"TO BE loved to madness -- such was her great desire. Love was to her the one cordial which could drive away the eating loneliness of her days. And she seemed to long for the abstraction called passionate love more than for any particular lover." So wrote Thomas Hardy in his novel "Return of the Native."
SEVERAL THINGS struck me while reading the Vanity Fair take on Princess Diana's last great love, the heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. For one thing, there's the irony of his profession -- a heart surgeon. If anybody needed their heart healed it was Diana!
Her pathetic -- but utterly sincere in the moment -- insistence was that she craved normalcy. At times she did, of course, but in all likelihood, when she experienced it, or as close to it as she could ever get, it was thrilling at first, before she realized, once again the stultifying atmosphere of global fame. And missed it.
Diana could never have lasted as the "unknown" wife of a doctor, living in Pakistan. And believe me, the press would have swarmed Pakistan -- which she thought would insulate her from the paparazzi -- just as they did the great cities of Europe, angling for a shot of her.
It was as unlikely a concept as Elizabeth Taylor playing at being a political wife, or Marilyn Monroe dreaming that one of the Kennedy brothers would divorce a wife, abandon children and destroy a career for her. (Though I don't quite believe that Monroe actually ever thought this. She was neurotic, not insane.)
Finally, I was -- am -- impressed that Hasnat Khan is one of the very few men, one of the very few people Diana knew, who has not sold her out in some way. Aside from speaking to the police in the aftermath of Diana's horrible death, he has never broken his silence.
In his discretion we can take some measure of the extraordinary woman he loved.
I suppose one might say he is the Pakistani Joe DiMaggio.
TODAY, on what would have been Whitney Houston's 50th birthday, Bluewater Productions is publishing a comic book about her often tumultuous, ultimately tragic life. It is titled "Tribute: Whitney Houston."
The issue runs 32 pages, written by Raphael Moran and drawn by Kirk Feretzanis. The cover illustration is by Neil Feigeles. The "tribute" line specializes in telling the stories of celebrities who have passed on. (Past issues have starred such as Michael Jackson and James Dean.)
I've never seen one of these items. I'd be fascinated to know how they handle the seamier side of their subjects' lives. Well, maybe these are "adult" comic books?
I LIKE the latest Jennifer Aniston story. It goes that she deliberately wore a dress half a size too small to the premiere of her latest movie "We're the Millers." And, she placed a hand on her stomach several times, to give the impression she was pregnant. They say this was to create gossip, the better to create publicity for her movie. Really? To be honest, recent shots I've seen of Jennifer running around in jeans and T-shirts showed her a bit fuller-figured than usual, which looked quite attractive on her. I simply don't see her as a blond Machiavelli.
William Gaines of Isotope Films writes me that Elaine Stritch was not entirely forthcoming when she spoke to me of appearing in a new film titled "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me."
There is such a documentary and it will play in East Hampton at the famous Guild Hall on Monday, Aug. 12. William claims Ms. Stritch will be there in person to be interviewed by her television son, the charming Alec Baldwin. "It is going to be a lovely reunion and Elaine, I'm told, is looking forward to it."
This film, by director Chiemi Karasawa, already won applause at the Tribeca Film Festival and will likely have a big theater premiere in February 2014.
Although I have been close to our "Stritchie" since 1953 and we share the same birthday, she is not always direct about what she imagines I know and what she will tell me. I was obviously supposed to divine that she'd made such a film. I was to divine that it would play at Tribeca. And I might well have dreamed up that she was returning to the East Coast to the show in East Hampton on Monday.
As I am not a mind reader, it is wonderful to have all this concrete news about one of the greatest talents of our times.
ENDQUOTE: "Washing every day!" That was Jane Birkin, singer, actress, style goddess, answering Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire query: "What do you consider the most overrated virtue?"
This made me laugh. I recalled my father berating my brothers for their long, soapy showers. "Drying out your skin!" he'd admonish.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun