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'50 Shades' of what we've seen before?

AuthorsTheaterMusicMusical TheaterCharlie HunnamDakota Johnson

"Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life," wrote English poet William Congreve.

ALTHOUGH, the outcry is not nearly as obstreperous as it has been in the matter of Ben Affleck as Batman, fans of the novel "50 Shades of Grey" aren't jumping with joy now that Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson (daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) have been chosen to star in the screen adaptation.

Oh, come on, what does it matter? Hunnam is a talented actor. Miss Johnson I've never seen. Both are attractive, although Hunnam does himself no favors with that beard-ish thing he's sporting.

In the end, this will be a 21st-century "9 1/2 Weeks." Remember that? 1986? Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger? Kinky sex? Also adapted from a book (said to be a true "memoir of a love affair.") The movie wasn't a success in the United States, but it did make a bundle overseas and became a hot item on video and DVD. Maybe "50 Shades" will fare better because the book was such a hot seller. (Although I just read somewhere that it is one of the 10 books most frequently left behind in hotel and motel rooms.)

Nevertheless, the author E.L. James has raked in $95 million from this book, this year -- tying with Simon Cowell and Howard Stern on Forbes' list of top earning celebrities. Judge Judy is said to be one of the year's annual highest earners at $47 million a year, followed by Jon Stewart who makes between $25 and $30 million with his talents. (Sellers and buyers may be young or old!)

NOW HERE'S A P.S. to my little tribute to the stars of MSNBC the other day. I really enjoy Chris Hayes. He might be the smartest one in the nightly lineup, but I wish somebody would slip the kid a Xanax before he goes on air. He speaks so rapidly -- I guess he's caught up in his subject -- that sometimes one finds it difficult to follow him. Or you simply become exhausted trying to get his point, which is invariably smarter than the guest's. But what a brain!

The tone of MSNBC stays pretty much the same. Somehow, it reminds me of the great MGM acting coach Lillian Burns, who guided the likes of Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor. At one point, they all emerged sounding the same, but eventually developed their own individual styles ... except for Lana. She maintained Lillian's teachings, which probably undercut her genuine talent. Turner was always the "movie star," though good directors could shake that out of her from time to time. But of all the gals, Lana enjoyed and identified with her screen and fan magazine image most of all. She loved being "Lana Turner." Well, I'd have to throw Joan Crawford in there too. She totally lost herself in the creation of her stellar image.

Watching the end of "Breaking Bad" is excruciating. (Yes, it's that intense!) And why are they ending this hit series? Couldn't they go on with it? Have the protagonists escape from Albuquerque and all go to Asia immediately. The Wall Street Journal reports that North Korea's government is now a main manufacturer of crystal meth, which they are selling all over the world. Forty percent of those North Koreans engaged in the business of making this horrible and devastating drug are said to be themselves addicted. Imagine Walter White and wife Skyler embroiled in competition with the North Koreans!

Walter and Skyler (and maybe Jesse) could operate out of Taiwan.

Went to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn., ( recently and caught my pal Tommy Tune's SRO show there. He was great, as always, slaying a mature and immature audience. "Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales" deserves its own limited run on Broadway, if you wonder where the magic of theater still exists without rock 'n' roll.

This guy didn't win nine Tony Awards for nothing.

Kudos also to his musical director, Michael Biagi, who has backed Tommy's talent with his exquisite musical taste for 36 years.

The Eugene O'Neill is exploding with talent in all directions; it is one of the great teaching enclaves and for Tommy's night, sitting at ringside were the very people who gave the O'Neill ancestral land, dedicated to one of America's greatest playwrights.

This summer saw star after star shining at the O'Neill -- Tony winner Donna McKechnie, exquisite singer Wesla Whitfield, big talents doing the music of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Michael Douglas, Judith Light, Harold Prince and Christopher Durang are just four of the famous folks on the O'Neill board.

If you are anywhere near Waterford, you should get on the O'Neill Center mailing list. Even if you are further away, you should know about this great organization under Tom Viertel and Preston Whiteway.

(E-mail Liz Smith at

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