Adoption Group Honors Edwards, Andrews

Times Staff Writer

In the thick of the awards season it’s rare to find Hollywood celebrities honored for being parents.

But that’s how WAIF decided to single out director Blake Edwards and his wife, actress-singer Julie Andrews.

The two were given the fifth national Humanitarian Award by this organization that finds permanent families for homeless children. Actress Jane Russell founded the organization 34 years ago out of her own frustrations in adopting children from overseas.

And while Edwards and Andrews have not been formally affiliated with WAIF in the past, their work with Operation California and UNICEF were noted. So was the fact that the couple adopted two Vietnamese orphans, now aged 14 and 15.


A Family Affair

While those two teens were absent from the party, Edwards’ two grown children, Geoffrey and Jennifer, did attend. Dinner chairman Carol Burnett brought along daughter Erin and Jane Russell came with her nine children in tow--six stepchildren, the children of her husband John Peoples, and three adopted children--making it something of a family affair.

“We’re happy to be part of the evening, not because of the award but because it’s a very good cause,” Andrews said during a cocktail reception.

Although not not all of their children could attend, Andrews said they were all interested in the award--"Especially the little ones. Oh, I always refer to them as ‘the little ones’ although if you said it in front of them they’d be mortified. They’re young adults.”


Andrews also explained her lack of nerves in the awards spotlight: “It’s very easy because I don’t have to sing. It’s nice to be on the other side for a change.”

About his stepmother’s lack of nervousness, Geoffrey Edwards concurred. “I’ve never seen her nervous,” he said. “Inwardly maybe, but she never shows it. After all, she’s Mary Poppins, and Mary Poppins doesn’t sweat.”

Dudley Moore said he hadn’t seen much of the parental side of his friends, but added, “They obviously enjoy that time with the kids.”

He added that he would be forever grateful to Edwards “because he put me in ’10' and ‘Micki and Maude.’ He’s such a nice guy.”


Comedy and Dancing

Moore emceed the evening, which drew about 600 guests into the ballroom for dinner, dancing and entertainment. That included film clip tributes to Edwards and Andrews, plus a comedic bit by Rich Little and a rendition of “Moon River” (from Edwards’ film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) by Andy Williams, with composer Henry Mancini conducting the orchestra.

Among the guests were Jack Klugman, Ed and Victoria McMahon, Susan Clark and Alex Karras, Elise and Marty Pasetta (past winners), George Peppard, Robert Wise, John and Nancy Ritter (he stars in Edwards’ upcoming film “Skin Deep”), Tom Mankiewitz and Stefanie Powers. Ken Ehrlich produced the show, and Gary Nardino, chairman of the group’s national council and last year’s winner, presented the award to the couple.

In accepting the award, Julie Andrews made a plea for more money and support for WAIF, as well as talking about the joys of being parents of adopted children. Edwards barely got to speak, but as he said, “Julie is the only actress I’ve ever let get the last word.”