Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth picked up the Scopus Award from the American Friends of Hebrew University on Thursday night--and managed to coyly keep alive rumors about a possible political move while proving he's a guy who can always take control.
The glamorous crowd, estimated at 1,100, paid $1,200 a couple to listen to a lengthy introduction by Howard Cosell on a tri-tiered dais, a few speeches and a Grammy-worthy performance by Johnny Mathis.
March Into Ballroom
Lots of action took place before the dinner, in the crowded dais room, where everyone lines up to march into the ballroom in order. Sylvester Stallone and bride-to-be Brigitte Nielsen were one paparazzi favorite.
Surrounded by Hollywood types, it was Ueberroth who kept the flashes going.
He got kidded by a well-known Democrat, Roz Wyman, who "wants him to move over, so I can be baseball commissioner--but not run for Senate." Wyman told him she loved his comment, that in the baseball dispute he was "supporting the fans. You must be a Democrat."
Is Ueberroth, the former president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee who has been rumored as a possible Republican senatorial candidate, instead going to run for President in '88 as a Democrat as the new conventional wisdom goes?
Ueberroth smiled again, hugging longtime Democrat Wyman. "Maybe this is as close as he can get," she kidded.
It was a little slow getting the dais people organized into the rows of chairs, each marked by a name--Mickey Ziffren, whose husband, Paul, was home with a cold; longtime Scopus supporters Harvey L. Silbert and Dinah Shore; Jerry and Jane Morgan Weintraub; Franklin and Judy Murphy; Rosemarie and Bob Stack; Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and Florence Henderson, who posed with her husband, Ira Bernstein, for lots of pictures.
Finally the important people were introduced by Cosell and heralded by the USC Marching Band, and walked one by one into the ballroom--where other important people like Danny and Rosemary Thomas and George Burns sat at tables with centerpieces of dozens of roses, created and given by Harry and Ruth Roman. The Century Plaza had put together a creative dinner that began with a salmon appetizer and ended with a coconut filled with fresh fruit and ice cream and holding an upright chocolate palm tree. Despite the general elegance, there were once again the little foil pie plates under the candles to catch the drips.
Bipartisan giver Jerry Weintraub kidded that "as soon as Ueberroth makes up his mind if he's a Democrat or a Republican, I'm going to run against him. And then I'll have to decide." The adjective-loving Cosell then managed to take an extraordinarily long time for introductions of Olympians and athletes, like Dr. Sammy Lee, Mitch Gaylord and Sugar Ray Robinson. Cosell managed to finish the introduction of one woman athlete with a public aside, "I'd like to know your true relationship with her, Peter."
Cosell's comments went so long that at one of the tables, United Artist's Sid Sapsowitz kidded Kenneth Kleinberg, another new UA executive vice president, that "Kenny, you can go right from here to your first meeting."
Johnny Mathis managed to turn it all around, singing about a dozen favorites--but no "Chances Are"--to a ballroom amazingly rapt at the performance. "There is nobody here who didn't make out to Johnny Mathis at least once," publicist Susan Reynolds explained.
Then, back to the award ceremony--with several famous faces now missing from the dais. Hebrew University Chancellor Avraham Harman told Ueberroth that Israel "will have the Games in '92, if you will come to run them." Then he presented the honoree with a plaque that included the phrase, "the impossible takes a little longer."
The ceremony was interrupted as a photographer from the dinner committee got up on the dais and began to move around celebs for group shots. Ueberroth removed himself from the fray and took the microphone, saying, "I've got to gain control again."
Ueberroth's speech was short--but it included thanks "for his gift of friendship to me" to Paul Ziffren, the LAOOC chairman. Proceeds for the dinner would go to construct the Peter V. Ueberroth Tennis Center in Memory of the Munich 11--the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the '72 Olympics. Ueberroth said the L.A. Olympics was the first to remember the tragedy of Munich--and "we must not forget."