Milton Berle, Carol Burnett, George Burns, Jonathan Winters, Red Skelton and Walter Matthau became the first inductees into the Comedy Hall of Fame Sunday, but Heidi Fleiss stole the show offstage.
Producer George Schlatter — who was so inundated Monday with related calls from the press that he was answering his phone “Heidi Central”– said the alleged madam came as a guest of Victoria Sellers, the late Peter Sellers’ daughter, who had cleared bringing her friend with Schlatter’s office.
“Here, we had all these comedy legends and all anyone wanted to talk about was Heidi,” he said.
Meanwhile, back at the production, some 800 industry members and more than a dozen celebrities — including presenters Sharon Stone, Jack Lemmon, Burt Reynolds, Glenda Jackson, Richard Lewis, Michael Richards, Pam Dawber, Phil Hartman, Paul Rei-/ser, John Ritter and Tim Conway — turned out for the event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
High points were a hilarious opening number featuring Jason Alexander and a bevy of dancing beauties, a sketch in which Conway staged a phone-in to introduce Burnett, and a moving speech by Burnett paying tribute to Lucille Ball.
The inductees were touched by the honors. Out of a lifetime of accolades, said Berle, “This one is the most recent. I’m just glad to receive this award while I can still lift it.”
Schlatter also produces the American Television Awards, American Comedy Awards and other comedy and music specials. He said he came up with a Hall of Fame spec to draw attention to comedy’s contribution to the industry, and to the comedy footage he will donate to the Museum of Radio and Television in New York and the UCLA film and television archives.
The event was taped for a two-hour show to air Nov. 3 on NBC.