Liz Smith: Daniel Radcliffe Really “Succeeds” In Business Without Really Trying

Daniel Radcliffe is currently starring on Broadway

And more from our Liz: Racquel Welch accepts her defects … remembering Mrs. John Warner

“PLEASE, MY darling, do not try to be perfect — because the defect is very important!”

That is what the great Italian director Vittorio De Sica told a young and insecure Raquel Welch, back in the 1960s. Raquel says she took that advice to heart, and recognized that “my authentic self, with all its flaws, real or imagined, was the most important quality I had to offer.”

This vignette comes from Raquel’s recent, often quite touching book, amusingly titled “Beyond the Cleavage.” It is now out in paperback.

And indeed Mr. De Sica was correct. All the great stars have a defect — often more than one! Even beauty is more interesting when something is a bit off. Probably the most perfect female face out of Hollywood (via Austria) was Hedy Lamarr. But Hedy was … kind of boring onscreen.

I do have a great Hedy column upcoming. Offscreen she was not boring! If perhaps not the great scientific brain of legend.

* * *

BROADWAY IS BURSTING with bubbles of joyous musicals so far this season. Adding to the glow is the fiftieth anniversary production of the Pulitzer-prize winner, “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” starring the one and only Daniel Radcliffe of “Harry Potter” movies and onstage “Equus” fame. Oh, wow! Is he a winner! So charming, so sweet and so talented. And can he sing and dance? Oh, boy, can he ever! A highlight is Daniel’s rendition of “I Believe in You,” singing to himself in a mirror. Surely he has the “cool clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth.” (You don’t get to hear music and lyrics like this too often.) As J. Pierrepont Finch, he’s a miracle — but then the entire cast is perfection. John Larroquette is scrumptious as J. B. Biggley and Chris Hanke as Bud Frump is a delicious villain. Tammy Blanchard as Hedy La Rue is delightful and Rose Hemingway is gorgeous, making her Bdwy debut as “Rosemary.” Remember that song? Well, the sweet and sassy score by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows still remains a winner fifty years later. The production, as directed and choreographed by award-winning Rob Ashford is a “Don’t Miss” of the season. The entire company never stops dancing and is dazzling. The sets are fantastic, as are the costumes. So hurry on to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

* * *

SOMETIMES PUBLISHING houses, even in these awful times, do things that are splendid and surprise us. For instance, Random House, via its Vintage label, has brought out a new paperback edition of the national bestseller “Haywire.” This has a new introduction by Buck Henry and an epilogue by the author Brooke Hayward. The Times originally pronounced the 1977 memoir “A Hollywood childhood memoir, a glowing tapestry spun with equal parts of gold and pain. An absolute beauty.”

Hayward can really write, and the evocations of a Hollywood-Broadway growing up with two talented, tempestuous parents and their new wives and husbands and their divorced “formers” and the children of all those unions in just non pareil.

People have waited ever since for Brooke to carry on and splash her considerable talent in a new book. Until she does, this fresh edition of a classic will have to do. Talk about glamour run riot: this is it. And the cast of characters is incredible.

When I was writing the old Cholly Knickerbocker column back in the 1960s, I would see Brooke’s father, the agent-producer Leland Hayward, every single day. Before he entered the exclusive bar of The Colony restaurant, they would place a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label at his table. He did considerable damage during lunch, but I was never introduced to this legend even though, later, I heard him praised to the skies by none other than Katharine Hepburn — a former romance.

And I never met Brooke’s famous mother, either. Margaret Sullavan was a unique talent, then only seen by me on the silver screen, which she soon deserted for Broadway.

Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, the old Vanity Fair, the New York Times and all the rest are recalled vividly in “Haywire.” Newsday said Brooke had told of her life “as Fitzgerald might have — with the glow and the glamour, and finally, the heartbreak.”

* * *

CLASSY, ELEGANT remarks from John Warner last week on the passing of his ex-wife Elizabeth Taylor. “I will remember her as a woman whose heart and soul were as beautiful as her classic face and majestic eyes.”

He justly credited Taylor with helping him win his Senate seat in 1978, which he maintained until he retired two years ago.

Despite all the negative publicity about Elizabeth’s weight during some of that marriage, her turn as Mrs. Warner, the Senate wife, was rather appealing. And after she lost weight and returned to films such as “The Mirror Crack’d” and her stage triumph with “The Little Foxes,” it looked like an enduring relationship — one in which both partners were busy with their own careers.

But it could not be. Elizabeth needed a man who tended to her 24/7. One thing you did not say to Elizabeth Taylor was, “I can’t. I’m busy. You go ahead.” John said it once too often, and he said it while Elizabeth was here in New York, lavished with praise and attention for “Foxes.”

And she felt — perhaps with some justification — that she had never been too busy to campaign for him.

I did always find it amusing that she insisted that “she tried not to be famous” during the Warner era. I recall an evening in Manhattan in 1977, shortly after Warner announced his run. Elizabeth was attending some show biz event at the Waldorf Astoria. She wore a flimsy green Halston caftan, cut so low and slit so high you could see all the way to Virginia. (She sat next to Donny Osmond, who appeared transfixed by her copious cleavage.) The famous Burton emeralds were on display.

She perched on a chair as the paparazzi pounced. They were delighted to shoot down the bodice of her Halston. Elizabeth crossed her legs and the dress hitched way up!  The photographers went berserk. She placed her drink on her lap, in a dainty attempt to appear ladylike. She looked overripe, gorgeous and very famous. But perhaps she thought they really wanted pictures of Donny. Not little ole Mrs. Warner.

17 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    The one thing Elizabeth Taylor did well was move on particularly with regard to the past and let’s all move on finally and remember the good times she had and the good times she shared with all of us both privately and publicly. 

    Don’t think for one minute the marriage with Warner was all thorns. There were lot of roses. And it was a good marriage in the sense that it allowed a sense of “normalcy” she had never known before which allowed her to go on and become more “accessible” in her life and in her endeavors. She went from Hollywood Star to Earth Mother. And we all loved Earth Mother. 

    She and John Warner remained friends and their children remained friends and that is all that should matter.  It was all that mattered to her.  

    I certainly took pot shots along the way. In the end, she was Earth Mother. Forgiven all the little “transgressions” simply because in the end she was just like the rest of us – doing the best she could in life and just looking for a little happiness here and there. She was not perfect. But then she never claimed to be. And really never tried to be. Content with the moments of happiness which probably is how she always managed to move on.  But consistent as well in her heart as evidenced by her reamining committed to a cause that had touched her heart as well as her soul knowing that it would be a cause that would most likely remain long after she was gone. And she gave and gave and gave to that cause. And left behind a legacy of that giving through a final gift of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. 

    Her whole life really can be summed up by the logo created for the foundation. Two hands reaching out to one another within a heart.  She always reached out to the one reaching out to her. Be it a friend, a child, a total stranger. 

    • avatar rick gould says:

      The Warner years as a transition to reality after the surreal Burton years probably is the best way to look at it.
      And like you say, Liz and Warner remained cordial, though she tweaked him when HE remarried to treat the new wife better 😉

      I am just grateful Warner had the class to acknowledge Elizabeth’s contribution of charisma, time, energy AND a million dollar diamond ring to help get him elected…

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Rick…by 2003, when Warner re-married, I hardly think ET was thinking of him or how he treated anybody.

        She was already failing in  a big way, , health-wise.  She’d moved so far beyond that.  It was some other world, her time as Mrs. Warner.  They did remain friendly. 

        I have to say, I enjoyed the Warner years.  I witnessed some amazing mob scenes during that time, including a Virgina event that rivaled any Hollywood premiere. And something she did here in NYC for Jacob Javitts that left me dizzy and bruised  as the papaprazzi fought for a good shot of the Senator’s wife.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          And yet she came to Houston for a Republican something and I think they ran a photo and a line or two on the society page. And wasn’t mobbed.  People were looking for Elizabeth Taylor. And got Elizabeth Warner. By the time they realized she was Elizabeth Taylor they were gone. Everyone was wearing Chanel for her.  She looked she’d just walked out of JC Penney. She probably wished she had gone shopping at JC Penney while John entertained everone at the Republicn something. 

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Baby—to clarify, because my answers are jumping around, when I refer to “that night” I mean the event at the Waldorf Astoria that Miss Smith describes.  That night, she was definitely “Elizabeth Taylor.”

            She did attempt to town it down with boxy little suits and such during the campaign.  And no wearing purple, they told her–too royal!

  2. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Ah. yes…that night.  Miss Taylor also wore gold, four inch high-heels. (and she wondered why her back always bothered her?)   As she sashayed into the Waldorf, the scent of Jungle Gardenia almost overwhelming us, a crowd gathered at the elevator.  As Miss T. waited, a woman said, quite loudly:  “Oh, quite rolly-polly isn’t she?”  Taylor’s posture stiffened slightly and  she glanced to her side. (the side of the insult)

    Her escort/husband countered: “Yeah, maybe.  But she still looks damn sexy!”

    The elevator doors opened.  Miss Taylor stepped in, turned around, inhaled (that bust!) wiggled her fingers and blew a kiss to the gentleman to who came to her defense. 

    His own lady friend was not pleased.  Nor was she sexy-looking.

  3. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    P.S.  As to Mr. Radcliffe—I saw him in “Equus.”   That he can sing and dance is just gravy on a hot pot roast.

    • avatar Richard Bassett says:

      Radcliffe is young enough to overcome the stereotype that he mastered in all of those Harry Potter movies and isn’t the least bit concerned of showing us everything that he has, probably done as a rebellious act for all the Potter films. But it all worked. As much of an actor can be these days, he’ll choose a variety of projects. He is still too young to be seen as a full pledged leading man. Now, Elizabeth Taylor really did only see a farm and settling down when she married John in December 1976. I do not believe that she anticipated the work it was going to take to involve herself in the 1978 senate campaign. But I think that she caught the political fever and decided to be with John 100%. The early years with Warner, she had a purpose…and a farm to retreat to when things got too hectic. The weight gain came from all of the dinners and social events that came with the territory. Always one who had to watch her weight for films, she just didn’t watch it anymore. I do not think that she gained weight purposely to please the voters with the message of saying, “she was just like them”. Warner wasn’t even supposed to be a senator as his elected party candidate (Richard Obenshain) was killed in a plane crash in August 1978, leaving the seat open for John, who…of course…won in November 1978. If Obenshain had won the senate seat, life may have turned out differently for Elizabeth. Who knows? Now 1979 was Elizabeth Taylor’s worst year ever and several transitions took place. John was in Washington, D.C. working as a senator, and she no longer had a role as the candidate’s loyal wife. He left her alone, as all wives of men in politics did and she ate, drank, drugged and watched TV as she ballooned to almost 200 pounds (on her small frame). Her opinions were no longer included in public platforms. In the past, when she had disagreed with Warner publically….she told him, and he publically reprimanded her. Elizabeth was always ready for a debate, despite the rumors that she did not share her husband’s values. She had shared her views openly. At least it was something. By 1979, it all ended. No one needed her for anything. In May 1979, the ever popular ‘sitting in the car’ at Studio 54 was printed worldwide and she was almost unrecognizable. People gasped. That did it! A series to the infamous health spa’s (fat farms) took place and she returned to feature films with, “The Mirror Crack’d” followed almost immediately with being on Broadway in “The Little Foxes”, where she was nominated for a Tony Award. The storm of the Warner era had passed (other storms would soon follow). But she left Washington, D.C. behind her, telling Barbara Walters (in 1997) that it is was the worst place on Earth for a woman. Once back in the film industry, several projects came her way. She accepted them and it was just a matter of time before the Warner marriage end. And end it did, in November 1981. Elizabeth Taylor was back in her element

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        She wanted to be Elizabeth Warner. Everyone including John Warner wanted her to be Elizabeth Taylor. She couldn’t be both. And ended up in a way as absolutely no one sitting around doing nothing in Georgetown. Occasionally she would venture out.  As absolutely no one. Without the makeup and the hair and the flashy clothes I don’t think anyone really realized who she was. Or believed it was her. That must have been jarring.  Just as jarring as the sense of loneliness. The most famous movie star in the world. Sitting around with nothing to do. There were the Republican events, the occasional cocktail parties, the children, the grandchildren, the friends who came to town. But for the most part she was alone. Even moreso after Chen Sam moved to New York. I think she went back to work just so she would have something to do. And still found herself alone. So the marriage ended.

        Still the campaigning was good for her.  She became “ordinary people” and I think really liked it. She became Earth Mother.  And all of us were better for it.

        • avatar Richard Bassett says:

          I agree. In the Warner campaign, she did learn to mix and mingle with the ordinary folks who supported Warner…and her. But by 1978/1979, she was looking like a distorted version of herself…with the weight. I think the weight jokes caused the isolation. But she learned people skills during the campaign. Never in her life had she had to do that. The years that followed, her weight fluctuated and her addictions were all consuming. Can you really picture her with a Victor Luna after a Richard Burton? It made no sense. Richard moved on with his life and she was stuck with an addictive disease that showed no mercy. It ended with several near overdoses and off to Betty Ford she went; I really believe that she just had to get away from the chemicals for a while. Her own sense of survival took over and completed her transformation into the beautiful, humanitarian Elizabeth that we saw beginning to emerge in 1985. Those early years with amfAR and APLA are when I met her. It was at a charity event and she talked about fundraising. Nothing personal. Though I had always admired her immensely, I thought…she looks like a social worker just doing her job. But as her involvement with AIDS grew, she was off jet setting all over the world again spreading the truth about AIDS. In the midst of that, she because irreproachable…no longer rubbing elbows with the common people. I know that there were the perfume launches, but those events were very structured and she was in and out (of stores), selling her perfume and was off before very many people knew that she was ever there, at all. Never again would she have such close contact with the public. As the years went by, she became much more immobile and felt vulnerable being in those large crowds. She wasn’t in tip top condition, and knew it. In the end, I hadn’t heard very much about her in almost a year.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            I guess it is a matter of perspective and even as The Earth Mother there was The Hollywood Star who didn’t get too close and didn’t allow anyone to get too close and I guess it was the same as Elizabeth Warner versus Elizabeth Taylor.  Earth Mother versus Hollywood Star. Still as the years went by she did become more engaging at least in terms of informality. The perfume appearances and the fundraisers were usually approached from a security standpoint.  So it wasn’t really a matter of mingling with the masses. There was always someone around. There was always a threat.  That started with Eddie Fisher. Continued with her advocacy for Israel. And probably with her early advocacy for AIDS. We are just learning what a dangerous world it is. She learned early on. Still when she wanted to mingle, she did.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            And the “protocol” was less formal.  She tended to write notes herself instead of having the secretary write them. Sometimes she would return a call instead of having the secretary return a call.  Sometimes she took a call. Sometimes she answered the phone.  She was on the internet. And not just on Twitter.

            It was no longer Buckingham Palace in other words.

            You weren’t lkely to see her schlepping at Safeway so to speak.  But until her health began to decline finally she was “out and about” quite a bit.  And quite engaging. Unless you stuck a napkin in front of her and asked her to sign it.  

            All the restaurants, the better ones, have the “private rooms” where she usually was. But they were not there for “privacy” so much as for “accomodation” since usually that’s where larger tables were set up.  My favorite was the Dynasty Room at Madame Wu’s Garden.  A big round table with a lazy susan in the middle. I loved it.  It was sort of like a sit-down buffet.  I am absolutely no one. But usually went to dinner with at least ten people.  So I always called ahead and usually got the private room. It was also quieter. So it was nicer. She usually went out with “groups” as well. So again you usually saw her in the private room” although few saw her except when she was coming and and then when she was going out. 

            Still she liked at least to continue the “image” so many saw her only  jet-setting around the world and only having dinner with the rich and famous. In reality, well, she schlepped. Just not at Safeway. 

  4. avatar Raquel Miller says:

    Sigh I really hate to do this, but as someone who has dealt with this for years:

    “And more from our Liz: Racquel Welch accepts her defects … remembering Mrs. John Warner”

    It should be Raquel (no C) Welch. If we are going to spell it right in the rest of the article can we at least fix it in the beginning?