Liz Smith's Column
Nov 2, 2006
November 2, 2006 -- 'THE SECULARIZATION of America is nowhere better illustrated than in the way this nation has now embraced Halloween as a commercial holiday!" Overheard on the Third Avenue bus.
Bette Midler's annual "Hulaween" fund-raiser for her New York's Restoration Project benefits from this mania for witches and goblins, but it doesn't always happen on Oct. 31. This year it did - in spades - which meant that almost without exception, every person who crammed into the Waldorf's ballroom was in costume.
The "Hulaween" event is always kind of loosey-goosey, but this year it was a very "downtown" happening, as if Webster Hall had moved into the gilt and glitter of Midtown. The costumes were fabulously inventive, colorful and some of them quite wicked. (There was one girl wearing a sequined T-shirt that said "Mrs. Ritchie." She carried an African doll in a bundle slung across her arm. The photographers went wild for her.)
Bette appeared as a goddess of nature with what seemed to be a large dangling fern headpiece. (But Bette later explained it was a faucet!) Joy Behar, her co-auctioneer, was got up as Queen Elizabeth II. (Harvey Fierstein said she looked more like Golda Meir or Leona Helmsley.) The auction was fast, furious and fabulously vulgar. Bette did her level best to get those big bucks - and she did. "Is that Michael Fuchs' table? Is that you, Michael? Are you raising your hand or just waving to me? Do I have to come down there?" (Fuchs coughed up, naturally.) And Bette is so persuasive talking about her wish to make the city a lovely, welcoming environment, not only of steel, glass and concrete, but of trees and grass - well, you want to go right out and plant a sapling. Bette says her own goal is to plant "a million trees" in New York. Costumed celebs included Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Michael Kors, Danny Aiello, Lee Daniels and Anne Hathaway.
Willie Nelson was honored for his founding of Farm Aid. He and Bette sang an exquisite "Wind Beneath My Wings." Then Willie sang some more - perhaps more than expected. Stevie Nicks was waiting to take the stage.
All I can say is it was worth the wait. The audience went berserk as she appeared, swelling voluptuously out of a black lace dress over 4-inch-high black leather boots. Her voice, one of the most distinctive in rock 'n' roll, was rich and full. As Nicks went into her famous trademark "twirl," the crowd yelled loud enough to be heard out on Park Avenue. Forty minutes later when she finished, the room was on its feet and Bette herself was rocking out. It was funny, campy and, thanks to Stevie, enjoyably sweaty. This is another triumph for Bette Midler, who raised an incredible $2 million for the work that keeps N.Y.C. No. 1 in the world!
P.S. ON Stevie Nicks. This iconic, somewhat mysterious performer spends time these days visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed hospital. She offers presence, support and iPods filled with great music as well. Asked about this, she blushes and brushes it off: "They're great guys - and gals. No matter what you think about the war, it's the least anybody can do, right?" Right.
THE LATINO heartthrob, Julio Iglesias, age 63, and his wife, Miranda, have just welcomed a baby boy. His eighth child. Joy and rejoicing in Miami Beach. (They can't get enough new young blood there!)
ENTERTAINMENT Weekly called it "Tex Mess," and they weren't discussing enchiladas. The reference is to the long-awaited "Dallas" feature movie. Stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Luke Wilson and Shirley MacLaine, have all been in and then out. The one still attached is John Travolta, who is determined to reinvent J.R. Ewing for the 21st century.
John is winding up his role as the super mom Edna Turnblad in the film version of "Hairspray." Then, possibly if there is still a budget, New Regency will try to hit a gusher. But despite Travolta's enthusiasm for this project, I still say "Don't dress!" for the premiere.
OVER COFFEE in her new Manhattan apartment, the legend Angela Lansbury quipped: "I've been Mame Dennis, Mama Rose and Mrs. Lovett - why not Dorothy Parker?" And now she will be for one night only on Sunday. Angela, Boyd Gaines, Harriet Harris, Lisa Banes and Lynn Collins will be onstage at the Schoenfeld Theatre reading "This Is on Me, An Evening of Dorothy Parker," adapted by Tom Fontana, directed by Warner Shook.
John Houseman, Ms. Lansbury's longtime pal, founded the Acting Company in 1972, along with artistic director Margot Harley. The company benefits from the evening and a supper after. Call (212) 239-6200 or (212) 258-3111.
ONE OF the greatest looking guys in showbiz is heartthrob Lorenzo Lamas, now doing his stuff at Feinstein's at the Regency Hotel, courtesy of Michael Feinstein himself. Lorenzo has a two-week "vacation" from CBS' "The Bold and the Beautiful" to go onstage and sing his heart out. The great Vic Damone has been advising this guy, whose parents are the glamorous and beautiful Arlene Dahl and the late Fernando Lamas. Lorenzo will be singing there until Nov. 11, and he's a real treat.