Liz Smith: The Who's "Tommy" Reinvented for "Glee"?

And more from our Liz: Phyllis Newman’s “Nothing Like a Dame” lures Elaine Stritch … mixing and mashing it up at Michael’s

“TOMMY, CAN you see me? Tommy, can you hear me?”

Those are the famous lyrics from the 1969 rock opera “Tommy,” sprung from the fertile minds, voices and musicianship of Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey and the late Keith Moon.

Now, we hear that “Glee” producer Ryan Murphy plans a lavish remake of “Tommy” for the hit Fox show that has lost a little of its heat recently. The “Tommy” episode, if it happens, will no doubt run longer than the usual hour. It’s hard to imagine something as epic as “Tommy,” cut down.

Roger Daltry, who can still look awfully good in skin-tight denim, and Pete Townsend are expected to make appearances.

P.S. Don’t be disappointed if the “Glee” version of “Tommy” is not as lurid as Ken Russell’s infamous, excessive 1975 big-screen effort. (That one featured Jack Nicholson, Elton John, Tina Turner as “The Acid Queen,” Elton John as “The Pinball Wizard,” Mr. Daltrey as Tommy and Ann-Margret as his mother.)

A-M was Oscar-nominated for her efforts — not the least of which was being bathed in gallons of baked beans and liquefied chocolate. I don’t see anybody on “Glee” going quite that far for their art.

* * *

MICHAEL’S media café was really swinging at lunch this week with David Patrick Columbia looking everyone over for his New York Social Diary, which is one of the best content sites on the Internet.

And even I was there, sitting with the “Mayor” of Michael’s — Joe Armstrong — who knows everybody and everything. For the first time I noted that the cowboy boot vase on Joe’s table is autographed by Willie Nelson, Fats Domino, Jimmy Buffet and Elton John. There was another signature I wondered about, which turned out to be that of our fellow Texan, Laura Bush, who at one point, when drifting past Joe’s table, happened to have a pen out and gave it her “John Hancock.”

Joe and I were with Don Carleton, who collects writers’ works and memorabilia for the University of Texas Briscoe Center for American History … He is collecting mine as we speak. Don is a documentary filmmaker of note, and also oversaw and helped write the life story of his longtime friend, the late Walter Cronkite. Recently, he brought out “Conversations” with the CBS news legend and says he misses the old guy terribly. He was off to dinner that same night with Jane and Morley “60 Minutes” Safer, whose papers he is also collecting. He already has those of Bill Moyers and Dominick Dunne.

Everybody seems to be handing over their accumulations to the U of T., either to the Briscoe or to the Harry Ransom Center for literature, videos and photographs. Robert De Niro has given them all of his movies and archives because he saw that these great organizations are such careful caretakers. The University of Texas also houses the works of Gloria Swanson and George M. Cohan, as well as Norman Mailer, plus Woodward & Bernstein.

This was serious important stuff, but we managed to get a few wonderful laughs out of stories we traded about the rich and famous — particularly, one of our favorite protagonists of the art form of anecdote (and I do mean that peerless leader, Bill Clinton).

We were sitting near publisher Donald Newhouse and former Ambassador Carl Spielvogel … the wonderful New York writer and “Living Landmark” Pete Hamill … his agent Esther NewbergOprah’s book person Sara Nelson and fashion’s dynamo Fern Mallis.

In the prize corner was the legendary influence maven Peter Brown, who sped to fame working with The Beatles. With him was his most famous current client, Andrew Lloyd Webber of musical theater.

Andrew told me his wife Madeleine is arriving to join him any minute, and I had a chance to say thanks for their annual Christmas card, which comes every year and is a masterpiece of art in itself.

* * *

ON MONDAY, March 26th Phyllis Newman’s “Nothing Like a Dame” gala happens at Manhattan’s John Jay College (The Gerald Lynch Theater.) This annual event benefits The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, and is presented by The Actors Fund.

Among those on board for the one-night-only happening are Polly BergenLauren FlaniganBobby CannavaleMario CantoneAlexandra SilberCountess Luann De Lesseps (from TV’s “The Real Housewives of NY”) … David LutkinBruce Vilanch and the one, the only, the inimitable and indomitable Elaine Stritch. For ticket info log on or call 212-221-7300, ext 133.

I’ve been to this event in years past, and it is always a fabulous night in the theater: great entertainment with everybody giving 150%. So if that’s all you want — one hell of a good time — please go. Just keep in mind you’ll also be doing a really good deed in a naughty world. Phyllis Newman is performing splendid, vital help to striving theater folk.

Especially right now, with antediluvians on the rise, threatening women’s health issues.

2 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    Baked beans and liquefied chocolate… oooh. Bad combo.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Both Rusty and our 14 year old son would slurp them up in the same mass quantities as appeared in the film. I would flee the results.

      I have only watched bits of “Glee” when it preceded something I actually wanted to watch. I shudder at the memory. Blargh. Urgh. I am vindictively thrilled that the show seems to have begun the slow slide into oblivion as it is noxiously saccharine…to the point that I think it may cause cancer of the intellect.

      And attempting “Tommy”on “Glee”? If you take the trippy, lurid, psychedelic edge out of “Tommy” and sanitize it, sugar-coat it and make it clean-clean-clean…you don’t have “Tommy” anymore…you have something else. Pablum. Near beer. No Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie. No Ann Margaret. No Tina Turner. No emotion, no blown mind, no pushing any envelopes…just oatmeal, bland and good for your heart. Aw. Not “awe”.

      One didn’t need hallucinogens to watch the original and trip. One will need the full compliment to recognize the “Glee” version for what it’s supposed to be…