This n' That: Alec Baldwin -- Breaking Bad -- Fashion History -- Chita Rivera -- Elsa Maxwell and Gravity (There is Actually Somebody Who Doesn't Love It!)

10/09/2013 10:36 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

"IT WAS impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much." Yogi Berra.

• IDLE/IDOL THOUGHTS! Don't let yourself miss the premiere bow of my pal Ålec Baldwin as a host of his own show on MSNBC tomorrow tonight!

The pre-ads where the appealing liberal MSNBC host, Ed Schultz, sits inflexibly as Alec paws him are very funny. Funnier than those credit card ads for Capital One Venture, where pre-Vikings keep bashing one another. What in the world does this have to do with credit cards? But Alec Baldwin as a host may well be remarkable. Let's hope so; I am hopelessly enamored of this guy.

....A LAST word (maybe) on "Breaking Bad." Some railed that its ending let the increasingly bad, immoral "Walter" off the hook. (He died, how "off the hook" is that?) I don't think people kept on watching because they liked the villain of the piece, or admired his tactics, or forgave him for his murdering ways. People kept watched "Breaking Bad" because it was brilliantly imagined, written, acted, and directed. It was a study in how one villainous act can lead to another. People watched because of the imagination and suspense. You can't take that away from a complex anti-hero.

...MY FRIEND Billy Norwich of the fashion world reminded me that next spring the Met will be offering the one-of-a-kind designer Çharles James. Billy wondered if

I had known this difficult paragon whose show many say will be "beyond fashion." Well, yes, I knew Charles James early on in the late 40s and early 50s. He was very kind to a young girl from Texas who had never imagined the word "fashion." And I wish, wish, wish I still had the red coat he made, sold by Lord & Taylor, which I just happened to buy by chance. I had it on, because it was the nicest thing I owned, and was wearing it when I met him, so he loved me till the day he died. We never talked about fashion, usually just show business, movie stars and what happened "last night". I recall that Charles also spoke scathingly of his "enemies" who wanted to strip him of his independence. (I didn't know I was in on fashion history! I wasn't smart enough to learn anything from Charles James or to jot anything down.) People loved or hated him and vice versa. I wonder whatever happened to my red coat and whether it still exists? It was a wonder!

• "NEVER IN my life have I been depressed, and never tired. And never worried. I've just been sort of happy. That's why I never drink. Never have to."

That was Elsa Maxwell, the hostess with the mostess, talking to Edward R. Murrow in 1953.

I found this quote in the Sam Staggs biography of Elsa, titled "Inventing Elsa Maxwell: How an Irrepressible Nobody Conquered High Society, Hollywood the Press and the World." That's quite a mouthful, but it accurately describes a woman, forgotten today, who once ruled the world party circuit like an empress.

The book came out last year, but I missed it in hardcover. The trade paperback is a bit of a trial to read--tiny crammed print. But Elsa's tale is fascinating. She is one of those people who literally did invent herself, and to monumental effect for about 30 years. She was fat and plain, but utterly ingratiating, well read, clever and ambitious. Her life's plan was to know and to entertain the most fabulous people of her time. And she did it!

Her great talent was to present herself as a commoner among kings and conversely as a great trendmaker/mover and shaker and equal to all those she promoted. The book is crammed with luscious anecdotes and immortal names from an era when celebrity really was celebrity.

She feuded with the Duchess of Windsor (and used Marilyn Monroe at the 1957 April in Paris gala to upstage Wallis Simpson)...she was close to Noel Coward and Elsie de Wolfe...she was famously infatuated with Maria Callas.

This book is a great big blast of high-style nostalgia. And it reminded me a lot of the tale of another full-figured, ambitious woman who ruled Hollywood for decades--Louella Parsons.

Louella was less loved, but no less ambitious or self-invented. Though they worked in "frivolous" occupations, they were women of steel, who bested the best of men.

• Chita Rivera's appearance to hype Broadway Çares Equity Fights Åids the other night was up to super star standards and she had a theater-wise audience mostly standing on their feet over and over again, applauding so much that it became a chore for those of us who can't spring up and down like jackrabbits anymore.

This beautiful and dynamic performer is a credit to theater -- old and new and glory days gone by. She was especially charming singing a tribute where she imitated the late great star, dancer, singer, choreographer Gwen Verdon. Tommy Tune and Ben Vereen and some dancing guys all in black gave Chita the star backup she deserves. And she made a lot of money fighting ÅIDS while proving (again!) what a great talent she really is.

• "GRAVITY" the Sandra Bullock/George Clooney lost-in-space movie looks to be the blockbuster of the year. It grossed an astonishing $55 million over the weekend. And I have rarely read such raves for an actress as have been heaped on Sandra Bullock (already an Oscar winner for "The Blind Side" and surely a contender for this film.)

I have not seen "Gravity" yet. It has become one of those movies you just have to see. So, I can't give you my opinion. However, a rabid movie-going friend of mine did see the film, and I was surprised by his reaction, which certainly flies in the face of most of the reviews. So, here it is. (Loving Mr. Clooney and Ms. Bullock as I do, I'll no doubt disagree when I do see it, but an opposing opinion is always interesting.)

My friend said: "Well, I saw it. The big tug of gravity was on my eyelids! It's fantastic to look at. But at this point, I'm used to fantastic looking movies on IMAX screens. I saw it in 2-D, and it was impressive enough, visually. I don't need to wear those absurd glasses.

"But the story is paper thin, doesn't make much sense scientifically and though I know Sandra Bullock is America's sweetheart and all that, I was hard-pressed to see the genius in her performance. Obviously, it was physically grueling, but her constant hyperventilating got on my nerves. Maybe I expected too much. I tried to stay away from reading the reviews but it was inescapable. Clooney was his always appealing self. But his role is small. It's Sandra's movie and somehow, for all her gifts, I don't think she has the gravitas for 'Gravity.'

"If you quote me, don't use my name. I'll get death threats for sure. Most people think 'Gravity' is a work of genius and Bullock has a lock on the Oscar. I expressed myself on this at a dinner the other night and somebody literally shook a lamb chop in my face, reprimanding me over my lack of appreciation for 'real art.'

"Maybe they're right. I went to see 'Prisoners' too, and quite enjoyed it. I've never liked Hugh Jackman as much as I did in this. Or Jake Gyllenhaal either, for that matter. I'm just a cinema philistine, I guess."

So there you have it. The one negative critique on "Gravity" I've heard. My friend is now in witness protection!