His favorite channel is Turner Classic Movies. If it’s in color, he probably doesn’t like it, or prefers an older version in black-and-white with some actress you’ve never heard of in the lead. Sometimes, when Cole’s drunk, he’ll start speaking in an antiquated actress voice (you know, that Katherine Hepburny sound, like there’s candy corn stuck to your front teeth…), babbling about George Cukor. If you don’t get that reference, then you’re on my side and if you do, well, then you know what I mean.
Anyway, without “Dexter” or “Desperate Housewives” to entertain us, we were left with Cole’s video collection to get our attention spans from one Patti LuPone musical montage to the next.
We began with Elaine Stritch At Liberty – something of a compromise between our two fields of interest in that Stritch is an octogenarian, but part of the more contemporary Broadway I love. We quote it all the time, but had never watched it together, nor had I seen it in years, so it felt like the right choice. And what a delight it was to watch. Knowing in advance all of Elaine’s inspired one-liners like we do, every segment was a lesson in building a moment, setting up a joke, telling a story.
I had promised Cole we could watch the documentary about Elaine Stritch At Liberty which in keeping with our cable-less, low tech day, turned out to be not included on the DVD of the show. Damn. We were having so much fun and wanting more of the same. Scrolling through the sepia DVDs in Cole’s collection, I was intrigued by The Women, having seen it once years ago and recently watched the remake on TV.
My appetite was especially whet for it anyway because Stritch had talked about backstage drama in a summer stock production she’d done of The Women and Cole’s pretty much always down for getting’ his Roz Russell on, so we popped it in.
I don’t know if it was because of the weed I’d smoked, or warming up with Stritch, or sharing it all with Cole –- or the fact that I was just desperate to be transported by something — but I enjoyed The Women in a way I haven’t experienced an old movie since I first saw Gone With The Wind as a child. As a matter of fact, reminiscent of my decades of devotion to Vivien Leigh, one of my revelations was the discovery of a deep passion for Joan Crawford (A HOMO SAYS WHAT?).
Smirk if you will, but I have actually never really seen much of her work and have a hard time getting Faye Dunaway out of my head when I try to picture her. But in The Women, Joan reminded me of Patti LuPone in Anything Goes in the 80s, trashy and nasty and sexy and sharp. I’m tempted to call Joan Crawford “fierce,” but that word, like “diva,” is overused nowadays. It’s not even really appropriate to call her trashy, given the actual trash, the filth, literally, that we see all over pop culture today. Joan wasn’t like that, she just knew her way around a slightly vulgar barb to throw at the bitch on the right side of the counter at her department store job. And by the end of The Women, I was tearing through Cole’s DVDs to pop in Mildred Pierce.
I looked at Cole, little Cole, who literally sometimes calls me “Momma” – it’s a joke, I’m such a nurturer and also, loud and pushy, like Rose in Gypsy… Cole calling me “Momma” makes us all laugh when I’m cooking dinner for him and Jeffery or trying to steamroll them into following my career advice, or admitting Patti LuPone is the greatest living entertainer. But here was Cole leading me toward new things for me, things that are old, way before both of our times, that he knows all about. And I loved it all.
And I never would have let Cole “drive” (couch potato lingo for being in charge of the remote control) if I hadn’t been behind on my cable bill. It took being broke for me to stop and watch what somebody else wanted to see. Who would’ve thunk the old broad still had so much to learn?