Lee gets free ride to BevHilton

GOOD MORNING: Who was that platinum blonde being wheelchaired down Wilshire Boulevard with a cat on her lap, heading toward the BevHilton Monday afternoon? It was Peggy Lee en route to rehearsals for her Society of Singers honors — after her limo broke down at the corner of Glendon and Wilshire in Westwood! Lee , her production manager Robert Paul and secretary Jane David were unable to find a cab until they were near the L.A. Country Club! It took ’em an hour and a half to finally get to the Hilton. Telling me about the misadventure Monday after the fantastic tribute evening, Peggy thought it was hilarious. And it will be part of her next book — which will also contain the story of her famous 4 1/ 2-year battle with Disney … One of the great clips assembled by Jack Haley Jr. for the tribute included a Walt Disney “Wonderful World of Color” seg with Walt showing how Peggy and Sonny Burke created the “Lady and the Tramp” songs and characters. Peggy says the judge threw that taped evidence out of court. Lee, although wheelchaired, is finally regaining her health and is off to London for dates at the Connaught and Royal Festival Hall. The British receptions will have to go far to equal the love and adulation showered on Lee at the Society of Singers tribute, where $ 500,000 was raised for their charity to help needy singers. Ginny Mancini, who chaired (with Jeanne Hazard), told me now that she’s completed this event, she’ll devote all of her time to husband Henry … The Peggy Lee night was produced by George Schlatter and Haley and the talent was all superb: Ruth Brown, Natalie Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, Jack Jones, k.d. lang, the Manhattan Transfer, Joe Williams, SOS chorus, Juggernaut Orch, Lou Levy Trio, Earl Brown, Ray Charles, Gary Owens, Polly Bergen, Bea Arthur, Johnny Mathis. As great as they were, they were no match for Lee, seated at the honoree table midroom as she finale’d by singing lovingly to the crowd, “S’Wonderful, s’marvelous, that you could care for me.” We all do. She slowly rose from her wheelchair to thunderous applause. Then, the audience, led by the dozens of singers at all tables, sang the SOS theme, “Dream”– of a home for their less-fortunate members.

FIRST THE GOOD NEWS: Amy Irving joins Tony Hopkins as Tony Awards co-host June 12 from the Gershwin, airing on CBS 9-11 p.m. Irving’s on Broadway in Arthur Miller’s drama “Broken Glass” and also appeared in B’way’s “Amadeus” and “Heartbreak House.” And now, for a program change — Glenn Close will not be singing, as Norma Desmond, a “Sunset Boulevard” tune live from the Shubert stage to Tony viewers. However, she will be a presenter, live, from those boards, but not in Desmond makeup and costume. That surprise will be preserved for audiences during regular performances. She’ll have 20 minutes after her Tony presentation to get into makeup and dress for the show. Meanwhile, a “Show Boat” number, “Ol’ Man River,” from the B’way-bound Toronto company, will be added to the Tonys by exec producer Gary Smith …”Burke’s Law” is becoming an “audition” for future Aaron Spelling series: John Schneider, who appeared in a “Burke’s” seg, will star in “Heaven Help Us,” a new series for the Spelling Premiere Network, and Claire Yarlett, who appeared in another “Law,” will star in “Robin’s Hoods,” also for Spelling … Harry’s Haven, the Motion Picture & TV Fund’s Alzheimer Care Unit named in memory of Kirk’s father, has been recognized as a national model of care by the National Alzheimer’s Assn. Anne and Kirk Douglas have already given the unit $ 1 million with a commitment to raise another. And this is only one of the Douglases’ several community contributions.

ADD EXCUSES TO STAY HOME — and shop: Ray Manzella, who brought Fred Hayman into the Home Shopping Club on April 16, is now producing the West Fest in Copper Mountain, Colo. The event will boast top Western performers, including Merle Haggard, along with the sale of one-of-a-kind Western products. Manzella’s clients (including Vanna White and Suzanne Somers) have sold more than $ 1 billion (that’s with a B) worth of products through TV shopping to date … Diahann Carroll is honored by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters May 20 at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. Hal Kanter heads the dais … Bob Hope plays the QE2 June 5-6 en route to England, where he’ll perform at the Royal Albert Hall and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall … Producer Veronica Chambers and Joan Stein are hoping to bring back “Forever Plaid” to the Canon this fall … Meanwhile, Stein and her “Ruthless!” co-producer Elizabeth Williams are checking Broadway and availabilities following the show’s run at the Canon.

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