The Indiana Gazette
January 4, 1992
by Liz Smith
“THERE’S A great woman behind every idiot,” said John Lennon.
For the past several years, I’ve devoted the first column of the New Year to female stars who have dominated the media, and this column in particular, by virtue of controversy, success or scandal – or all three combined.
Annette Bentng – The superwoman of the year! She is the one who finally “caught” Warren Beatty. (They are not married as of this writing, but she is about to bear his child, which is more than hundreds of her predecessors can claim.) When the news broke that Bening – a beautiful, intelligent woman and a fascinating actress â€” was carrying Beatty’s baby and that she and Warren were awaiting the stork together, the re-action was like nothing ever seen in Hollywood. Jaded Tinseltowners were literally mute with shock. And how nice that Mama and Papa are currently appearing in one of the best movies of the year, “Bugsy” â€” sure to be up for multiple Oscars.
Julia Roberts â€” The controversial girl of the year! Though Julia’s “Dying Young” movie didn’t quite match the grosses of her “Pretty Woman” smash, it was still a big enough financial hit not to endanger her rep as the
hottest female in movies. And anyway, Julia’s movies were nothing compared to the drama of her real life. On the verge of marrying actor Kiefer Sutherland, in what was planned as a spectacular old-Hollywood-style wedding, Julia bolted, generating World War III headlines. When she next emerged in the company of handsome actor (Jason Patric), she was haggard and pursued by the paparazzi. She was instantly transformed into a media creature, her every move on the set of “Hook” subject to Investigation and speculation. She is very young. She is very talented. She is very hot. Everybody hopes she slows down in ’92.
Cher â€” Still the best interview in the biz! She has spent the year filming and promoting her new fitness video, denying she’s the product of plastic surgery, enjoying success with her “Love Hurts” album, and fighting the exhausting Epstein-Barr virus. This periodically wipes her out and encourages the tabloids to speculate that she is practically dead. But Epstein-Barr didn’t debilitate Cher so much that she couldn’t trash Madonna and call her naughty,
sexist names. (Cher isn’t really a bitch. Just terminally honest â€” her most endearing quality.)
Delta Burke was finally relieved of her “Designing Women” chores. Enough is enough, said her producers, and Delta’s marvelous Suzanne Sugarbaker character was packed off to Japan, never to return. Her public appearances have been infrequent since her dismissal, though when she does turn up, she looks robust and happy, rather cutting the ground from under those constant reports of her “depression.” Ratings have remained high on “DW,” but it’s just not the same without Delta and Jean Smart (who left of her own accord to spend more time with her family). Too bad all these adults couldn’t have behaved like adults for the sake of a marvelous show.
Roseaxme Barr took her husband Tom Arnold’s name. She is now personally and professionally Roseanne Arnold, and she seems the better for it. She survived the national anthem scandal and lost weight. And her show “Roseanne,” which had fallen a bit In the ratings (subsequent to George Bush taking time out from the economy to criticize her), made a significant comeback.
Barbra Streisand – Perhaps it is too early to refer to this legend as “The Comeback of the Year.” We have to see if “The Prince of Tides” has box-office “legs.” But Barbra did come back media-wise with efforts to plug her acting/directing/producing labor of love. The press-shy star got out there and talked and talked. And about Intimate matters (her mother’s jealousy, her stepfather’s indifference) that had never crossed her lips so volubly
before. Cynics charged that Streisand’s sudden candor had everything to do with putting herself before the public and
reminding people that, despite her very private life, she is “still here” (like the lady in the Sondheim song).
So now we’ll have to wait and see if “Tides” garners big bucks, and whether this extraordinarily talented woman finally gets the respect from her peers that she very much wants and deserves. (Which means a brace of important Oscar nominations, not a lot of people saying “Good show, Barbra.”) And 1992 might also see – if we are REALLY lucky â€” Barbra Streisand in concert once again!
Bette Midler – Despite the failure – the astonishing failure – of “For the Boys,” I have to place Bette on my list of women of the year. This fireball of talent – one of the great triple-threat gals in showbiz history – delivered a performance that jumped off the screen and grabbed you by the throat. Her film was a real old-fashioned, over-the-top, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vehicle â€” unashamed in its sentimental emotional manipulation. It’s the sort of thing you just give yourself up to. Well.I did, at any rate.
Madonna – You’re fed up with her? Nonsense. Millions of fans are still panting. The year 1991 began with the triumph of “Truth or Dare,” her dazzling cinema verite of The Life of a Star. She went on to film Penny Marshall’s baseball movie/’A League of Their Own” (alienating the residents of rural Evansville, Ind., in the process â€” she was bored on location and said so). The Big M ended the year battling out-of-control rumors that she was HIV positive. Upon accepting an award for her tireless AIDS fund-raising, Madonna said:”If these rumors are the price I have to pay for fighting AIDS, homophobia and discrimination, then so be it â€” I will not back down.”
Elizabeth. Taylor – Last but by no means least! When M wrote of Miss Taylor last year at this time, she was recovering from her near-fatal bout with pneumonia â€” an eerie replay of her 1961 fight against Illness. Despite her remarkable resilience and near-mythic powers of recuperation, many felt the great star would, this time, never fully “come back” – regain her energy, her Illness-ravaged beauty, her legendary Joie de vlvre. How foolish to underestimate the power of a violet-eyed phoenix! Miz Liz came back in a manner even her most rabid fane couJd not anticipate. Slim again, ravishing again, traveling the world raising money and consciousness about AIDS, promoting another successful fragrance. And most Incredibly – after a decade of the single life, only a few months shy
of her 60th birthday, she took her eighth walk down the aisle.