Tribute Is a UCLA Course in Burnett Appreciation

Times Staff Writer

For all those minor and major philanthropists who have sat through boring benefits, here’s both the good and the bad news--a benefit show can be a smash, but you better line up Carol Burnett as an honoree.

“I can’t help but wonder what this evening could have been if I had only graduated,” a tearful Burnett quipped at the end of the benefit show for UCLA’s Royce Two-Seventy on Saturday night. Everybody was “glad we had this time together,” for Burnett has one of the better cast of friends. Like Beverly Sills, who broke six years of singing silence for a little ditty. Or Julie Andrews, who broke up the audience with a story about her and Burnett embracing near a White House elevator to shock whoever stepped off next--the elevator doors opened and there was Lady Bird Johnson.

Brought His Fans

Or Neil Diamond (sigh!). Diamond, in a silver fringe cowboy shirt and black pants, certainly had brought out his fans, who packed the balcony. And--despite what some fervent Diamond watchers said was a slight hoarseness--Pauley Pavilion went nuts. As Diamond sang, “Hello Again,” even benefit-goers got romantic. Lots of hand-holding, like Cyd Charisse reaching out to squeeze her favorite singer, husband Tony Martin.

Elizabeth Taylor’s appearance was preceded by a tape of a plump-but-still-pretty Taylor dressed as a charwoman. But suddenly, on the stage, was the knock-out current version. If the balconies cheered for Diamond, then the black-tie guests certainly gasped for the stunning La Liz, in a form-fitting spangled dress to match those violet eyes. (After the performance, she talked horses and races with buddies Marje Everett, Carole Bayer Sager and Marcia Diamond--explaining to Barry Diller that her horse was in pasture currently, with a chipped bone.) Richard Crenna did the emceeing honors, and Jim Nabors sang. Lucille Ball was on the program, but was absent, as was Jimmy Stewart. But Burnett’s TV cronies, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, did a skit that made everybody remember just how wonderful “The Carol Burnett Show” used to be.

The show-stopper for Burnett, though, had to be the appearance on stage of her three daughters--all in the cleaning-lady garb their mom made famous. Erin, Jody, and Carrie Hamilton--who is currently on TV’s “Fame"--had kept the secret. Following the show, Jody said that when she looked down from the stage all she could see was her mom crying. Burnett said she was “bowled over.” Her youngest daughter, Erin, had flown in from Boston several days before the benefit, “and I haven’t seen her. Now I know they were rehearsing.”


“No eating on the arena floor,” the painted signs on Pauley Pavilion’s cement wall warned. But not tonight. Black-tie guests had a chance to chat before the performance, and chow down afterward. Keith Kieschnick chatted with benefit committee member Peggy Parker and Judy Murphy, while her husband, William, pointed out that the Burnett tribute program listed them as “Mr. and Mrs. Keith Kieschnick.” He heads up the board of trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and so got right down to business with fellow MOCA-ites Fred Nicholas and Judge William Norris. Ava Ostern and Chuck Fries were getting ready for the Wednesday night premiere of his new TV film “Samaritan,” about D.C.'s homeless activist Mitch Snyder.

Ken Kragen was working the room, saying he was working 18 hours day, and “80% of that time is on ‘Hands Across America,’ ” his project to raise funds for hunger projects in the United States.

Chancellor Charles E. Young worked the tables, making a special trip to the one that included his good buddy, aviatrix Brooke Knapp, there with Coastal Commissioner Mark Nathanson. It was a night off for at least two SHARE ladies--who’ll be on stage with their Boomtown Show on May 17--as Sandra Moss and Lewis Hyman hosted Shera Denise Falk. Falk cuddled with her date, cute Richard Cohen, who interrupted the cuddling just long enough for a big hello to Dr. Arnold Klein. Wallis Annenberg was back from Italy, but off to Washington--where her father, former Ambassador Walter Annenberg, will receive the Medal of Freedom on May 12.

Ginny Mancini, who chaired the benefit looking as frothy as a piece of frosting in her multiruffled dress, told the audience that she had told Burnett “I promised you a rose garden . . . before setting on this yellow brick road . . . and you are in full bloom.”

TV producer Pierre Cossette, who volunteered his talents to create the extraordinary evening, had all the onstage details down pat. Even the tapes were well done, beginning with Burnett’s first appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” singing “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles” and including a taped greeting from the First Reagans, the evening’s honorary co-chairs, with Nancy Reagan in a yellow-and-blue outfit, UCLA colors.

The show was a smash, raising more than $500,000 and Burnett told the audience, “Next year, let’s all do this at my place.”

VERY SLY--Rumors of a stork continue to fly around Hollywood, but Brigitte Nielsen looked as slim as ever late Saturday night at Nicky Blair’s. Sitting next to hubby Sylvester Stallone (very un-Rambo and clean-cut in a suit), she was sporting her new mildly punk hairdo. On the Sunset Strip, Blair’s this week cornered the star market, pulling in, among others, Mayor Clint Eastwood, Diahann Carroll, Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards, Robert Conrad, Jennifer O’Neill, Kirk Douglas, Sergio Franchi, Tony Bennett, Lucille Ball, Robert Culp and Whoopi Goldberg.