“NOT A DAY GOES BY”
Ladies and gents,
Years ago, I opened up a Twitter account and had my former assistant, Timmy Blupe, run it for me. Well, it turned out that his writing skills were matched only by my technical know-how. So, the account has languished, but I still occasionally read content of other users, and was delighted to come across a string of twitters from former child star Quinn Cummings telling a fabulous story about when she worked for the great talent agent Susan Smith. I won’t spoil the story here, but it’s about the time her star client, Brian Dennehy, won his Tony Award for Death of a Salesman – a production that she single-handedly ushered to Broadway – and forgot to thank her.
Nobody knew Susan better than I did – we came up together in LA in the 1970’s. Back in those early days, the relationship was transactional. She wanted her clients’ names in the paper, and I wanted dirt. But over the years, a deep friendship developed, and for a period, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we were inseparable.
I remember one time she dragged me to see a brand-new kind of show – something we might nowadays call immersive, but back then I just called it terrifying – titled Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. She was trying to get me to do a story on it as a favor for her friend, the producer Douglas Urbanski, who was a pischer at the time but is now a muckety-muck. Anyway, when we got there she immediately spotted Elizabeth Dennehy – Brian’s daughter – and beelined for her. “Oh my God! What are you doing here? Isn’t this wild?”, she said, grabbing her for a hug. It wasn’t until Elizabeth responded in a thick New Jersey accent that Susan realized she was part of the show (and very much in character). “Oh, thank God you’re in the show, honey. I thought you had just started dressing like a whore.” When we were safely back in her car, she picked up her (wired) car phone and furiously dialed her assistant, Monty Goodson. “WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T I KNOW THAT LIZ DENNEHY WAS DOING ‘TONY N’ TINA’S’?!” All I heard was muffled, rapid-fire chatter on through the receiver, followed by Susan yelling back, “WELL I CAN’T RETAIN EVERYTHING YOU GODDAMN TELL ME!”
She was best known for discovering both Dennehy and Kathy Bates, but I think a contribution of equal value was when she convinced Paula Wagner to give up acting and become a talent agent. That, of course, led to one of the greatest female producorial careers in Hollywood history.
She considered that Dennehy production of Death of a Salesman to be her single crowning achievement, and it’s easy to see why. Not only did she make her top client’s dream come true, but also ended up putting on the definitive production of that great play in the process. That experience thrust Susan directly into the orbit of legendary press agent Richard Kornberg. What a pair! They found each other equal parts maddening and lovable, and their bickering yielded dialogue that rivaled Arthur Miller’s!
If Susan were still living, I think her driving passion would be to create a similar kind of opportunity on Broadway for Bates. So, because my dear friend Susan is no longer here to lobby on behalf of her clients, I’m putting it out to the universe: let’s get Kathy Bates back to Broadway!
Tidbits from around town…
Spotted Kerry Washington ordering a smoothie at Green Symphony.
Overheard Stella McCartney lamenting the Florida results, hoping for a recount. (And Stella always get what Stella wants!)
Saw Andy Cohen dining on the biggest lobster I’d ever seen at The Palm.
As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!