Swan songs: The Lavender Tube on Capote's crash, Golden Globes gaffes & more

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Tuesday January 9, 2024
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Ryan Murphy's 'Feud: Capote Vs The Swans' stars (top left) Diane Lane as Slim Keith; Chloe Sevigny as C.Z. Guest; Demi Moore as Ann Woodward; Naomi Watts as Babe Paley; Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill; Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson & Tom Hollander as Truman Capote. (photos: FX. composite courtesy World of Wonder)
Ryan Murphy's 'Feud: Capote Vs The Swans' stars (top left) Diane Lane as Slim Keith; Chloe Sevigny as C.Z. Guest; Demi Moore as Ann Woodward; Naomi Watts as Babe Paley; Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill; Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson & Tom Hollander as Truman Capote. (photos: FX. composite courtesy World of Wonder)

Happy New Year, friends. If you are still mulling New Year's resolutions as you commit to Dry January, we recommend more work/life balance. Americans don't relax enough and have bad boundary issues. In France, work is done at 7pm. It's against the law to send work emails after 7. Make a cut-off time and commit to a night or two of watching some good TV, getting to bed early and drinking more water.

Also, we used to be a bartender years ago and make a couple mocktails you'd enjoy for Dry January: Muddle some mint leaves, add juice of one lime (or Rose's), add half coconut water and half seltzer or Perrier and shake softly with ice. Rim the glass with sugar, salt or just more lime, serve with mint and a twist.

Another option: mint leaves, pineapple juice, Coco Lopez or Goya coconut milk and a squeeze of lime. Shake with crushed ice and serve with a slice of orange or pineapple or both. Fancy glassware always makes a drink taste better.

Dry January is a good cleanse and you might find it's a step toward sobriety you didn't realize you were ready for.

Tom Hollander as Truman Capote in 'Feud: Capote Vs The Swans' (photo: FX)  

Familiar feud
Remember how great Tom Hollander was in "White Lotus?" Wait till you see him in FX's "Feud: Capote Vs. The Swans." Hollander is so good. And what a cast of swans, with Oscar and Emmy winners and nominees, and also a final performance by the late great Treat Williams as Bill Paley. Is it ever the queerest panoply!

"Capote Vs. The Swans" is the second season of the "Feud" anthology series created by Ryan Murphy for FX which last aired in 2017; a long wait. This latest iteration is directed by Gus Van Sant, Max Winkler, and Jennifer Lynch and written by Jon Robin Baitz. Based on Laurence Leamer's book "Capote's Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era," the new series is set mostly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which makes for gorgeous fashions.

"Capote vs. the Swans" chronicles the events leading to Truman Capote's death in 1984, so it's a bittersweet — mostly bitter — tale of how Capote fell out with the besties he'd spent years cultivating and where that led him.

The plot is simple and devastating: FX notes: "Capote destroys his friendships with the jet-setting socialites of New York City high society by writing a thinly-fictionalized account of their scandalous and hedonistic personal lives in his novel 'Answered Prayers'— an excerpt of which is published in Esquire — which causes them all to vow to ruin his life in revenge."

The trailer has pitch perfect "Real Housewives, the Prequel" vibes and everyone is chewing away at the scenery early and often. This is a story about scandal, betrayal and the complexities of Capote's relationships with the people he always yearned to be accepted by but always remained just outside their true embrace. As Capote says, "This is what a writer does. It's bloody and sharp and real."

Playwright Jon Robin Baitz, who serves as writer and showrunner on "Capote vs. the Swans," told EW, "I kept looking at it as a multifaceted examination of what it is to squander your life inadvertently, accidentally, deliberately, self-destructively, on so many different levels." (www.ew.com)

Baitz said, "I found it to be a cautionary tale and an accurate representation of what can happen when you're not listening to yourself. Your life becomes about your name on the invitation to the gala, your collections, your standing in a society where you are within a system. The show very much is, for me, about the profound loneliness of beauty and fame."

The incredible cast has Naomi Watts as Babe Paley, Diane Lane as Slim Keith, Chloë Sevigny as C. Z. Guest, Calista Flockhart as Lee Radziwill, Demi Moore as Ann Woodward, Molly Ringwald as Joanne Carson, Jessica Lange as Katherine Graham and Chris Chalk as James Baldwin. Capote's partner, John Dunphy, is played by actor-director Joe Mantello.

It is sundering the relationship with Babe that Capote regrets most. Baitz said, "They're two broken people. They're both in similar kinds of pain. They're both very invested in survival in society, while being seen. They're both profoundly lonely people. They're both intelligent and performative."

For Hollander, getting away from the Seymour Hoffman portrait of Capote was essential, and he succeeds. This is a different, not lesser, version of the troubled and alcoholic author, and also a later, older Capote. But we also see that the same viciousness that Capote employed in his relationship with Harper Lee is there in his friendships with Babe and the other women.

But also, Hollander's Capote is a man who has already hit his peak and is searching for a way to maintain the zenith. That he chooses to harm those closest to him is an obviously terrible choice and Hollander shocks us with his evocation of that. What Capote wrote about Ann Woodward, for example, precipitates her suicide, which is ghastly.

It all, however, makes for gripping viewing. "Feud: Capote Vs. the Swans" premieres the first two episodes on FX on Jan. 31 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, followed by a streaming release on Hulu the next day.

Handmaid's trail
A lot of 2023's awfulness has spilled over into 2024. On January 5, ABC aired a brutal evocation of that with "Impact x Nightline: On The Brink." (www.abcnews.go.com)

Bodily autonomy is a cataclysmic issue for women and LGBTQ people. In this ABC special, Diane Sawyer and Rachel Scott report on the dire impact of new healthcare restrictions on pregnant people and the severe penalties that threaten physicians, while anyone with an at-risk pregnancy faces life-threatening delays.

"On The Brink" is absolutely gutting and should make everyone enraged that women are being subjected to this. Termination committees are being convened to determine whether women deserve an emergency medical abortion. One woman was sent home with bleeding, fever and pain because she wasn't deemed sick enough to be treated. She ends up hemorrhaging into the toilet and is rushed to the hospital, where she is put on life support.

Another woman has to fly 900 miles to the closest state to get a medical abortion after her baby died in utero. She was so sick, she nearly died, because she couldn't get this treatment at home in Tennessee.

Some of these women are sobbing as they recount their stories. They are distraught, traumatized. These were all women who desperately wanted their babies. It's barbaric and criminal what was done to them. One woman who is only 24 decided to have her tubes tied because the thought of going through this trauma again was more than she could bear. Her husband looks shellshocked. He was so afraid she would die before they got help. They couldn't afford to go to another state.

In one of the most horrifying stories, a woman details how she was forced to give birth to a baby without a skull who gasped for air for four hours until she died. The trauma of telling her story makes her throw up on camera.

And in case the facts of this story aren't horrible enough, an anti-abortion doctor testifies that women with anomalous pregnancies should use the time while they are waiting to give birth to a dead baby to "get to know that baby." What a monstrous concept.

But it's not just the women who are wrecked by these experiences. The husbands are so heartbroken over their lost babies and over what the women they love have been through. They want change so other people don't go through this. One says, "Having a child isn't just a dream for women."

This is must-watch TV, because so many people don't understand how often these horror stories are happening and how they impact every community, including our own as more and more of us choose parenthood. On ABC online and on Hulu.

Marvelous; drag
Some things you want to see this month are the fantastic new Marvel miniseries "Echo," a spin-off from "Hawkeye." It's Disney+'s most action-packed Marvel series to date.

Alaqua Cox reprises her role as Maya Lopez /Echo from "Hawkeye." Echo is a deaf Native American Choctaw and the former leader of the Tracksuit Mafia, a criminal gang working for Kingpin Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio).

The premise: Maya Lopez's ruthless behavior in New York City catches up with her in her hometown in Oklahoma. She must face her past, reconnect with her Native American roots, and embrace the meaning of family and community.

Season 16 of "RuPaul's Drag Race" ushered in the new year and the queens are spectacular. With 14 new queens from across the country competing for the crown and $200,000. (www.mtv.com)

"Survivor" winner Parvati Shallow came out as queer in an Instagram post on Saturday, Dec. 30. The reality TV legend shared pictures of herself kissing comedian Mae Martin and wrote, "We're here. We're queer. Happy new year." Live your best life, girl!

Finally, the third anniversary of the January 6 insurrection found Donald Trump lauding those tried and sentenced for their roles. Newly released video from the January 6 domestic terror attack shows Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX), scolding rioters over trying to breach the House of Representatives chamber with Capitol police and their weapons drawn. It's harrowing (trigger warning for violence). www.nbcnews.com

Eleven Films put out a new video on January 4 about Trump, which they headline "Warning: This video should scare the hell out of you! #TrumpsNewAmerica." The question is, have we become inured to Trump's violence? Let's hope not.

Lily Gladstone won a Golden Globe for her role in "Killers of the Flower Moon." (ABC News)  

Golden Globes glory & gaffes
It was a new year for the 81st Golden Globe awards on Jan. 7. Still gorgeous dresses, still a lot of drinking and no food, still bad comedy and stilted patter, and still some surprises. This year's nominees and winners were selected by a new voting body that is purportedly more racially and ethnically diverse than ever, comprised of 300 journalists from 76 countries.

Jo Koy may never recover from dissing Taylor Swift (what was he thinking?) to a room that did not laugh, and to a Swift who glowered over her flute of champagne. The Filipino comedian, who is actually really funny in stand up, was disastrously unfunny and blamed the writers; never a good move during an awards show in which writers chose the winners.

Local San Francisco stand up comedian and actress Ali Wong won for Best Female Actor — Limited Series, Anthology Series or Television Motion Picture for her role in the controversial "Beef." She looked stunning in a white gown.

There were gorgeous dresses everywhere, with the "Barbie" folks in pink and "The Color Purple" folks in purple and a lot of soignée black. Angela Bassett — incredibly 65! — was spectacular old Hollywood in an off-the-shoulder black dress with her hair long and wavy and very Ava Gardner. Breathtaking. Please give her an Oscar already (WomensWear Daily)

What was best in the three-hour event? it was more queer than ever before with three LGBTQ winners; something to applaud.

Alas, one winner we booed was notoriously anti-trans, anti-queer British comedian Ricky Gervais, who won the first new award for Best Performance in Stand-Up Comedy on Television. The nominees were Trevor Noah, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman and out lesbian Wanda Sykes.

But early in the program, Hunter Schafer glided out in a luminous pale pink cloud of a dress to make history as the first out trans actress presenter at the awards.

"Killers of the Flower Moon" star Lily Gladstone, who identifies as Two-Spirit and uses she/they pronouns, won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture in the Drama category for her role as Mollie Burkardt in the Martin Scorcese film.

Gladstone is of Piegan Blackfeet, Nez Perce and European heritage and grew up on the reservation of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. Gladstone opened their speech speaking Blackfeet. They are the first Indigenous person to win a Golden Globe and the first Two-Spirit person to win. What an amazing moment of representation.

Singer Billie Eilish, who is bisexual, won for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture with her brother and co-writer Finneas for their song "What Was I Made For?" from "Barbie." Her emotional speech was moving and sweet.

Ayo Edebiri, who identifies as queer, won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy for her role as Sidney Adamu in the fan favorite, "The Bear." Edebiri's speech was charming and funny and before Gladstone's speech was the best of the night. Three great LGBTQ wins, with hopefully more next year.

So, for the Sturm and the Drang and some clearer heads in a Dry January, you know you really must stay tuned.

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