Alzheimer’s is not taken lightly in “Boston Legal,” although William Shatner’s character “Denny Crane” chooses to diagnose himself with mad cow disease when confronted with his mental lapses by co-star James Spader (“Alan Shore”) in their regular show-closing, cigar-puffing, philosophical tete-a-tetes. In the April 8 segment welcoming the series back post-WGA strike, Candice Bergen’s (“Shirley Schmidt’s”) father is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s.
Wednesday night at the Beverly Hilton, the series was awarded the Abe Burrows Entertainment Award “for its accurate portrayal of Alzheimer’s Disease” at the Alzheimer’s Association’s 16th “Night at Sardi’s.” Bill D’Elia, the show’s exec producer — and frequent director — credited David E.Kelley as the reason for the show’s powerful stories and scripts to match. Kelley, usually reticent about his awards, emphasized the importance of research and the hope for a cure. Almost every member of the cast of “Boston Legal” appeared on stage to celebrate the recognition for Kelley’s show. (Only James Spadeer was absent — he has a heavy court appearance scene today). Also receiving a standing ovation at the event was 13-year-old Lindsey Jordan for taking on the role of caregiver to her Alzheimer’s-stricken father since she was eight years old.
“Bye Bye Birdie” was the 1960 B’way show transported Wednesday night with its original star Dick Van Dyke making a (show-stopping) appearance with composer Charles Strouse accompanying. Jason Alexander, who starred in the TV version, directed and also appeared with Vanessa Wiliams on “Rosie.” Ron Fassler, as Ed Sullivan, sensationally linked the tv-film performers-turned musical for the show’s fast-moving 14 numbers. Susan Dietz produced the show. It was once again (16 times!) Laurie Burrows Grad and husband Peter Grad who chaired the evening and made it all happen. The event raised another $1.1 million for Alzheimer research. In the evening’s program book, Nancy Reagan writes, “I know all too well how terrible it is for the victims of this cruel disease. And I also know how difficult it is for those who dedicate their lives to care for loved ones who cannot care for themselves.” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, fresh from successfully campaigning in Texas with/for Hillary Clinton, helped open the Wednesday evening program to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association of the California Southland.