Old Friends, Singers Salute the Songwriters

Flashing a "thumbs-up" sign, producer Nick Vanoff called it "one of the country's great benefits."

Comic Jackie Mason (a little tired from his early morning shooting schedule for "Caddyshack II") loved it--"This is one terrific show."

"Don't you think it was great?" asked Joan Weiss, herself an organizer of major benefit events. Yes, said producer Peg Yorkin. Yes, said Occidental's Rosemary Tomich. Yes, yes, said Ginny Mancini. Yes, yes, said songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman, with their friend, composer Michel Legrand, who was among the evening's six honorees.

Yes, the third annual "Singers' Salute to the Songwriters" benefit for the Betty Clooney Foundation Wednesday night crammed the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with a couple of dozen of America's best singers. Many of the stars are old friends of "Rosie," the "national treasure that is Rosemary Clooney," as Merv Griffin described her, and the evening has become an annual hot ticket.

Clooney, along with her close friend and, for the third time, benefit chair Rosalind Wyman and Dr. Sherman M. Holvey (chairman of the board of the foundation that bears the name of Rosie's late sister) had pulled it off once again, raising more than $450,000, much of it profit with entertainers donating their time.

What a list--honoree Melissa Manchester, Patti Page, virtuoso harmonica player Toots Thielemans, Patti Austin and James Ingram, the extraordinary Diane Schuur, Nancy Dussault (singing honorees Betty Comden and Adolph Green's "The Party's Over"), Toni Tennille, the legendary Joe Williams, Dolores Hope, the Lennon Sisters (singing honoree Burton Lane's "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" a cappella ), a show-stopping L.A. Jazz Choir, Maureen McGovern and Sue Raney (doing wonderfully well by a couple of the thousands of songs of Michel Legrand).

It was a love feast all around this year, including Wyman being named an honorary songwriter. The presenter was Dorothy Lamour, and for those in the audience not familiar with why that was arranged, here's the story: When the group honored songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen, Wyman kept asking how they could do it without Lamour. And now, whenever someone's name is mentioned, the chant is, "What about Dorothy Lamour, Roz?"

Burton Lane told the audience, cribbing from one of his own songs, "Poor you . . . I'm sorry you are not me so you could hear the songs you've written performed as they are tonight." Ella Fitzgerald introduced honoree Antonio Carlos Jobim, saying "now his very name identifies his music everywhere."

One of the most touching performances, though, was by Holvey's daughter, Sandi, introduced as having "her own survival miracle" after a boating accident. "I know I can never be who I was before my head injury," she said, explaining that a poor memory would keep her from returning to her profession as an emergency-room nurse. Now, she said, as a result of the Betty Clooney Foundation, she was with friends "and we help each other as you have helped us."

DON'T FORGET--The Para los Ninos fourth annual Recognition Dinner is set for Wednesday at the Beverly Wilshire. This year the honorees are radio personalities Ken Minyard and Bob Arthur of the "Ken and Bob Company," the California Mart's David Morse, City Atty. James Hahn and the California Community Foundation. . . .

The Los Angeles County Bar Assn. honors Gail Abarbanel, the founder and director of the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center, at a luncheon next Friday at the Hyatt Regency.

KENNEDY FUND-RAISER--On April 23, at the close of a one-day conference on the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy, participants will gather to continue the vision of the late senator. His daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, TV newsman Jeff Greenfield, writer Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and Frank Mankiewicz will be at the Ankrum Gallery at a fund-raiser for the Robert M. Kennedy Memorial. The memorial was set up in the months following the assassination, a "living memorial to help the oppressed and neglected," with activities that include sponsoring fellowships.

HONORED--At the Stock Exchange on April 17, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe (a well-known face from the Robert Bork confirmation hearings), former Carter White House aide Midge Costanza and Cleve Jones (founder of the Names Project, sponsor of the AIDS quilt) will turn up to receive awards from the National Gay Rights Advocates. It's the organization's 10th anniversary, and Shirley MacLaine is doing the inviting. Presenters of the prizes will include members of the cast of "L.A. Law," Abigail Van Buren Phillips and Valerie Harper. Chairing the event is Los Angeles Herald Examiner society columnist Richard Rouilard, with co-chairs Bill Melamed Jr., Tom Larkin, Bill Weinberger and David Mixner.

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