Liz Smith: NBC Wants to Play With “Dolls.” Jackie Susann’s Cautionary Tale on TV?

And more from our Liz: Bon Jovi snubbed … Debbie Harry sexy (and glad of it!) … Demi and Ashton splitting? … Chaz dances on, despite the haters 

“WHO’S STONED? I am merely traveling incognito!”

That was but one of Patty Duke’s many incredible lines of dialogue in the 1967 movie version of Jacqueline Susann‘s “Valley of the Dolls.” (As Neely O’Hara, a character not-so-loosely based on the uppers and downers of Judy Garland, Duke received the lion’s share of over-the-top screen time.)

* * *

“VALLEY OF the Dolls” was a novel, a feature film, a mini-series, a nighttime soap opera. It was a huge hit on bookshelves and in movie theaters, but the tale of three girls struggling through the swamp of show biz never clicked on the small screen.

For the record, the girls in the movie were Miss Duke as the out-of-control movie star, Barbara Parkins as the moralizing fashion model Anne Welles, and the late Sharon Tate as the victimized sex-symbol, Jennifer North. (And Miss Susan Hayward as the coarse, aging, dipsomaniacal stage legend, Helen Lawson.)

But with the 1960s back in a big way on the small screen via “Pan Am,” “The Playboy Club” and of course, “Mad Men,” TV is looking once again at “Valley of the Dolls.” It is NBC’s creators (they already have “The Playboy Club”) who are re-thinking “Dolls” and mulling its possibilities. What lurid possibilities! The language and sexual situations that could only be hinted at in previous filmed incarnations, would be allowed full flower now. (Although the frequent use of “fag” and “faggot” — which did get a lot of play in the movie — would likely be excised in these politically correct times.)

But if “Valley of the Dolls” goes on at 10:00 p.m., audiences would be guaranteed a lot of flesh and a lot of flash.

In keeping with the retro rage, a new version of “Dolls” would probably be set back in the sixties, the era in which the novel ended and the movie was made — lots of mammoth hairpieces, extended eyeliner, mini-skirts and frosted lips.

As for casting, there are dozens of nubile TV actresses ready to jump in, many of them pristine Disney princesses, such as Selena Gomez. (She could play against type as Jennifer North, the sex-bomb.)

But discussing this project among a few industry types the other day, only one name came up on the casting of 50-ish Helen Lawson — Lindsay Lohan. Hey, this girl is only 25! I tried to look surprised and tut-tut this clearly jocular suggestion, but nobody was having it. The feeling against her is strong. Lindsay’s recent reported shenanigans at Fashion Week seem to have sealed her fate.

* * *

MICK JAGGER used to sing, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” and Bon Jovi is singing “I can’t get no respect!” Once again, the gazillion-selling New Jersey rock band was snubbed at being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Bon Jovi has been eligible for two years.) Despite the band’s many hits and ability to pack stadiums with appreciative fans, the Bon Jovi band has never been a critical darling. In fact, most “serious” music critics are apoplectic when Bon Jovi is mentioned.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame people don’t always get it. They don’t care much for hip-hop or electronic music. I don’t either, but you can’t deny their great influence.

And, though it is not exactly a reason to be inducted, Jon Bon Jovi is, to this day, one of the sexiest, most charismatic, energetic lead-singers/front-men in rock history. And also one of the most philanthropic. So, I think, for the fit of his jeans alone, Jon deserves to be honored.

* * *

SPEAKING OF music icons, one of my favorites, Debbie Harry is back. Blondie is releasing its first album in a few years, “Panic of Girls.” Debbie, who still looks very much like the goddess of her early “Dreaming” and “Rapture” days, tells Parade magazine that her sex-symbol status has always been a help, and she can’t deny it. “It’s a showbiz thing. Most performers and artists count on a strong visual image … being sexy and hot never hurts!”

* * *

I AM assuming that the recent rumors floated about Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore splitting are just that — rumors based on baseless gossip. The story, a spawn of Britain’s Daily Mail, received a lot of traction online — that Ashton cheated on Demi during their sixth anniversary weekend — but so far no word from Kutcher, 33, or Moore, 48.

I met this couple once, at a premiere of one of Demi’s films, shortly before they were married. They were charming to everybody, and charming with each other. She was serene and glowing and he appeared far more mature than his years. Simpatico to the max.

* * *

CHAZ BONO continues doing his best on “Dancing With the Stars.” He has admitted his weight and general poor condition has been a hindrance, and is performing with badly swollen knees. (Mom Cher is terribly worried.) But he’s still in there and giving his all.

I’m rooting for him, on this show, and in general. I am so shocked by the hate being directed at this guy — yes, I’m going to refer to him as a guy. That’s what he feels he is, that’s how he identifies himself, that’s what he went through medical procedures to achieve. And what the hell does it cost me or anybody to accept that? Transgender people are not monsters or freaks. One of the reasons Chaz has been so open and “out there” is that he wants to show others like him that you don’t have to live on the fringes of society. This is where many transgenders end up, ostracized by family, and fighting for survival in an often ugly world.

And as an aside, I wonder how much the hate would have been moderated had Chaz been slim and trim? Just as male to female transsexuals are always far more accepted when they look truly feminine and “real.” Externals count, even among those who say the whole business is “sick,” etc. Yeah, but it’s less sick when everybody’s conventionally pretty and good-looking, right?

Dance on, Chaz Bono!

20 Responses so far.

  1. avatar rick gould says:

    Madonna as Helen Lawson–she’s been rehearsing for years, Lindsay Lohan IS Neely O’ Hara.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rick…

      Madonna’s recent efforts are not up to her salad days of the 1980’s and most of the 90’s  (although “W.E.” which I have seen, is being beaten-up unfairly)   But she doesn’t drink, has a gazillion dollars, four kids, a still-thriving career (at least in music and concerts)  and she is not threatened by younger women.

      She’ll never be a Helen Lawson type.   She ain’t Mother Teresa, but she has avoided almost all the pitfalls of fame that were predicted for her  back in 1983.

      As for Lindsay, she’d be great as Neely, but is unhireable at the moment.   Also, even she might find the role too close to self-parody.   Neely O’Hara was supposed to have been a great star who fell  from the heights.  At this point Miss Lohan was once a promising starlet who  has  stumbled off the curb.

  2. avatar French Heart says:

    Poor LiLo.

    The only way she could be saved is to be placed in something akin to an upscale European nunnery and spoon fed culture and a healthy mindset.

    She was so adorable in ‘Parent Trap’ and is stuck on a warped channel. Needs serious reprogramming away from her ‘family’. A sad case that will end badly without intervention far away from US culture so she can get a truly clear, fresh perspective and view.

  3. avatar wilowist says:

    I too wish the best for Chaz Bono. Thank God he doesn’t have the Lohans as his “nearest and dearest.”

  4. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    I suspect Jacqueline Susann would say “enough already” at this point. I would agree with her.

  5. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Any number of actors could play those campy parts. Cher, Demi or Madonna each could play Helen Lawson with a modern twist: an ageing star using young studs and surgeons to keep illusions aloft. They are totally ripe for camp.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Paul…

      On the camp meter, I agree re Madonna and Cher.   Demi, despite her much younger (perhaps soon to be ex) hubby and her strenuous efforts to remain youthful-looking, hasn’t ventured yet into camp territory.   But that could change in an instant.  “First you’re another sloe-eyed vamp, then someone’s mother, then you’re camp…”

  6. avatar HauntedLady says:

    It would be sad if the rumors about Kutcher and Moore are true. It’s always sad when a relationship breaks down.
    As for Valley of the Dolls, I’ve always felt rather sorry for Patty Duke in the O’Hara role; she’s far too talented for that kind of dreck. But bills must be paid and one must work to pay them. A remake would be interesting, especially to see how it would be done now as opposed to then. Lohan, though, needs to be hospitalized far, far away from her family and “friends.” She’s tragic.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Haunted Lady…

      Patty Duke is hilarious on the subject of “VOTD” these days.   She thought she was giving the performance of her life.  Which she was, of course.  But not quite as she intended. 

      Faye Dunaway should take a page from Duke’s book and embrace “Mommie Dearest.”

  7. avatar rick gould says:

    My comments regarding Madge and LiLo were fairly tongue-in-cheek. Frankly, unless they are planning a whole new take, why bother? “Dolls” has been redone several times to poor effect.

    My sister and I recently watched the last half of the “Parent Trap” remake with Lindsay. Though it could never replace our great childhood memories of the Hayley Mills version, we were amazed at how adorable and good Lohan was in it. And how that little girl is light years away from the young woman we see stumbling in paparazzi shots today.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rick…

      Oh, come on, I knew that!  (I prefer playing with the idea of M as Norma Desmond. “It’s the videos that got small!”)

      I agree “why bother” but fresh ideas seem to be too big chore. 

      Lindsay was even better in “Mean Girls”—that was the point it looked like she was going to be a major player–glam and dramatic, talented and beautiful.

      Poor thing.  She didn’t–and possibly still doesn’t–recognize the irony of having starred in a movie called “The Parent Trap.”    Dina and Michael needed to be dropped off a cliff about ten years ago. 

  8. avatar Charles says:

    Fay Dunaway would be PERFECT as Helen Lawson, afterall she is the “Queen of camp”!

  9. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    Why doesn’t Patty Duke play Helen Lawson?

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Jay…

      Considering her good humor on the subject, I bet she would!

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Why not do a “whatever happened to” version with Patty Duke as Neely having triumphed over the pills and booze and gone on to become Broadway’s biggest star and Barbara Parkins as Anne having had enough and dumped Lyon and gone on to own the world’s biggest modeling agency and maybe toss in Lee Grant as Tony Pilar’s evil sister who went on to form the world’s biggest record company with all three having turned into their own versions of Helen Lawson?  Just a thought.

  10. avatar LandofLove says:

    It’s always amusing how the networks latch on to something–in this case, “Mad Men”–and beat it into the ground with clone after clone. Apparently there isn’t an original idea left in New York or Hollywood.

  11. avatar maytaguide says:

    Thanks for your eloquent defense of Chaz Bono. You brought up a number of important points about intolerance and hate for those who are classified as “different.” Chaz should know who he is and be what he is. More power to him! But what if his mom and family were an average family of modest means? He would really be suffering for his life choices.

  12. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Wish Chaz could have slimmed down before the DWTS competition began — every extra 10 pounds is that much more stress on his knees. That said, he’s got that indefinable air of a winner, and I wish him well.