Liz Smith: Jerry Lewis, Marilyn, and Marlene — Hey Lady, Indeed!

And more from our Liz: Jackie Bisset’s lifetime achievement in Transylvania … Bette Midler’s bad back opens the door for Helen Mirren … remembering Lana Turner on the witness stand .. and Emma Watson, scared of Los Angeles (no Botox, please!)

“I’M a selfish man. You can’t be faulted for being selfish if you’re going to get better because of it. I make sure that I take good care of me.”

That’s Jerry Lewis in the August issue of GQ — you can’t miss it, what with the delicious Mila Kunis on the cover. It is called the Comedy Issue, although a good deal of writer Robert Maxwell’s excellent profile of Jerry isn’t slap-your-sides hilarious. Lewis is a complex person, but at age 85, he has mellowed somewhat and he is fascinating in his reminiscences, toughness and sentimentality.

Here’s one Lewis tale for lovers of history, scandal, and sex-with-the-famous. Jerry insists that Marilyn Monroe never ever had that fabled affair with President John F. Kennedy. He is adamant. Lewis says she didn’t do it with JFK because … she did it with him, Jerry. He doesn’t quite explain the logic of what could have stopped MM from, you, know, making love to the president and to him as well? (Did Jerry think he’d spoiled her for all other men?)

Lewis also declares that the greatest sex-symbol used sex “to make an emotional connection.” It was more than just sex for her.

However, when asked by GQ’s writer “what was it like?” with Monroe, Jerry says: “It was … long. I was crippled for a month. And here I thought Marlene Dietrich was great!”

No, no…don’t laugh. Jerry’s affair with Dietrich is a fact. We might not remember it now, but back in the day —under all the slapstick and “Hey, lady!”stuff — Jerry was a very appealing young man. (And, hey, lady — Dietrich also had an affair with Eddie Fisher. And Sinatra. She liked ‘em skinny.)

* * *

THIS MUST mean something. The divine beauty Jackie Bisset recently accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from those big-time cinema fans in … Transylvania. I kid you not.

Miss Bisset arrived in the land of mythological vampires looking lovely. Lovely, enough, in fact to arouse conjecture that perhaps she knew more than she let on about the age-defying properties of vampirism. Anyway, Jackie brushed aside gossip about the undead, and declared herself “thrilled and honored” to be recognized in the land of Vlad the Impaler. The experience at such a far-flung event also revived hope that her movie, “The Last Film Festival” finds the bit of money needed to complete and release it.

Not only does this Linda Yellen-directed comedy contain a hilarious and unexpected performance from Jackie, as a frustrated movie queen, but it is also the great Dennis Hopper’s last movie. And he is wonderful as a cagey producer.

P.S. Did you know that Prince Charles owns two castles in Transylvania? I don’t even want to imagine what that means!

* * *

BACK PROBLEMS sidelined Bette Midler and she was forced to leave the HBO production of the as-yet untitled Phil Spector biopic. This is a real pity because it is a dramatic role and would have shown off Bette’s acting chops. (The movie delves into the relationship between Spector — played by Al Pacino — and his attorney Linda Kenney Baden, while Spector was on trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson.)

But what a replacement HBO found! The great Helen Mirren. HBO did well by Dame Helen with its miniseries “Elizabeth I,” for which Helen won an Emmy. David Mamet has written the Spector script and is directing.

A speedy recovery to our showgirl, Bette, and her herniated disk.

* * *

LAST October at the shareholders’ meeting of News Corp’s get together, a woman named Evelyn Davis demanded a kiss from Rupert Murdoch. He obliged the elderly and eccentric activist, giving her a sincere smack.

And while we muse Murdoch …  I wonder whatever happened to the big boat that James Murdoch used to cruise the Connecticut River when he had a home up above Hamburg Cove out of Old Lyme? Its name always amused onlookers who could not wait to get aboard. The boat was called:  “Most Fortunate Son.”

* * *

THE QUEEN of England is supposedly heard in the movie “Cars 2.” But what you’ll really be hearing is Vanessa Redgrave as Her Majesty. The car is described as somewhere between a Bentley and a Rolls Royce. An appropriate choice for both QE2 and Miss Redgrave, I’d say.

* * *

THE wonderfully revitalized Hollywood Reporter always reminds us of some sensational or glamorous moment from show biz past. Last week the mag published a dramatic full-page shot of a stricken Lana Turner in court, testifying in defense of her daughter Cheryl. Cheryl had confessed to the 1958 killing of Lana’s hoodlum boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato — defending her mother, she insisted. Cheryl was acquitted, in no small part because of Turner’s fabulous performance on the witness stand. The best of her career, many said.

The Liz Taylor/Richard Burton adultery scandal seems to loom larger in history, but let’s face it, the dead body in Lana’s pink boudoir was beyond the pale. And yet, Lana was forgiven her bad parenting, and went on to greater success after. You see, not much is new under the smoggy sun of Hollywood.

* * *

ENDQUOTE: “L.A. scares the hell out of me. I feel if I have to work out four hours a day, and count the calories of everything I put in my mouth, and have Botox at 22, and obsess about how I look the whole time, I will go mad. I will absolutely lose it.”

That’s “Harry Potter’ actress Emma Watson, age 21, who will go to Oxford University soon and live normally, before she decides if she is ready to perform any more witchcraft in Hollywood.


23 Responses so far.

  1. avatar rick gould says:

    Ok, I’ll bite 😉

    Ummm, isn’t Jerry Lewis from the same school of bat-shit crazy as Tony Curtis, Ryan O’Neal, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Shelley Winters? His take on MM and JFK is laughable. But then, he is a comedian!

    And as far as Marlene and Jerry, and her romances with Sinatra and Eddie… well, I think we all know it’s not because they were “skinny”!

    Funny, another “Bette” actually benefited from a star dropping out of a film because of back problems…that was when Davis replaced Claudette Colbert as Margo in “All About Eve!” Love Claudette, but talk about good karma!

    If the Burton/Taylor/Cleopatra affair looms larger in Hollywood history, it’s because the participants were real if flawed people. With Lana, there was no “there” there!

    Just sayin’ 😉

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rick,

      Actually….Lewis might be batshit, but his sexual life in Hollywood was spectactual.  I believe him sooner than the late Mr. Curtis. 

      MM and Kennedy?  I think they slept together, or whatever JFK did (he was a notoriously unsatisfactory bedmate) but Monroe’s “emotional connection” happened with RFK.  Oh, I don’t believe anybody “murdered” her. 

      Couldn’t agree more about Lana. Empty.  But…somebody died. Her daughter killer Lana’s lover (or did she?)   In terms of sheer sordid scandal that beats adultery anyday.

      But after Eddie/Debbie,  after almost dying, after being “forgiven” and Oscared….La Liz went and did it all over again, on the set of the most expensive movie of all time.   She just didn’t seem to care, and that made people crazy. 

      Bette gave a mesmerizing dramatic performance in  her debut movie, “The Rose.”  The End.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Better someone killed Johnny Stompanato before he killed Lana Turner. “Where Love Went” indeed. If it was Lana who killed him who can blame her daughter for claiming she did? Lana would have faced the gas chamber back in those days. But a daughter defending her mother? Elicited sympathy for both mother and daughter. 

        And our favorite subject.  Earth Mother. Stole a husband when he was alive. Then tried to steal him again after he died.  The eventual film about it all should probably be titled “Not-So-Magnificent Obsession.”  She should have stayed in Washington as Elizabeth Warner and sent the entourage to Los Angeles. And just sent a check each month. How I feel. How no one else feels. But how I feel.

        • avatar Mr. Wow says:

          Dear Baby…

          I’m sure (reasonably) that it all went down in Lana’s bedroom (on Good Friday!) just as Lana and Cheryl said.  Still it was incredibly sordid and only Lana’s strong female fan base saved her.  And how clever of Lana to agree to “Imitation of Life” in which mother and daughter battle over the same man.  Lana took a small salary but a big piece of the profits out of that one.  Those profits secured her for the rest of her life.  (And helped soothe the wound of “Where Love Has Gone.”)

          As for ET—I love her as Mrs. Warner.  Only her disturbing weight gain indicates the post-Burton turmoil.  She called it “happy fat.”  Warner didn’t.  And when he wouldn’t make love to her, she complained to friends like Halston, who didn’t have the guts to say, “Have you taken  a look at yourself?”  (By the time she did start to lose pounds, she was already deeply bored with Warner, and didn’t much care if he was interested or not.)

          Still, it was an interesting stretch and she learned a little about real people and how to interact in public.  This helped her later as a stage actress and later still as an AIDS activist.  Tales from her Warner years are quite charming. 

          Things happen as they should.  Had she stayed in Washington she might never have re-habbed, which helped her focus on her AIDS work. 

          • avatar rick gould says:

            Can you imagine if ET was still married to Warner when the AIDS epidemic exploded?

            Liz and John had already battled publicly over whether women should actively serve in the military (one headline read “Who’s Afraid of Virginia’s Senator? Not Liz!”).

            One reason Warner divorced first wife Catherine Mellon is because they argued endlessly over the Vietnam War (his being Secretary of Navy, guess what his view was)

            Warner had interesting tastes in women 😉

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Rick..

            Yes, his taste ran to to women who could heighten his profile. 

            He took a bit of a chance with ET, but I guess he figured at least a few thousand women would vote for him just because they loved La Liz–and that would push him into the Senate.  And indeed that is exactly  what happened.

            Elizabeth was used to being used: Wilding, Todd, Burton–but at least they were in show biz.  She’d never had one who used her and then discarded her.  (Eddie was her slave, which was okay for maybe a year.)

            She needed to get away from DC, reclaim herself and then rehab before tackling AIDS.  She’d never have been so effective an advocate  as the sodden Mrs. Warner.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Who knows what really went on in their bedroom? Might have been her becoming “overly voluptous,” but keep in mind she wasn’t Twiggy when they married, or it may have been the Jack Daniels or it may have been he was usually too tired when he finally came home late at night.  The latter a major problem observed by many. Both demanded 100% of the other. And I think both tried to settle for 50%. They just couldn’t get the 50% right.  But might have.  She flew off in a rage to Los Angeles and bought a house. She did that often with Richard Burton. She only did it once with John Warner. John Warner was not Richard Burton. 

            They remained friends. And their children remained friends. So there was something good about the marriage. Despite her “proclamations.” Which were usually made after a night spent alone with Jack Daniels instead of John Warner.

            The entourage of course didn’t like him. To be honest the entourage didn’t particularly like Richard Burton either. Of course Richard Burton didn’t particularly like them either. Which he occassionally, and rudely, made quite clear.

            It might have been nothing more than it was just a convenient way to set up an “assumed name” account but I do think there was something telling about “ET Warner” on the caller id.

            Elizabeth Taylor got  Ronald Reagan to attend that AIDS fundraiser in Washington.   I suspect John Warner would have accompanied Elizabeth Warner. And there probably would have been two strong voices in Washington instead of just one.

            If anything it was the other man who broke up the marriage.  Jack Daniels.  Her friends, and the entourage, should have been worried more about her drinking than her weight.  And worried about it long before the marriage to John Warner.

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Baby…

            She liked Warner, and was wildly attracted to him.  Ever see their dating pics in the summer and fall of ’76?  What  a hot couple.  She was voluptuous, but not at all fat by any normal srtandard.  He was a stunner. 

            And yet, for all the sexual chemistry, she destroyed it the moment she announced their engagement, gaining weight  from that moment on. 

            But you are SO right–Jack D. was the real other man.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            I suspect Jack Daniels was there in all the marriages except the one that introduced her to him. Nicky Hilton did something to her that she never really recovered from – she got 0% from Nicky Hilton so she demanded 100% from men all of whom obliged her. Except for John Warner.

            She and Richard Burton were Sturm and Drang and my parents were Sturm and Drang. Love and alcoholism don’t mix well. But is very entertaining for the bystanders. It was a horrible marriage. Both times. But it was a role that paid well as they say. And entertained the bystanders. “The Burtons.”

            It was the role both were most famous for. Perhaps that is why she try to revive it at the end.

            Like most of us, she had the fleeting moments of happiness. She just had more unhapppiness than most of us.  Most of us were lucky enough not to have had a Nicky Hilton.

            But in the end she settled into the role that mattered most. Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. A role many of her peers failed miserably at.  But it’s a role in a way she took on as Elizabeth Warner. Along with the role of Earth Mother. And she was a great Earth Mother.

            I really get tired of the potshots at John Warner. He was and is a nice man. He was good for her. And she was good for him.Which is why they stayed friends.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Elizabeth Taylors statement  ( in “Elizabeth: The Life and Career of Elizabeth Taylor” by Dick Sheppard (1974}…….

            “I’m Mother Courage” she once declared, “I’ll be dragging my sable coat behind me into old age.”

                                                             The End

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            That was before the kids started having kids and started bringing their kids by. She may have been dragging the sable coat but the staff was usually dragging the toys.  And hiding the Easter eggs.

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Baby…

            He was (is) a good guy.  But ET herself was fairly critical despite their good relations.  “I hope he’s nicer to her than he was to me,” she said when told of his third marriage. 

            And he  probably could have countered with a similar sentiment when she married Larry.

          • avatar rick gould says:

            I was pleasantly surprised by the credit Warner (rightfully) gave ET in his becoming elected senator.

            And I am of the opinion that the Burtons did not have a horrible marriage. We all know the negatives. It is gossip legend. But there was a lot of love there, or they wouldn’t have gone through all the obstacles to be together. And even when they were apart, they were always on each others minds. She’s always made that clear. And many members of HIS family have made that clear as well.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            Obsessive love is still love. But still obsessive. And often toxic. Particularly when mixed with alcoholism.

            I don’t doubt Richard Burton thought about “Round Three” which is why he married Sally Hay instead. He needed another Sybil. Not another Elizabeth.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            She said a lot of things. Many of which were said in the heat of a moment. Or the sting of the reminder of a previous moment.

            He probably rolled his eyes over Larry Fortensky. As did most people.

          • avatar rick gould says:

            Well, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, as we all are here.
            I just happen to think there were more happy/fun moments in the Liz and Dick saga than the drinking/fighting than the media/gossip always dwell on.

            And speaking of pot shots, people like to turn Larry Fortensky into a punchline, but he always seemed like a decent guy to me.

            After a point, it’s all just speculation when looking from the outside of people’s marriages and lives.

  2. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Has anyone ever read the Crane girl’s book? If you have, you will have no doubt that the poor child did it, and indeed, probably saved her Mother’s life. Particularly disturbing is the part about the sexual abuse she supposedly endured at the hand of Ron Ely. But then again, much like Marlene, Lana didn’t pick them for “character”.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Count…

      Much more disturbing was Lana’s lack of understanding about any of it.  The killing, the abuse.  She wasn’t bad, she just…wasn’t there. 
      And as she grew older she got religion and looked liked Mildred Dunnock.  So, there’s always payback.

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        “And as she grew older she got religion and looked liked Mildred Dunnock.” Thank you for that. The Count is not having a good day, and reading that resulted in a spit take ! ! !

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Were any of them really there? They all lived these scripted lives and they stuck to the scripts. And if something didn’t fit the script, the studio was supposed to take care of it.

        Sad to say but many of the children were merely props. It’s not that their parents didn’t love them, it’s just that the children didn’t always fit into the script.

  3. avatar Rho says:

    I never believed one word Jerry Lewis ever said.  Dean was the good one, not Jerry.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Jerry Lewis has a side to him few have seen but those who have will never forget it.

  4. avatar Richard Bassett says:

                      Cheryl (who I believe is a lesbian) Crane was born into scandal. Lana married Steve Crane, after only knowing him for a month and they went on a lavish Hollywood. Lana was 22. Stephen then received the news that he had never been divorced from this last wife, which invalidated his marriage to Lana. There was no question of getting an annulment or forced being charged with bigamy, and Lana (now legal) liked the fact that she was a free woman again….until she found out that she was pregnant with Steve’ baby. Using all of their finances (and MGM’s as well), a very quickly divorce was arranged between Steve and his wife, and Steve and Lana remarried (for the sake of the baby) remarried…two months before the baby was born. It only lasted a year but Cheryl was a walking/talking prop who would soon enjoy living the life of a millionaire’s daughter, Bob Topping and Lana were married for three years. She continued to announce that she was giving up her career…until they divorced.  Lana was soon involved with Lex Barker (‘Tarzan’ at the time). Cheryl was said to have a crush on him. During their four year marriage Cheryl was sexually abused by Lex and Lana ‘claims” that she never knew it…nor had Cheryl ever complained. I don’t think Cheryl meant to kill Johnny: she needed protection or just hurt him…but she did have to go to the kitchen to obtain the weapon. It is believed that Johnny ran into the knife…but Cheryl stood her ground or run away hysterical. She just wanted to know what she and Lana would do with the body. Lana never gave the impression that she was the murder. At that time, Steve was in and out of her life but her dad a new family of his own. Lana was never without sunglasses, until being on the witness stand. Cheryl was ordered to live with her grandmother. She was trouble. She ran away, was in psychiatric hospitals, juvenile detention and was all around a rebellious teen-ager. She was 12 when “Where Love Has Gone” was made, so had to live it all over again. But to this day, I believe that there was no romantic triangle between Lana, Johnny and Cheryl (oddly enough, this occurred during the same week-end that Mike Todd died). Last I heard, Cheryl and her father Steve developed a happier relationship and she even was an assistance manager for a chain of restraints that her father owned. She was living with a woman at the time but this was ten years ago. Lana, herself, died in 1995. She continued marrying and having romance until she was 50, then was never linked with anyone again. She had discovered spirituality and true faith.