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Archive for the ‘Celebs’ Category

DeadguyThere’s nothing new about trying to keep old, dead iconic autocrats around; the Egyptians came close to perfecting the process more than 3,000 years ago, after all. What differs now is the lack of the bling, the box and pointy building.

These days there seems to be the thought that people will actually yearn to be very close to a lifeless corpse and to lament the lost leader while gaping at said corpse forever. Hugo Chavez is the next despot in line for non-desposal. Being somewhat iconic in life, someone apparently figures displaying the icon rather than burying it six feet under will render it (not in the candle sense, please, although my guess is that would shed more light on more subjects than a carcass) somehow still tenacious.

Yes, Chavez will soon join the ranks of Mao, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Ferdinand Marcos, Eva Peron and the Kims … father and son, both Il in life, both dead-but-not-gone, Jong and Sung … on display, like Roy Roger’s horse. (Russia offered Stalin The Stiff as a side show until 1961 when he was finally buried as part of a move to “un-Stalinize” the country, figuring, I suppose, that out of sight is out of mind.)

I have had the dubious honor of filing past the perpetually present corpse of Mao, an experience fraught with emotion … but not the sort it was designed to inspire.

It was 1989, just a couple of weeks before the soon-to-be-deadly protests started in Beijing. I was in China with my nineteen-year-old daughter, out and about to see the sites. At that time, it was required visitors be guided, both physically and with the intent to lead them toward unreasonable conclusions. On our way to visit Tiananmnen Square, our chaperone explained our upcoming experience.

“You will now have the great pleasure to see the most famous exhibit in all the world,” she said in heavily accented not-quite-Chinglish. “Millions of people come every day to see what you are about to see.”

We waited for it …

“THE MOUSE MEMORIAL!”

At least that’s what Jenn and I heard.

It took a few minutes to realize that the queue of Chinese peasants stretching for some distance … four abreast, equal distance apart, eerily silent … were having their places pushed back some so we tourists from the decadent West could officially cut in front to enter Mao’s Memorial.

Well … sorry propaganda machine of the government of the People’s Republic, but there was no way in hell we Californian’s had not already constructed a working version vision of Mickey Maos.

We had previously visited the Beijing Zoo (Remind me to write a post about that nightmare someday.), so weren’t expecting much in the way of quality, but were a bit surprised at the lavishness on the inside of the square, squat building. It was posh in the way that flash-over-substance always is and filled with enormous bouquets of white chrysanthemums in garish vases. The military was well represented with dozens of uniformed men holding automatic weapons and standing at attention. (My daughter got off the line of the day when she noticed the Red Army wears white socks.)

Reserving pride of place amongst a bazillion flowers sat a glass-domed casket inside of which lay the perpetually rigid corpse of Mao Zedong.

He wasn’t looking so good.

Being that we entered the place with certain images already in mind, could we help it if the thoughts and whispers we shared had to do with what the Disney people could have done with him? He’d be sitting up and waving at the crowd, perhaps even pacing the floor like Lincoln on Main Street instead of simply assuming the position of the waxy, fake-looking lump of whatever he might actually be after all the years … not that he was a particularly attractive man when he could still walk under his own power, but obvious inches of pancake re-dos hadn’t helped. (Here’s an explanation … sort of … on how he was made up.)

Laughing was definitely out with all those guns and properly inculcated citizens of the PRC around and stifling our giggles took a LOT of self control, but we certainly had no problem going along with the no-photos-no-videos rules. Since we’d passed on the offer to buy flowers to add to the heaps, we meandered by with our hands over our mouths and swallowed our chuckles until we made it to the other side.

And now Chavez is in the perfect position for the same treatment … if trocars and formaldehyde can be considered treatment … and legions of the faithful, the morbid and the amused will be filing by as he continues to be dead.

Personally, I hope someday to rest in peace, not in public … it’s just so TACKY.

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Communication this morning with my friend Paul Leslie has sent me on a breadcrumb chase down memory lane.

An upcoming interview he has scheduled with Peter Noone takes me back to the early days of puberty, that transforming time of budding and busting out of childhood more formative in solid fashion than the proceeding years.

Like most young girls at the time and place, the “British Invasion” took me by a storm of hormones and set the tone for a lifelong predilection for musicians that’s plunged me into more trouble that I’m admitting today.

So many of those mop-headed young men were compelling in so many ways, and … GAWD! … were they cute! FFS, even Keith Richards was pretty at the time.

As King of Cute Mountain, Peter Noone … whose full name — Peter Blair Dennis Bernard Noone — I committed to memory … was an easy crush.

Okay, ‘Herman’s Hermits’ has a hokier-than-hell ring now, but back in the day when monikers like Beatles and Moby Grape were sigh prompters and Steppenwolf was almost OTT intellectual no one was a quick critic of band names. And it was cute.

Cute equalled perfection as estrogen production began; too much “manly” was off-putting, frightening even, for a 14-year-old whose fantasy life was still limited to snogging and maybe the occasional slow dance.

And Peter Noone was such safe fodder. With the widest, warmest smile in Pop and songs like “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”, welcoming him into the imagination was like a slide into a warm bath with a kind of hush.

As I grew up, I lost much of my taste for sugar in my tea and learned to prefer the harsh bite of lemon in tequila and men and music that could scare me just a bit, but pretty men still turn my head and a nice smile still generates heat.

Paul asked if I had a question I’d like him to pose to Peter. I can’t think of one, but it would be nice to pass along how I appreciate his contribution of sweetness to my youth.

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In a swimsuit much like Mother's

There was a period of time when, as a child, I was pretty sure that Liz Taylor was my mother. No, not that I was her love child being raised in another family, but that she and my mother were one and the same.

National Velvet convinced me my mom could ride horses and should, therefore, buy me one. For reasons I completely get now, that didn’t go over so well.

Both born in 1932, my mom and Liz led somewhat parallel lives in that married-a-whole-buch-of-times-with-loads-of-drama sort of way, so even when I grew old enough to read headlines it would occasionally be confusing.

They also looked very much alike … two brunette, busty beauties skilled in grand entrances that drew the eye of every man in the room.

I distinctly recall walking down Market Street in San Francisco shortly after Butterfield 8 opened and seeing Ms. Taylor’s face looming large from posters outside cinemas and thinking, “That could be Mom.”

Of course, my mother was not a movie star, simply a suburban housewife spending her time giving me Toni home perms and sewing up pjs and playsuits for me and my brothers, but that didn’t seem … to me … to impact negatively on her glamour one bit. I can still conjure an image of her strolling into the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park in a skin-tight black and white sheath dress, high heels and a HUGE hat as my brother and I checked out the crocodiles and all the men in the place checked out my mom.

I wasn’t allowed to see many of the films Liz starred in until I was old enough to have made the jump necessary to know the difference between the woman who’d married Richard Burton and the one who’d divorced my dad, so it took a while to catch up to the cultural assessment that had one a world famous celeb and the other just my mother, but the blend continued nonetheless.

Now Elizabeth Taylor is dead and my mom is not well. Both lived. Both aged. Both did life in the way that life must be done.

I love you, Mom, and, Liz … I thank you for sharing yourself and adding to my childhood confusion.

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Nora Ephron has a new book out, I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, and you can bet I’m ordering it.

In addition to the family connection … she and my brother have done a thing a couple of times … and starting long before that was made, the woman’s work has spoken to me … for me? … whatever … and very obviously, from what I’ve read so far, continues to do exactly that in this most recent work:

One good thing I’d like to say about divorce is that it sometimes makes it possible for you to be a much bet­ter wife to your next husband because you have a place for your anger; it’s not directed at the person you’re currently with.

Another good thing about divorce is that it makes clear something that marriage obscures, which is that you’re on your own. There’s no power struggle over which of you is going to get up in the middle of the night; you are.

But I can’t think of anything good about divorce as far as the children are concerned. You can’t kid yourself about that, although many people do. They say things like, “It’s better for children not to grow up with their parents in an unhappy marriage.” But unless the par­ents are beating each other up, or abusing the children, kids are better off if their parents are together. Chil­dren are much too young to shuttle between houses. They’re too young to handle the idea that the two peo­ple they love most in the world don’t love each other anymore, if they ever did. They’re too young to under­stand that all the wishful thinking in the world won’t bring their parents back together. And the newfangled rigmarole of joint custody doesn’t do anything to ease the cold reality: in order to see one parent, the divorced child must walk out on the other.

Yep.

Nora first spoke to me with Heartburn, hands down the BEST getback any betrayed wife has ever pulled, made even more appropriately brutal when it was made into a film. It lobbed key lime pie directly at the crotch of ex-husband Carl Bernstein, one half of the team that uncovered the Watergate scandal and wrote a book about it, and made it bloody hard for the man to get a date for a very long time.

It is said that revenge is a dish best served up cold, but Nora’s Heartburn warmed the cockles of damaged heart in very healing ways. I laughed … oh! how I laughed … as she got up the thumb-like nose of the bitch who’d aimed her sites on the married man and let the world know just what a prize he wasn’t, no matter the idolatry he fostered widely, and if I was the sort of woman who cooked, I’m sure I would have made good use of the recipes included in the story.

And speaking of stories … here’s a true one:

Once upon a time, I was in New York City on a night out with friends. We’d eaten well in a fabulous penthouse apartment, then danced to Brazilian music at a fabulous club … New York is all about ‘fabulous’ you see. Deciding eventually it was time for some great coffee and rich desserts, we headed for the West Side and the restaurant of another friend on Columbus Circle where we took up residence at one of the larger tables, cramming in chairs from left and right and setting up a right ruckus as we did what New Yorkers do at 3 am — discussing everything under the sun, arguing points and enjoying being one-upped by people whose knowledge is deeper.

Coffee doing what it does, a ladies trip to the ladys’ took up a good 20 minutes, what with all queueing and makeup touchups such ventures into basement toilets require when 9 girls all have to go at the same time and the geography of hip spots in Manhattan puts the bathroom down two floors.

Reentry created the desired effect, and most of the seats we’d vacated were relinquished to us previous tenants, but there were some new faces at the table.

One was a pleasant-looking gentleman seated to my left in the middle of an explanation to my friend sitting across from us on the ins and outs of dealing effectively with photographers from Architectural Digest invading a flat, his just having been featured, apparently.

Interesting enough a discussion, I suppose, but not one that grabbed my attention until some mention was made of the fact that he worked for the Washington Post.

At the time, I had a good friend working in the newsroom at the Post and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps this guy could fill me in a bit on how my buddy was fairing, so at a break in the conversation I asked, innocently enough: I’m sorry, but do you work for the Washington Post?

My friend on the other side of the table went apoplectic, perhaps embarrassed by what was apparently a blatant show of un-hipness causing my out-of-towner faux pas, and with barely an eye-blink passing … no time at all for the dude to respond to my question … she said:

Sandra … this is Carl Bernstein!

Light speed fast, the connections were made in my head: Woodward/Bernstein, Watergate, Washington Post, All the President’s Men … he’s shorter than I would have thought …

Yes. All that.

Now, it often happens that my mouth moves before my brain fully engages, and — blame it on the wine, the coffee, the hour, if you like — this was the case that night.

The very first thing I blurted out to this man who had just been impressing the shit out of the table with tales of fame and fortune and his apartment on the East Side was:

REALLY??? How cool. I LOVED your wife’s book!

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Dear Mr. Elmer,

Although you might consider this a bit disorthodox, I really, really, really appreciate you votin’ for me back when I was, ya know, gettin’ ready to run this great country (okay, almost run it unless the old guy kicked) so I could stop popping over the border into Canada with my family for health care. Please, please, please know that I don’t misunderestimate how much that meant to me, ya know, and that’s why I’m now personally thanking all my supporters, especially the athletic ones like you. I can’t refudiate the fact that having a wimp for a hubby did perspire me to go online and personally get naked for all the guys who slid one in the ballot box on my behind … oops, lol … behalf, but, ya know, I think I’ll really, really especially like you, so please add me to your skype, facebook and Bebo friend lists and fire up the webcam.

When I win the next erection, my promise is to redo a room in the White House just for chats with all you wonderful Americans who pushed and pushed and pushed really, really hard to get me through to the big finish. I think it’s important to keep my finger on the pulsings of all you voting guys, and since Todd will be busy with his new job as Secretary of the Interior Decorating, he won’t be able to do much, but he will probably watch since he’s right behind me in every move I make. My goal is to make history so good that I’ll get a monument like Washington’s, but rounder and maybe in pink.

Signed,
Your gal pal in the GOP,
Sarah Palin

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So, Larry King has announced that he’s giving up the desk job, saying that stepping away from his nightly show will result in:

” … giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids’ little league games”.

Being that the man has been doing this for more than twenty-five years, there are few in the CNN-soaked world who won’t have some opinion on his retirement, his career, his suspenders.

Being virtually CNNless for a long time, not having him on the air daily won’t impact my life one bit, but I’m sure there are those who will miss regular doses of the King and his lineup.

I would, however, like to take the announcement of his departure as a chance to write a bit about that particular brush with fame, or the time I met Larry King.

Yes, I’ve met many a celeb, and although some consider an encounter of the “This person is on TV a lot” variety an experience worth wetting themselves over, I tend not to get all that jazzed. In fact, the only person I’ve come in contact with who inspired stuttering star-struckness in me was Jane Goodall, and Larry King is so NOT Jane Goodall.

Anyway …

One night I’m at this celeb-filled fundraiser in L.A. hosted by Jay Leno with Sting as the entertainment and the Douglas clan at the next table … no, not Fred MacMurry and his Three Sons, but Kirk and Michael and wives … and a host of faces recognizable by a huge percentage of the global population.

Just behind me, Larry King and a bevy of blond beauties. They’d come in after I’d been seated, and I couldn’t help but notice that in motion Larry looks very much like a six-foot-something insect … a cross between a praying mantis and a daddy longlegs. (And, yes, I do know that a spider isn’t an insect … my brother is an entomologist, after all … but if crossed with a pm it might qualify as an arachnesect … close enough.) He moved almost predatorily as he made his way around the room, meeting and greeting, then folded his limbs much like a skinny spider settling as he eventually took his seat.

At some point in the evening, we had a brief conversation in which it came up that I live in Seychelles. He’d never heard of the place. When I explained enough geography to get the Indian Ocean placed in his head, then mentioned that we only have one TV channel here, he appeared to understand exactly why the country had never made it to his radar.

A few pleasantries, and was I moved along to Mrs. Michael Douglas who actually knew where Africa is …

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Filed under the “If I were in the USA” list of events I would absolutely NOT miss …

The Adoption Institute’s annual “Taste of Spring” benefit, set for the 14th of May in New York City.

Not only does the Institute provide vital resources, research every aspect of the adoption world and experience, throw their mighty support behind valiant efforts for reform and education and work tirelessly for a better world for children and families therefore earning my eager support, I would give a whole heck of a lot to share space with their director, my personal hero and … dare I say it? … good friend, the amazing Adam Pertman.

Oh, yeah … and Hugh Jackman will be there, too.

The event itself will be a culinary delight, with some of the best restaurants in Manhattan participating.

So … make me jealous as hell and go!

You can download the invite here.

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