There’s No Birthday Party Like Berlin’s

“Happy birthday, dear Irving.” The sounds of singing--some recognizably good voices mingling with a few that couldn’t carry the tune but were full of genuine enthusiasm anyway--rose to the high, white painted beams in the huge living room of Ginny and Henry Mancini’s home.

Berlin, the 97-year-old Irving in the birthday wishes, was at home in New York. And his birthday party Sunday (although his actual birthday was May 11), hosted by the Friends of the Foundation for New American Music, was taking place in upper Bel-Air. But the proceedings were videotaped so that Berlin will be able to enjoy his birthday party even if it’s a few days late.

This was the second annual “Irving Berlin birthday and sing-along,” said Bobbie Elliot, who had been dreaming of such a party for a few years. Bobbie is the wife of Jack Elliot, director of the New American Orchestra and new golf champ (he won a tournament in Hawaii). Ginny Mancini added: “Last year we didn’t know him very well so we sang ‘Happy birthday, Mr. Berlin.’ Now I think we can call him Irving.”

The musical evening had only one non-Berlin tune and that was “Happy Birthday.” Although after a while a few thought maybe Berlin had written that song too. He’d written, according to song leader Ray Charles of the Ray Charles Singers, a tune for practically every important occasion.


At the baby grand in the middle of the room Stan Freeman played such favorite Berlin standards as “White Christmas,” “Always,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and such talents as Charles, Andy Williams, Gogi Grant, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Hal Linden, Kenny Rankin, Ginny Mancini and daughter Monica (they sang “Sisters”), Estelle Reiner (husband Carl looked on approvingly when she sang), Steve Davis and Pam Souder sang more Berlin classics (“Careful, It’s My Heart,” “But What About Me”). Charles mentioned that “we skimmed the list (of Berlin’s output) and came up with 75 . . . there are probably 1,000.”

The birthday party began with a long cocktail hour where producer Jerry Perenchio and some of his pals anchored themselves at the bar. And people like Peggy Parker (she won two big prizes at SHARE’s Boomtown), producer Walter Grauman (his next TV film is “Covenant”), Ronnie Cowan and Jeff Lane (they’d arrived from London the previous day), Ava Ostern (best chum Chuck Fries was in the East for a son’s graduation), producer Barbara Abeles, Jorge Lidio Vinuela (Argentine’s acting consul) and his wife, Fred and Peggy Hartley, Lee and Larry Ramer, who have just bought a New York apartment, the Joe Smiths, Pat Hearst, the Leon Feldmans, circled the Brie that was bubbling away in a silver chafing dish. Tony O’Meara’s crew served the Irish stew on French rolls and the rest of dinner buffet style in the kitchen. And then everybody buckled down to sing along on “You’re in the Army, Mr. Jones,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “God Bless America” and more.

Although the Mancinis were leaving for London the next day with grandson Christopher, they weren’t hurrying anyone out that night. (In London, Big Hank will score “Santa Claus” and Ginny and Chris will sightsee.) There were still guests humming along close to midnight and some still savoring those last bites of Irving Berlin’s birthday cake.

A few days before, on a Sunday to be exact, Henry Rogers, the public-relations expert, had started his third book. Which put him in the right mood to host, with his wife Roz, a literary cocktail party in honor of Tina Brown, the bright-eyed editor who put the snap in London’s Tatler and is now doing the same for Conde Nast’s Vanity Fair.


Tina, in a white blouson and black skirt, was down in the screened patio talking about Southern California (it will be dissected in Vanity Fair’s November issue) with Nancy and Tim Vreeland and Alan (he’s just finished the third rewrite on his first novel) and Nancy Livingston. Over at the other corner, Tina’s husband, Harold Evans, author of “Good Times, Bad Times” and editorial director of U.S. News and World Report, was talking business with David Murdock. Murdock said in passing that his mail and that of press lord (and now movie and TV tycoon) Rupert Murdoch’s were often confused. And Evans countered with the fact that his book is going to be made into a miniseries and that Walter Matthau had briefly been considered for the role of Murdoch, Evans’ boss at the end of his stint as editor of the Times of London.

In the den, Armand and Harriet Deutsch were introducing her grandson, handsome Don Granger, a summa cum laude graduate of Yale who begins his career as a New York stock investor soon. Pipe in mouth, prolific author Irving Wallace was being interviewed by British Vogue’s Jill Spalding, who’s writing a piece on smokers. Sylvia Wallace reported that she’s writing a new novel and that son David and daughter Amy have new book contracts. Others settling here and there--the Rogers’ son Ron and his wife, attorney Lisa Specht, Vogue’s Eleanore Phillips, Caroline Cushing who is Vanity Fair’s Los Angeles correspondent; and Howard Kaminsky, president of Random House.

The Social Scramble: The Sunday Night Supper Club, a group that’s been meeting regularly for the past 17 years to dine and dance Sunday nights away, closes this season with Friday night’s dinner-dance at the Bel-Air Country Club. Among those in charge are Mrs. Fletcher Hall and Mrs. John Hadley and committee members Mrs. Robert Barry, Mrs. William Bettingen, Mrs. E. John Brandeis, Luppe Luppen, Mrs. Everts Moulton, Mrs. Robert Sides, Mrs. Thomas Sternberg, coordinating chairman Mrs. Homer Toberman and a few others who know what makes parties fun. As usual it’s Ray Moshay and his band that will play all those danceable (and this crowd does love to dance) music. All set for the evening are, among loads more, the James Moisos, Mr. and Mrs. William Vincent, Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Dayton who are bringing a coterie of doctor pals, the Roland Wittes and Dr. Clifford Cherry.

Former Secretary of the Interior William Clark gave a black-tie dinner-dance at Washington’s Jefferson Hotel for U.S. Ambassador to Austria Helene von Damm, on home leave, and the ambassador’s handsome new husband, Peter Guertler, owner of Vienna’s Sacher Hotel. And nearby in the hotel’s Monticello Room, members of the U.S. Delegation to the 1985 World Conference (in Nairobi, Kenya) paused for a cocktail reception after spending long hours reviewing and appraising the achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women. Joining chair Maureen Reagan and deputy chair Nancy Reynolds were Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese, CIA director William Casey, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Margaret Heckler, former U.S. representative to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick.


Among the dinner crowd at Jimmy’s--Peggy Lee wearing a head-hugging beaded cap and dark glasses; Jack Lowrance and Max Eckert celebrating Max’s return from Portugal where he photographed private gardens for Town & Country; the Glen Holdens; Ellen and Berny Byrens; Mary and Philip Hawley (he topped off his meal with vanilla ice cream covered with chocolate sauce); Mario (Cantinflas) Moreno; Juli and Herbert Hutner with Greer (Garson) and Buddy Fogelson and Jayne and Henry Berger. And stopping by after the John Wayne Cancer Clinic benefit at the new Westside Pavilion (it netted $150,000), Michael Wayne; Hal and Cynthia Gershman.

Lunching at the Bistro: Jane Kroc Whitney with Dorothy Pasternak; Patsy and Kay Klein; Mrs. Leigh Battson with Onnalee Doheny, Patty Doheny, Dickie Washington and Jane Gosden.

Before returning to San Francisco Denise Hale gathered a few chums for lunch at Ma Maison. In the group--Connie Wald, Ahmet Ertegun, Connie Towers Gavin.

The Music Center was mentioned more than once when Virginia and Gerald Oppenheimer, Performing Arts president Michael Newton, Esther Wachtell and Joan and John Hotchkis lunched together at the Regency Club.