Family learns of Meadows’ cancer

GOOD MORNING: A tearful Jayne Meadows called me yesterday to forewarn friends that her sister Audrey Meadows is terminally ill. Audrey had kept her cancer a secret from everyone, including Jayne. But tabloids had gotten wind of Audrey’s hospitalization, and tried to deliver a bouquet of flowers to Jayne at home, with a request to call the tab. Also, at the taping of “High Society,” they tried to get through to her to discuss her sister’s terminal illness. However, husband Steve Allen kept the information from Jayne until after the taping Tuesday night, when she rushed to the hospital; she stayed with her sister until early morning when “they had to pry my hands away,” said an emotional Jayne. “We thought she was in the hospital for treatment of a blood clot and phlebitis,” she said, “but we learned she had concealed cancer (from us) for a year. She was so full of life just a month ago.” Jayne said their brother George Edward Cotter, VP of Continental Airlines, died of a heart attack while Jayne was recently filming her “heart attack” sequence in “High Society”… Ray Katz was equally in shock when he learned of Audrey’s tragic illness. She had been his “best friend” for over 40 years –“I knew her longer than Eva (Gabor),” he sadly said, reminding that his “sister,” Eva Gabor died last year after a short illness … Manager Katz had known Audrey pre-“Honeymooners” days. She retired when she married Bob Six, but after his death she decided to return to work and Katz helped her plan two series. Ironically, after Eva died, Katz had insisted she prepare her will. She did — with the help of a nephew (the Allens’ son Bill) and a niece. It’s all too sad.

RONALD REAGAN, LOOKING HANDSOME, was passing out jelly beans to a few visitors at his office yesterday — but he is not expected to attend his 85th birthday party at Chasen’s Feb. 6, when 450-500 friends will pay $1,000 per person to benefit the Ronald Reagan Library Endowment Fund. The party will expand beyond the (now-shuttered) Chasen’s doors into the parking lot, where Regal Rents will set up a giant tent. Chasen’s regular waiters and captains led by Ronnie Clint will make it seem like Reagan’s many old times in the beanery. And the restaurant’s former head party captain, Arli, who now has his own catering service, will prepare the “traditional” Chasen’s party menu of smoked salmon, chicken pot pie and dessert of snowball (ice cream) covered with coconut and chocolate sauce. Chili and miniature pancakes and caviar will be served during cocktails. As of now, Nancy Reagan, who will be there, has asked there be no birthday cake — without Ronnie on hand to blow out the candles it would be inappropriate. Chasen’s is where Ronnie proposed to Nancy, according to lore. Merv Griffin will m.c. the evening’s festivities and will play the piano for Johnny Mathis. Merv will undoubtedly also chime in, he admits. “I can play anything Johnny wants to sing — he knows every song ever written.” (So does Merv!) One of the tunes Merv expects they’ll do is “As Time Goes By”– from “Casablanca,” in which Reagan was once slated to star at his alma mater, WB. Among those expected to speak: President Gerald Ford, Gen. Colin Powell, Newt Gingrich and Gov. Pete Wilson … Friday is Elfi von Dassanowsky Day in Calif. on the occasion of the 50th anni of her international career in music, cinema and arts exchange. She refused Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels and survived to tell of it. In Hollywood she became a top vocal coach for newly arrived foreign stars here and continued international cultural exchange work … At 31, Bradley Phillip Bell becomes (one of?) the youngest exec producers in daytime with his promotion to exec producer of “The Bold & the Beautiful”; he co-created the show in 1987 (when he was 22!) and currently is head writer, and supervising producer.

LIFE IMITATING ART on the track at UCLA (pre-rains), where Charlayne Woodward (“An Eye for an Eye”) ran into Olympic Gold medal winner Gail Devers, whom she will portray in Showtime’s “Godspeed.” Devers, who came back from Graves Disease to win the gold in the 100 meters in Barcelona, 1992, is now readying for the Atlanta Olympics. Showtime plans a pre-Olympics summer bow. Louis Gossett plays Devers’ coach and is an exec producer … The N.Y. Board of the Friars named David Tebet an honorary officer with the title of “Chamberlain.” Dave’s a member for 23 years and was the first recipient of their Man of the Year Award — and he’s produced 18 of their famous celebrity tributes … Emmy winner Fyvush Finkel was presented with a life membership in the Friars after he and pianist-son Elliot performed before a sellout crowd at the BevHills Club. Steve Allen m.c’d. The audience included members Milton Berle, Dave Barry, Tony Curtis , Jack Carter, plus Estelle Getty, Dick Van Patten, Martin Landau and “Picket Fences’ ” David Kelley and wife Michelle Pfeiffer … Steve Allen and Phyllis Diller team up for the first time with three dates in Florida: Sarasota, Ft. Lauderdale and St. Petersburg, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday.