Tommy’s recent work at the studio apartment she shared for many happy years with the gifted writer Ellen Violet.
Among Tommy’s many fans were the late New York Times art critic Robert Hughes and respected drama critic, Frank Rich. Frank moved on to become an astute political analyst but he and his wife Alex Witchell remained admirers.
A number of us spoke at her 90th birthday at NYC’s fabled Joe Allen theater restaurant. Men, women and dachshunds love Tommy Thomas.
Ellen Violet is holding a memorial for Tommy on January 11th at the Columbia Princeton Club. The art of Tommy Thomas will live forever, as will her art for life.
Tommy Thomas and Holland Taylor from Tommy’s 90th birthday party at Joe Allen.
MEMO TO hot messes everywhere (we’re looking at you, Lindsay, Kanye, Mr. Bieber), you will have to go a long way toward upping the New Year’s Eve ante set by CNN’s Don Lemon and pop icon Mariah Carey.
Mr. Lemon, hosting a New Year’s bash with another CNN denizen Brooke Baldwin, downed tequila, beer, got an ear piercing (before Baldwin frantically stopped him from taking off his shirt and having a nipple pierced) and told Brooke — with millions watching — that he was “ready to be less self-centered” in his relationships. This latter confession was hardly breaking news. Lemon does not come across on air as a man with low self-esteem issues.
Some might say it was a shameful display. But if you’ve ever caught Lemon’s chores for CNN, he is not exactly presenting himself as a serious journalist. (I know he’s won an Emmy, but some things are unexplainable — like, say, Adam Sandler’s career.) So Don’s performance was appropriate and instantly famous. However, mixing tequila and beer? I would not have wanted to be Don’s head on January 1. (Watching this while slightly buzzed from a bit of champagne myself made it even better!)
Don and Brooke made Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, high atop Times Square, look like Lunt and Fontanne. Griffin hasn’t been funny in 15 years. But once a year, with Cooper as her foil, she is amusing again. Or the situation is. You just had to laugh when she wrapped Cooper up in tinfoil to celebrate their ten-year anniversary doing this annual stint. She, apparently, got the memo about no Trump-bashing. (Jeff Zucker’s pal is so sensitive, as we all know.) Don Lemon perhaps didn’t, as his mic was cut when he began to complain about the miseries of 2016.
… THE other diva event of New Year’s Eve was Mariah Carey’s “malfunction.” It wasn’t her wardrobe. If any of her tightly constrained but thinly-veiled bodaciousness had had popped out, Times Square would have been instantly smothered!
Nope, something went wrong with the singer’s sound system or ear-plugs, as she attempted to lip-sync several of her big hits for ABC-TV’s annual outdoors New Year’s show. The star’s game-to-grim reactions, hair-tossing, side-eyes, and eventual “enough of this” sashay off the stage was wonderful to behold from beginning to end. It was just one of those fabulous things, as Cole Porter put it. Mariah herself tweeted later, less lyrically, “Shit happens.”
Then she claimed “sabotage.” What else could it be? An epic way to begin 2017. I love Mariah. Of course, I didn’t have to face the wrath of a diva, later. (The good thing is, she is so immobilized by her skin-tight costumes and five inch heels, one can easily outrun her — she’s like a busty, glam zombie on “The Walking Dead.”)
As far as I am concerned, Mariah’s rendition of “O Holy Night” on her immortal Christmas album absolves her of all transgressions. If indeed her bewildered pique could even be called a transgression.
BELATED BIRTHDAY congratulations to the very first movie star I met in New York. It was about 1953 and the star was Kirk Douglas, who recently celebrated his round and impressive 100th natal day!
Kirk was handsome in a beautifully tailored hound’s-tooth check as he leapt off the stage at the Delacorte Publishing building, to preside over giving Modern Screen’s annual Christmas gift to underpaid employees. (To be honest, his sexy stellar presence was the “real” bonus for many of us. He was young, and not quite the star he’d soon become, but we knew all about him. How could we not? We were helping build his image!)
Years later, the star of “The Bad and The Beautiful,” “Ace In The Hole,” “Lust for Life,” “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” “The Vikings,” “Seven Days In May,” and “Spartacus” dined with me at Mortimer’s. He said when I told of “meeting” him in the 1950s, “Oh, I remember that and you, too, Liz!”
What a liar and who cared? Kirk is still vital and engaged. Keep on keeping on!