Liz Smith: Splitsville for Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt
Jon and Jennifer — What Else Can You Do at the End of a Love Affair? … Elizabeth, The Longest-Running Big Queen, Ever … Ray Kelly … Casey Schwartz … “Rear Window” in miniature … “American Masters” Honors the Great Althea Gibson.
“ROYALTY IS completely different than celebrity. Royalty has a magic all its own,” says the famous London hat designer, Philip Treacy.
One of my readers, Bruce Bethany, says they should, wherever the Queen is, “be playing the great anthem from ‘Les Miserables’ – ‘One Day More!'”
Actually, I think Queen Elizabeth is a much greater sovereign than Victoria who, after the death of her beloved consort, Albert, withdrew from the public. She spent years mourning, dressed head-to-toe in black, and designated chosen men to serve for her. But she also hid and denied the secret “red box” state papers from her heir — who turned out to be King Edward VII. He would probably have been a very good king in any case but she kept him from knowing things that were going on, disapproved of him, and set the stage for his feeling of uselessness. This turned him into a dissolute playboy. When he finally ascended the throne, he actually proved himself worthy, although his pleasure-loving nature was too ingrained to cast off totally.
THE 18-year love affair of Jon Hamm of “Mad Men” fame and actress/writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt is at an end. Why have I been expecting to read this for some time? With couples where one member becomes a big star, it most always happens. (Although it took some time. Hamm has been on the map with “MM” for eight years. The break-up is more likely just one of those things; the slow drip of a relationship — 18 years is epic for a show-biz pairing! Impressive even for just-plain-folks. And he had some substance abuse issues, too.)
This will probably be a nice, loving, civilized breakup — and the pair says it is — but it only reminds me of how the entertainment business has been ruthless in overlooking Jennifer Westfeldt’s talents. She is unbelievably gifted and co-wrote and starred in one of my favorite movies of all time, titled “Kissing Jessica Stein.”
This was a daring and controversial film, about sex and love; what men want from women, what women want from men, and what some women can find in other women. It was a tale about love and rejection and redemption and acceptance — profoundly true, touching and funny.
The last time I saw Hamm and Westfeldt together was in the lobby of Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer’s apartment building at an informal memorial get-together of close pals of Mike. The famous who trooped in cannot be named but Westfeldt stopped to talk and give me a hug as I was waiting to be picked up.
She was her usual adorable self, but Mr. Hamm as he said hello, struck me as nervous and twitchy. He wanted the elevator to get him into the safety of the famous upstairs.
I didn’t blame him, but I wondered at the time if he knew how lucky he was to have had a long relationship, of adoring Jennifer for so many years.
I don’t have to worry about Jon Hamm; he is a star for all time, thanks to “Mad Men.” Jennifer’s last feature film foray was 2011’s “Friends with Kids,” which she wrote, directed and starred in. (We saw her a lot on TV in “Grey’s Anatomy” … “24” … and “Notes from the Underbelly.”) Perhaps now that she is unburdened by love — at least temporarily — we’ll have more of her.)
But if you’ve never seen “Kissing Jessica Stein,” you’ve missed a real deal. Critic Lou Lumenick called it “The first great date movie of the century!” and the late Roger Ebert dubbed it “a delightful comedy.” So I hope you’ll buy the DVD or watch it wherever you can.
Don’t feel bad for Jennifer that she isn’t with Jon Hamm anymore. After all — he isn’t with Jennifer Westfeldt anymore! They’ve both lost something, but they will go on.
Incidentally, Mr. Hamm is in the movie “Kissing Jessica Stein” and also in “Friends With Kids.” He plays small uneventful roles in both.
SONY chief Nicole Seligman and her well-known husband, Joel Klein (the former New York City School Chancellor), who now works with Rupert Murdoch, have been busy as heck lately.
They hosted a party in Sag Harbor’s American Hotel over Labor Day and it included the entire glitterati of the Hamptons and NYC, including former Mayor Mike Bloomberg. (He has become the most sought-after “name” in town; either that or his is the name “most taken in vain” by his detractors. Bloomberg was seated at a head table with Ray Kelly, another omnipresent name of a “former,” whose official presence is much missed.)
Almost everybody at this dinner had the same thing to say to Messrs. Bloomberg and Kelly: “We miss you! We wish you were back running things in New York!”
THEN Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair also feted Veronica and Ray Kelly when everybody was back in town on the occasion of Ray’s book publication. “Vigilance” is controversial. It came from Hachette this very week. (I’ll quote later from a review written by the perspicacious Ed Kosner that appeared Tuesday, Sept. 8th, in The Wall Street Journal. I can’t improve on Kosner’s analysis of how Ray Kelly served and protected New York! Just to be clear, Ray and his Veronica are my favorite couple from the days I too, worked with the Police Athletic League and with Mayor Bloomberg.)
NOW, back to Mr. and Mrs. Klein-Seligman and, not to miss anything, they also hosted a party mid-week in town for the advent of Casey Schwartz’s new book.
This one is a serious, brilliant bow by the daughter of writer Marie Brenner. Her father is the veteran broadcaster and music maven Jonathan Schwartz.
The book is titled “In the Mind Fields” and everybody wanted a copy of this work. That probably means Casey Schwartz is too smart already for The White House.
It’s been a frantic week and it’s only a few days after Labor Day. The weather in New York has been hotter than at anytime since Woodrow Wilson was President. But that’s not stopping anyone or slowing them down. Au contraire!
IF YOU are a movie fan, or simply interested in fascinating art, you might take yourself over to D. Thomas Fine Miniatures (in Hastings-On-Hudson, NY) and see Louise Krasniewicz’s work, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
Ms. Krasniewicz also has a PhD in anthropology. She teaches these courses at the University of Pennsylvania, along with others devoted to popular culture and film. An open house reception is scheduled for September 20th, and the “Rear Window” piece will be on display until November 25th. Call 914-231-9871.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: check your local PBS stations for re-runs of the “American Masters” documentary on tennis legend Althea Gibson. She was the first African American to win Wimbledon and also other historic venues. (She was the distinguished forerunner of Arthur Ashe and the Williams sisters.) At her height, Gibson was one of the most famous women in the world, but a general disregard for tennis as a sport, and a more than general racism, took Althea down. Her tale is at once empowering and tragic, and there is so much I’d forgotten about this amazing woman, such as her ventures into pop singing! (She could not support herself on tennis alone.) In the end … well, I won’t tell you the end, but this is a deeply moving story. Bravo to “American Masters” for another great program.