"WE NEVER really grow up. We only learn how to act in public," said singer Bryan White.

OR NOT. I was compelled out of a sense of duty to watch at least part of MTV's Video Music Awards. I would rather have stuck with the new PBS production of Agatha Christie's classic "The Lady Vanishes," but then lots of ladies vanished on the VMA's. To be more precise, there were few ladies at the VMA's and some descended to new depths of sad exhibitionism.

I enjoyed Lady Gaga's energetic and multi-costumed opening. She didn't do anything new, but after five years of fame, in this culture, originality comes and goes swiftly. Speaking of swift, as in Taylor Swift, this talented young woman looked beautiful, like a grown-up woman -- glam and soignee. But she revealed her immaturity when seen mouthing something rude about her ex, One Direction's Harry Styles, while he was onstage presenting an award. Good grief, they only dated a couple of months. And when she accepted her own award, she just had to reference the "person who inspired this (not very flattering) song. He knows who he is, because I got this!"

Enough already. If your love life is the only thing you can write about, take a sabbatical. Try to live and interact with real people. Tons of good material there. I like Taylor Swift. She is very talented and I truly enjoyed her live show. She should rise above her old ex-boyfriends.

And then of course, there was Miley Cyrus, who almost appeared to have had some sort of Britney-like meltdown onstage. She was gross and over the top. Robin Thicke, who's 36, accompanied her in some of her onstage shenanigans. He looks older than 36, and the whole thing was disturbingly pervy and sleazy.

What the heck do they do to these Disney girls over in the Mouse Factory? Are they so stringently monitored that as soon as they break away they have to prove they're adults, while only showing a near imbecility? At least Madonna was a full grown woman of 25 when fame hit, and her tenure as a "bad influence" on her teen girl fan base was brief. She made it so. She wanted to bring her fans along into adulthood. Sometimes she went too far, but she made sure she was never presented, or presented herself as a "role model." I'm me, and you be you, was her message.

Selena Gomez, another Disney alum and the on-and-off girlfriend of Justin Bieber, took the VMA for best pop video. Gomez is quite attractive and a good actress -- yes, even on something as silly as the late "Wizards of Waverly Place." But she is even younger than Taylor Swift and it showed in her acceptance speech. Not that there's anything really wrong with being a bit awkward. Don't ask me what she won for. I mean, I haven't seen this award-winning video. But a friend who keeps up, said, "She's sweet and popular and this will be good the next time she decides to deal with Justin Bieber again. But she was up against Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake. You tell me if she deserved that award?" (I said I couldn't because I hadn't seen their videos either.)

BUT SPEAKING of Justin Timberlake, I did stick around long enough with this orgy of noise and flashing lights and lip-syncing to catch his performance. Although I prefer him as an actor, there is no denying his electricity onstage. He certainly owes a lot of his moves and vocal stylings to the late Michael Jackson. But he has his genuine own brand of "It." His old group, N'Sync, seemed in fine form too, pleased to be back in the spotlight. (Timberlake and his band mates are planning to reunite for a series of concerts.) Timberlake will be seen onscreen again in the Joel and Ethan Cohen movie "Inside Llewyn Davis."

There were welcome words of acceptance and love spoken by athlete Jason Collins, who recently came out, and a touching song, "Same Love," delivered by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

Otherwise, I was pretty lost, and have to admit I couldn't stay the course. (They did find that vanished lady on PBS. I knew you'd want to know.)

FAREWELL TO the great star of stage, screen and TV, Julie Harris, who died last Friday at age 87. In a career that brought her six Tony Awards, including the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Tony, three Emmys, a Grammy and an Oscar nomination (for her remarkable work in "The Member of the Wedding"), Harris specialized in sensitive, often withdrawn characters. That's why it was always fun to see her mix it up as the feisty Lilimae Clements on TV's "Knots Landing." (She pushed young Alec Baldwin off a roof in that one! Oh, wait. I think she actually shouted him off of it. She was upset.) Or as the murderous drug addict in the detective thriller "Harper" where she was the object of Robert Wagner's affections. She was touchingly supportive in "East of Eden" with James Dean, brilliant in "The Haunting" opposite Claire Bloom and poignantly frustrated in "Reflections in a Golden Eye" with Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Brian Keith. Her eye-rolling and distaste for Taylor's character is hilariously evident, especially in the scene in which a charmingly, amoral, clueless Taylor, breathlessly describes the mountains of food she'll be serving at her soiree. Harris looks like she is going to throw up.

And Taylor had the film's best line about the neurotic character Harris played: "Better. You say she's better? She cut off her nipples with garden shears. Garden shears!"

Miss Harris was a national treasure. In 2005 she received her Kennedy Center honor. I am sure Broadway's lights will dim for this great actress, who was, by the way, the original Sally Bowles, in the Christopher Isherwood play "I Am a Camera." This later became the basis for the musical "Cabaret."

I WAS surprised by the announcement from Warner Bros. that Ben Affleck will appear as "Batman" in the coming "Man of Steel" sequel. I thought he'd kind of given up on superhero roles after the disappointment of "Daredevil." But now that an actual petition is being circulated demanding Affleck be fired (these comic book fan boys are a committed bunch), I say, Ben, wedge yourself into your Bat suit and collect whatever astronomical salary you're being offered.

You have recently directed three fine films -- "Gone, Baby Gone," "The Town" and "Argo," which brought you an Oscar for best picture. Have some fun!

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)