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Chita Rivera takes a 'Visit' to Broadway

Liz Smith

"PERSEVERANCE is the foundation of all actions," wrote the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

CHITA RIVERA will give it the old razzle-dazzle when she returns to Broadway in March. The tireless Tony winner will be showcased in a "streamlined" version of Kander and Ebb's "The Visit," which Chita has been involved with for a number of years. (Last summer, the Williamstown Theatre Festival produced a 95-minute version of the musical, with a book by Terrence McNally, based on the famous play by Friedrich Durrenmatt. Film fans also recall Ingrid Bergman in the role of the vengeful Mrs. Zachanassian.)

Roger Rees is set to join Chita as the man who never thought his past could come back to torment him so literally. Graciela Daniele will choreograph.

Chita never gives up, not on the works of Kander and Ebb, anyway. (Not on anything, really!) Chita won her two Tony Awards for their productions of "The Rink" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman."

At long last, "The Visit" will visit Broadway, at the Lyceum Theatre. Previews begin March 26.

"ON AGE, TALKING A GOOD GAME ... Is fashion's love for older women like (writer) Joan Didion, (age 88) sincere?" asked reporter Vanessa Friedman in The New York Times last week. She went on to analyze the current stated use of such mature stars as Givenchy's Julia Roberts. (She is 47!) Does this work for advertising and selling?

Then, there I was at the Waldorf Ballroom to introduce a woman who is 93 and she got just about the biggest hand of the night from the very young crowd that was raising an astounding record-breaking $3.4 million for the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund. I was just one of many onstage introducing and encouraging a big hand for an honoree who wasn't even present. She was/is Iris Apfel and to the youngish crowd of fashion's finest, this is what I said about her:

"Iris Apfel was only 83 years old, and 13 years into retirement when she became a celebrity. That was in 2005. The Metropolitan Museum then showed us her astounding wardrobe. Bill Cunningham had been documenting her fashion know-how for years. We were all hooked on Iris Apfel. This year the Maysles film on Iris will be THE documentary of 2015. She calls herself the world's oldest living teenager. ... A salute to Iris Apfel for leading the brigade and showing us what 93 looks like."

Then, Iris herself -- looking incredible -- came on in a piece of film thanking us and thanking the YMÅ Fashion Scholarship Fund and she was, as usual, charming and YMA's head man, Douglas C. Evans, accepted for Iris Apfel. This was a night to remember and before fashion's William Norwich escorted me to the stage, we were sitting at a table of handsome young success stories.

Ron Donovan, who is movie star stuff and dashing, sat by my side; he designs beautiful high-fashion shoes for men and women. His date was the exotic Karine Plantadit, actress and dancer, who has appeared in many films, including "Chicago." Our hosts were Ruben and Isabel Toledo and they got their award direct from the hand of legend Patti LaBelle. (Isabel was nominated for a costume design Tony for the "After Midnight" musical and they have a booming business in her name. She made Michelle Obama's dress for the first inauguration.)

Another star at our table was the beautiful, good-humored Countess LuAnn de Lesseps of "Real Housewives of New York" fame. She asked me if I liked reality programming. I said, "Honestly, no." She laughed, "I love you anyway!" She is a stunner.

The stage for this big fundraiser was awash with stars like emcee Rosanna Scotto and retired Yankee player Mariano Rivera and I looked in the audience for my favorite, Vera Wang. But who could find her in thousands of young fashionistas?

To answer the Times question, why is New York's second-biggest business -- fashion -- harking back to tried-and-true stars and does it work in ads? I think so; recalling Charlize Theron for Dior, .Julia Roberts for Givenchy, Nicole Kidman for Chanel and Jennifer Aniston for Aveeno. Real stars never die; they just keep on "selling."

And it is impressive what Doug Evans and the scholarship fund is doing. They have raised an impressive amount of money in a great educational cause.

THE BELEAGURED staffers at Vanity Fair magazine moved their offices on 42nd Street downtown to the Freedom Tower near Wall Street. So many orange boxes packed up and nobody knows where anything is or can be found. (You know how traumatic moving always is!) Plus, these people have to get everything ready for the famous Vanity Fair "Oscar" party in L.A., after the handing out of statues on February 22. By then all the boxes will be sorted out and staff can start worrying about who to let in to the soiree and who to say "nix" to at the door.

And speaking of Vanity Fair, don't miss the February issue with its interview of the big deal-making agent/lawyer/mover and shaker Allen Grubman, done by John Heilpern.

The cover girl for February is stunning Rosamund Pike and the headline is "From Bond Girl to Gone Girl!"

IF you can lay your hands on Rex Reed's unusual three-page piece in the January 12 New York Observer, you'll be lucky not to have missed this writer's incredible "Long Goodbye" to most of the many stars, actors, writers and people who count who died in 2014. I am going back to read this collection of VIP leave-takings more carefully, but did I detect that Rex left out any mention of one of the most important -- director Mike Nichols!? I liked Rex's tempestuous memories of "difficult" women he admired so much -- Lauren Bacall, Shirley Temple, Joan Rivers and his good pal Polly Bergen. Oh, and let's not forget our friend Elaine Stritch. (Hey, for those in the know, Stritch's Christmas gift of her late husband's family's brand of Bays English Muffins arrived right on time this year in spite of Elaine's death. There is a nice note with them "Remembering Elaine.")

FAREWELL to the handsome movie star Rod Taylor who died last week at age 84. Rod, a strapping Aussie, made his final onscreen appearance in Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film "Inglorious Basterds" (as Winston Churchill).

But he is best known as the star of "The Time Machine" and "The Birds." These two films are among the most frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies. Let's not forget "The V.I.P.s," in which he and Maggie Smith rather steal the movie from Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Oh, and you fans of Disney animation know that Rod was the voice of "Pongo" in the original "101 Dalmatians." There wasn't much that Rod Taylor couldn't do. Not that he had to do very much, looking good as good as he did, in his heyday.

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

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