And more from our Gossip Girl: Shorts are back — even on men? … women and implants — the news continues to be dire
“I AM my own creation. I am my own work of art.”
That was Madonna, way back before Lady Gaga began saying things like that.
I’ve been reminding you (and myself!) of some of my “great scoops” over the decades — breaking the Woodward/Bernstein book “The Final Days” … The Donald and Ivana Trump divorce … Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding to Larry Fortensky.
Inevitably we arrive at Madonna. Aside from Miss Taylor, Madonna has surely taken up the most space in my column. I didn’t “get her” at first, but eventually I was charmed by her brash attitude, her supreme confidence, her various tributes to great stars of the past, her brilliant videos and quite a lot of her music, even. And, she was a marketing genius. She spoke openly about issues of homophobia, violence against women and being true to one’s nature —“Express Yourself” was her anthem.
By the time I finally clapped eyes on her, in 1991, at the premiere of “Truth of Dare,” she was very much aware of the extensive support I’d given her. She was brunette and heavily painted and wearing something revealing. I thought she seemed like a little girl dressed up, trying to be a big girl. I was there being interviewed for “Primetime Live.” The producers wondered if Madonna would give them a moment of her time and speak about me? As this was her premiere, I doubted it. I was wrong. “I love Liz Smith because she has big balls like me!” she said, laughing. Although it didn’t make the final cut, on air, of course. (I have her compliment embroidered on a pillow given to me by Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols.) A few years later, I was interviewing her for real. As we prepared, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re not afraid of me. I like that.”
Over the years I found her warmer, nicer, much more vulnerable than she ever let on, publicly. She had (and still does) a wonderful press rep, Liz Rosenberg, with whom I am also friends. My column had the best access to her, first dibs on her latest videos and albums. I was in her corner, especially when such press pleasure was taken at her mistakes or failures. She was always supposed to be “over,” but somehow never was.
I had championed Madonna to star in the film version of “Evita” way before anybody else thought of it. When she finally captured the role, I felt I was a part of that triumph. Two weeks into filming “Evita” in Argentina, I received a call late Friday from Liz R. “Liz,” she said “I have some news.” Pause. “Madonna is pregnant.” “What?!” I shouted. “How far along? “Two months.” I was sputtering in shock. The world had been waiting for “Madonna and Child” for years. Now it was happening. (The father was trainer/actor Carlos Leon, who was desperately in love with her, and one of the nicest men she ever loved.) “But filming has just begun. How can she hide it? And all the strain…” Suddenly, Madonna herself got on the line —“Liz, I’m pregnant, and I’m having my baby, now write!”
I sure did. Only one teeny problem. I had to hold the story for 78 hours! Even in 1996, this was almost impossible. I had to wait till the very last moment to send my column Monday morning. The syndicate was going crazy. Then I had to alert my papers, so they could clear the front page. I was sure I was going to lose the scoop. But I didn’t. It held. And as with Donald and Ivana and Elizabeth’s wedding, the day the story broke news crews awaited me in the lobby of my building and the phone rang nonstop. Yes, that is always kind of absurdly thrilling.
Madonna paid me back for all my support by giving me what I needed most — a great big juicy exclusive. And she was grateful in other ways. Once, at the height of her “unpopularity” — the duel release of her “Body of Evidence” movie and her “Sex” book — she called me. “It’s Madonna. I just want to thank for all you’ve written. I know you take a lot of shit for it.”
I was charmed. It was almost — but not quite — as good as a scoop.
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CASTING NOTE: Beautiful Natalie Dormer, perhaps best known as Anne Boleyn in Showtime’s “The Tudors,” has joined HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” for that fantastical series’ second season. Dormer also appears in the coming ‘Captain America” and in “W.E.”
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MEN IN Shorts — I came upon a fashion story while browsing the Internet. In Milan, the great shocker in the men’s fashion category was shorts on men — really, short, insisted the copy. There were pictures. I looked. Maybe I missed something because only one young gent was wearing anything that approached mid-thigh. The rest of the fellows were showing some knee. This is shockingly short? How soon we forget the 1960s, 70s and 80s when men’s shorts were so brief and tight, you could tell if they had a dime or a nickel in their pocket. Then everything got really baggy in the 90s. (Complete with the dreadful low-slung waist and underwear on display thing.) Now skinny jeans are back. But I don’t see men showing as much leg (and everything else!) as they once did. I could be wrong. Short shorts on women have made a comeback. It is astonishing to see girls strutting down the street in five inches of fabric and high heels. Kind of slutty. (A part of today’s women’s movement uses the new look as a vehicle to shock people into understanding violence against women: no matter how they dress, women should not be abused.)
Speaking of men in shorts, I came across a wonderful HBO documentary last week, “Fire and Ice” which tells of the great rivalry and eventual bonding friendship between tennis champs Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. It is beautifully directed and both men admit they never played at the same level as when they were competing against each other. By the conclusion, it’s get-out-your-handkerchiefs time.
But to the subject — boy, were those tennis shorts short! (Today you could hide a car in the baggies worn by tennis pros.) And John McEnroe misses his little shorts. A few years ago he said, “I had a cute butt, why not show it off?”
John was never one to hide his light under a bushel.
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I FOUND a far more serious story while surfing — a new report on breast implants, and the myriad problems that beset women who undergo this procedure — lifelong problems! And one set of implants does not last forever. Most women who choose this augmentation will have the things replaced several times. There is scarring and infection and the issue of possibly overlooking cancer warnings. Reputable doctors warn women of every drawback, but the procedure remains the most popular.
In matters of reconstruction after the trauma of mastectomy, I understand. But just to better fill out a strapless dress?!