Liz Smith: Sarah Palin Is an “Unleashed Force of Nature”

On Wednesday afternoon, gossip columnist Liz Smith hosted a luncheon for around 25 people in honor of the new film The Women (which will be released on Friday) over several back tables at Michaels. (No one seemed too concerned with Frank Bruni‘s goose-egg review of the restaurant in The Times that morning.)

The television media world was well represented, with Jodi Applegate (Good Day New York), Hoda Kotb (Dateline NBC, Today Show), Deborah Roberts (ABC news correspondent), and Kathie Lee Gifford (Today Show) all in attendance. Pre-lunch chatter focused on the mostly female crowd’s thoughts on Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The Daily Transom wondered what Ms. Smith thought of John McCain‘s choice.

"She’s sort of like an unleashed force of nature, the Democrats don’t know what to do about her," Ms. Smith said of Palin. She paused. "I can’t vote for John McCain. I can’t vote for any one who might put another conservative justice on the Supreme Court. But I find Sarah Palin very interesting. And it’s ironic, when Hillary came along, she
was entitled, and Obama came out of nowhere. Now, Sarah Palin, who no one’s ever heard of, is coming out of nowhere.

"It’s a wonderful thing, though, that people are so involved," she continued. "Ninety-eight percent of them say they’re watching things. I think Sarah Palin is fascinating."

We found The Women‘s director, Diane English, who was wearing a cream-colored, ruffly dress.

"I think we’re making a very gradual shift from a male paradigm to a female paradigm," she said.

Is The Women a successful illustration of that change?

"Well, it’s an all-female cast. There isn’t a man in the movie," Ms. English said. "But they did do that in 1939. But it became hard to get this movie made. We couldn’t get funding because there were no male movie stars, even with the level of casting. We did eventually break through.

"One of the versions, I think it was done in the ’50s or ’60s, it did have men in it," she continued. "There was a play, and then in that version something bad started happening and they started to put men it. And so they wanted me to do that, too, and I said no."

She spoke about The Women in the context of Mamma Mia and Sex and the City. "Those are movies that defied expectation in terms of their box office potential, they attracted a huge portion of women over 25 years old. Those movies demonstrated a huge economic force to be reckoned with. If we can do even a little bit of that, we’ll be
moving things from a fluke to a trend."

Later, the Daily Transom got cozy with Ms. Gifford, Ms. Applegate and Jill Brooke, editor of Firstwivesworld.com, a social networking site for first wives.

We discussed womanhood.

"It’s good to be a women all of a sudden after 20,000 years of evolution," Ms. Applegate said.

"It’s suddenly good to be female! I hope it lasts." Mrs. Gifford chimed.

Ms. Applegate chimed in on Mrs. Palin. "It shows that feminism comes in all shapes in sizes, it’s not just the version you might expect. I mean, Sarah Palin is a feminist in the
eyes of a lot of people, but she doesn’t fit the Gloria Steinem mold for example, but she’s a powerful woman–you don’t have to have liberal politics to stand up for woman power."

"She’s a rock star. You can’t say she’s some sort of anomaly," Mrs. Applegate said. "There’s like millions of people who live in swing states who are swing voters who may help make John McCain president because of her. So you can’t just use her as a joke."

The Daily Transom asked if The Women had any relationship to this kind of ideal, "rock star" feminism.

"If it does boffo box office, than yeah," said Ms. Applegate. Liz Smith: Sarah Palin Is an “Unleashed Force of Nature”