‘Sopranos’ ends unexpectedly

Chase chooses life-goes-on realism

Fans of “The Sopranos” may be feeling let down by the “unsatisfying” go-to-black finale to the series on Sunday night. But in a way, the show ended perfectly, if not with the high level of violence, comeuppance or escape devoutly wished for by so many. There they sat in a restaurant, four not-terribly-bright, craven, greedy, clueless, messed up people — one a violent killer — pondering the possibility of manicotti. Completely ordinary except for the dozens of murders and crimes that littered their past, occupied the present, and shadowed the future. To see Tony (or A.J., Meadow, and Carmella) blown away might have made for exciting TV, to see just one of them have a epiphany and call out Tony as the vile criminal he is, might have been deeply satisfying. But David Chase chose a tense/mundane life-goes-on realism. All the characters deserved worse, but in this world, who really gets what they deserve, one way or another? And I haven’t really thought once about what happened to them after dinner.

IF YOU ever imagined what it was like when Marie Antoinette rode the tumbrel to the guillotine, you need only survey the intense interest and joy conveyed by the media and most of the public as Paris Hilton in handcuffs was dragged backed to court and jail last week. She hadn’t escaped incarceration with a nail file tucked into a spinach salad, but you’d think she’d done that and shot a dozen cops to boot the way cable TV spasmed gleefully. Miss Hilton generates a startling level of vitriol, and perhaps that is because she has no clear personality, no fascinating traits or talents. The media elevated her vacuous persona and now she’s interesting by virtue of that. Lindsay Lohan is an excellent actress, Britney Spears had a career as a genuine pop star. Paris appears to have nothing more than a drive to be famous for its own sake. This doesn’t, believe it or not, make her a bad person, but it makes her difficult to defend. In fact, her amorphous status surely encouraged the judge to make an example of her. She is not a person with whom anyone might identify; she is just symbol of self-indulgence. So it’s easy to punish an idea. I hope she manages to stick it out, serve her time, and never drive again while intoxicated or with a suspended license. And then I hope she can go right on making money for personal appearances, commercials, handbags, perfumes. She can party wildly (but wisely.) I don’t want her mea culpa on Oprah, I don’t want her cradling AIDS babies in Africa. People say she’ll come out of jail a “different person.” She’ll regret her past and do good works. But then, we’ve got Angelina Jolie for that.

AN IDEA expressed here some months back, that Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson would make a fine young Billie Holiday in a new version of the singer’s life, has truly sprouted wings. Producer Jay Weston of “Lady Sings The Blues” fame says Hudson is definitely intrigued and now writer James McGrath is fashioning a screenplay. Weston is searching for a hot actor to portray the vice cop who fell in love with Lady Day, but was forced to “bust” her.

THE AmFAR fundraiser in Manhattan’s Rainbow Room went off with a bang the other eve and the piece de resistance of the entire event, under the elegant head guy Kenneth Cole, was the on-going appearance of Liza Minnelli who brought the place alive. Liza was in excellent form. The ebullient star is busy channeling her late godmother, Kay Thompson, for material she’ll incorporate into a new club act. (Ms. Thompson was a creative genius of the 50’s/60’s, wrote the “Eloise” books, influenced Judy Garland’s latter-day performing style, and you may remember her as the fashion editor who sings “Think Pink” in the movie “Funny Face.”) At any rate, Liza is off to South America as we speak to raise more money for AmFAR. The names of Dr. Mathilde Krim, Elizabeth Taylor, Sharon Stone, Nicole Kidman and Madonna were liberally sprinkled throughout this glamorous night. All of them, plus Bill Clinton and Bono, are in on solving the international AIDS crisis. At the end of the night, fashion’s Mr. Cole brought Liza to the stage again and offered that she’d sing if 10 stalwarts would ante up $5,000 each for the privilege. Ten of them did and Liza posed for a photo with AmFAR’s benefactors. She offered Gershwin’s immortal “Our Love Is Here To Stay.” AmFAR went home 50K richer.

TODAY we’ll say goodbye and celebrate memories of the incomparable Miss Show Biz, Kitty Hart, and master writer David Halberstam. Kitty’s memorial is at the Majestic Theater on 44th Street at noon – David will be memorialized in Riverside Church at 4 p.m…. RUMORS FROM La La Land: There’s renewed buzz — it’s been ongoing for years — that the giant William Morris talent agency will sell their real estate and oil investments and move from L.A. headquarters to Beverly Drive in beautiful Beverly Hills … PEOPLE are talking about the class action suit being set up by veteran screen and TV writers against the studios, networks and also against talent agencies for — of all things — age discrimination. (Shades of HBO’s youthful “Entourage.”) No one in Hollywood wants to admit that scripts, ideas and pitches are often turned down because the creators are considered “over-age.” (This was the plot of Kirstie Alley’s recent TV movie.) Well, why should Hollywood be different from anywhere else.

DAN BROWN are you listening? In his book “The Da Vinci Code,” author Brown suggested that Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland was built to house the Holy Grail. This innocent little sentence caused visitors to increase annually from 65,000 to 170,000 and the interest shows no sign of abating. One vicar resigned claiming the novel turned the chapel into a “Disneyland for tourists” and fans have taken away pieces of stone and upholstery. Now there is a $26 million campaign to pay for renovations and restorations and build a new visitor’s center. “We haven’t received anything from Dan Brown and he is high up on our list. It was his novel that made us so popular. He’ll be under no obligation, but I hope he’s feeling generous,” say the vicars. Mr. Brown has made about $400 million from his book and that’s before the movie rights.

SOCCER CHAMP David Beckham will earn hundreds of millions, if he can help England qualify for the European championships. So no wonder he left Hollywood and returned to England. And he and wife Victoria’s planned reality show has been scrapped, but I did say that would happen some weeks ago. Now comes a story of how the Beckhams asked hotshot photographer David Bailey to take their picture. Bailey told the Spy column: “They asked me to take a portrait shot of them … but I said no because I was busy. Then they asked again; said they’d pay more. Then the Beckhams said, ‘You can also come to our next party at Beckingham Palace.'” Lensman Bailey: “I told them I’d do it on one condition; that I didn’t have to come to their next party.”

(Email Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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