"IT'S NOT hard to understand why so many (TV) series are based in the nation's capital. Political terrain is familiar: Washington, like show business, is everybody's business...most of all everybody hates politicians, so much so that contempt for Washington trumps even the most ingrained taboos about the portrayal of women on network television," writes Alessandra Stanley in the N.Y. Times last weekend. She did this under a headline showing the leading ladies of The Americans, Veep, Scandal, and House of Cards. And it's described by the headline writer as "Where mean girls rule."
•SPEAKING of women, today you should all wish George Clooney a Happy Birthday but only if you mean it....And I was happy to read that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have decided to make another movie since Mr. and Mrs. Smith together.
•YESTERDAY was a day when a great part of New York remembered Ann Richards. The aforesaid reporter Stanley describes HBO's current documentary All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State by reminding us that it is a "glowing portrait of...the former Texas governor who died in 2006" as being "a lot less forthcoming about her rockier passages than she was." (I will be conducting a symposium on Ann for HBO, with her daughter Cecile on May 14th, at the Time-Warner Center and what worries me is doing Ann justice.)
I must say that the great citizen and actress Bette Midler tried her best for Ann yesterday. Her Restoration Project opened "The Ann Richards Memorial Garden" up in Thomas Jefferson Park near the East River of Manhattan.
I feel that New York can't do enough for the Hawaiian -- born Bette who has been sailing from higher to higher, first in nightclubs, then stage shows, TV, movies and most recently, on Broadway and in all kinds of theater. Bette, in private life, reinvents public parks, has her gang picking up garbage, tires and discarded machinery and makes this city more livable. (If you want to visit the Memorial Garden, you can access it at the southeast corner where East 114th street meets Pleasant Avenue. Walk past the basketball courts and the Garden is on the left.)
"What would I do without Bette Midler?" NYC's Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to say when he was trying to run this city. And I expect Mayor DeBlasio will feel the same and say the same in the future. And Bette's Restoration Project will hold its own big fundraiser on May 29th with a big picnic in the West Side park that boasts Grant's Tomb.
•WHEN I heard that my most "social and worthwhile" friend, Tony Duke had died on April 30th, I remembered when I first met him many years ago when the New York Landmarks Conservancy named him "a Living Landmark." I had, of course, known about him for years because he was famous for creating the Boys & Girls Harbor, a living landmark itself, having helped thousands of young people survive. As a young man, he'd gone home to his rich and social mother, Cordelia Biddle Robertson, and said, "Hi, Mom. I'm home -- with some pals." Eventually a part of the Duke land near East Hampton was sold to Suffolk County and Three Mile Harbor began teaching and caring for underprivileged children.
I am told he was surrounded by ten children and heaven knows how many grandchildren when he died at 95. I assume the East Hampton Star will keep us apprised of services, memorabilia and whatever else we can do for his many charities. But the Tony Duke at Landmarks was still vital and handsome when I first met him.
When it came time for me to talk to Mr. Duke, I cautiously brought up his mother, because she had been a "character" and a true individual who wore amazing clothes. This had all been studied by me when I first came to New York and the so-called WASPY "upper class" appeared in the local society pages printed in sepia or on brown pages reserved for such news. I told Tony all this and dated myself from the late 40's and early 50's as a "student of high society."
Tony Duke was taken back. Then he laughed and said, "Miss Smith, you are one of the rare people who really remembers my mother or have ever talked to me about her. I adored her and she was a great 'character' and I so appreciate that someone remembers her that way." So after that, Tony Duke and I were friends and I will miss him always.
•SPEAKING OF "OLD" FOLKS, I assume you've heard of Lesley Stahl's great 60 Minutes segment seen for a second time last Sunday on CBS. It concerned itself with people over 90 and told us that this is the fastest growing segment of people in the U.S. This was both daunting and encouraging as it included really scientific studies about how we are when we are trying to live forever. And this is one happy P.S. to living so long -- it seems encouraging for "veterans" of aging to have two drinks of any kind of alcohol a day, coffee -- one to three cups but not less, moderate exercise . Forty-five minutes is excellent, fast walking, working out, just moving around; it doesn't help if it is three hours long. Not necessary. And the best advice is that people who are approaching their later years should not be "obese" by any means, but that we should get a little plump because thin people die sooner than slightly fat ones. Find this amazing piece online and see for yourself.