"Tonight we celebrate many things," said Barbara Bain, a member of the Dance Gallery Guild (and board), which Friday night hosted the world premiere of MGM/UA's "That's Dancing!" and followed that with a supper dance at the Beverly Wilshire. But mainly the evening, which raised $250,000 for the Dance Gallery, celebrated dancers and dancing. "The dancers are the very best," added Alexis Smith, a Dance Gallery board member. "Let's celebrate their multifaceted talents." (The Dance Gallery, part of downtown's California Plaza, will house a dance theater, institute and library.)
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Everybody began the celebrating at the Academy Theatre at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a champagne reception. Then the applause began, right after the MGM lion ceased roaring, and such talents as Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, Gene Kelly, Ray Bolger, Jimmy Cagney, Ann Miller, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple and Bill (Bojangles) Robinson filled the screen.
The happy, celebrating mood carried over to the Beverly Wilshire's Grand Ballroom where the evening's stars (both in person and on the big screen) made their appearances after everyone else had been seated. From the stage Miss Bain announced their names--Gene Kelly; Cyd Charisse, the evening's honorary chairman; Sammy Davis Jr.; John Travolta in a black leather suit; Liza Minnelli (she was accompanied at the theater by her father, Vincente Minnelli, and stepmother, Lee); Ann Miller (she's touring in the East with 'Sugar Babies') wearing black velvet by Bill Blass and a white fox stole; Ray Bolger; Russ Tamblyn, now dark-haired and bearded; Leslie Caron in an orange evening gown; ballet great Tamara Toumanova; choreographer Hermes Pan (Ann Miller's date); Ricardo Montalban; Michael Kidd; James Mitchell; Gene Nelson; Julie Newmar; the Nicholas Brothers, who received the biggest hand; Paula Kelly; Esther Williams; Debbie Reynolds; June Haver, and "Flashdance's" Marine Jahan.
Up on the ballroom's stage, Gene Kelly changed into an old pair of shoes and with Ann Sterling (her "old shoes" were by Maude Frizon, the pricey shoe designer) stepped neatly into a block of wet cement, leaving their footprints and names embedded for posterity. Ann Sterling, who said she was doing it for her children, was the first of the Dance Gallery patrons to pay $25,000 for the privilege of pairing off their footsies in cement with those of dancing super stars. Agnes de Mille, Merce Cunningham, Mikhail Baryshnikov have already been spoken for. And later in the evening Sandra Moss pledged another $25,000 to plant her high-heeled shoes next to those of Sammy Davis. It was Dance Gallery supporter Gil Garfield's idea to have the cement blocks placed in a circle in front of the Dance Gallery, and Gil was there to accept his thanks. So was Ruth Yablans, who co-chaired the wonderful evening, and Jack Hailey Jr. and David Niven Jr., the dancing film's co-producers.
Altovise Davis clapped loudly from her table. And so did Contessa Cohn, who wore a Fabrice jacket and pants and feathers in her red hair; Max Eckert; Sherry Lansing (she was David Niven Jr.'s date), Rob Lubin, the Merv Singers, Luis Estevez, who accompanied Cyd Charisse (husband Tony Martin was in Florida), Gerald and Virginia Oppenheimer, Paul and Joan Selwyn, Dr. and Mrs. Hal Millstone, Carol and Ron Smith, Cynthia Gershman, Merritt Black with Priscilla Engle, Jackie Applebaum with Jacques Camus, Elisabeth Pollon with daughter Ellen and John Cowger, Wallis Annenberg, Bill and Keith Kieschnick, Doug Cramer, Craig Johnson, and Jay Bernstein with Kristen Jensen. Bernstein was optimistic about the return of Stacy Keach, his "Mike Hammer" television star. "I've been asked if he'd be interested in acting as a spokesman for the Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigation."
Nobody looked happier over the evening's success than Herb Ross and Nora Kaye, who are on the Dance Gallery's National Advisory Board; and DiDi and Brock Peters, who are on the Gallery's board. Late in the evening the Joffrey Ballet's Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino joined Bella Lewitzky, Dance Gallery's founder.