Liz Smith: Catherine Zeta-Jones Battles Her Demons

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones

And more from our Liz: Soap fans in a lather … Zsa Zsa a mama?

“WHAT KILLS the skunk is the publicity it gives itself,” said Abraham Lincoln.

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…The grotesque “news” that Zsa Zsa Gabor “wants to be a mother again” at age 94. (She has one grown daughter, the estranged Francesca Hilton.) The star’s husband, the so-called “Prince,” says he will sire a child via artificial insemination, with a surrogate. Zsa Zsa recently suffered the amputation of one of her legs, along with a myriad of other health issues.

I doubt very much that Miss Gabor is aware of the Prince’s plans, or much of anything these days. If she knew her husband had, some weeks back, photographed her in the hospital, sans makeup and wig, unconscious — and then sold the pics — I doubt he’d survive another second. Zsa Zsa was never the world’s sweetest person, but nobody deserves this.

….Good luck to Catherine Zeta-Jones and her battle with bipolar disease. Apparently, the gorgeous Oscar-winner has long suffered from depression; her moods were such that she could “bring a room down.” She admitted herself for treatment last week. I adore both Mrs. and Mr. Douglas (he seems to have overcome his own bout with cancer, during which time Zeta-Jones was by his side 24/7.) Yes, they are rich and famous, but their problems are as real as that couple down the street.

….Soap fans are still reeling over the news that two of the most iconic day-time soaps, “All My Children and One Life to Live,” have been cancelled. Almost impossible to believe that those three great ladies — Susan Lucci, the eternally sexy vixen of “All My Children” and Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser, arch enemies on “One Life To Live,” are going to ride off into the sunset. Especially to be replaced by … reality programming!

“One Life to Live” was a particularly groundbreaking show, in terms of ethnic casting, blue-collar characters, homosexuality, and sexuality in general. (Although Lucci’s Erica Kane does have a lesbian daughter, Bianca.) Lucci has a great sense of humor and loves to spoof her image, most recently on “Hot In Cleveland.” And of course her long battle to snare an Emmy became legendary. She finally won after something like 18 nominations.

Fans of “OLTL” still remember actress Judith Light’s years on the show, and her incredible courtroom confession of prostitution. Light’s witness box agonies went on for days and won her an Emmy. (The acting quality on all the soaps is of generally superior quality.) Judith went on the star in the far more light-hearted “Who’s the Boss?” Now she is often see as a tough judge on “Law & Order: SVU.”

I once ran into the lovely Erica Slezak, aka Vicki Lord, here in New York. (She is the daughter of the great character actor Walter Slezak) I asked her, “One day on a soap opera seems to last forever, even though all the holidays are celebrated. How long is a soap opera year anyway?” Slezak laughed and said, “Oh, God — you know we once tried to figure that out. I think comes down to about 50 days out of 365!”

Maybe the SoapNet Channel, which runs repeats of the weekly soaps, can pick up “AMC” and “OLTL” and fans will still know what’s happening in Pine Valley and Llanview. (Maybe to wrap up “OLTL” they’ll have refined Vicki revert to her trampy alternate personality, Niki Smith —forever!)

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DID’ja know that Ethel Kennedy, widow of Bobby Kennedy, has sold her famous McLean, Virginia house – the one where she raised a lot of kids during and after the JFK years and the one where everybody got pushed into the swimming pool. She has rented a house now in Palm Beach not far from the famous Kennedy mansion on North Ocean Boulevard. (This house is now owned by the philanthropists Marianne and John Castle, who commute between the Gold Coast and New York City.)

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HADN’T BEEN to Brooklyn in quite a spell, but the other day the trees were all blooming pink and white over in Brooklyn Heights, where I found myself lunching at the River Café with my longtime friend, John O’Keefe of the Metropolitan Museum, and the new editor of The New York Daily News. Kevin Convey pointed back across the East River to where the Mort Zuckerman tabloid will make its new home down near Wall Street.

We had the grandest lunch and the chef, Brad Steelman, is simply sensational. This is one of prettiest places to eat in New York City, right on the East River. Owner Buzzy O’Keefe, who is now a legend, joined us. It was a civilized Irish Mafia kind of lunch. Try the pear salad with fois gras, or the octopus stewed for over five hours, or the lemon soufflé. Everything here is perfect.

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AT PRIMOLA THERE was former Ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith, who lives in the Second Avenue neighborhood. You can bet nobody was asking her about “The Kennedys” miniseries … Also on hand, fashion’s famed Jimmy Galanos with former Bill Blass exec, Harold Davis … And Lainie Kazan was dining with Al Pacino’s favorite producer, Marty Bregman.

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At SETTE MEZZO, Joan Ganz Cooney was accepting tributes from people who admired her husband Pete Peterson’s interview in the Times last Sunday. Mr. Peterson has been the Cassandra of what will happen if America goes on with unrestrained entitlement spending. So I asked Mrs. Peterson why the Times story downplayed her involvement with “Sesame Street”and the Children’s TV Network, which she co-created with the late Jim Henson. She just shrugged. As Joan remains one of the rare individual women ever to be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it seems like the Times didn’t exactly do enough homework.


19 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I’m glad to know someone else caught the photos and had the same thought  – if she knew, well, she didn’t get away with slapping the cop. Killing the hubby, she might.  Although it should be pointed out he did the same thing after the accident that started this very sad saga almost ten years ago. She just photographed a little better back then.  Sort of.

    I do wish someone would explain to him that her having a child wouldn’t continue the Gabor name. Unless she adopted him first. And someone else already did that. Sort of.

    I am convinced at this point that whoever is running the networks seems intent on running them into the ground.  Washington is out of touch with the voters. New York is out of touch with the viewers.  No doubt the people who conduct the polls are the same people who do the ratings. 

  2. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    And I do have to ask. How much did Pete Peterson make last years? And how much in taxes did he pay? And how much did he deduct for donations to his own “conservative” non-profit that obviously believes that only the rich should have entitlements.  Everyone else should just head for the freeway underpasses and enjoy their cake.   Liz, your “Fox” is showing. 

    • avatar Anais P says:

      Yes, indeed, Baby Snooks, I thought the same thing about Peterson. Didn’t read the Times article, but did it even mention these two wars initiated by Bush that we still can’t seem to get ourselves out of — and are still spending monumental sums on each day? Social Security is not in the grave danger conservatives would have us believe; they want to kill it because they want to destroy the legacy of the great President FDR. And if we do not support the poor in some fashion, we are going to degenerate into the days preceding the French Revolution. Am I supposed to infer that this is what Peterson wants — a class war?

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        As my grandmother once told me, too much money produces idle hands and idle brains.

        • avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

          Or as the Calvinists used to say, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” but it wasn’t money they worried about, but sex, which when you think about it the two might very well correspond.

          By the way––what has happened to that little bar above comments that allows you to do various bolds and italics?

    • avatar phyllis Doyle Pepe says:

      Pete Peterson, the New York billionaire who often funds projects aimed at cutting the debt, met with Messrs. Warner and Chambliss Wednesday morning and said in an interview later he was “seriously” considering giving money to the nonprofit.
      How many groups like this is Peterson already financing? I’ve lost count. You’ve got the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (“Our mission is to increase public awareness of the nature and urgency of key fiscal challenges threatening America’s future and to accelerate action on them”), the Concord Coalition (“dedicated to educating the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, the long-term challenges facing America’s unsustainable entitlement programs, and how to build a sound economy for future generations”), the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (“a bipartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact”), the Committee for Economic Development (“Earlier this year, CED’s Fiscal Health Subcommittee launched an endorsement campaign around a business statementurging Congress to reduce the long-term federal budget deficit to improve America’s long-term economic outlook. The statement urges bipartisan compromise and asks that all options be on the table and no preconditions be made to negotiations”), the Center for Entitlement Reform, and more. They could start their own softball league, with upper and lower divisions and a post-season tournament televised on the Pete Peterson Network, which, if it does not currently exist, will no doubt exist soon. And did I mention he is Republican with the large R.

      I’m not comforted by the fact that the task of rationalizing the federal budget is largely in the hands of a man who’s setting up an endless bureaucracy of completely redundant bipartisan deficit scold organizations, so says Jonathan Chaitt from the New Republic, and I concur.
      The fact that the Time’s story downplayed Joan’s brilliant contributions is puzzling––well, maybe not––and sad.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Not to be rude about it but perhaps the Times didn’t feel the association with Sesame Street fit well with the association with Wall Street.  Considering the current mood towards public broadcasting by all these “Republicans with the large R” and an even larger “$.”

        Maybe he will offer DVDs so the children underneath the bridges on Main Street can still watch Sesame Street. If their parents haven’t hocked the television and can find an outlet somewhere to plug the television in.  Not to be rude. But. Well, The way I feel about Pete Peterson. And his band of merry “Robin-Hoods-in-Reverse.” 

        Joan doesn’t strike me as the Marie Antoinette type. But he is definitely a “Screwie Lewie.”

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        When Congress decided to turn Wall Street into Las Vegas without putting in a “gaming commission” the derivatives markets became the most popular of the roulette tables and became known as the hedge funds which exist for one purpose. To allow a few to maniupulate the markets in order to make a lot of money while everyone else, including mutual funds and pensions, lose a lot of money. And now the Federal Reserve is on the table. Allowing “puts” which are really “credit defaultt swaps.” If you forget what those are, well, they are what took AIG down.  And a lot of other companies down. And there are still trillions of dollars of them floating around.  Floating around on books that are covering massive amounts of debt.  Sooner or later, well, it won’t be pretty. Even for the billionaires.

        Bill Clinton of course says he would never have signed all the legislation had he known but of course as he says it he has his fingers crossed behind his back.  Chelsea of course was a hedge fund manager. And no doubt made quite a lot of money for him as well as for herself. 

        All the “Republicans with the large R” rail endlessly about how regulation has destroyed America.  Actually the lack of regualtion on Wall Street is what has. 

  3. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    The Zsa Zsa Gabor story is just that. A story that was invented. By the use of artificial insemination, (his sperm and another lady’s egg) it is not even worth mentioning. They are both too old for this subject. Didn’t he claim to, also, be Anna Smith’s daughter’s father? The poor seventy or so year old man is either being greatly misquoted or just a publicity hound, why at this point in his life? His recent antics have made media news, in a senile kind of way. He certainly is exploiting Zsa Zsa’s dementia. Zsa Zsa is sadly a shell of her former self, living way beyond her years. I do not know her financial situation (except for a recent sale of her home), or can even speculate, but that must be dismal, as well. She will go quietly in her sleep at some point. Zsa Zsa’s daughter by Conrad Hilton… Francesca, 64, holds all of the answers…if there are any.
    As corny as it sounds, these two (and only these two) soap operas held my attention since 1970. I was 13. I was just starting high school. And throughout the years have had them audio recorded or video recorded and/or TiVoed. In between crazy work hours, unemployment, Hollywood, television sets at my place of employment, soap magazines and my fellow fans; I was kept abreast of everything (and everyone) throughout my life. Talking about characters like they were real people in my life. Some overhearing a dialog that I was having with a fellow fan had no idea we were discussing a soap opera. Many people thought that we WERE talking about friends. But we were only discussing our dear eternal characters. I have actually changed appointments to see the results of a soap cliff hanger. Then, you lose objectivity and their lives (though not your life) occupies a place in the brain. For me it lasted, thus far, for 41 years. I have memories of story lines that coincided with my real life stories (not necessarily the same story plot). I was lulled into the false sense of security that they would last forever, ratings or not. I have been more traumatized by this news than I was by the passing of ET. I’ll cry at the end. Calling them ‘family’ is where I draw the line.
    Catherine Zeta-Jones is an addition to a longer list of celebrities diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. If she takes her meds and sees a therapist, then she is doing all that she can. She is in an industry that goes up and down. But her place in the business seems pretty secure, whether she is cycling (moods) or not. This is not done for publicity. This is real. Due to her husband’s recent cancer battles, her depression most likely took over and didn’t respond to antidepressants. The puzzled doctors then say, well, maybe it is this….and they were content with the diagnoses. Her episodes weren’t media sensationalized and she will do fine.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Life on Bel-Air Road.  Made more interesting through the years by Zsa Zsa. Who seems intent on sticking around a while longer.  I’m told she has good days and bad days. Sometimes she’s on the phone, Sometimes she’s not.  Dementia? Perhaps. But at one point she was reportedly suffering from Alzheimer’s.  I think she’s fine. Just old.  We do get old. And probably fed up with the dramarama of Freddie versus Francesca. Which will probably become the battle royale when Zsa Zsa decides it’s all too boring finally and utters a final “dollink” and departs.  Although who knows she may survive Freddie and Francesca.  She and Freddie were the odd couple back in 1986.  But the marriage is in its 25th year.  So despite all the pot shots we all have taken through the 25 years the bottom line is she kept marrying for love and found it. He cold have “moved on” as they say. Instead he stuck with her. And she with him. Through thick and thin. Mostly thin of late. But I suspect he’s selling things because she has stopped signing checks so to speak. One thing she was always good with was money. It’s there. Just not as much as ten years ago. But then that’s true for quite a few on Bel-Air Road. No one really wants to know how much money she has. They want to know how old she really is. As Cindy Adams has pointed out, they all lied so mich about it they probably couldn’t remember themselves.

      As for the antics, well, after he was found nude in the Rolls on Bellagio Road he called her and said he had been abducted by aliens. She suggested he say he was abducted by a band of rogue lesbians. People might not believe the aliens. They would believe the rogue lesbians. And with that she went back to her phone call. Or so the story goes. From whoever she was talking to at the time.  The marriage works. Wouldn’t work for most of us. But it works for them.

      I think Kitty Kelley should forget the sequel to “The Last Star” and work on “The Last Gabor.”  So many stories. From dinner tables. And phone calls.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        And I must take the opportunity to mention one of my pet peeves. It is Bel-Air. Not Bel Air. 

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        Zsa Zsa married (Prince) Freddie when she was 70. He (of course) was around 50. I am sure that he thought that whatever money she had when she died would go to him (I don’t know if Zsa Zsa and Francesca were very close. There have been law suits between the two.). He certainly wasn’t monogamous, especially exposing his  2005 affair with Anna Nicole Smith. If he were the father of her daughter, then he smelled money. Smelled it enough to put it over his indiscretion to Zsa Zsa (who was 90 then). So he did have his cake and eat it too. I say Dementia as more of a generic term, akin to Senility opposed to the disease Alzheimer’s, which is a very noticeable decrease in cognition and memory. She would most likely be dead by now if this was a true diagnosis. And yes, the marriage has lasted 25 years. In the beginning he probably amused her, and then she just got too old to think of divorce. If anything, he would be doing the divorcing but was running free anyway…in his 60’s. These older people were not 21 when sex/love ruled their lives. My God! Freddie just never expected Zsa Zsa to live so long. The recent sale of their mansion (against Francesca’s wishes) tells me that the money is running low. This sale is an ongoing law suit between Francesca and Freddie. Does Zsa Zsa even know? She was good with money but where did her fortune come from? Certainly not a movie career. Probably from divorce settlements, but Freddie just ran through that money. Zsa Zsa’s autobiography “One Lifetime is Not Enough” (1990) was silly and prattling (like most autobiographies ). Right now, her life reads like an extended Barbara Hutton story. Will there be books written after she is dead? Of course, but I do not think that very many people (including herself) know or care who she is.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          The house has not been sold. It has not even been listed.  He merely announced it was for sale. For $28 million. The Jorgensen estate, a block away, was in pristine condition and sold last year for around $10 million. For lot value. And it was a better lot. It’s a joke. It was a joke the first time when they announced it was for sale for $22 million.  I suspect she would take $22 million. And sign the earnest money contract. WIthout Freddie. It’s separate property. Not community property. And you can be sure Francesca will make sure it stays separate property.  If it’s sold. Don’t hold your breath. 

          Rumor at the time was that Eva left something to her stepdaughter and the rest to Zsa Zsa and Magda but probate was still open when Jolie and then Magda died. Magda’s share of Jolie’s and Eva’s estates according to the rumor went to Zsa Zsa and wasn’t taxed twice. The Gabors never talked about two things. Their age or how much money they had. But Zsa Zsa ended up with a lot. Jolie’s will according to the rumor had a “per stirpes” clause so if something happened to Magda within a certain period of time, usually it’s six months, then Magda’s share would go to Zsa Zsa which it did and then if something happened to Zsa Zsa within that same period of time then all of it would have gone to Francesca. Not to Freddie.  So Francesca’s claim about things has some solid basis in law with regard to Jolie’s will if the rumor is true. In any case, well, there will be the battle royale.  Zsa Zsa, Eva, and Mada marreid well and divorced better. But Jolie made a lot of  money with her costume jewelry and believed in taking care of her girls. And did.  And Daddy Gabor had been a jeweler in Budapest and while they sold a lot as they made their way across Europe, in all directions apparently, on their way to New York, they landed here with a lot of loot hidden away so to speak.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            And one of the reasons why there has always been the mystery of the birth dates is apparently Mama and the girls had to get new papers to get out of Hungary. They were Jews.  And voila, with a big diamond or two, Mama and the girls had been born and baptized Catholics. And, well, if you’re going to have a new birth certificate, might as well shave a year or two, or three or four or six, off the birthdate, you know? As far as I know, the real birth certificates were never found in Budapest.

  4. avatar johardy says:

    Unfortunately, Soap Net is scheduled to change to a children’s channel in 2012, so they won’t be buying any soaps.  Soap Opera Digest readers are trying to get a boycot of ABC going.  Don’t think that will work just now with Dancing with the Stars in the middle of a season.

  5. avatar Laura Ward says:

    I don’t think anybody could get the REAL Gabor story.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Laura…what story?  There’s no there there.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        The only person who has ever gotten close to the real Gabor story, or ever will, is Cindy Adams who wrote a sort of “tell-all” with Jolie sort of “telling all.”

        The stories, however, haven’t all been told.  Suffice it to say it’s a smorgasbord of schadenfreude.  In the end, well, just the story of a nice Catholic family form Budapest. Well, nice anyway. Even Zsa Zsa could be a real jewel at times. Nice. And fun.

        • avatar Richard Bassett says:

          I read the book; I guess that is told to Cindy Adams, by Jolie Gabor around 1980, if this (indeed) is the same book. Again, it must have been told in Jolie’s Hungarian mind and translated into English because it was a mixed match of stories about nothing, though she tried to keep it chronological. It was told like someone who was trying to learn English. It does basically tell how Eva, Zsa Zsa, Magna and eventually Mama Gabor fled from Hungary in the 1930’s…but certainly not told with any real detail. The book talked about marriage after marriage after marriage….in no detail…. and mama Gabor’s three marriages too. I felt that it was told in the same manner that the Gabor’s communicated with each other. “Zsa Zsa was never not to be mad at Eva” “Magna comes here and down before she knows it”. None were dead yet, when this book was released. There is no rhyme or reason as to why these zany girls married so many times so there is no philosophy or message in the book. Like Mr WoW says, there was no story to tell.