May 4, 2011
BETTY’S BOPPING: Just in time for Mother’s Day…Betty White, everyone’s favorite octogenarian, is continuing her astonishing comeback with the publication of a new memoir, “If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)."
The Carmel to Los Angeles constant commuter, was the subject of a profile in the New York Times’ Art & Leisure section last Sunday, advancing her saucy sensibility—latest hit show, “Hot in Cleveland," animal rights advocacy—and her seven-figure book advance.
White confided to the Times that one of her favorite possessions is a black chiffon skirt that was muddied, years ago, by John Steinbeck’s poodle, Charley, (Don’t tell Steinbeck debunker Bill Steigerwald, who has yet to extend his investigation to a discussion of whether the dog really existed.)"
“I wouldn’t have that skirt cleaned for anything in the world, because that’s Charley on that skirt," White said loyally.
The bard of Salinas was a long-time friend of White’s (again, don’t tell Steigerwald, who may turn it into an investigation of Betty’s birth certificate, and the circumstances in which she met the dog.)
I had a chance encounter with Betty, who was dining with her late husband, Allan Ludden, at an anniversary dinner at Ma Maison, Wolfgang Puck’s long-gone Hollywood hangout, and she couldn’t have been more charming.
What an example, as you make plans to celebrate Mother’s Day with the mom of your choice.
OBAMA MAMA: In the same spirit, it’s nice to see that the new biography of President Obama’s mother, “A Singular Woman," is getting good notices. Needless to say, these are good times for the President, who’s silenced critics from the left and right with the decisive action against Osama Bin Laden. The “white woman from Kansas," as Obama has described her, was a single woman who did a remarkable job of raising a remarkable man, against difficult odds.
Author Janny Scott’s description of Ann Dunham’s fight, when she was battling cancer at the end of her life, to get health care without being disqualified for a “pre-existing condition" goes a long way to explain Obama’s commitment to the sometimes thankless task of advancing the cause of universal health care. The acorn never falls far from the tree, and the new book serves as a timely reminder of this universal truth.
LEON REDUX: As Leon Panetta gets ready to transit to a new post as Secretary of Defense, I can’t resist mentioning the visit of the great Leon Russell to the Sunset Center this Thursday. From his early days as a session man to his collaborations with Joe Cocker on the “Mad Dogs and Englishman" tour to his latest album with (Sir) Elton John, Russell is a national treasure. For a full report, check out homie Adam Joseph’s story in this Thursday’s Weekly. And do yourself a favor, check out Leon’s work at your friendly neighborhood record store or on the internet. Your life will never be the same.
LENNON’S LEGACY: In the meantime, get ready for your Sunday celebration by taking another listen to John Lennon’s rendition of “Mother" (the moniker he also used for Yoko Ono. It’s unsentimental, coming in the middle of Lennon’s Primal Scream period, but moving, like all of John’s work. As someone who has lately been spending more time than usual with my mom, I’m struck by it’s power, passion and poetry.