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Celebrity Gossip from Liz Smith

"THE MAIN purpose of the stock market is to make fools of as many men as possible," said Bernard Baruch. Perhaps, but not every woman!

The death of the feisty Muriel Siebert, the first woman ever to be allowed to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, reminded me of what a character she was. I visited her often at her apartment in the posh River House on 52nd Street and the East River. She was fun, but with Muriel, one could seldom get a word in edgewise.

These days, were she still with us, one assumes she'd have a lot to say about the current well-off resident-owners of River House and the dilemma caused by having their own River Club as part of the premises.

The once ultra-private River Club is a large part of River House. It boasts a swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, an exercise room, dining rooms, an outdoor garden, entertainment space and certain private enclaves throughout River House. The River House owner-denizens of same have been pondering since last spring what to do about their River Club. Should they turn it over to new managers? Keep on keeping on? Or what?

And when I write "they," these are terribly well-heeled persons who live in River House. For instance, they are the ultra-famous Henry and Nancy Kissinger, the distinguished Deeda and former Ambassador William Blair, the youthful Elizabeth and Jeffrey Leeds and so many more.

In the past, River House was home to Blackstone founder Pete Peterson and "Sesame Street" Joan Ganz Cooney, as well as heiress Mary Lea Johnson and Broadway producer Marty Richards. Back then, River House was a bit exclusive. They said no to Gloria Vanderbilt because it was thought she might entertain her good friend Bobby Short on the premises. How changed things are.

Historically, many rich people have wanted to live in River House and have been refused. Many wanted to merely enjoy the River Club, but couldn't.

Today, River House is sitting with a gold mine on its property and there are those who feel the famous address actually has an all but unsolvable "problem."

What if some R-E-A-L-L-Y rich person comes along and wants to buy the River Club -- say a Middle East potentate, a Chinese oligarch -- even a multi-billionaire, say like Michael Bloomberg, might make an offer River House owners couldn't refuse. Some River-dwellers fear that someone who has many billions, might well be planning to do just that.

This could be a super platinum payoff for River Housers. But despite such a payoff -- well, what if it happened? Would River House dwellers, simply for great gobs of money, like living there but losing all control over the Club, which would then have its own priorities and dominance? And who might want the River Club space for their own? And how does someone even know what they want, or want to hope for, in such a situation?

It's always problematical when billions are concerned!

THE FALL issue of V magazine is a stunner, featuring entertainment icons of every era inside and on the cover.

Lady Chameleon, that is, Lady Gaga, looking like a cross between Patti Smith and Iggy Pop is on the front. Inside, she gradually strips down to the almost altogether. (She kind of keeps her Calvin Klein white tank top T-shirt on. Kind of.) There's an interview by Marina Abramovic and I'm sure to read it, once I get over the photos by Inez and Vinoodh.

One interview I did read was Liza Minnelli's. She is shown in a lovely shot by Terry O'Neill, quite dressed, questioned by my own Denis Ferrara. (Although they misspell his name in the magazine.) Denis and Liza have known each other a long time. Liza tends to call everybody "honey." But with Denis she means it.

Of her apparent phoenix-like persona and ability to keep on keeping on, Denis asks if it becomes tiresome to always have to explain this. "No, it's not tiresome. It's just well ... I don't think about myself. Look. When I go to the theater, I want to come out feeling good. So that's what I think about -- am I going to make my audiences feel good? They're all scrunched in their seats and have paid good money, and I try to do what I can to entertain them. We're locked in a building for two hours, after all! When it's over, I'm just tired. I don't feel very indestructible."

Liza describes her concerts as "a conversation. A conversation that never bores me."

She'd love to act more: "People assume I'm not interested. But I am! Listen, I act when I sing. I act when I dance. But I don't have to sing and dance to act." On the subject of screen work, Liza says she'd love to do something with Tom Hanks: "Every time I see him on screen, I trust him."

Liza thinks Madonna is great. "I've always liked her. She's fun to have dinner with. She's not a wacko. She knows things. She wants to learn, too."

But my favorite part of the Q-and-A is when Denis asks Liza: "What is the best advice you've ever been given?"

The star replies: Oh, Jeez! So much. Well, one of the best things anybody ever said to me was 'keep moving.' But here's the best advice I can give; stay curious."

Says Denis, "And you have stayed curious."

"I have. But please don't ask me to do anything more with a computer than turn it on. There's curiosity and then there's technology!"

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)


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