By Stacy Jenel Smith
April is going to be a big month for celebrity comings and goings.
Whether you love her, hate her, or have no idea what the fuss is all about, you'll barely be able to escape Jane Fonda next month. The movie sex kitten-turned-anti-war activist-turned-fitness guru-turned mogul's wife appears on the April 3 edition of "60 Minutes" and continues with an intense run of night and daytime talk show appearances and magazine stories pushing her "My Life So Far" autobiography.
Since she has already talked about having been bulimic and having remorse over "some of the things I did" when she went to hang out with the enemy in Hanoi in 1972, one can only wonder what revelations she has in store for us now. One can only wonder because there's a blackout on the book's content at this stage. The New York Times has called Jane's book promotion "the kind of fiercely controlled, all-fronts media campaign of which politicians can only dream."
"Fiercely controlled"? Wow. She really is back.
And the promo blitz leads right into the May release of Fonda's first movie in 15 years, "Monster-in-Law," in which she's giving our girl J.Lo fiercely controlled trouble. We're all supposed to be delighted to have the supremely gifted, double Oscar-winning actress Jane back in movies, and forget that her last picture, "Stanley & Iris," was a critical and commercial bomb.
Meanwhile, get out your tissue boxes, because, sniff, sniff, next month we'll be seeing the end of the long, long, l-o-n-g farewell of another aging show business giantess - Cher.
After more than three million tickets sold and more than 3,000 costume changes, Cher will bring her "Farewell Tour," now in its fourth calendar year, to a close after continuously pushing back the end for a few more months and then a few more. It'll wrap up April 30 at the Hollywood Bowl after 325 performances. Wait, make that 326. She added another one.
Note to Cher: we can't miss you if you don't go away.
I hate to sound cynical, but what used to be an occasional event involving an entertainment celebrity's retirement - or a celebrity coming out of retirement - has become yet another opportunity for force feeding the public a puffed up marketing plan to sell the book or the movie or the concert ticket with the inflated price. And the media keeps doing its part by joining in a preprogrammed feeding frenzy.
Barbra Streisand has her own special way of handling the "retirement" and "coming out of retirement" whirl. She's happy to be referred to in such terms when it serves her interests. Retired from doing live concerts, she definitely "came out of retirement" in 2002 to perform at a big Democratic party fundraiser. She also came out of retirement to sing at Bill Clinton's first inaugural ball, and at a 1996 political benefit that raised $4 million for his reelection campaign, and at the 1986 "One Voice" concert at her Malibu estate that raised several million dollars for political candidates she supported. And each time, the words "coming out of retirement" added to the excitement. If there was a take to be boosted, they boosted the take.
When journalists have pointed out, as they occasionally have, that there seems to be a correlation between retirement statements and hype for a particular event, however, she's plumb put off. She never actually said in so many words she was retiring/coming out of retirement, she will have her reps make clear. It's all journalists' assumption. Maybe she's spent so much time with politicians, she's picked up their proclivity for deniability.
Barbra's huge, frenzy-wreaking 1994 concert tour came after 28 tourless years. Now THAT was coming out of retirement. Why did she do it? Well, in December of 1991, she told Tom Shales of The Washington Post that she was considering singing in public again for financial reasons. "I actually am running out of money, because I don't work very often," Shales quoted her as saying. "I bought all this land and I can't sell my other land [her ranch in Malibu], so I might have to go out and sing just to pay for my house."
There you go.
Streisand made a big splash on the movie scene with her first picture in eight years, "Meet the Fockers." The industry and the public were excited and delighted to see her back onscreen, and "Fockers" was a wonderful vehicle for that. The movie would have been a smash whether or not she'd been making movies all along, though. This tells us that if a project is good enough, the public need not be beaten over the head with superheated hype to go see it - a lesson that absolutely no one will remember.
Notice the refinement of the retirement/non retirement form since Frank Sinatra announced his retirement on March 23, 1971, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and perhaps write. He was back in the recording studio on April 30, 1973 to record tracks for his "Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back" album, obviously having changed his mind. This "retirement" became the butt of lots of jokes. For instance, Chevy Chase on "Saturday Night Live" announced on Weekend Update that "Yes, ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, is back, and sources report no one is interested and nobody cares."
Sinatra got the last laugh, though. The disc was one of his biggest hits, and he went on to two more decades of his phenomenal career.
Rock bands learned to suck up lots of extra dollars by regularly saying goodbye. The Who went and came back, went and came back. KISS grossed more than $60 million from its 2000-2002 "farewell" tour and was back out on the road co-headlining with Aerosmith the following year. So many others are guilty of boomerang goodbyes, it's become a joke. No wonder Phil Collins gave his last concert trek the cheeky title, "Phil Collins' First Farewell Tour."
With some of the goings and comings of today's performers, the public can only wonder whether they're looking at the celebrity equivalent of a shady going out of business sale.