Liz Smith: Will Society Fail If We Can’t Gossip?

Sarah Ferguson with her ex-husband, Prince Andrew

And more from our Liz: Will Andrew take pity on Fergie? … a fermented Lindsay comes East .. Palm Beach mourns two great ladies … Douglas Hodge goes the cabaret way

“A RIDDLE: What is something that nobody likes but everybody enjoys?

“The answer is – gossip.”

People have been talking about other people for as long as humans have been talking. At least sixty percent of adult conversation is about people who aren’t in the room.

Gossip, however, has a bad reputation — one that many psychologists and anthropologists feel is profoundly undeserved. Some scientists go so far as to say that without gossip, our society would simply fall apart.

So opined one Jennifer Drapkin.

* * *

SPEAKING OF gossip, the British Royals have almost as many problems  as the American rich. And even though Queen Elizabeth is no doubt thrilled about the coming nuptials of her grandson, William to Kate Middleton, her own offspring can still give her agita. It is Prince Andrew who has now provided another headache — he seems determined to help his disgraced ex-wife, Fergie, out of her financial difficulties, no matter what! (And no matter that Fergie has been barred from attending the grand wedding on April 29th. I think this is rather mean-spirited. William is her nephew, after all, and she and Diana had a close if sometimes troubled friendship.)

Andrew is gallant, but his attempts have proved awkward. There are questions as to where exactly Andrew has solicited funds.

But QE2 perseveres and remains one of the admirable personages in Buckingham Palace. However, at age 84, the Queen has had to stop climbing up on her favorite horses. She has given up her passion for riding because a bad knee makes it difficult for her to mount.

You might ask whether or not the Queen could be given a little lift, a little push on the behind. But remember the big furor when Michelle Obama put her hand on the Queen’s back in a friendly gesture? Well, imagine the quandary of a mere groom helping Her Majesty rise to the saddle. He’d have to be given a title like “Royal Leg-Up Giver.”  I think the Queen just decided it was easier to give up riding altogether. And at age 84, she can be excused.

Of course, the first Queen Elizabeth had a Master of the Horse, but that was something else altogether.

* * *
OUR GIRL Lindsay Lohan is home on the East Coast, spending time with her mother and siblings while she decides what to do about that sticky business back in Hollywood — will she or won’t she take a plea deal in the matter of strolling off with a $2,500 necklace?

Alas, the 25-year-old actress is not drifting through museums or libraries or just chilling with her family. She has already been spotted at two nightclubs and already garnered some unneeded attention when it was suggested that fermented tea she was sipping, might contain trace amounts of alcohol. “I did not drink. I do not drink. Period.” That’s LL’s story and she is sticking to it.

Honey, forget nightclubs. There’s a nifty exhibition at the Met, “The Andean Tunic: 400 BC-1800.” You might get an idea for your fashion line. And you could always drop in and scope out the “Treasures of the Forbidden City.” Just … don’t try anything on.

* * *

TWO GREAT beauties of Palm Beach have gone to their reward. And I will miss both of them terribly. One died a month ago – Francis Carpenter, who once owned the Bulls Head Inn in Bridgehampton when it was a café and nightclub in the Sixties and Seventies.

I saw Francis last when she was 95 and she still looked vivacious and beautiful with her turned up nose and fabulous posture and great clothes. She was a Long Island girl who lucked into a loveless marriage with an heir to the Dupont fortune. When she arrived in Delaware as a bride, she scandalized the entire family and promptly was nicknamed “The Black Banana.” Sultry and fun-loving, she eventually enthralled even her rich and distinguished in-laws.

She was a great, fun-loving creature who never did a soul any harm. I recall that in her early wild days when she decided to go out dancing downtown “with the boys,” she’d always take off all of her fabulous jewelry and give it to my keeping as she roared off with her merrymakers.

The other person who left us unexpectedly was Celia Lipton Farris, a doyenne of Palm Beach. She had been the Peter Pan of 1930s London, and went on to marry a man who invented the milk carton. This extremely generous lady leaves quite a gap in the Florida and New York philanthropy scene, and she will be missed by her friends and by the many, many charities she championed, to which she gave her time and money.

* * *

WENT TO the posh Café Carlyle the other night with their number one star, Elaine Stritch, who lives permanently at the hotel. With us was the divine Sheila Nevins, HBO’s documentary genius who brought me a preview of her latest, “Triangle: Remembering the Fire,” which airs tonight, March 21.

The performer we saw that night, after a delicious dinner of Bobby Short’s chicken hash and Dover sole, was the Tony winner Douglas Hodge. He was fresh from playing the drag queen lead, Albin, in “La Cage aux Folles.”

Mr. Hodge had already garnered many kudos in his native London, and he is a wonderful presence and a fine singer. But he didn’t bother to “explain” himself much to the audience and I think they were largely mystified. Anyway, he did two well-received numbers, the Johnny Cash hit “A Boy Named Sue,” ending with the gay anthem “I Am What I Am.”

No doubt Mr. Hodge is fed up with drag and wanted to perform as his heterosexual self. But he needs to have an “act” written for himself. He’ll be at the Carlyle all this week.

23 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Barbara says:

    Fergie not invited to the big wedding?  I don’t see it as mean-spirited at all.  Can you imagine all the titters and whispers as everyone watches to see just what she would do?  She hasn’t shown that she can attend anything without creating a scene.  I still remember her poking people with her umbrella at a fancy horse race.  I know that was many years ago but since then she has been through too many tawdry situations to convince me that she understands proper decorum.  What bride wants some hard-living floozy-in-law calling attention to herself on the big day?

  2. avatar Lila says:

    It may be almost as much anathema as giving the Queen a boost from behind, but perhaps she should consider  – gasp! – training her horse to allow mounting from the right.  The left-mount tradition only arose because of the wearing of swords.

  3. avatar marywells says:

    Gosh! Prince Andrew used to be a handsome man. Call me “shallow” if you want. But his troub

  4. avatar marywells says:

    Gosh! Prince Andrew used to be a handsome man. Call me “shallow” if you want. But his troubled relationship with Sarah Ferguson is of no interest to me.
    Douglas Hodge… yes, what a fine singer.

  5. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    I do not know enough about royal protocol to know what is
    proper from excluding an ex-princess to the wedding of a future king. Maybe
    this has never happened, in history, before. Things may have had a different
    outcome if she hadn’t admitted being drunk and selling stories about Prince
    Andrew, in public. Despite public apologies, I think that she is now seen as a
    bona fide trader. Before that, maybe she had a chance. Are her children…first
    cousins of both princes…invited? It is only through the association with her
    mother that could cause them to be cast aside. But they are the innocents, and
    Prince Andrew’s daughters. To exclude them would show a pure signal of being
    two more undesirables. Not invited Fergie is surely sending a message that the
    royal family is outraged at her imminent

             When all of
    the fuss dies down (and it will) over Lindsey Lohan, then she will really
    return to her old reckless habits. Her recovery is based all on external circumstances
    (despite what she says to the press), and now…with the necklace, it is sure to
    always be carried it with her. She’s digging a deeper hole. She just doesn’t
    have the needed time to be comfortable in sobriety to start going to the
    nightclubs. They are just too tempting at this point, and she is adding
    unneeded pressure; testing her absence this way.  I do not know how they medically test her, but
    there are supplements created to pass a urine test in just a few hours (at
    least from alcohol). I’m not sure if such a product exists for other chemicals.
    I think that they do. To the average person, they cost about 50 dollars per a onetime
    use. A drop in the hat for Lindsay. I just don’t know if her ankle bracelets
    give off an air raid sound if she ingests a chemical. At 25, no one as tenuous
    as Lohan can maintain sobriety by, still, go to nightclubs. Just a matter of

    Sorry about the two Palm Beach beauties, whoever they were.

    • avatar Claudia Marek says:

      Prince Andrew’s two daughters (Prince William’s cousins) are attending.  They generally join the royals at events. 

      Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall will be attending and I believe one of her grandchildren is in the wedding party.

      Sarah Ferguson is not generally invited to royal family events–this is not an unusual happening. 

      And—the Queen still does have a “Master of the Horse.”

  6. avatar Bonnie O says:

    Liz –  Do you know if Camilla is invited?  Her attendance would probably garner as many frowns as snickers  if Fergie should have been invited.   If Fergie’s daughters are invited, then it is my opinion that the Queen (or whomever) has a lack of grace in not including Sarah.  I realize that Fergie created migraines for just about everyone in the royal family but she probably created more for herself.  She was allowed at Diana’s funeral but she was not invited to the family memorial dinner afterward.  All of this appears a bit shallow and, dare I say it, common.

    • avatar Andy Budgell says:

      Yes, of course Camilla is invited! She’s the wife of the groom’s father and has been all the royal events and has been for years now…even for a few years before they were married. William and Harry both get along very well with her because they know how happy she makes their father.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Yes, it boils down to good form. Camilla was a great big adulteress, but she’s behaved so properly ever since poor Diana died. 

        The Duchess of York behaves like, well…a good many of us.  (Oh, I  know—you’d never scheme to get a little extra cash.  Or even be the position of needing it.)   I like Fergie best of all the so-called Royal Family.  Maybe because she’s the only one I could imagine sitting with me  like a slob and slugging down a margarita.  Being common is not to despised. 

        Except by the eternally icy QE2.

        • avatar Paul Smith says:

          Being common is not  to be despised, you say, when daily we drag out the likes of Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen for public flogging everyday.  Give me icy QE2 any day, any hour.

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Paul…actually, I left out the “be.”  And you were very classy not to point out my error in writing too swiftly. (PLEASE–where is the spell check on this damn thing?!)

            Anyway, I don’t compare Fergie to Lohan and certainly not to  Charlie Sheen.  There’s common and then there is trash.  (Even tho I like Lindsay and think she could still have  a career–she’s an idiot, however.  But …glamorous idiocy is not to be despised. If she could ever get glam again.)

            QE2 is barely human by my standards.  And apparently by those of her own son, Charles.  I guess that’s not her fault, being to the manner-of-glaciers born.

        • avatar Jay Gentile says:

          I do not share you assessment that Her Majesty is “eternally icy.” Many Americans cannot fathom that a person would keep her troubles and opinions to herself, especially in our shameless reality show society where every thought is broadcast. One of her predecessors (I can’t remember which) said that it was important not to shed “daylight upon the magic” that is the monarchy. It must be remote but still accessible. I’m surprised and disappointed in your totally unsubstantiated assertion that the Queen despises commoners. It was Queen Elizabeth, for example, who started the “walk about” tradition so her subjects could see her and speak with her. She is also a dignified woman who has not had one whiff of personal scandal in all her years as Queen, which is more than can be said about that embarrassment, Sarah Ferguson and her endless scandals, schemes, and money grubbing.

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Jay….I didn’t sat QE2 “despises commoners.”  Only that public  common behavior is hypocritcally despised. 

            ….”so her subjects could see her and speak to her..”  Her subjects.  Just think on that one for a second.   These people–the royals– are living tourist attractions, nothing more. Although Lizzie might still believe the old bullshit that she was chosen by God to “rule.” 

            There is no magic in monarchy.  Not that there is any wizardry in what now passes for  American celebrity life. But as far as I am concerned Snooki and QE2 are just about even.  

          • avatar Jay Gentile says:

            Living tourist attractions who generate billions in revenue simply by being there and being who they are. The Queen’s diary of social obligations is so full that I don’t think I could keep up with it, and I’m nowhere near 84. She is the living symbol of Britain. I doubt very highly that she believes in “divine right,” but she did pledge during her coronation to serve the people throughout her life. This she has done admirably and without personal scandal. But clearly from your tone you are an anti-royalist, and that’s your right. To compare The Queen to a tubby little drunk who gets arrested for being a public nuisance is intellectually dishonest and causes me to question your intelligence.

          • avatar Mr. Wow says:

            Dear Jay…I believe the Queen Mother was a “tubby little drunk.”   Fortunately she never met The Situation. 

            My intelligence  cannot be be questioned.  It is sub average.

      • avatar Bonnie O says:

        Andy –  I do think it appropriate that Camilla be invited to the wedding.  However, I also think that many cameras will be on her during the ceremony along with commentary and/or speculation as to Camilla’s part in the unhappiness that surrounded Diana’s marriage to the Prince of Whales.  As for William and Harry, I believe they “go along to get along”.  I doubt very seriously if they have any affection for the Duchess of Cornwall.

        As for Sarah, I guess she truly burned her bridges and there is no acceptance of her at all at Buckingham Palace.  And that is a sad state of affairs for her daughters.

  7. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Say what you will about Sarah Ferguson.  She has turned out two beautifully behaved daughters.

  8. avatar Rho says:

    IMO, she should definitely be invited.  Shame on them for not inviting Sarah.

  9. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Money makes the world go ’round.  Gossip gives it a nice spin.  The only thing worse than bein talked about is not being talked about. 

    Queen Elizabeth is not “to the manners of glaciers” born but rather simply born into a role that demanded adherence to the tradition of the British royals and the propriety of that tradition and she has from time to time “broken protocol” as evidenced by her accepting that society has changed and “allowing” the divorces within her own family which previously was rare and certainly not acceptable. In a way, she made divorce acceptable which put her at odds with the Church of England which while allowing ti still took a dim view of it.  She of course will never say and those who may claim at some point she did may not really know whehter she did or not but most likely one regret she had was refusing to allow Princess Margaret to marry the man she loved and retaining her royal status.  Princess Margaret could have married whomever she wanted. But she would have lost her royal status just as Edward did many years before unless her sister had decided to “break protocol.” As Churchill put it about Edward, it was a shame they couldn’t marry their sweeties. But tradition, at least at that time,, ruled.

    Fergie made her royal bed. And has to lie in it. Along with Prince Andrew.  The queen may turn a blind eye to him. But not to her. Tha may be hypocritical.  It may also be simply the way it is.
    Imagine the gossip if Diana were still alive. No longer a royal But still the mother of the future king.  Where on earth would they seat her?  Of course if she were still alive, it would be just her and Charles. It is doubtful Charles would have been allowed to marry Camilla. 

    Americans don’t understand the matter of tradition. The British people for the most part do and still demand it to some degree. The Queen is more than just a symbol. She is the tradition of the British people that has remained firmly in place for centuries.

    Through the years she has become less “icy” and those who have met her at public events are often surprised at how engaging she is.  And accomodating.  As evidenced by the way she handled Michelle Obama putting her arm around her by putting her arm around Michelle Obama. It simply defined her a little more.  Despite the impression people have, she is still the Queen. And sets her own protocol.  When she chooses to.

    Just the same I wouldn’t expect her to put her arm around Fergie any time soon. Nor would I expect Fergie to put her arm around the Queen. Or even be given the opportunity to. That is simply the way it is.  Which Fergie, and Diana, knew upfront as they say. 

  10. avatar Bella Mia says:

    Oh my goodness. I googled Francis Carpenter, then clicked on images, and THIS is what I found. I certainly hope that isn’t you in the picture Liz. What a hoot!

  11. avatar Pdr de says:

    Henry the VIII undoubtedly had more than one servant to give him a boost onto his horse. How they did it is anybody’s guest – he was a hefty king; more so dressed in armor. It’s sad she can’t ride any more – she loved it! However, as we age, bones become brittle and a stumble on the part of the horse could result in a very serious injury.

    As to the “benefits” of gossip, where would you be without it, Liz?

    Elizabeth Taylor has closed those gorgeous blue-violet eyes for the last time – she was, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman ever in her youth. A genuinely good person with a warm, generous heart. She gave so much to help prolong the lives of those with AIDS. May she rest in peace. .