Friday, January 4, 2019

Seeing Stars: Part One

Happy New Year, my loves. Your webmaster has been busy as usual thanks to end of year details at work, a string of holiday engage- ments and, if we're being honest, a bit of a health crisis which hopefully is behind me as we kick off 2019. In our convalescence, we stumbled upon some televised programming that is right up our alley. That is, glitzy, celebrity-laden, 1980s craziness in which we can not only see some stars who are featured in the program, but also play "spot the star" during brief cutaways from the action. These specials were called "All-Star Party for _____ _____" and the first one we're looking at was for Mr. Clint Eastwood in 1986.

The Variety Club, founded in 1927 by eleven show business- men in Pittsburgh, PA, soon found itself in the throes of a bizarre situation when a woman left a month-old baby named Catherine on the steps of their building claiming she could not care for her as she had eight other children (!) at home and had heard of the generosity of show people.

The club proceeded to care for the child's financial welfare and education, naming her Catherine Variety Sheridan (after the group itself and the theatre building where she was left) and she was ultimately adopted at age six. From that initial act of kindness grew a considerable charity organization. By the 1970s, the California chapter was packed with stars who threw an annual bash on an unsuspecting member of the club and dedicated a hospital wing in that person's name. The ceremony was often televised and included intimate musical performances and tributes from friends and costars.

What is a real hoot for me is that a) the decor of the set is ornate and "glamor- ous," putting me in the mind of The Promenade Room from The Towering Inferno, especially since everyone is in evening wear, b) the combinations of people you might not ordinarily expect to see together is fascinating and c) since the place is done up with so much shrubbery and hedgerows, it's almost like a Hollywood version of a cabbage patch, with famous heads popping up here and there to get a look at what's going on around them! Only a handful of people officially entertained, so you have to look quickly while you can for glimpses of the other stars on-hand. Naturally, I've gone to the trouble of doing this for you, my loyal friends!

Host for many years, Monty Hall of Let's Make a Deal fame. To the left in sunglasses is Dolores Hope.
Man of the Hour, Clint Eastwood. It's funny. In 1986, I thought ol' Clint (then fifty-six) looked a bit old and craggy. Now more than thirty years hence, I look back and he's rather handsome!
Eastwood had just done Heartbreak Ridge with Marsha Mason, who spoke. Note behind her guests George Peppard and Earl Holliman.
Miss Roberta Flack sang her hit "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" which was prominently featured in Eastwood's directorial debut Play Misty For Me (1971.)
This was one of the few times that Clint seemed to get a bit sentimental. Next to him is Sondra Locke without makeup his mother Joan.
Geoffrey Lewis peeking out from behind Merv Griffin's head. In front is Altovise Davis, wife of Sammy, with Eva Gabor perched in-bewteen them.
Legendary Bob Hope, who was actually sort of amusing.
Ageless Cary Grant, who left movies in 1966 because he "didn't look like Cary Grant anymore."
Insult comedian Don Rickles, who worked with Eastwood on Kelly's Heroes (1970) and who was really rather funny this time out...
Audience member Harvey Korman.
Sondra Locke on the other side of the table from Clint. (His kids were on one side and his mother and stepfather on the other.) This was three years before their (ugly) split.
James Stewart (with wife Gloria behind him, who died of lung cancer in 1999.)
Audience member Mike Connors of Mannix.
One of the Bizarro World combinations to be found at these functions. Dick Van Patten of Eight is Enough, Susan Sullivan of Falcon Crest and Marjoe Gortner snuggled in-between.
Zsa Zsa Gabor showing off her spanking new "prince charming," Frederic Prinz von Anhalt.
Gabor felt the brunt of one of Don Rickles' remarks when he said she could be found on top of a farmhouse making rooster sounds, thanks to her get-up! She took it in good stride...
He also ribbed Michele Lee, saying that she'd just wanted her name mentioned...
Another unexpected audience combination, Knots Landings' Joan Van Ark and Hill St. Blues' James B. Sikking.
Cesar Romero who Rickles said was "so great in the '40s."
Audience member Jonathan Winters, who took a licking from Rickles over his alleged past drinking.
Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Rickles said they were just happy to have scored a table.
Actor and singer of the 1920s and '30s, Buddy Rogers.
June Haver and Fred MacMurray. Rickles said (the notoriously tight) Fred was glad to be there because it didn't cost him anything...!
Sammy Davis Jr. sang "Misty," which was also focused on in Eastwood's Play Misty for Me. (Yet strangely, no Donna Mills sighting despite her Knots costars being there.)
A more thoughtful/pensive moment during Sammy's song. Clint almost resembles Arnie Schwarzenegger here!
Laugh-In's Dick Martin and his wife Dolly (Read) Martin. You might remember her as the star of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970.)
More random star sightings in the cabbage patch crowd: Abby Dalton of Falcon Crest, Bernie Kopell of The Love Boat and Happy Days' Tom Bosley.
James Stewart showing off the tacky-liscious set.
A brief glimpse of I Dream of Jeannie's Barbara Eden.
Two more folks you don't expect to see together: The Brady Bunch's Florence Henderson and Michele Lee. Wessonality and Personality. LOL
The Golden Girls' Miss Bea Arthur damn near slid by me, her appearance was so brief and I wasn't expecting the glasses...!
Michele Lee seems to be angling for more facetime than Eastwood! Fred MacMurray allowed the career-killer The Swarm (1978) to be his final acting role. His health declined from 1988 on until his passing in 1991.
It seems rare indeed to me to see Charles Bronson at an event like this. However, he'd actually gotten up and spoken about a decade earlier at the party for John Wayne, of all people.
His wife Jill Ireland, looking lovely, had already fought cancer since 1984 and written two books on the subject. Sadly, she was gone by 1990 at only age fifty-four.
Phyllis Diller was barely visible in the show and was sporting all-in big hair and gold lame '80s regalia.
Also seen only fleetingly was Cagney & Lacey's Tyne Daly, who memorably played Eastwood's police partner in The Enforcer (1976.)
As Monty Hall invited the prior year's honoree Lucille Ball up on stage to present Clint with his proposed charity wing, One could spot Robert Conrad to the left (sneaking an occasional puff whenever possible.)
This was the same year that Ball debuted her latest TV show Life with Lucy, which wound up a complete debacle, ending her career and, in some ways, her life from the sting of it. She passed away in 1989 after a decline in health the year before.
Lastly, next to (the intense throughout!) Conrad, one can spot Too Close for Comfort's Nancy Dussault. Clint's namesake was The Clint Eastwood Recovery Center, a new second floor for treatment of chemical addicts at Community Hospital of The Monterrey Peninsula. Eastwood was then mayor of nearby Carmel.
This shot is from the 50th Anniversary of the Variety Club bashes and was held in Monaco. Monty Hall and Princess Grace (another unusual smash-up!) are in the center.
But what of the little orphan girl left on the steps of the Pittsburgh theater who inspired all of this? She was tracked down all those years later for the anniversary bash (amid some claims of disbelief that the club wanted to dispel) and was introduced to a surging clamor of adulation from the celebrities in attendance. She had been adopted, renamed Joan and lived a happy life with her new family, always keeping in occasional contact with her primary benefactor from the initial Variety Club, John Harris. She had ultimately became a mother herself of four children and settled in North Carolina.

6 comments:

A said...

This was a nice treat Poseidon! I wanna know who that is sitting next to George Peppard, behind Marsha Mason. Somehow, I had no idea Dick Martin was married to Dolly Read. And I surprised at what a looker Frederic Prinz von Anhalt was. Thanks for the post!

D ODay said...

I do not remember these shows at all, but that was back when I could stay awake past 9:30 pm, so we'll assume I had better things to do.
Interesting to see what passed for glamour back then. I wonder if the guests were supplied with machetes to hack their way to the dais?
I think Clint looks mighty good here - reminds me a bit of Sam Rockwell in "Three Billboards". Of all the folks shown here, he is about the only one still with us.

Scooter said...

What a nice surprise this was. Thanks for posting and I hope you are feeling better!

Poseidon3 said...

A, I agree. In retrospect, Prince Frederic was lookin' pretty good! As for the mystery man, I'm afraid I have no clue. There was a chic blonde lady in-between Peppard and him and I couldn't see if there was anyone else between him and Earl Holliman (whose date he might have been! LOL) Lucy made a remark that Clint loaded down the room with many of the tech crew and staff from many of his films in lieu of celebrity friends and that they were sprinkled throughout, so maybe he's a behind-the-scenes guy.

D ODay, that is hysterical about the machetes...! I mean, the room was just ridiculous! Why obscure peoples' views even further in a crowded room?! They were like hedge cubicles or something.

Thank you, Scooter. I'm glad you liked this! ;-)

Gingerguy said...

I am late to the party and hope I can still get a seat next to Joan Van Ark.
The shrubs look exactly like Towering Inferno!
Clint is gorgeous here and I would have thought he was Methuselah back then. I was just looking at a billboard for "The Mule" and thinking that for 90 he had a great profile.
I loved Cary Grant's glasses back then, now I wear thick black frames but unfortunately not as well as he did.
Love the wedding guest table combos. they probably didn't know where to put Marjoe.
Prince Charming is hot! I always thought gay but there is controversy about that.
I forgot Dick Martin married Miss "Carrie Nation" she was a playmate of the year. The cigarettes dangling are a scream.
Lol wessonality Poseidon. This had a sweet beginning and end, very fun read.

Poseidon3 said...

Ginge, I am screaming....! Can you imagine if that room had caught fire?! Suddenly Roz Kelly, Jayne Kennedy and Howard Hesseman would have instantly become A-List stars for lack of competition. Speaking of, Cary and his glasses might have made quite a James Duncan (William Holden's part) in TTI and a real change of pace for him. Somehow I can see him cursing a fluently, though. I used to see Dolly Martin on "Match Game" reruns and didn't equate her with Dolly Read...! That's a real interesting marital match, right? She had a great sense of humor, which probably came in handy.