"BROOKE, you were great. So funny! And I love your dress. But when you get home, for God's sake take those shoes off!"
That was the dynamo Chita Rivera, outside the Plaza Hotel one night last week, talking with the beautiful Brooke Shields after both had made wonderful impressions onstage in the ballroom at the "Living Landmarks" gala.
As emcee for this annual fundraiser, I noted that we had never had a spouse introduce a Landmark before, but the able Christopher Henchy did a great job of telling about his New York girl-actress-wife. (Mr. Henchy is a noted comic in private, a producer-writer of Will Ferrell's hit movie last year, "The Campaign.")
But every person made into a "Living Landmark" this year, and that person's introducer -- well, they were impressive and distinguished. And I want to note that people have become succinct in their brief and pointed acceptances. They were Dr. Bob Grossman, the hero of Hurricane Sandy, who saved lives at the NYU Langone Medical Center and school, Mary Wells Lawrence, the advertising queen who broke the glass ceiling with her dashing ads in the '60s and '70s and the I Love New York campaign and William vanden Heuvel, friend of presidents and overseer of the completion of the FDR 4 Freedoms Park on the East River of Manhattan. (He led the audience in an offering of "Happy Days Are Here Again.") There was also the parks expert and historian Ann Buttenwieser, who evoked the "Happy Hooker" in her own success, saying, "Your pleasure is my business!" ... the aforesaid Brooke and our divine honoree, Joel "Oscar and Tony" Grey, who closed the show with his "welcome" song from "Cabaret," sung acapella. (Joel was tellingly introduced by his Broadway admirer Miss Rivera!)
This night brought out many Landmarks from the past and the Empire State Building glowed with Conservancy's red-and-white lights. It was a 20th anniversary for this organization and under the firm hands of Peg Breen and Scott Leurquin, it has just grown better and is more fun. The night raised more than $900,000 to go toward saving New York's great monuments, parks, churches, buildings, etc.
I WANT TO publicly thank the philanthropists Pat and John Rosenwald for playing hosts for this gala. I was able to link them with some fabled Landmarks of the past, as when we honored Laurence and David Rockefeller, and I couldn't think how to encompass all their virtues, so I introduced them as "Party Animals!" They loved it!
The big question now is who will be chosen for "Living Landmark" status in 2014. Maybe you will do something wonderful to earn this.
THE OTHER night, The Discovery Channel ("A Crime to Remember") ran an hour-long dramatization of the infamous Alice Crimmins case. This event rocked New York's boroughs back in the mid-1960s. (Alice, a free-living, beautiful red-headed divorcee was accused of murdering her two young children, reportedly, so as to better lead the swinging lifestyle she preferred.)
This particular episode was only an hour long. It was pretty good, and it certainly brought back memories of one of the most notorious crimes and trials in NYC history. One problem -- the young woman who played Alice, bore a strong, remarkable resemblance to Lindsay Lohan. So much so, I kept thinking, "Did Lindsay sneak a movie in when we weren't looking?" It was distracting!
This "take" on Alice made an excellent case for her innocence. Many people believe Alice was not convicted on the flimsy evidence -- the notorious "woman in the window" who supposedly saw Alice and a male friend from afar, with a suspicious bundle, for instance -- but rather spent 10 years in prison because cops and much of the public were repulsed by her sexy ways. These were the '60s. And, in that backward era, a woman was not allowed freedom or control over her own body.
Watching this, I wondered why a good feature film was never made from this story. It has everything -- sex, mystery, murdered children, aggressive, sexist (and blackmailing) cops. Even if Alice did do it, hers is a cautionary tale. No matter how far women think they've come, even in 2013, they are often negatively judged by what they wear and how they behave.
Now, reality TV shows portray supposedly "strong" women. In fact, these creatures are presented in the most sordid light, encouraging, without reason, bad behavior, coarse language, stupidity, cupidity and sluttish-ness. And, of course, they are often produced by men.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
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