“You can take the boy out of the country — but you can’t take the country out of the boy” rang true inside the Beverly Hills High School auditorium Saturday night. Well, sort of. It was the 22nd Annual New York High School Alumni Reunion. The evening’s two honorees did not qualify as N.Y.H.S. graduates — so they were uniquely toasted. Canadian-born director Arthur Hiller was “adopted” by the city and Rita Moreno, who never received her graduation diploma 60 years ago, finally received it from James Dawson, Headmaster of the Professional Children’s School. Moreno, who performs her one-woman show around the country at top venues such as New York’s Cafe Carlyle, lamented the fact there’s no L.A. club any more for solo stars like herself to work. Hiller said he is very qualified to be considered a New Yorker as his parents were married there in 1907 before moving to Canada. And Hiller also reminded that he’s directed more films in N.Y. than in L.A. He’d even directed then-Mayor Ed Koch in a movie scene.
It was strictly SRO — 1400-strong — in the BevHills High School auditorium as many guests arrived in the afternoon to snack and shmooze on the campus. The three hour-plus show, complete with intermission, was loaded with laughs thanks to emcees Sal Richards and Freddie Roman, not to mention Brian Childers, Stewie Stone, Dick Capri, Budd Friedman (filmed while getting a Bronx street named after him) and Sid Caesar, who, as always, performed a multilingual tribute to the honorees. The event included the musical contributions of Theo Bikel, Mike Burstyn, Julie Budd, Robbie Britt and a terrific orchestra led by John Setar. Dick Gautier, Rabbi Jerry Cutler and Monty Hall made the presentation to Arthur Hiller while Jon Voight and George Chakiris did the honors for Rita Moreno, who also received a pre-taped message of congratulations from friend and frequent co-star, Tony Orlando. Also asked to take a bow from the audience was Charles Durning, who will be honored at next year’s SAG awards. Lance LeGault was the show’s voiceover announcer. The reunion did not serve as a fund-raiser and Lou Zigman, who exec produced the show (tickets $40-150) said “If we make any money, it goes into next year’s show. And if it loses money, I can deal with it. There’s no budget — whatever it takes.” An alumnus of New York’s Abraham Lincoln High School and Beverly Hills High who loves both alma maters equally, he’s an arbitrator in labor disputes, showbiz included.
On the serious front:
Today, Admiral Mike Mullen, who was sworn in Monday as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, departed for Iraq and Afghanistan. He had also summoned Army and Marine Corps Generals and Admirals from the fleets to meet there with him. He is intent on examining the wars first-hand — and planning the peace. One of the reasons we proudly follow the career of Mike Mullen is because he grew up in the San Fernando Valley as the son of my late friends Jane and Jack Mullen who were highly-respected Hollywood press agents. They would have been especially proud, as are we.