“Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult,” said Canadian feminist Charlotte Whitton back in the ’70s.
We don’t want to dwell on tragedy – every day there are losses everywhere. But recently we had three deaths among important women – Nora Ephron, Helen Gurley Brown and the lesser-known Lois Smith, publicist to earlier big, big stars.
This week NYC’s intelligentsia took leave of Lois who was much beloved and an all-around wonderful creature. She died at age 84 some weeks ago after a fall. She was retired and living in Massachusetts, even though many begged her over and over to “come back home!”
So it was a weepy get-together at the 92nd Street Y where such as Meryl Streep and Rosie O’Donnell got into a semi-loving-correcting contretemps onstage over another actress, Claire Danes. (All I can say is that Lois Smith would have loved every moment of this friendly “argument.” Lois was such an “innocent” in her embracing, positive, motherly manner that she once looked at me in amazement when I told her one of her clients had used cocaine right in front of me. “Really, Liz. I never suspected that!” said Lois. She left it at that and to my conscience. I didn’t print it.)
Anyway, I found it pretty remarkable and appealing that another Smith – Lois – could be eulogized in person by the mistress of all she surveys, Oscar-and-every-other-kind-of-winner Meryl Streep. (Streep was formidable and the best of most speakers at the recent Nora Ephron memorial and she outdoes herself informally time after time!)
At the Y, it all began with emcee Rosie O’Donnell. She was wearing red, imitating Lois, who was famous for the scarlet coat she wore on the red carpet so that her celebrity clients could find her.
Rosie opined that she hoped Lois “was up there” talking with Marilyn Monroe and Nora Ephron and taking notes.
This was followed by Lois’ former partner, Leslee Dart, reminding us that Lois called those she loved by the pet name, “Ducks”! (She had sprayed the premises with Lois’ favorite, Joy perfume!) Ms. Dart won applause by noting that the PR industry should follow Lois’ lead and “be less self-centered, and kinder.” Rolling Stones’ critic Peter Travers made some funny remarks and there was a song from Mandy Patinkin. Then, I think it was then, this was all interrupted by Streep who defended Danes, saying that the latter “had her mouth taped up for two days – and she’s pregnant. You get a pass!” Rosie yelled from backstage, “Sorry!”
In speaking, Streep said something to the effect that, in the past, “… This is hilarious; people wanted to preserve their privacy and Lois seemed to think this was reasonable.” She credited Lois with giving her own family a private life before the era of cellphones and 24/7 entertainment-media tweets!
Lois’ granddaughter Brianna spoke and also her daughter, actress Brooke Smith, who remarked that her mother had loved talent, loved her job and made it easier for actors and directors and show folk to do theirs. (You will remember Brooke as the girl captured and kept captive in a well by the serial killer in the film “Silence of the Lambs.”)
And the woman of women, Gloria Steinem, spoke eloquently.
When Rosie got too close, she remarked on “being dissed by Meryl Streep at a memorial.”
Well, if I were Rosie, I’d put THAT in my bio for Google and Wikipedia.
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