Have you ever felt ambivalent about a person, disliking him or her one minute and then admiring him or her the next? That’s how I felt about the lady born Joan Alexandra Molinsky. Who is she, you query? Here’s some hints: she designs jewelry, creates cosmetics, performs comedy, acts, lectures, writes books, has a daughter and a grandson, and is very public about her numerous cosmetic surgeries. That last hint is a giveaway. Of course I’m referring to that TV personality and comedienne with the loud irritating voice, Joan Rivers. Truly a Renaissance woman, the lady’s comic style relies heavily on her ability to poke fun at herself and other Hollywood celebrities. And then there’s her television program with her daughter, “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best,” on We-TV, plus her “Fashion Police” and many red-carpet shows. But what came as a total surprise to me was that the comic legend graduated from Barnard College as a Phi Beta Kappa. She’s able to keep up to date, even reinventing herself online with “Can we talk? Tweet? Facebook? Shop?” Joan Rivers can still knock a ball out of the park when it comes to comedy. Almost 80 years old, the legendary comedienne with her razor-sharp wit and tongue to match shows no sign of slowing down. She’s one of a kind. Thank goodness!
The Time Warner Center between midtown and the Upper West Side is one of New York City’s most iconic destinations. It’s the place to dine, shop, live, work, and be entertained. That last one, entertainment, is my reason for going there. I close my eyes to the forty upscale retail shops (so much style and sophistication is too much for me). I go right to jazz at Lincoln Center. At one concert, I sat open-mouthed in the Allen Room. Based on the design of a Greek amphitheater, it merges luxuriant splendor with functional accessibility. There’s a dramatic 50-foot by 90-foot wall of glass and it possesses one of New York City’s greatest backdrops – Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. Breaktaking! On my most recent visit, one of my favorite big bands, Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, an 11-piece group specializing in early 20th century jazz, was one of the two bands featured. The acoustically marvelous Rose Theater is sort of an updated “theater in the round.” It’s simply a pleasure sitting there. The furthest seat is no more than 50 feet from the stage. The theater itself is topped by attractively lit diamonds with adjustable colors. What an atmosphere! It’s far from the smoke-filled dingy hole-in-the-wall jazz clubs I frequented in the past. The evening included a pre-concert discussion, which I didn’t enjoy because the second big band was Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra. I couldn’t pronounce her name and I couldn’t understand a word she said even though I was sitting in the first row. Frankly, the Nighthawks would have been enough for me. If you’re looking for a place to dine and dance without emptying your wallet, you can find Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks at Sofia’s Restaurant in the downstairs area on West 46th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the band plays from 8 to 11 p.m., and there’s only a cash charge of $15 at the door. Perhaps I’ll see you there.
Some 20 years ago, I was visiting my adult children, Andy and Andrea. At that time, they were living in New York City. One day we went to dinner in a diner (“nothing could be finer!”). During our meal a tall man walked in. I took one look and was smitten. He was suavely handsome with a twinkle in his eyes, and when I asked who he was, I was told, “That’s Alec Baldwin.” Well, here it is, 20 years later, and I find the actor, although somewhat puffy and worn, still handsome (hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m not stalker). I even forgive him for taking up with a 28-year-old at age 41. I tune into the NBC comedy series “30 Rock” for two reasons. The six-foot-one actor, with his deep raspy voice, has a deadpan comic delivery. The second reason is Tina Fey, who puts the words in his mouth (not literally). The lady is an amazingly talented actress, comedienne, writer, and producer. In “30 Rock,” she is Liz Lemon, the head writer of a fictional comedy series. “30 Rock” refers to Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, where NBC is located. The smart, funny, beautiful gal deserves the many awards she has won. Tough and highly respected for her outstanding talent, she has been singled out as having a great impact on culture and entertainment. And Alec Baldwin is part of the talented ensemble in the current sitcom. Both Tina Fey and the actor are enough reason for me to enjoy watching “30 Rock.”
You would have to be a very senior citizen – over 75 – to know about Wallis Simpson. Or perhaps you saw that very fine film “The King’s Speech.” On the other hand, you might be an Anglophile and so interested in British history to know about the woman who had a king swap his kingdom for a divorcee. My interest was heightened in the American-born Wallis Simpson when, in 1987, Sotheby’s auctioned off the lady’s remarkable jewelry collection, raising $45 million, about seven times its pre-sale estimate. I attended that auction, and all I bought was the booklet describing the jewels of a gal who became the Duchess of Windsor. In reading a new book titled “That Woman” by Anne Sebba, I learned among other things that the then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to the lady as “the king’s cutie.” In “That Woman,” Sebba boldly recasts the relationship that was once considered “the most romantic love story of the last century” as a “tale of gothic darkness with a Faustian part of its core.” The king in Sebba’s book emerges as a man who today might be looked at as something of a stalker. On Dec. 11, 1936, the day after Edward VIII sighed away his rights to the British crown, he announced on a BBC broadcast that he abdicated for love of a woman whom he wanted to marry but could not as king. In “That Woman,” the author makes the case that Wallis had wanted out of the relationship with the neurotic Edward for years. Sebba’s book is a thriller as it advances through Wallis’ life. It reads like fiction, but it is documented by a trove of 15 letters written in Wallis’ own hand. It’s often been said that truth is stranger than fiction. The life of Wallis Simpson supports that.
You can e-mail June Sturz at email@example.com.