Liz Smith and Q Magazine Salute Doris Day

Doris Day - Copyright © 1999 Carolyn Passalaqua

And more from our Gossip Girl: the Natalie Wood “investigation” — where will it lead? … Demi and Ashton split — big shock? … Lesley Stahl with Taylor Swift … and the surprising life of wild turkeys

DORIS DAY’S career — her ‘image’ — if you will — has been one of the most grievously misinterpreted in Hollywood history. Miss Day, at her peak, was certainly a female role model with more independent grit and genuine feminist virtues than she is ever given credit for.”

That’s how some writer named Liz Smith opens a big article in the current issue of Q magazine, saluting the great actress, singer and star, Doris Day.

Those of you who know Miss Day’s movies can make up your own minds if I’ve done the lady justice. I tried to point out that her screen career was far from the inaccurate caricature that evolved after “Pillow Talk” — that of the “eternal virgin.” Doris onscreen was sexy, independent, hard-working, nobody’s fool and very much interested in men. (Did you know that Doris was the first woman onscreen to pilot an out-of-control aircraft to safety, in the thriller “Julie?”)

But my words aside, Q has put together a smashing photo layout. Page after page of DD in all her various modes — from super-wholesome to ultra-glam. The team at Q, starting with editors Chris and Elizabeth Meigher, sure know how to pay homage to the screen’s great ladies. (If you’d like to order a copy of this lush magazine tribute to Doris, visit or call 646-840-3404 ext 101.)

I intend to send a copy of this issue to Oscar producer Brian Grazer. When, oh when will Doris receive her long-overdue honorary Academy Award?

* * *

HOLLYWOOD is not exactly reeling in shock over the Demi Moore/Ashton Kutcher split. This May-December couple dated for two years, were married for six. Not bad for a union that everybody said was “doomed before they even take the vow.” After all, that’s what they all said about Demi and Bruce Willis, but that marriage hung on for 11 years and three children. Apparently Demi tries pretty hard to keep things going. Even Demi’s first marriage to a guy named Freddy Moore ran a respectable five years. She’s not a 72-day kind of woman.

All the speculation on Demi and Ashton’s “open marriage” is amazing to me. Not that it might not have been true, but that people who have no real knowledge, just go on TV to speak of it, or write online about it, and I doubt their intimate expertise.

I did find it significant that Demi “released a statement” just like stars did in the good old days. Ashton tweeted.

And I love that Kutcher is now being described as “falling.” Just a couple of weeks ago, before his issues with Demi and that mistaken tweet regarding the Penn State sex-scandal, he was all the rage, on the rise.

As Elizabeth Taylor famously remarked: “Fame — it’s like a yo-yo. They build you up, and then they love to tear you down.” But Kutcher shouldn’t worry. Elizabeth also said, “Success is the best deodorant.” (When Elizabeth repeated this remark during a TV interview with Barbara Walters, ET’s then-hubby John Warner uttered a grumble of displeasure. “Sorry, John, it’s true. Success takes away all the bad smells,” said the all-knowing Elizabeth.)

* * *

HOLLYWOOD is reeling a bit over the odd news that after thirty years, Natalie Wood’s drowning death is being looked into again.

There was certainly plenty to gossip about when the terrible event happened on Thanksgiving weekend, 1981. The beautiful star was found drowned off Catalina Island, after a night of high tension and wine with her “Brainstorm” co-star Christopher Walken, her husband Robert Wagner and Dennis Davern, the captain of Wagner’s boat, The Splendor. But that was way back before 24-hour cable news and gossip websites digging up every scrap of information, day after day. The “scandal” over Wood’s shocking death was over in a week.

Natalie’s death was a truly horrible accident — or perhaps more correctly, a horrible “incident” — and nothing will be served by a new investigation. I bet this will go the way of the highly publicized 1984 “investigation” into Marilyn Monroe’s death. That is, nothing will come of it except another book. And another TV movie.

Natalie’s daughters Courtney and Natasha suffered a great deal in the years after their mother’s death. Just let this one alone, I say.

* * *

FOR ALL the coarse, ubiquitous horrors of reality TV, there is still plenty to watch that doesn’t kill brain cells within seconds of switching it on.

For instance, I was charmed by Lesley Stahl’s wonderful “60 Minutes” profile and interview with singer Taylor Swift. I didn’t know all that much about her. I knew she was hugely popular, still very young, had been insulted onstage by Kanye West when she won an award he didn’t think she deserved. (This bit of business made her famous to people who’d never heard her sing, like me.) But I had no idea how delightful Taylor is, or how ambitious — going around Nashville at age 14, dropping off her resume everywhere, and introducing herself with confidence. In these days of “stars” who do nothing but exploit their sleazy “private” lives, I cheer for somebody who actually worked for and deserves success. Now, I might even buy a Taylor Swift CD.

And then, just by chance I came across a PBS program titled “My Life as a Turkey.” This is about a man who “adopts” a batch of wild turkey eggs, incubates them, and becomes their “mother.” He then spends 18 months raising them, and essentially living as a turkey himself. I know — it sounds odd. But this was one of the most touching programs I have ever seen, exquisitely photographed and filled with remarkable insights from Joe Hutton — the turkey “mom” — as to what these remarkably charming, intelligent creatures taught him about life.

I won’t spoil anything, but if you can see it, be prepared to be unexpectedly moved. Especially by Joe’s favorite turkey, “Sweet Pea.”

13 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Linda says:

    I loved watching Doris Day movies! I do hope she is honored during her lifetime and not afterwards. I think I could have been quite contented being young in the days when black and white movies were made also. One of my favorites made during my lifetime is Raisin in the Sun with Sidney Poitier, at this time it might seem limited in scenes and action, but the dialogue was great.

    I have never been an Ashton fan and always wondered how he kept Demi interested. His character now on two and a half men seems like the 70’s show on a new set, still the same guy – just a new paycheck, with a bit of the Peter Pan syndrome to keep him happy.

    Taylor, I had only heard good comments about before I watched the interview and I thought she was great in what she had to say. Her music has always been a reflection of her age, which is admirable – she writes life as she knows it with the messages being true to herself and her fans. She takes responsibility for who she is and is known for being open to her fans. Her songs have matured along with herself and through her songs it has been like watching her grow along the way. Nice girl!

  2. avatar Barbara says:

    Liz, I loved your column today (are they still columns when they are online?) I agree across the board.
    Doris Day was always my favorite. You are correct that she was one of the original feminists. She was perky and sexy but also determined and competent. Quite a role model for me. Keep a smile on your face and your eye on the prize.
    Ashton? I just don’t see the attraction. Interesting that the current Two and a Half Men stories all seem to revolve around Charley, the kicked out Charley Sheen. Ashton is totally unbelievable in the billionaire role he is playing and the story lines lost their amusing quality. This used to be a show I would watch, but not any more. I never understood the personal attraction between Ashton and Demi. Perhaps it was just her chasing the elusive aura of forever young.
    Taylor Swift is indeed charming. Many of her songs sound very much alike but I am sure she will grow and expand.
    And the story about the turkeys was so interesting. I initially teased my husband about watching a show about turkeys but both of us got drawn in to the story. In the end, turkeys are turkeys and people are people. I’ve been trying to imitate the turkey sounds Joe made with little success. I guess I really am more of a person than a turkey.

  3. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Doris Day is wonderful.  Shame on the Academy for refusing her an honorary Oscar simply because she prefers the company of the many animals she rescues.  After the way Marty Melcher treated her, I don’t blame her for prefering the company of animals.  They don’t betray you and they love unconditionally.  As for the Natalie Wood case being re-opened, what a travesty.  This is ripping the scab off a 30 year old wound.  And what will it accomplish?  Will it bring her back?  No.  It just causes fresh pain to her family.  Let the dead rest in peace.  That whole thing was so sordid and salacious at the time.  Why bring it back up?  To what purpose?  It does nothing to honor her contribution to the entertainment industry.  It just brings old gossip fodder up for a new audience.  Shameful.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Count…

      Believe me, the Natalie Wood “case” is going nowhere.  And nobody is breaking a sweat.  (Despite Chris Walken lawyering up—and how silly. Nobody ever put him on deck at the time of Nat’s mysterious “fall.”)   Certain powerful evidence and testimony never changed.  The powers at the time looked away and the powers now couldn’t care less.  

      I think her sister, Lana, wants that closure.  Too bad, Lana.   

    • avatar rick gould says:

      Your comment on Doris preferring animals to people made me think if a similiar comment made by Elizabeth Taylor at the height of her notoriety 😉 I too often think I prefer pets to people!

      I have very mixed feelings about the Natalie Wood case. On the one hand, I don’t think the whole story was told. But if it wasn’t dealt with 30 years ago, it sure is hell ain’t gonna get resolved now! So, yeah…why dredge it all up?
      My personal opinion was that it was an accident, but that there was negligence. And those on board with Natalie that night have to live with that.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I think the situation was far more complex than Marty Melcher and “the way he treated her” and she said things here and there along the way that led some to believe she believed he was responsible but in the end he really wasn’t and so she sued the financal manager which opened up a proverbial can of worms in Hollywood since most preferred to blame Marty Melcher. Particularly all the other financial managers. He made some bad decisions. He also had a heart condition no one knew about. He was a Christian Scientist. And waited until it was too late to see a doctor. And that may havec been behind the bad decisions. . She had been committed to do the television show by Marty Melcher. And she fulfilled the obligation mainly because she needed the money. But when the bills were paid and the lawsuit was settled, well, she not only left Hollywood but left Hollywood behind. I doubt she cares about any honorary awards except for one involving animals.  But her life has been more than just the animals. She made lots of friends in Carmel and they all respected her privacy. Something few in Hollywood ever did.  There have been rumors that at one time they intended to honor her. She refused it. That is entirely possible. I don’t think she’s been back to Los Angeles since she left.

      As for Natalie Wood the fuel behind the fire is her sister who simply will not let it go. She was on Piers Morgan. Praising RJ and then saying she didn’t believe Natalie fell into the water. Well, if she didn’t fall, someone pushed her. And who would have pushed her except RJ? She has issues as they say. Had them while Natalie was alive. And there was “bad blood” between all three at times. I feel sorry for her. This is unfair to her nieces who she claims to love.  My personal feeling at the time and 30 years later is they were all drunkand iddn’t hear her and then RJ and Christopher Walken and that “captain of the ship” made up a story because none of them could really recall what had happened just hours before.  A tragedy. An incident. But an incident that nonetheless was an accident.  The sheriff’s department as well as the coroner looked at the “stories” but also looked at what happened. No one pulled strings. No one was told to look the other eway. Natalie Wood Wagner was drunk and decided to secure the dinghy herself. Probably to avoid any further argument with anyone.  That doesn’t mean anyone pushed her or ignored her cries for help, which is interreseing because people tend to drown very quickly and tend not to thrash around screaming for help, or beat her up which caused her to go out on the dinghy to ecape whoever beatr her. The various stories are all just that.  Bottom line is it was an accident. Caused by alcohol. There but by the grace of god almost went quite a few of us. I hope her sister finally finds some peace. But I doubt she will.

  4. avatar Paul Brogan says:

    Dear Liz – Thank you for a brilliantly written piece about Miss Day. Once again you have “nailed it” with respect to the enormity of her career and the amazing versatility she displayed. It’s a shame that so-called movie pundits have chosen to inaccurately portray Doris Day and/or dismissed her as a cardboard cutout. The magnitude of Miss Day’s success is such that, translated into 2011 dollars, the worldwide gross (NOT net) of her 39 films would be somewhere around 5 billion dollars. THanks to her talent her films hold up beautifully today. The path Miss Day has chosen with her life these past decades only reinforces what a genuine, real and unconditionally loving person this lady is.

  5. avatar howard green says:

    I couldn’t have put it any better than Paul’s comment above . Doris Day brought so much joy to me with her abundant talents — her singing, dancing, dramatic work, comedy work … I could go on. She did it all, and she did it with style and grace. Doris Day … one in a billion!

  6. avatar SMALL TOWN GIRL says:


    I also ran across the tukey documentary, you can’t believe how smart they are. it’s

    I will look for your article on Doris she was my mother in laws favorite actress, she also was a classy lady.

  7. avatar Rho says:

    I adore Doris Day, as someone else said, she is one classy lady.

  8. avatar Bonnie O says:

    If Natalie Wood was murdered, the case should be re-investigated.  I am inclined to believe as Liz said an “incident” occurred aboard the Splendor …. perhaps there is no blame to be placed on anyone.  However, our justice system prefers to find someone at fault … our justice system does not openly acknowledge “incidents”. 

  9. avatar galaxybugg says:

    What is there not to love about Doris Day? I really appreciate the article by Liz Smith, who is championing the talent of Ms. Day,  whose talents have been sorely neglected until now. A living legend indeed, and one that should be honored with a lifetime acheivement award via the Academy Awards.  Thank you Liz for this great article, and thank you Doris Day for your talents, charm, class and dedication to animal welfare.

  10. avatar Mew says: