"RALPH SAW at a first glance that she was as crisp and new and comprehensive as a first issue before the folding. From top to toe she had probably no misprint."
So wrote Henry James in Portrait of a Lady. I find this a most charming description. Of course, it doesn't have quite the pizzazz of a Raymond Chandler compliment: "She gave me a smile I could feel in my left pocket." Or Mickey Spillane: "She crossed the room, her hips waving hello."
So, if you want to exercise some class, paraphrase Henry James: "Baby, you look like a brand new book!"
•THE "EXPERTS" have weighed in on Jimmy Fallon's debut on The Tonight Show. So here is an amateur critic's opinion.
Fallon, who is almost too cute for his own good, was understandably, visibly, nervous and moved at taking over the iconic late night spot, following, as he noted: "Steve Allen...Jack Paar...Johnny Carson...Jay Leno...Conan O'Brien...and Jay Leno." I liked his nervousness. Beware of overly confident people! I also loved his parents in the audience, especially Jimmy's mom, who was utterly transfixed with pride and love for her baby boy, hands clasped near her beaming face.
Will Smith was a charming first guest -- with nothing to promote, so it was clearly a "friend" thing. The hip-hop dance skit was cute. The U2 concert on the roof of 30 Rock was stunning. But the best part was Jimmy remarking, "And I want to thank -- and you know who you are! -- the person who bet me $100 I'd never host The Tonight Show."
Then came a hilarious stream of celebs, each handing Jimmy a Benjamin -- Lady Gaga (in her usual casual wear)...Mariah Carey (pulled out with some strain from her erupting bodice)...Robert DeNiro...Lindsay Lohan...Sarah Jessica Parker (from her shoe)...Rudy Giuliani...Mike Tyson...Kim Kardashian...Joan Rivers...Joe Namath...Stephen Colbert, (who dumped a bucket of pennies on Jimmy's head, into his lap and down his shirt.) There were more.
It wasn't a spectacular first night, but I didn't expect it to be. From what I've observed of Fallon, and from what I've been told, he's a sweet genuine guy. That emotion would trump comedy at this event is entirely in keeping with his personality.
Thanks, Jimmy, for bringing The Tonight Show back home. (One of NBC's few smart decisions of late -- and their Olympic coverage is not exactly covering the network with glory.)
•Entertainment these days seems to be mostly about how silly modern romance-marriage-and families are...or, about cops/undercover spies and shoot-outs with lots of guns...or, various apocalyptic end-of-existence and monsters from outer space, vampires, zombies, etc.
We can add versions of history to this mix and this is what I like most! Can't get enough of Downton Abbey and Marie Antoinette and The Tudors and all that!
So I was heartened by the New York Daily News interview with its star aristocrat Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey.
He says he hopes Downton Abbey will inspire viewers worldwide to become history buffs. He also claims he has no idea if all the drama on the BBC show is "factually accurate."
He ends by commenting that people can sit down with their mother and see "D.A.," adding "which I think you couldn't sit down with your granny and a cup of tea and watch Breaking Bad one of the greatest shows. Ever."
Oh, I don't know. I watched Breaking Bad from day one with a variety of people. One was a 21-year-old fashion maven and she was gaga about it. Then I watched with a 13-year-old godchild and he understood everything and now, at 15, he instructs me in all the mysterious political machinations of House of Cards. When I don't understand, at grandma's age, what is going on, he explains it exactly.
I truly believe that watching and reading above your age level is the best way to learn about life.
•ON FEBRUARY 27th Colin Farrell will host a gala party and art auction to benefit The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. The 27th would have been La Liz's 81st birthday. Colin was the star of stars last "flirtation." (They were friends for the final two years of her life, and Farrell has admitted that despite the ravages of her many illnesses, Elizabeth remained clear, funny and...well, he half jokes, "I was hoping to be number nine.")
This happens in L.A. Among the items to be auctioned are numerous classic photos of ET from the archives of Getty Images. There will be performances by Katharine McPhee and Rhys Tivey (one of Elizabeth's many grandchildren. He is the son of Liza Todd.)
For info please visit www.wildingcran.com
•LETTERS! I was happily tickled at the response this column received to our recent memories of Shirley Temple and Halston. Our wonderful editors at the Tribune Syndicate were a bit wary because the Halston column dealt with his excesses as well as his genius and sweet nature. But I've received nary a complaint. (My column is syndicated across the country and not everybody is as sophisticated as us wicked New Yorkers.)
Also, sharp eyes caught that when we ran comparison shots of Shirley Temple and young Norma Jeane Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe) both of the pix were of young MM. We fixed it pronto. Our brilliant Jeffrey Hirsch, who makes the column look so splendid on The New York Social Diary, exclaimed, "Wow! They really did look alike!"