Liz Smith: Viola Davis Tells All (Well, A Lot) to Oprah

And more from our Liz: Yoko Ono celebrates … Dory Previn passes … vampires bare all

“BEWARE OF young girls who come to the door, wistful and pale of twenty and four/delivering daisies with delicate hands.”

So wrote (and sang) composer Dory Previn in the dreamily bitter “Beware of Young Girls,” a thinly-veiled allusion to Mia Farrow and Dory’s ex-husband, Andre. “You were my friend, my friend, my friend, you were invited to my house” went the singsong accusation in Dory’s first album — after years of collaborative work with Andre. It was titled “On My Way to Where” and became quite the little sensation at the time, back in 1970.

Andre fought back against being viewed as a heartless betrayer, mentioning Dory’s fragile state of mind — she was hospitalized for schizophrenia treatment. Theirs was a tumultuous marriage. Mia said nothing. (Years later, during her relationship with Woody Allen, Mia had reason to recall Dory’s dreamy warning lyrics.)

Dory Previn died on Tuesday in Massachusetts at age 86. Her work with Andre Previn included such well-known works as “The Theme from the Valley of the Dolls.” But after the divorce and Dory’s breakdown, she became a highly acclaimed solo composer/performer, well-loved for the intimacy and quirkiness of her themes and lyrics. These are reflected in the titles of her early albums — “Mythical Kings & Iguanas,” “Reflections in a Mud Puddle,” “Marcy C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign.”

Three of her major themes were Jesus, the male ego and Hollywood — the industry’s treatment of women. Marilyn Monroe’s name often floated through her work. One of her greatest songs was “Starlet, Starlet, On the Screen, Who Will Follow Norma Jeane?” The big lyric was “Who do you have F**K to get into this movie?” Dory sings it in babyish voice that roughens and toughens as the song goes on; it is a savage indictment of Hollywood flesh-peddling and casting couches.

Amazon will probably not be inundated, as it has been for Whitney Houston’s CD’s. But I predict an online surge for Ms. Previn, one of the unique and brilliant artists of her time.

* * *

CHANNEL SURFING, I came across Oprah Winfrey’s Oscar special. She interviewed Jonah Hill, nominated for his best supporting role in Bennett Miller’s baseball movie, “Moneyball” (starring Brad Pitt.)

Hill was sweet, and discussed, among other things, why at 28, he wanted to begin to trim down, and ease himself out of his profitable movie image as the overweight sidekick. He brought Oprah to his favorite diner, and paid — “This is the most exciting day of my life, paying for Oprah Winfrey’s lunch!” he said. (Oprah had a simple omelet, because — “An omelet looks more substantial than scrambled.” She declined the biscuits.)

Oprah also chatted with Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, both nominated for their work in “The Help.” Spencer is an adorable person. But Viola Davis is intense, powerful and vulnerable. Her emotions are so close to the surface. Viola unveiled her short reddish, natural-looking hair. And what a difference it makes. She looks heroic. The actress said she was “living too much in wigs and weaves, though I’ll probably do my hair back, for certain roles.” There were many revelations of her impoverished childhood, her long apprenticeship as an actress, her doubts, and her midlife crisis, which occurred after her first Oscar nomination for “Doubt.” She said, “Here I was working with Meryl Streep, feeling I deserved to be working with Meryl Streep, nominated for an Academy Award. I kept thinking, ‘shouldn’t you be happier?’ Don’t you have everything you want?’”

This was one of the best sit-downs I’ve ever seen with an actor. Oprah allowed Viola to open up beautifully, showing her strength and her fragility. Catch a re-run of this on the OWN network if you can.

* * *

CHART-TOPPING pop star Yoko Ono celebrates her 79th birthday on Saturday in New York City. (I’m not being tongue-in-cheek, Yoko actually is a chart-topping pop star. She is the proof that if you hang in with dignity long enough, people come around and appreciate you anew.)

Yoko will not just party at Le Poisson Rouge, she’ll take the stage with her famous Plastic Ono Band. What a woman!

* * *

ONE WONDERS what miracles of photo-shopping and double-stick tape went into the new cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine. There are the three stars of “The Vampire Diaries” — Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder — wrapped in a blood-red satin sheet. Mr. Somerhalder appears to be on the brink of showing more than EW could get away with. One millimeter more and they’d have had to run a cautionary banner across his loins.

Inside the issue there’s more flesh. This time the vampires are naked under white sheets. I’ve never seen “The Vampire Diaries,” but I imagine people watch it for the same reason they “read” Playboy — uh, you know, for the scripts.

* * *

I GUESS we have to hand it to The Hollywood Reporter for its restraint. The new issue contains a full-page tribute to Whitney Houston from powerhouse publicity firm PMK-BNC, and five pages more: an article about Whitney’s comeback plans, written by Kim Masters. But it has George Clooney on the cover, handsome as ever. With the Academy Awards upon us any minute, and Clooney nominated for two Oscars, THR made an industry-wise choice: Keep Clooney on the cover. Oh, and the story claims: “Clooney, Complicated.”

I don’t think so. Quite the opposite. That’s the reason he remains so popular. Serious, yes. Complicated? Well, maybe if I lived with him, I could better say. I am personally crazy about this great guy.


10 Responses so far.

  1. avatar wlaccma says:

    How could you not love George Clooney. He is great. However, I was in NYC walking down the street about seven years ago when a group of women spotted him coming out of a restaurant alone. I was literally PUSHED into his arms as the women surrounded him. We were both shocked and looked at each other as we tried to unlock ourselves from this unintentional intimate moment. He reeked of cigarettes and beer. It was 10:00 a.m. It changed my view of him but I still love him. Darn, to have a photo of that. Where are the paps when you need them.

    • avatar considerpleeze says:

      What a story! Strange about the beer at 10 am. The only good excuse I can think of would be if you were still on a different time zone..? The way some of these people fly all over the world all the time, just ’cause it’s morning for us doesn’t mean it is for them???

  2. avatar jvtyler45 says:

    Way before she became “famous” I saw  a Law & Order episode with Viola Davis as a guest character — a police officer gone bad.  She was scary, intense and intimidating — I could feel it throught the TV screen.  I didn’t see her again until “The Help” and had trouble believing it was the same person.  Way to go Ms. Davis.

  3. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    The Mia/Dory/Andre “triangulation” was quite the scandal in Houston although back then only at dinner tables. Some things back then you didn’t really talk about “in public.” But Mia was “sliced and diced” at quite a few dinner tables. And it must have been “deja vu” years later with Woody although of course Dory was not betrayed by her own daughter. But betrayed just the same.

    Mia didn’t “venture out” much while “houseguesting” but those who did encounter her were floored by the scandal. Bottom line is Dory offered her home. Not her husband.

  4. avatar Rho says:

    Mia is a great person.  She does a lot of good.  I admire her.

  5. avatar JCF4612 says:

    “Dory Previn died on Tuesday in Massachusetts at age 86.” 

    Here’s to Liz, who always presents the facts. To the headline writer who used that all too ubiquitous “passes,” which together with the word “passed,” is such an objectional abbreviation for the classic term passed away, I see bah, humbug. What is it with this passed business, anyway? People die. People pass away. They don’t pass, unless they’re still alive and passing gas. Thanks for letting me rant.

    • avatar jvtyler45 says:

      JCF4612 — I grew up in the Northeast where we said a person died or passed away.  But when I moved to the South, passed or passed on is the common vernacular.   Must be a regional or dialect difference.

    • avatar Obediah Fults says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you JCF4612! My skin crawls every time I hear “passed”. In fact, I’m compelled to mumble, “away”, in order to complete the statement.

  6. avatar LuckyLady n/a says:

    Thanks, Liz, for informing me about Dory Previn.  I thought she was one reserved lady, with emphasis on “lady”.  Am really sick and tired of hearing how “good” Mia Farrow is and how “bad” Woody Allen is.  Guess Mia is the vintage version of Angelina Jolie.  Always wondered how people could do distressing things to other people and yet they became some type of rusted Icons.

  7. avatar pammcpat53 says:

    The Viola Davis interivew was powerful! She had one quote that I will remember forever and only wish I had heard her say it 30 years ago when I was much younger. She talked about how being successful is isolating and then said “I can’t lay awake at night worrying about what people, who do not love me, might say or think about me……that only de-values the people who I know do love me…..I need to spend my time focused on those people.