Liz Smith: “Mamma Mia!” — Ten Years On Broadway and Still Going Strong

And more from our Liz: Rosamond Bernier’s new memoir … Elizabeth Taylor’s missing ring … the decline and decline of Lindsay

“FIRST COMES the sweat. Then comes the beauty — if you’re very lucky and have said your prayers,” said George Balanchine.

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50 MILLION PEOPLE CAN’T BE WRONG. That’s how many “Dancing Queens” (and Kings, Princes and Princesses) have seen the musical “Mamma Mia!” worldwide.

And I do mean world wide, as this irresistible musical recently opened in China. In the 13 years since this Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’s show first opened in London, it has become a major global hit. One always wants to dance up the aisle at the finale.

And so it was last Tuesday at the Winter Garden that “Mamma Mia!” celebrated its first decade on Broadway. Mayor Bloomberg opened the evening by giving producer Judy Craymer a proclamation declaring October 18th “Mamma Mia! Day.” The audience could see the glorious movie and TV star Christine Baranski, grinning from ear to ear throughout. But the most fun I had was watching a small girl in front of me sit mesmerized. She never took her eyes off the stage and squeezed her mother’s hand in time to each of the numbers.

After the curtain came down, everyone thronged to the street where a stage had been erected and the wonderful cast in full costume sang an encore. And then BOOM! Fireworks. Yes, fireworks on Broadway. I tell you, this Judy Craymer really knows how to produce the most fun on Broadway. And that’s what I said about the show ten years ago. And it still is just that!

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RECENTLY, THE new world’s most distinguished cultural lecture expert, Rosamond Bernier, celebrated her “95th” birthday at the Century Club with her stepson, Olivier Bernier hosting. (Actually, the beautiful Rosamond is probably only 91, but she thinks age before beauty!)

She was her usual captivating self, sharp as a tack, sitting on a balcony to greet her guests. The distinguished writer Shirley Hazzard was by her side.

Shelley Wanger Mortimer was there to represent New York’s literary youth and Andre Leon Talley gave it all a Vogue touch.

Rosamond’s new book from Farrar, Straus & Giroux is Some of My Lives: A Scrapbook Memoir. It touches, of course, on her relationships with Picasso, Miro and Matisse to name a few. And she runs down memory lane with her days at European Vogue and at L’Oeil, the art magazine.

There is simply no one like this magnificent woman whom we named, not long ago, a “Living Landmark” of the New York Conservancy. I adore it that she dedicates Some of My Lives to her late husband, John Russell, the great art critic of the New York Times. “Every word is for John,” says Rosamond. And there she is on the cover, in a satin bed somewhere, looking glam.

She still does! Rosamond, you naughty girl, lying about your age.

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Maury Hopson is the well-known hairdresser who ministered to my “looks” at the recent Annie Leibovitz photo shoot of me on the horse Blondie in Times Square. (You can see it in November’s Vanity Fair, if you care.)

During the shoot, while I was back in the saddle again, they kept a wind machine on me and out of sight on the side, Maury was jumping up and down, yelling at Annie’s minions, “You’re ruining my hair!”

Maury was at the recent Elizabeth Taylor memorial in L.A., and he writes me this P.S.

“I did love all the grandkids speaking about their ‘Grammah.’ It was lovely to see their parents too. I have known all of them since they were that same age! And one of my favorite parts of the event was the video montage that photographer Firooz Zahedi created, ending with the freeze frame of her at about age six. It’s just not the same world without Elizabeth Taylor!” And the lavender carpet laid down for guests at Warner Studios was a great touch!

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P.S. Rabid Elizabeth fans have noted that at least one piece of her famous jewelry collection is missing from the upcoming Christie’s auction. I do mean the spectacular 29 ½ carat emerald cut diamond ring, presented to Miz Liz by Mike Todd. (At the time, Elizabeth commented, “Mike thought 30 carats would be vulgar!”)

This was a beautiful stone; much more beautiful in fact than the bigger, more famous, 33 carat square-cut Krupp diamond, which is up for sale. Some say Elizabeth sold the Todd ring, along with the massive Cartier/Burton diamond (a whopping 69 carats), during her marriage to John Warner to help pay for his Senate campaign expenses. Others think the gem is still in the family, perhaps owned by Mike and Elizabeth’s daughter, Liza Todd.

Speaking of Liza, she looked fabulous at her mother’s memorial service. She has cut her thick mane of hair short, and allowed it to go gray. Dressed in vintage Pucci, she was by far the most striking woman at the event. (Her eyes are perhaps even more mesmerizing than Elizabeth’s.)

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ENDTHOUGHT: Yes, she has brought it all on herself, but I still can’t help but feel for Lindsay Lohan, once again handcuffed in court on charges of violating her probation terms. (She posted $100,000 bail, was freed and will return to court on Nov 2. for sentencing.) Even sadder than Lohan’s willful refusal to live up to her responsibilities was her appearance — the bleached out hair, the terrible make-up job that only enhances her gaunt face.

Lindsay’s so-called parents should be ashamed of themselves. But I don’t think they are capable of such emotion, and they have taught their daughter well — she, too, has no sense of shame. Just a childish air of entitlement that has brought her to ruin.

10 Responses so far.

  1. avatar rick gould says:

    Lindsay Lohan is starting to remind me of past star with a similar alliterative name:
    Frances Farmer. Sad, sad, sad…and I am not being facetious.

    Thanks for more on Elizabeth’s memorial. Love hearing about her family, whom she adored. And may I say that I don’t care who gets or has what, because I don’t think it’s anybody’s business… except those who Taylor chose to leave her estate to.

  2. avatar Barbara says:

    Mama Mia was the first play I took my daughter to. What a fun introduction to the theatre! I still remember the huge smile on her face while she hummed and skipped afterwards.

    Perhaps the press stopped covering every sad and stupid moment in Ms Lohan’s life, she would finally grow up and get it together. Once she realizes that there are no more accolades, that no one cares, maybe she will quit all the stupid and self destructive behavior. She’s not attractive any more. She is spoiled and unreliable. The best punishment for her could be totally ignoring her.

  3. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I think it’s time to stop blaming Lindsay Lohan’s parents for choices Lindsay Lohan has made all by herself.  Hollwood really ain’t what it used to be. And as for Robert Downey, Jr asking us all to forgive Mel Gibson someone should point out that Mel Gibson not only hasn’t asked for anyone’s forgiveness but also doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong.

    As for the revival of “Elizabeth Taylor Inc” which I will not comment on there are probably quite a few pieces of jewelry “missing” but then not all of her jewelry required “back weights” to keep you from falling over forward from the “excess weight” and she did have daughters-in-law and granddaughers. As for the ring from Mike Todd I was told she gave it to Liza when Liza married. Liza simply doesn’t wear it.  But most likely treasures it just the same.  She actually is more stunning than her mother was.  The best of her mother and her father in a ftruly fabulous face.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Baby…

      Dina and Michael Lohan and low-life cretins who have used Lindsay since she was a child.  (When Michael wasn’t in jail.)   Some people can rise above their early experiences. Some people are kind of smart.   Lindsay apparently cannot and is not.  Elizabeth was smothered by her mother, beaten by her father, controlled by her studio which considered her nothing more than a valuable piece of meat.   She got tough and got smart fast. 

      Lindsay has just become hard and dumb.

      • avatar Paul Smith says:

        Ms. Lohan, for all her troubles, is a young woman. She has time, especially for total redemption, which we love in America. I foresee an Oscar in her future, by way of reward. If Robert Downing Jr. has settled comfortably into mid-life tedium, Ms. Lohan’s reversal can’t be far off. 

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I wasn’t around at the time but those who were have often claimed that Elizabeth Taylor “came into her own” when she married Mike Todd.  As in she learned to wear ear plugs so to speak when her mother came to visit and learned to hand her the check when she arrived instead of when she left. Yes, she got tough and smart . And became an ATM. And then became “Elizabeth Taylor Inc” to make sure the ATM always had lots of cash.  Everyone was happy so why not? Life in Oz. And in Kansas.  As for her selling the “Burton-Cartier” diamond it had nothing to do with John Warner’s campaign debts. It had to do with the ATM. Which is what her attempt to sell the van Gogh had to do with. When you need some extra capital to produce some extra income you sell some of the capital  that produces no income and costs a fortune in insurance permiums.  But some apparently would rather believe John Warner was a bum living off his wife and that she was redecorating and the van Gogh just didn’t go with the new decor.  Whatever makes you happy.
        Lindsay Lohan is an addict. Mainly to her need to “push buttons” to see what she can get away with. Which seems to be the prevailing addiction in Hollywood these days.

      • avatar rick gould says:

        The Hollywood system is kinda rigged, too… a male star can fall in the gutter–Downey, Charlie, Mel and Mickey Rourke–and still retain the bad ass bad boy image. If a female star indulges in the same antics, she’s a broken down bimbo.

        I think you are right on, Mr. W, in your comparison of the differences between Lindsay and Liz. Luckily for ET, she and her parents managed to settle their differences as time went on, as Taylor has spoken about in later interviews.

        I don’t think Warner was a bum, but Liz herself commented that she sold the “big” diamond to contribute to their life together.
        And I think like a lot of stars, Elizabeth has been generous to family and friends…who wouldn’t, if they had the opportunity? But I don’t think ET unduly spoiled her children and grandchildren.

  4. avatar D C says:

    I don’t think you can compare Lindsey Lohan to Robert Downey Jr. and say she can bounce back like that.  There is a fundamental truth that prohibits it:  Women become less attractive and men become more attractive, as they age, generally.  Julia Roberts is still bankable, but she is nowhere near the beauty she was in her early career.  In fact, I’m finding it kind of hard to look at her.  Another case in point:  Renee Zellweger.  I could go on but I think you get the picture.  If there is an Oscar in Lindsey Lohan’s future, I think it might be the one her parents have carved into her casket. 

  5. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Dear dear Liz  . . . Enough of hearing comments about “minor celebrities” on the town when Friday’s New York Social Diary — the biggest, brightest writing in town by the way — devoted practically a whole more than flattering article, complete with photos galore, and the latest in what YOU are going to be up to MC – ing one the biggest events in town that is upcoming.  I already plan to write and thank David for pulling out all stops on the grandest dame in town.  Anyone – I don’t care how “big” they are — is envious of you.  

    Obviouosly, your pedestal has never been higher — and there is only large masses of the biggest love fest going on there for you.

    It is so well-deserved, Liz, and I hope our site does a reprint so all can know that rockets are going off for our Liz. 

    Gigantic hugs from the group at WoWoWoW!!!


  6. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Such suburb additional information on ET’s memorial makes me hope a Part III is forthcoming!
    P.S. As Lindsay Lohan’s already diminishing fan-base ages into maturity, it soon will be Lindsay who?

    Elizabeth represents diamonds white and other colors … while so many other pretend actresses are  cracked zirconia.