Liz Smith: Smart Women Ponder Age at Literacy Partners’ Le Cirque Luncheon

Sutton Foster in "Anything Goes"

And more from our Liz: Broadway’s new “Anything Goes” is glorious and gorgeous

“FORTY IS the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age,” said Victor Hugo.

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I DROPPED into the fabulous Le Cirque last week to see a clutch of good-looking women in the upstairs room. They were hearing all about beauty in all its guises, including age, through a program co-sponsored by Literacy Partners and this great restaurant. Pausing only to wish Sirio Maccioni a happy birthday, I took the elevator instead of the stairs and landed next to two women I admire, Enid Nemy, once the fashion queen of the New York Times, and Joan Kron, another Times vet now affiliated with Allure.

The author speaking this day was Tracey Jackson, a screenwriter well-known for her film “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” She told us all about her latest book which has the somewhat confusing title: “Between A Rock and a Hot Place: Why 50 is Not the New 30.” (Maybe you already guessed that the author is somewhat disillusioned about growing older, and you’d be right.)

The creator of, one Joni Evans, had been assigned the task of setting up a panel to challenge Tracey’s certainties. These consisted of the single-named Carmindy from the Learning Channel, where she is the “What Not to Wear” cosmetics guru. (She says that as they grow older, women should not wear dark lipsticks and too much makeup.)

There was also the impressive Valerie Monroe, a ten-year veteran with O magazine. The brilliant Ms. Monroe recalled when she felt she became invisible. The audience sighed.

Tracey pondered the reality that women are newly called upon not to turn into old crones, saying this is a fairly recent development. And it really is. Women, of course, have always hated growing older and “losing” their looks and sex appeal — but once upon a time it hardly mattered. Women had few options. They either ruled as princesses, queens or courtesans, were married off early like brood mares, or were carried off with other pillage — raped, enslaved and consigned to detestable chores after a certain age.

I am thinking of the fate of women especially described in Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror,” the story of European civilization in the Dark Ages at the time of the Black Death. Women were mostly property for rape and childbirth. So it’s only since the “enlightened” times of women’s suffrage that we have had the luxury of caring about beauty and fashion for the masses.

If you’d like to get in on one of Literacy’s lunches at Le Cirque, the next one features the controversial Erica Jong, sex goddess of yesteryear, who is coming out on June 1 with a new book, “Sugar In My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex.” Call 646-237-0105 if you want to get in on this.

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Last week I received the following note from one of my intrepid helpers, the redhead Diane Judge.

Dear Boss,

It’s a long time since I’ve written to you this way. But because of you, I get to enjoy so many wonderful moments in the theatre. Recently, the current gorgeous revival of “Anything Goes,” as directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, and starring the one and only, delectable Sutton Foster, who not only sings but dances as Reno Sweeney.

This glorious production of Cole Porter’s superb musical brings memories of my childhood across the Hudson. My mom was a theatre nut and though the Depression had us living in a cold-water flat complete with coal stoves, she managed to save enough to go to Broadway. So back in 1934, she saw the original “Anything Goes” starring the one and only Ethel Merman. (Many years later I would be a Broadway press agent on “Gypsy” with that cranky grand dame.)

Mom and Dad never stopped singing the incredible score. “I Get a Kick Out of You” — and “You’re the Top” had them kicking and jumping away. They would neck through “Easy To Love” and “It’s De-lovely.” Dance through “Anything Goes,” and then put me to bed with “Goodbye Little Dream, Goodbye” and finally kiss me nighty-night with “All Through the Night.” So you can imagine when I was invited see a run-through of this current production why I had tears in my eyes throughout.

It was fascinating to hear Kathleen Marshall state that the current cast had not been born when “Anything Goes” first opened. But Joel Grey stood up and said “Not me.” Every one laughed. Joel co-stars with Sutton as Moon Face Martin and he, too is delightful. As a kid he dreamed of acting on Broadway and his dream came true back in 1968. The entire cast is great and the costumes are stunning and – well, hurry up and see for yourself that not too often does anything come to Broadway quite like this production of “Anything Goes.”

Your Gal Friday.

18 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I think men have as many problems as women with the “Golden Years” which explains why men now engage in the “nip and tuck” as much as women.  And in some cases end up looking as artificial as the women. Getting old may not be for the faint of heart. But it’s not so bad for the young at heart. The real secret to looking good is feeling good.  So Mae West was right about using pink lightbulbs. They’re certainly cheaper than the plastic surgeon!

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Baby…”in some cases?”   99.9 percent of men who go the nip/tuck route look like…well, Liberace.  

      Mr. Wow thinks about it all the time, but then he thinks–“do you really need to look any gayer?” 

      When I’m not feeling all mopey and smile, I look ten years younger.  There–I saved at least $10,000 dollars.

      And straight men are just as concerned and vain as women and gay men about aging. 

      Also–avoid backlighting. 

      • avatar Jay Gentile says:

        Most people don’t look younger. They just look startled and vaguely asian.

        • avatar Mr. Wow says:

          Dear Jay…on women, that look (“startled and vaguely Asian”) is the mark of bad or too much procedure.  But with men, it is the invariable result, good surgeon or not. 

          I’ve never seen a truly good eye job on  a man. 

          Some work on the neck can be passable for a guy.

  2. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    In Hollywood, as an actor, I had cosmetic surgery. I was 25. The surgeon was a friend of mine and approached me with the nature of the procedure. We would remove the ‘fat pads’ on my cheek (on my face!!!!!!) so I photographed a bit more gaunt. It also accentuated my high cheek bones. It was done like a dental procedure, in my mouth, so there would be no scar. It was 1500 dollars but he only charged me 850. I really liked the change. Yes, the photographs were a bit bolder, chizzled and I made the money up in print work. It was an investment and have never regretted having it. At 25, I could get away with these alterations. The skin is tight and falls back into place quickly. The best time to have cosmetic surgery is when you do not need it. I would NEVER consider having anything done now in my 50’s because…as we’ve said…it is not very pretty. Poor Kenny Rogers. I suppose that men have it everywhere… but we only see the Hollywood side of it. Men need to age naturally, forming the more mature face. Anything that is supposed to subtract years looks ‘plastic’ and ‘phony’. Women have make-up to enhance the illusion after cosmetic surgery and, if done correctly, does work…as long as it is not something drastic. In bars and nightclubs in LA, everyone knew which light to stand near, without conscious of doing it. It must be in the genes. And at 25…you didn’t need ANY lighting magic. Having done all of that, at such an early age (and it was successful) has satisfied a need in me never to put myself through any of that again. And I am pleased how I have aged, considering all the factors.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Richard….was it perhaps Dr. Gurdin, who did the very delicate work on the likes of Marilyn, Natalie and Liz?   We love your cheekbones.

      Had I had the opportunity at 25, I’d have attempted some refining at the tip of my nose.  Nothing drastic.  Just a touch.  Otherwise I’m accepting what time has wrought.  Although I gag at photographs of myself in profile. (The nose really does drop and become larger!)  In fact, I’d still go in in for that tiny bit at the tip of my nose.

      The rest I’ll  leave to heaven and gravity.

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        LOL, No…This very talented physician had an office at the corner of Bedford and Wilshire. My dentist was located there as well. I had seen him in the nightclubs for several months and (of course) we went to the same gym. I often wondered if he found his clients in the bars, where he found me. His clients consisted of actors and print models. Several of my peers had slight work done by him, as well. No one lived in West Hollywood that was of the age to even have a face lift so he did very minor procedures. Either socially or professionally, not very many lived there past 35. The unofficial cut off age. The very wealthy lived in the hills and sent out ‘friends’ to go to the clubs and invite ‘some’ to private parties. And they were actually parties with pools, food, drink, entertainment, chatter. They kept the orgies in Silver Lake if you felt like slumming it. In the early 80’s, we did not have computers to show us an image of our post surgery. We didn’t even have computers!!! So, you cut and hoped for the best. I do not think I would have done it if I wasn’t competing in such a harsh industry. All body enhancements were utilitarian…but the by product was being in complete control of your social life. We needed that attention after auditioning day after day after day (LOL). As for your nose, do it and then forget about it. It is very minor and you will feel much better, on many levels and for that…it is worth it.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          Every once in awhile someone would come up to me at a disco and tell me “______”was having a “private party” and would I like to be invited so to speak. I always felt a little insulted by the suggestion I was out looking for a “private party” so to speak. So I usually responded with an equally insulting “I would imagine if ______  had wanted to invited me I would have already been invited.” Not that I was above such things. I just was never sure if “_____” really sent a troll to troll so to speak or if I had just met Jack the Ripper. Besides I had enough invitations. Sometimes I went. Sometimes I went dancing instead. Sometimes when I went I met someone who interested me. When I was young but not really dumb. My favorite line was asking if they wanted to go swimming. Evenings in Los Angeles in the hills are usually cool. So usually Tall, Dark, and Divine would ask if the pool was heated.  “I’m not sure. But the poolhouse is.” Someone wrote a book titled The Great Estates of Beverly Hills. I could write a book titled The Great Poolhouses of Bel-Air. But of course won’t. 

          But it was fun to be young. Before all the diseases arrived. I stopped batting the Piscean eyelashes so to speak when friends started getting herpes. 

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            The pool houses!!! Too funny. There was never any pretense to these last minute invitations. You knew that you were chosen to be ‘eye candy’ and I was never the least bit insulted. In all honesty, how would these strangers know of my sparkling conversation? The hosts were well known actors, producers, directors and such who just couldn’t be seen (or photographed) at a gay bar…and all of the politics that went with that. We never attended with the hopes of securing film work, either. It was time for just fun. Food, drink and whatever drug of the year was made readily available…and you were never mistaken for servants. They had a host of people doing all of that. A limo would bring you to the party from the club and then back to your car again, so there was no searching endlessly in the hills…where an actual home was never seen. This sounds ridiculous but I was incredibly handsome when I was young. I had to be or I never would have had Wilhelmina West as my print agency. I was only 5’9″ and for fashion work you had to be 5’11”. Those two inches made a difference. But they saw something in me and I did work, even with my limitations. But it was certainly made for a fun social life, maybe a bit too much fun. Just a wee bit.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            I still have the same reaction when I watch that scene in the poolhouse in Shampoo as I did the first time. “Who told?”

            You are still incredibly handsome. 5″9″ is not short. Sort of tall. So back then you were obviously Sort of Tall, Blonde, and Divine.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Thank you, you are very kind, Baby.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Not kind just honest. Even now, well, definitely a candidate for a poolhouse swim…

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        He does have nice cheekbones. I’m sure your nose is just fine. What we see and what other see often are different. But, well, if you want to see something different, go for it. 

  3. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    And not that I would engage in any more gossip about Elizabeth Taylor but quite a few are engaging in quite a bit of gossip about Elizabeth Taylor Inc.  I’m surprised even the tabloids haven’t picked up on it.  One clue to enquiring minds.  990s are very interesting things.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Baby…oh, honey.  In time all will be revealed,  Certainly we already know her fortune was nowhere near $600 million. 

      As for my nose (I think you were responding, tho your response was further down)  it’s….okay.  I never liked it and less now.  But you know—this is NOT a problem.  Working  a Chilean mine or living in Japan right now–these are problems. 

      As I said, when I am not being tiresome about my “issues” and muster up some cheerfulness, I look terrif.   And  always I forget that I am 58.  I keep comparing myself to people much younger.  I still think of myself as 28.  (my fave age)   

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Must be nice to forget you are 58.  My body reminds me each day. As does the mirror. Although I plan to try the pink lightbulbs!

        As for Elizabeth Taylor Inc I doubt we will ever know anything. A maze of corporations and trusts.  All most likely about to rolled into one so to speak. But never filed so to speak. Not in a probate court anyway. As for the 990s well either she didn’t have the income from the perfumes that people thought she did since supposedly or reportedly part or all of the income went to her foundation or she wasn’t as generous as everyone thought she was. I suspect the former. I suspected it when the Van Gogh was put up for auction. You don’t just sell a Van Gogh because you’re redecorating. Even in LaLaLand.

        I may be wrong but I think the $600 million came from Larry Fortensky’s attorneys during the divorce. Not hers. And she may have just decided to let people think she was that rich. It certainly added to the “successful businesswoman” image which is only partially true. Behind the “success” in many cases there is a maze of managers, agents, attorneys and accountants. And that no more true than with Elizabeth Taylor Inc.  But I doubt she was as successful as some keep claiming she was.  But she was the Earth Mother having collided with the Brinks truck making its delivery to Harry Winston. And some odds and ends from Christie’s and Sotheby’s to hang on the walls. Her heirs will do well by the auctions. 

        The prize will probably be the Krupp diamond. Which will probably become known as the Krupp-Taylor diamond. And may set a record. Time, and the auctioneer’s gavel, will tell.

  4. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I suspect the IRS will do well by the auctions as well. The taxman always cometh after the funeral.

  5. avatar Bella Mia says:

    Have you seen the glorious photos of Christie Brinkley for her new Broadway Musical? AT 57 she looks as good as any 30 year old, and yes she had some face work done. I’ve been blessed with good genes, chose not to go the partying route, had a baby at 40 which ,I read, means my body is aging slowly – and try not to read too much distressing news.

    There are so many advantages to being 51, I should spend the time to write them down. Can’t wait for Joni’s take on this!

    On more thing, if you believe in immortality, as I do, then 50 is merely a roadmarker. Maybe I’ll feel differently about 80, although my grandmother lived to be 97, and she was sewing and shopping and getting her hair done up until the day she died, when she died in her sleep. She embodied the aura of The Grand Matriarch – and that ain’t too bad.