MPTF anni spawns gifts, tributes & laughs

GOOD MORNING: Saturday night, as the U.S. was making final plans for our first attack against terrorism, close to 1,000 industry workers and supporters were singing “God Bless America.” The singing marked the close of an emotional day/night celebration of the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s 80th Anniversary Commemoration at the Woodland Hills Country House & Hospital’s grounds. The remarkable celebration also noted the dedication of the Roddy McDowall Rose Garden (by Elizabeth Taylor), the dedication by Edie and Lew Wasserman of the Koi pond on the Wasserman campus, the dedication of the Jeffrey Katzenberg Activity Center and the completion of the Fran & Ray Stark villas. The latter, a remarkable three-story facility, was “completed on time and budget,” noted Ray Kurtzman; Ethel Winant is to be the first resident. Not only did the guests marvel at the facilities, they then were treated to a spectacular show in a theater/stage setting created on the grounds for the evening (by Silver Birches). Marijane Miller produced the evening, Richard Hay Alexander directed; David Foster was musical director and “ringmaster” on stage as star after star appeared for the multi-toasting event (at which everybody in the audience was somebody — and from every generation). The day’s take, plus future commitments to sponsor spacious living quarters in the Stark villas (Variety among them), totaled $4 million. It will also start an endowment fund for the facility’s charity care, which cost $1.2 million-$2 million a year, reports Ken Scherer, CEO of the MPTF Foundation.

THE SHOW BEGAN with Foster batoning a quartet that sounded like a symphony orch; Nita Whitaker and 50 youngsters from the Adderley School of Performing Arts sang “The Power of the Dream,” appropriate for the dream of Jean Hersholt and those (shown on historic film) who launched the campus 80 years ago. This same combination finale’d with “God Bless America,” with the entire audience standing to join in. Kirk and Michael Douglas, in light/serious repartee, brought in John Frankenheimer, then Cloris Leachman to tribute Winant, who although wheelchaired, stood in the audience to express her thanks. Thora Birch and David Arquette brought on Kevin Spacey, via tape from location, to effectively tell the need for continuing support. Polly Bergen got a standing ovation for her appropriate rendition of “I’m Still Here.” Lauren Frost sang “There’s No Business Like Show Business”; many chimed in with her stirring rendition. Speakers included Ron Meyer, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ray Kurtzman and Janet Leigh. Suzanne Pleshette, after serious remarks about the contributions of Edie & Lew Wasserman, segued into her hysterically funny remarks about Lew W.’s Koi pond and the “slut” Koi he had shipped out to the facility when she’d overpopulated the Wassermans’ BevHills pond … In his turn, Tim Allen took the opportunity to equally (humorously) skewer Jeff Katzenberg. Haley Joel Osment and Thomas Gibson teamed to tell the MPTF’s fundraising activities. Scott Sassa, Sally Field and Sydney Pollack (on film) gave tributes to Ray Stark and to the completion of the Stark villas. Ray who celebrated his 86th birthday Oct. 3, wasn’t feeling up to attending the cold night. Daughter Wendy, who was there, will show Ray a tape of the memorable event and bring him out there next week.

BOB HOPE, 98,passes on the baton to Wayne Newton as chairman of the USO Celebrity Circle. Newton, who has performed often for the U.S. military at home and abroad, embarks Nov. 12 on his first official celebrity entertainment tour overseas; destination (?) and fellow guests will be announced shortly … Sunday morning (8:15), outside the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, thesps Jerry Doyle and Patrick Van Horn were attacked by a gun-wielding thief. Van Horn gave up some cash when a gun was put to his head, but Doyle answered, “not today” when the gun was put his head. He lived to tell me the tale and to add that his father was a N.Y. cop. The thesps were in Vegas for the preem of UA’s “Devious Beings”… It’s a boy, Wiley Willis Valenti Roberts, born Thursday to parents Courtenay Valenti and Patrick Roberts. The happy grandparents are Mary Margaret and Jack Valenti … All proceeds of lunch this week at Le Colonial will be donated to the N.Y. Firefighters Relief Fund, reports Tony Peck who is now co-owner. He’s there several nights a week. The eatery, with Eric Nguyen as chef, boasts a redesigned upstairs lounge for those who want to keep the party going. Peck and film producing partner Joe Brutsman start shooting their next, “Eurotrash,” next month. Their last, “Diary of a Sex Addict” was bought by Sony … Peter Levinson debuts his book, “September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle” Wednesday night at Dutton’s in Brentwood. Many of those in the book will be there, including Artie Shaw, Sid Luft, Tommy Sands, Benny Carter. The book is the story of one of the greatest arranger/conductors of big band/big singers music; some of the untold tales included in are those about Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney and Linda Ronstadt — who may be readying to record again … Fred Travalena has written a tune, “The Spirit of America.” Last year he wrote 11 original songs for “The Manhattan Christmas Suite.” He’s changed the lyrics to “When It’s Christmas in New York Again.”

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