While the cameras focused, Mikhail Baryshnikov, the dancing director of New York's American Ballet Theatre, bussed Jane Fonda. And then, with the cameras still watching, Fonda smooched with Danny Kaye. And later, the usually shy and dour (especially around photographers) Baryshnikov kissed prima ballerina assoluta Natalia Makarova, put his arms around Anne Bancroft (she co-starred in his first U.S. film, "The Turning Point") and finally planted a kiss on the lips of Goldie Hawn, who shimmered in skin-colored chiffon, molded to her body like a second skin and decorated with beads and feathers. And he didn't care who was watching.
The Music Center Dance Presentations' gala on Monday night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel honoring the American Ballet Theatre did at times take on the appearance of a love-in. It appears that all Baryshnikov (Misha to his friends) has to do is call. And his talented friends come rallying round. This night it was Makarova; Hawn; Kaye; Bancroft with her husband, Mel Brooks; Gene Kelly; Cary Grant; Steve Martin; Juliet Prowse; Herb Ross and Nora Kaye; William Shatner; Norman Lear; producer Douglas Cramer; Dave Geffen; Rose Marie and Danny Thomas; Michael and Pat York; Shirlee Fonda; Carol Burnett (with best friend, author Peter Feibleman)--who were there to entertain, exhort, help raise the flag for ballet and add a lot of pizazz to another black-tie night.
Champagne and Caviar
This year's gala was underwritten by Moet & Chandon (their champagne was served with the caviar during the cocktail hour) so the 700 guests helped raise more than $200,000 to help defray the cost of bringing the ballet company to Los Angeles. ABT's three-week Los Angeles engagement began Tuesday night.
Charles Aznavour, the French singer-actor-composer, came from Paris to be the socko ending to the evening's entertainment. On the extended stage and in front of Nelson Riddle and his orchestra Aznavour, who was introduced by Cary Grant, sang of " le temps " and " la boheme " and even a country-Western (that's what he called it) song he'd written in the USSR. And at the end while he crooned, Baryshnikov and Hawn imitated Rogers and Astaire until Hawn's real-life love, actor Kurt Russell, picked up Misha by the lapels of his tuxedo and deposited him right off the stage. The feisty Russian dancer didn't let that bother him. He was back on stage in seconds, this time accompanied by Makarova, who wore a beaded slink of a black dress, her blond hair partially covered by a jeweled cap. The ubiquitous Los Angeles standing ovation was saved for the last.
Jane Fonda, wearing a tuxedo with beaded lapels, opened the program by saying that "many of the (ABT) dancers come from California." Appearing to ad lib, she added, "Who says we only produce fruits and nuts?" Then calling the show eclectic, she introduced the opening act, five junior high students from Brooklyn, The Jazz Jumpers, who did amazing things with jump ropes. Danny Kaye, in a French accent that was better than Aznavour's, presented twin pianists Marielle and Katia Labeque, who played selections from George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." Back at his table, Kaye commented, "They're beautiful." They were followed by Steve Martin, who fooled around a bit, reading his Oscar acceptance speech, "something I've been working on for a while." Before returning to his table, where everyone told him he had been wonderful, Martin brought on Michael Moshen, a mime-juggler and graceful dancer. Someone near us whispered that he'd been the opening act for Michael Jackson's Victory Tour.
Gene Kelly, who danced "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" in the movie "Words and Music," was the perfect presenter for Makarova, who did a reprise of the Balanchine-choreographed "Slaughter," which she'd danced on Broadway in the revival of "On Your Toes." It was producer and former dancer Nick Vanoff who produced the whole show and at one point in the evening was spotted moving a black piano into position while the stage was dark.
"Only in Hollywood could you get this kind of a turnout," commented a departing guest admiringly. And fellow New Yorkers Clint Rosenberg and Ann Luther were in perfect agreement. Penn Kavanagh, president of Schifflin & Co., importers of Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon, had the look of a man who thought every penny spent at this party was well worth it. After all, he and his wife spent the evening at the head table surrounded by Misha, Fonda, Barbara and Cary Grant, Sylvia Fine Kaye and Michel Colombier, who scores films and is currently working with Baryshnikov on a new Twyla Tharp ballet.