A Big-League Winner for the Betty Clooney Foundation

Times Staff Writer

First time up at bat, and the Betty Clooney Foundation hit a four-bagger, filling up the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the first Singers’ Salute to the Songwriter. Rosemary Clooney emceed, and turned out friends--like Patti Page, Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, even Bob and Dolores Hope--to do justice to the six songwriters honored. Even Jose Ferrer did a number from the musical “Little Me,” and his and Rosemary’s daughter-in-law Debby Boone sang--with her 1-week-old daughter backstage. Betty Clooney, who died of brain injuries, was Rosemary’s sister.

Jule Styne took his award with the admonition that he credited to Samuel Goldwyn: “If you want to ad-lib, write it out.” His former lyricist partner Sammy Cahn, the winner of four Oscars and one Emmy, announced: “I really am without words,” then added “a word is only as great as the note it sits under.” Songwriter Cy Coleman said the evening “was a present. Like every record you ever wanted.” The audience seemed to agree, with no newly emptied seats after intermission.

Backstage, pandemonium, as photographers and TV cameras jockeyed for shots. “Sing the right words,” Barry Manilow, who was thrilled for his first-ever honors as a songwriter, cautioned his friend, Melissa Manchester. She did, and then the balcony had its chance, as screams and yells accompanied Manilow’s presentation and performance.

Marilyn and Alan Bergman were saluted in a lengthy and frequently funny telegram from appearance-shy Barbra Streisand, but throughout the evening Monday the purpose of the event was never lost. Chairperson Roz Wyman--who knows that a winning benefit is the bottom line--pointed out from the stage that every performer had donated his or her talents to the evening. (The evening grossed $350,000, with the proceeds going to the Betty Clooney Foundation for the Brain Injured.) She was also effusive in her thanks for producer Alvin Sviridoff, who had put together the extraordinary evening. Thanks abounded for Dr. Sherm and Phyllis Holvey, who are the major force in the foundation, which he chairs.


Then Rosemary Clooney took the stage to announce that next year’s performance was set for April 6. And that’s a mark of success.

LAUDED LEGEND--Director Martin Ritt has always merged movies and messages with a special touch. From his 1957 directorial debut with “Edge of the City,” Ritt’s films form a special genre: “Hud,” “The Molly Maguires” “The Great White Hope,” “Sounder,” “The Front” and “Norma Rae.” No surprise then that the Liberty Hill Foundation has chosen to honor Ritt with its Upton Sinclair Award. The $175-a-guest dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Thursday also spotlights activists Jeff Dietrich, Irene Hirano and Shirley Magidson.

PROMINENT MOMS AND DAUGHTERS--A little different from the usual Mother’s Day celebration but then these are all special moms--with unique offspring. And the May 11 brunch at the home of Pamela and Arthur Leeds celebrates also the decade of service by the Westside Women’s Clinic. Among those honored: actress-hunger activist Mary Ann Mobley along with her daughter, Clancy Collins, a film maker; her mother, Mississippi businesswoman Mary F. Williams, and her great-grandmother, Mary Stuart Farish. Women’s rights activist Billie Heller comes in for special attention along with her daughter, Elizabeth, director of music video for MCA Records, and her mother, Goldie Rosenfield, a retired businesswoman. Also honored will be Cheryl Miller, an Olympic gold medalist, and her mother Carrie, a nurse; television host Yolanda Nava, and her mother Consuelo Chavara Stepsis; and director of the city criminal justice planning office, Rose Ochi, and her mother Grace Matsui.

FLACKERY--The public relations prize of the spring goes to Lee Solters, who not only persuaded the media that a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Beverly Hills was perfectly kosher, but also managed to place three major stories on the event in the Jewish press.

WELL-KNOWN JEWELS--"Doris Stein’s fabled jewels” is how the Christie’s catalogue describes them and Tuesday some of the most fabled will be auctioned in New York. Among the major sparklers from the estate of the wife of the late Dr. Jules Stein, the founder of MCA, is a 27-carat diamond ring. English furniture from the New York apartment goes on auction April 19. As the catalogue quotes Stein: “We are a great team. Doris has an infallible eye and I’m a great negotiator.”

WHOA--The invitation is a show stopper, especially from a group as traditional as the ARCS Auxiliary. “Wanna horse around?” is what the slouching nag on the cover asks. But it’s all OK, since it’s an invite to a private celebrity polo match, dinner and dancing on May 9 at the L.A. Equestrian Center. The $250-per-couple event benefits the ARCS Foundation, which provides funds for scholarships to students in the fields of natural science, medicine and engineering.