Liz Smith: Lady Gaga and Her Fans — Will They Always Sustain Her?

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And more from our Gossip Girl: Will “Glee” descend into the “Valley of the Dolls?”… Kevin Costner, back onscreen in “The Company Men”

“HOW COULD you go out the back, when you have all that waiting out front?”

That’s what Lady Gaga remarks to Vogue’s Jonathan Van Meter, as the pop queen exits a swanky London hotel, facing a horde of screaming fans.

If there’s anything that exemplifies Lady G., it is this connection to her fans — a connection so intense that even Van Meter wonders if it veers on the “unhealthy.” I wonder myself.

Gaga soaks up her fans’ devotion like a woman stranded in a desert, finding the last oasis. Gaga, only two years into major fame, relates to her fans the way Judy Garland did and Liza Minelli does — using them as love objects, security blankets, always telling them how much they are adored. The reward for the star is to be showered with unconditional love. But this neediness became more prevalent as Garland and Minnelli grew older; the personal road grew lonelier and tougher.

Gaga is only 24. Keeping her fans loving her and loving them back with such fervor has to be wearying, no matter what she says. Lady G. is most often compared to Madonna, and for sure similarities abound. Check out some of M’s early interviews, when her star was blazing and she was daring and outspoken on cultural issues such as homophobia. But one big difference resides in how Madonna saw her fans. She was grateful they were there, she had masterminded her success and was thrilled to be a star. But after the show was over, M was busy with a private life, planning the next show, critiquing her mistakes. She was not thinking or worrying about her fans per se, though she felt she had something significant to say to them in performance.

Madonna hoped her fans remained faithful, got her “message,” made her richer. That hope was fulfilled! She also hoped they had their own lives, because she sure had hers. (Barbra Streisand was actually afraid of her fans. She didn’t seem to understand their adulation. She’s better now. Although she still says, over and over, “I value my privacy.”) Mariah Carey has also had an intense relationship to her fans, although now that she is married and about to become a mother, she might see it differently.

So, someday I hope Lady Gaga chooses the back door, because it’ll mean she has more on her mind than her “little monsters.”

* * *

“THEY DRUMMED you right out of Hollywood, so ya’ come crawlin’ back to Broadway. But Broadway don’t go for booze and dope!”

Any movie fan that knows his salt recognizes that bit of dialogue, snarled out by Susan Hayward to Patty Duke in the movie version of Jacqueline Susann’s “Valley of the Dolls.” (Miss Duke retaliates by snatching off Hayward’s wig and … well, you know the rest.)

There was a short-lived TV series based on the movie … a porny kind of sequel (“Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”) … and “readings” of the script are always a sell-out in West Hollywood.

But the story of three girls looking for love in all the wrong show biz places is still grist for the mill, and now there’s talk that the smash hit TV series “Glee” will mount a “Valley of the Dolls” show next season! Before you say it — no, there’s not much good music associated with “VOTD,” with the possible exception of Andre and Dory Previn’s “Theme From The Valley of the Dolls” sung over the credits by Dionne Warwick. (More recently, it was done by k.d. lang, who made it sound like a masterpiece.)   The other stuff, also by the Previns and John Williams, is dreadful. That includes “I’ll Plant My Own Tree” written for Judy Garland (who was fired from the film) and eventually sung by Margaret Whiting, with Miss Hayward lip-syncing. Patty Duke as train-wreck star Neely O’Hara is forced to sing hilariously bad material. (Sharon Tate and Barbara Parkins were blessedly mute, musically.)

But — so I hear — there will be “original” music added to the mix for “Glee,” which is intended as a “tribute and a spoof.” I wouldn’t count this idea out as merely campy wishful thinking. “Glee” is a Fox show, and “VOTD” was a 20th Century Fox smash. They still own the rights.

* * *

HAVE YOU been missing Kevin Costner onscreen? If the handsome star of a many hits and a few highly publicized flops is your cup of cinematic cappuccino, you can find him onscreen in “The Company Men.” This movie about upscale business guys downsized by the crashing economy is out in limited release. Ben Affleck and Tommy Lee Jones also star.

Costner has been offscreen for five years. He’s been busy building a new family with wife Christine — three children, ages three, one and six months. (All told, from his first marriage and then a brief relationship, the Oscar-winning actor has seven kids.)

Actor/director/producer Costner, who also dabbles in music, says he feels he is “not in vogue” now, as a star, but preferred to stay away, for strictly personal reasons. “I’ve learned that failure doesn’t kill you.” Costner loves movies and moviemaking. The one time I interviewed him, I was struck by how boyishly passionate he was about telling stories onscreen and unapologetic that his movies —whether he directs them or not — tend to be big, long and contain many elements. When we spoke about “The Upside of Anger” which co-starred Joan Allen, he said, “I wish there had been more of it!” even though the movie faced criticism on its length. (I was also impressed that just as in many of his films, he wore his bluejeans tight.)

Now 55, and a strong advocate on political and environmental issues — he created an “oil clean-up machine” in the wake of the massive spill in the Gulf —Costner demurs on the idea of running for office. “I’ve led a colorful life, and I don’t care for it to be brought up by an opponent.” (George Clooney is similarly disinclined to public office for the same reason.)

And there’s always that sequel to “The Bodyguard.” This idea keeps floating in the rumor pool. Kevin and Whitney Houston still look good!

7 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Paul Smith says:

    While in the Carribean, I saw a movie called “Mr. Brooks” and what a little chiller it is.  Kevin Costner and William Hurt’s blood-curdling performances are unforgettable. Without the spectacular soundtrack of the first Bodyguard movie, a follow-up movie is unlikely to draw interest. 

  2. avatar Richard Bassett says:

     It is hard to take a woman named, “GaGa” seriously. That is the first strike against her. I am a fan, though I’ve always hated that label (even when referring to Elizabeth Taylor). I would rather say that I am impressed and admire their work and their lives. You will never find me in a line of screaming anybody’s to catch a glimpse of the ‘star’. Not my style. GaGa’s fans will remain as long as she entertains. As far as her sincerity, in any interview she can profess everlasting love or anything she chooses, but I will never believe that fans alone make her world spin. At the end of the day, she must appreciate the overwhelming support but she does (like you said) have her own life to deal with. If she were obsessed to the point where they were vital to her existence, it would border on the edge of being pathological.
     Though I do not know of a series, I know “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” was a movie. Now a late night movie that is aired even more than the original. It is beyond terrible, nothing like the campy original. The original is now just fun to watch. Overblown performances by all of the actors, the best thing that came out of it was Warwick’s song. How ‘Glee’ ever got wrapped up with it, I’ll never know and find hard to believe. You might as well integrate “The Sound of Music” into “Deep Throat” Though funny for me; I am at a loss of words to discuss anything else about it.
      Costner is not ‘in vogue’ if he is using the term to describe youth but his films have staying power and he shouldn’t worry himself about such a pretentious term, mostly made famous by Madonna. Like most sequels, “The Bodyguard” would pale in comparison to the first. Even the first was marginal, at best. It DID produce more Billboard hit records for Whitney but did little for Costner. No chemistry…blah…blah…blah for all the obvious reasons. He did shock the skeptics with his oil spill solution. Where did that come from, leading me to believe…is he in the right occupation?

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Richard…alas, I was (am!) a fan.  I used to run after Elizabeth’s limo. I had no shame.   My bad.  Back then.  I wouldn’t anymore. Tricky knee.

      As for Gaga she talks about her fans in an almost pathological way.  Whether she’s really feeling it we don’t know.  Joan Crawford was also very keen on keeping up a fan base.
      “Valley of the Dolls”—what can we say, except:  “You shouldn’t drink and take pills Neely.” 
      “Eh, they work faster that way!”

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        Mr WoW.

                           Today, Joan Crawford would be diagnosed with an obsessive narcissistic personality disorder…but most celebrities are afflicted with this, in one way or another. Thank God, these disorders did not exist in Crawford’s era.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I have never really understood “the mobs” aka “the fans” and got “cured” of the “urge” to collect autographs wtih Martin Milner and the image of his standing there in nothing but a towel has remained with me all these years. My mind is a little foggy this morning but I think I was 10. I don’t know who was more embarrassed.  Me or him.  Obviously I wasn’t whoever he was expecting.  I think I’ve told the story before so I won’t bore everyone again. But he was very nice. I didn’t know you were supposed to bring something with you for them to sign. Or something for them to sign it with.  So he grabbed a grocery sack and signed it for me.   My first and last autograph from a star.  Really had no idea who he was to be honest except that he was from Hollywood and was a star.  And I decided I wanted his autograph. So off I went and rang the doorbell. 

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          And we are all a little narcissistic, Richard, even though we don’t like to think we are.