Jean Smart *Sparkles* in a Contemporary Greek Tragedy
Late at night. A small-town Texas cowboy bar. Enter a middle-aged woman in a sequined cowgirl outfit, complete with a tiara fitted onto her red cowgirl hat. Bar patrons erupt with applause in surprise at her return after so many years, and she subsequently storms the stage in song and performs a pseudo strip tease. During her performance, a young woman donning large, dark sunglasses, a sophisticated up-sweep hairdo, and a 20s style cigarette in holder slinks into the establishment and quietly takes a seat at a table to the side. Minutes later, when the performer has finished her number and collected her tips, she exuberantly makes her way through the crowd of her admirers when she notices the young woman in the corner -- not so incognito to her -- sitting in stifled suspense. Waiting for her mother.
Meet Loreli Daly.
She's a former Miss Texas Gal (1969) returning to an old haunt in this scene decades after being exiled from her hometown of Paris, Texas, on the heels of a tabloid sex scandal.
Since that time, she's lived "somewhere" in Arizona, making her living as a beauty pageant coordinator and being a single parent. She's sacrificed more than she's willing to talk about in order to pave the way for her daughter to become the premiere beauty queen Loreli herself was so mercilessly taken out of the running for. When she looks at all her daughter's glistening tiaras, it sometimes seems like the tragedy of her own life has all been worth it. Of course, her daughter doesn't always agree with her on that point now that she's a young adult.
Thank God for Loreli's boyfriend. Suave and charming, he always manages to find a way to sweep Loreli off her feet and even make her laugh -- something she otherwise wouldn't do. He even wants to marry her. But as much as Loreli needs him and has even found herself in love with him, she can't quite give in to his proposal.
You see, somewhere along the way, each day of Loreli's life became a show starring Loreli Daly. This woman, who's intended to live her life as if she were a heroine in a Jacqueline Susann novel, "dressed in sequins and consumed by tragedy," has taken her intention perhaps a bit too seriously. Thanks to what happened in Texas all those years ago, the tragic part of Loreli's role has always come easily to her, but she's had to work harder to get the sequins aspect down. It simply isn't nearly as easy to sparkle when you're dying inside.
Yet sparkle, she does. When Loreli walks into a room, all eyes are on her. She's exuberant and colorful, commanding and demanding; she is, in short, a diva. In keeping with this public persona, she often seems out of place, living the life of a character from a movie or a novel no one around her has seen or read. She's intriguing to observers as a result, and that's why people are so drawn to watch her. But that Loreli isn't real.
At this point in her story, the real Loreli is only a glimpse of a reflection of this woman in front of a lighted vanity mirror. For a few seconds each day, she appears in Loreli's mirror when she sits down to begin her requisite transformation -- to take her place on the stage of the life she believes she's valiantly made for herself and her daughter in spite of what that same life has dealt. She doesn't recognize this woman as herself during these precious few moments; in Loreli's mind, this image is something she must cover-up and make-up; or else she must actually face the woman she left behind. And there's no chance in hell Loreli Daly's about to do that.
To do so, Loreli would have to admit to herself that she had a choice all those years ago, just as she has had every day of all the years since. There may be a part of her that, in retrospect, regrets that pivotal choice and all the ones she made subsequently, but (Loreli might reason if she could even face that image in the mirror) there's nothing that can change the resulting fact now. Not even her invitation to go back there again and coordinate the Miss Texas Tiara Quest.
And that's why she crumpled the invitation in her hand and threw it in the trash.
Meet Corrine Daly.
She's Loreli's daughter -- the young woman in the dark sunglasses awaiting her mother's exit from the stage. She's grown up a lot during the last week or so. She's grown up a lot in the last two days.
During the weeks preceding their tip to Texas, Corrine made it her practice to rebel against her mother -- her pouting, feet-stomping, and door-slamming accompanying nearly every encounter with Loreli. The truth is, sometimes Corrine wondered if her mother even loved her at all or if she just loved the 250 tiaras Corrine won, wore, brought home for display, and dusted daily under her mother's direction. Nothing else she did now seemed to really grab Loreli's attention; not graduating just two weeks ago from Miss Vi Ambrose's Beauty Academy, and certainly not Corrine's increasingly defiant insistence that she would venture out on her own to Hollywood to be the premiere plucker of starlets' eyebrows. Instead, Loreli always seemed to be able to pout more effectively, stomp her feet more loudly, and slam doors more tightly than Corrine. It was always about Loreli!
The only time she can recall that she could really get Loreli's attention was whenever Corrine would ask her mother why they couldn't go home to Texas, and even then all her mother would answer was: "Texas and Miss Texas Gal are just not meant to be."
All of this, of course, only made Corrine more determined.
And then she found her mother's crumpled invitation for the Texas Tiara Quest in the trash.
She wasn't quite sure how yet, but Corrine knew this invitation was her ticket out and she tucked it away, biding her time. It all started to come together for Corrine later that day at her graduation; it even ended up being provident rather than disappointing that Loreli chose to coordinate the local PTA fashion show in lieu of attending her daughter's graduation. Corrine knew Liz would be there; after all, her childhood friend was always there to cheer her on and take pictures whenever Corrine had a moment in the spotlight -- which meant Liz was there a lot. But Tiffany Dawl?! Her presence was unexpected.
Oh, yes, the tide was turning. And it was turning in Corrine's favor.
Meet Tiffany Dawl.
She's the surprise twist in Corrine's yet-to-be-planned-out plan.
Though she grew up with Corrine and Liz on the pageant circuit, Tiffany had been scarce around town for quite some time now, grooming herself instead for a career in television journalism. Unfortunately, she had to pay her local dues first -- which meant she had to cover this stupid little beauty school graduation. God, she was so much better than all this mediocrity! She had to find a real story -- one that all of the primetime news shows would fight over. One that Tiffany, of course, would present.
She never thought she'd ever see the day she was grateful to run into Corrine Daly. In fact, she'd tried all day long to hide from that plastic commoner. Thank God for once she wasn't successful.
Corrine eventually cornered her and told Tiffany about Loreli's invitation for the Texas Tiara Quest.
Even Tiffany had to admit it was intriguing. More than that, it held brilliant promise for a documentary: old beauty queen run out of town returns to face her past. And then, of course, there was Loreli's secret. What had really happened all those years ago in Paris, Texas? Mary Hart, eat your heart out!
Yes, this invitation had definite promise.
Now Tiffany just had to put the rest of the characters in place.
Meet Liz Guild.
She's the loyal, but plain and ordinary, friend of Corrine's. There's never been any surprise or defiance or star power in Liz, but for some reason she can't fathom and is grateful for, Corrine has always let her hang around.
Nothing at Liz's job as a guard in the local women's prison could ever hold a candle to the glamour and drama she's privy to at the Daly house. She isn't even glamorous enough herself to hold onto her boyfriend, Barry, who has left her and run off to Texas with all her clothes. So, when Corrine mentioned finding her mother's invitation in the trash and her plan to use it as her own ticket out, and then Tiffany came on board with her plan to help Corrine by convincing Loreli to accept the invitation and use it as her ticket out, there was no question that Liz would be on board -- even if she had to buy her own ticket just to go along with them for the ride. And she would find Barry.
If only she hadn't tried to fit in with all the glamour. If only she hadn't been crying over Barry again.
If only she'd used better eyelash glue.
Meet Lyle Devereaux Green.
He's Loreli's long-time lover. Sure he's a washed-up pageant MC, almost always seen donning a (most likely faux) silk housecoat and holding a martini glass ready with a line for any number of ladies, but he's the only one with whom Loreli has ever opened herself. And he clearly loves her. In fact, he's devoted to her.
Earlier in the week he'd encouraged Loreli to face her past and promised to be by her side every step of the way. He geared up his winnebego, and the two of them set out on their road trip to Paris, Texas. Loreli's daughter and her two friends accompanied them; Corrine never seemed to like him much, but her two friends were intriguing. Or, at least, intrigued. Lyle couldn't quite put his finger on it, but the three of them almost seemed to be up to something other than supporting Loreli during this difficult time.
Then again, what the hell! Lyle was in his element: the woman he loved and three other lovely ladies all there in his winnebego, and he was the only male, the only strong shoulder, the only protector. He was the man. No one knew better than Lyle how important and difficult this journey was for Loreli, and he made sure he was there for her. He shook (and drank) martinis for Loreli; he tangoed and wooed her..... Okay, so he also managed to flirt a little with Corrine's friends along the way and pull his Rico Suave routine to cheer up sobbing, lovelorn Liz. And, well, he'd also managed over the years to swallow -- unintentionally -- his share of olives whole. But a fake eyelash in his martini? That just had bad omen written all over it -- shaken or stirred. And everyone in the winnebego knew it.
Despite the eyelash incident, even on this night of Loreli's performance, Lyle continues to prove his steadfast loyalty to her.
After all, he's still there in the winnebego when Loreli returns from the bar, drunk, and finally ready to face him and her past. No, things aren't the same -- this time it's Loreli who makes the martinis, and it's Loreli who does all the talking, and it's Loreli who reaches out to Lyle.
And that's how it has to be. Because at this point in Loreli's story, Lyle is dead.
An open field off the highway somewhere in Kansas. On the edge of the road, a winnebego is parked haphazardly from which a middle-aged woman has burst through the trailer door, a young woman angrily exiting after her. A passionate battle ensues over who stole whose life, and what in the hell really happened all those years ago. Meanwhile, in the winnebego, two young women debate over the survival of the fittest taking place outside. There's only one way to find out who will come out on top, they decide, and they exit the winnebego to take their own places on the field……
Meet Forever Fabulous.
Tuesday, October 16, Lifetime Movie Network, 8pm and 11:30pm (EST).
Written and directed by Werner Molinsky, Forever Fabulous stars Jean Smart as Loreli Daly, Robert Wagner as Lyle Deveraux Green, and Jennifer Elise Cox as Corrine Daly. With Emily Proctor as Tiffany and Jorja Fox as Liz. Special appearance by Mink Stole as Miss Vi Ambrose.
-- Amie Martin
**A transcript of Top That!'s exclusive interview with writer/filmmaker Werner Molinsky is available on Jean Smart's official website at: Smart Stuff: Officially Jean Smart**
Writer/Director Werner Molinsky
The Official Forever Fabulous Website
Smart Stuff: Officially Jean Smart
Filbert Steps Productions
Photo Credits: Beck Starr
(77) What television series starring Robert Wagner (Lyle) also brought two
future Designing Women together in guest roles which subsequently inspired
Linda Bloodworth-Thomason to write a show featuring the actresses? Who were
the DW actresses?
(78) What current Emmy-nominated series featured Emily Proctor (Tiffany)
this past season as another surprise twist?
(79) What current Emmy-nominated series co-stars Jorja Fox (Liz) in another
criminal justice role?
(80) What film about a classic television series starred Jennifer Elise Cox
(Corrine) as another young adult frustrated by living in the shadow of one
of her older female relatives? Which of her Forever Fabulous co-stars also appeared in the film and in what role?
* Answers will appear in the next issue.
Trivia Answers from Issue #19
(73) What man do Suzanne Sugarbaker and Family Law's Lynn Holt have in common?
Both have an ex-husband played by actor Gregg Henry
(74) Which Frasier star made a guest appearance on Designing Women?
(75) What other famous sci-fi series featured Scott Bakula in the lead role?
(76) We remember him from DW, but Patrick Warburton is better known to TV audiences for playing the dim-witted mechanic boyfriend of another character on which hit sitcom?
He played Elaine's boyfriend on Seinfeld
The 15th Anniversary Celebration continues later this week as "Belled" speaks with the creative mind behind both Designing Women and the new hit Emeril -- Linda Bloodworth.