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LIZ SMITH: Vampires ... Wise Men and Blessed Events ...

Vampires ... Wise Men and Blessed Events, and "Impossible Conversations" at The Metropolitan Museum
by Liz Smith
Monday, May 7, 2012


“I JUST despise books, movies and TV series about vampires!” says that amateur movie critic Liz Smith.

But I’ll make an exception for the Bela Lugosi original movie; it’s a masterpiece in black and white. (After all, my longtime pal, the actress Elaine Stritch, played in the drama with Lugosi all across the nation back in the 50s. She says he was terrific even if he was a morphine addict in real life!)
Bela Lugosi and Elaine Stritch.
BUT, speaking of vampires, I had avoided Seth Grahame-Smith’s novelistic hits – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – as well as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. If those titles weren’t stretching it, what was? But despite my disapproval, I had to admit that they were New York Times best-sellers.

Then, I happened to lay my hand on something called Unholy Night from Grand Central publishing, which seemed to be asking who The Three Wise men really were and this novel seemed to both question and affirm the Virgin Birth of the messiah, in that stable in Bethlehem. So, I gave up and started it just for the hell of it.
Wow! What a read. If Radio City Music Hall adapted Mr. Grahame-Smith’s version of Mary and Joseph in the manger and the first of the Herods, who tried to kill all of the firstborn males, maybe they could get away each year without having to fight to keep Christ in Christmas which seems to come up over and over.  (A fight that has always seemed silly to me in that, other religions can get their day in the limelight too. Why be so all-fired “politically correct” about everything? Plus, there is no question that whether you’re a Jew or a Muslim or a Mormon – Christianity seems to be here to stay!)

Seth Grahame-Smith.
My talented “cousin” – Seth Grahame-Smith, can really write and he has whopped up such a tale, but I’m not going to give away in advance who the wise men really were. No, you have to read it. And avoid critics who give away plots. This won’t be telling, but they do have the right names and they were laden down with frankincense and myrrh and precious metals.

If you connect for or against the story of the beginning of Christianity in the Middle East, you’ll still get a kick out of meeting the youthful John the Baptist and Pontius Pilate, angels and mystics and everybody else in Actor’s Equity, chasing, killing, torturing, running through, running from and running into the spiritual and the profane all mixed together. I highly recommend this novel.

And now I am going back to take a slightly ashamed look at the other two Grahame-Smith bestsellers. Because, after all, he adapted the coming Dark Shadows for director Tim Burton and it is one of the most amusing trailers of a movie I’ve ever seen. Coming with Johnny Depp any minute with another mysterious hair-do.

I’ll give author Grahame-Smith another chance.

I was really taken with his babe in the manger. According to Unholy Night, he had beautiful blue eyes.
YOU MAY NOT CARE ABOUT the Costume Institute’s exhibition of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada and their proposed “Impossible Conversations” opening at the Metropolitan Museum this very night. (It runs into the summer!) But if you'd like the great Museum to keep functioning and being a bastion of culture in the U.S., you’d better accept “fashion” as part of it all. (It’s New York City’s second money maker and it’s also the reason the Museum is still flourishing and able to give us art through the ages.)
Since the late P.R. doyenne Eleanor Lambert invented the silly “Best-Dressed List” back in the Forties, the Museum has leaned toward frivolous fashion as art and the Costume Institute has made millions for high culture.

And this faction of the Metropolitan Museum has had plenty of famous, beautifully dressed people backing it (offhand, I recall Diana Vreeland, Pat Buckley, Blaine Trump, Nan Kempner and now—ta da!—the queen of all surveyed, Anna Wintour of Vogue.)
L. to r.: Diana Vreeland, Pat Buckley, Blaine Trump, Nan Kempner.
Carpers are saying that Anna has taken the Institute to such mad monied heights that she has killed the spontaneity of the past’s after dinner hi-jinks when the unmoneyed used to troop in after dinner to bop around, go nude and take off their “costumes” and generally deport themselves for the paparazzi. Nonsense! Just be glad that Anna is running things now and selling those seats to old and new money at $100,000 a table for ten. (This means rich friends can bring their unemployed friends and everybody will have a high old time.)  Of course, you have to be among the chosen, but it was ever thus.

Jeff Bezos and his Amazon.com are co-hosting with help from Conde Nast and curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton of the Met have done the exhibition work. You can see the red carpet stuff by using ImpossibleConversations and #MetGala on Twitter and Facebook. My old pal Billy Norwich is over-seeing some of this for we of the hoi polloi.

Personally, I am grateful for an event too rich for most of us to go to. This effort is now what helps keep the Metropolitan Museum in all its up-culture inventive glory, opening its doors almost every day so that anyone can go and see what real art is for the minimum price of $25. (And plenty of people sneak in for much less.) We can all get in after we bend that little I.D. piece to shirt or lapel.

And again I say, fashion is modern art, just as popular art is becoming too expensive for most folks to think of buying. As for rank having its privileges; it always has had, it always will have. Even Communism and Fascism couldn’t defeat privilege.

Also, haut couture is alive and doing quite well in Paris and Milan because the Chinese and Indians are the nouveau riche of today. There are even a few Russian oligarchs who overcame the international collapse of money and they buy too. 

And remember, Louis XIV controlled his court over years and years by making his courtiers and VIPs keep up with his fashion edicts (like red heels on their shoes) they spent their money recklessly and fostered a revolution.

But revolutions come and go, too.

Contact Liz Smith here.

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© 2013 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com