Breast cancer doesn't mean the end of life. A mastectomy doesn't mean the end of living.
Proof positive were a score of survivors of breast cancer, volunteers with the Reach to Recovery program of the American Cancer Society, who modeled at the "Fashions for Winners" luncheon Saturday.
A sellout crowd of 600 packed the Arboretum of the Crystal Cathedral to see costumes from the "Golden Years of Hollywood," presented by Irene Mayer, niece of the late Louis Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Guest speaker was Dr. David Viscott, ABC talk-show host and "therapist to millions."
Before the show, Irene Mayer talked about how movies have changed since the '30s and '40s.
"The movie makers of the old days knew the industry from the bottom all the way up," Mayer recalled. "Today you have monopolies, gas and oil companies making the movies. Movie making today doesn't have a conscience.
I never go to the movies anymore. I don't want to get all shook up. I don't want to learn how to open somebody's door. I don't want to learn how to steal an automobile.
"Everyone copies what goes on the screen. If they put the bad things on the screen, they'll learn the bad things. A beautiful song, lovely actors, glamour--these may be fantasy, but don't we all need fantasy in our lives?"
"I could talk for hours," she continued. Later, from the podium, she indeed talked at length about the stars--how Frank Sinatra paid for Judy Garland's funeral, how women fainted for Clark Gable, but how Leslie Howard and not Gable was Hollywood's greatest lover.
Viscott is best known as the host of the ABC radio network's "Therapy on the Air." ("For years, I've been treating the entire country," he noted during lunch.) Four of his books, among them "The Language of Feelings" and "Risking," have earned Pulitzer Prize nominations; now he's branching out.
Invented Greeting Cards
"I've invented psychotherapeutic greeting cards," Viscott said. "They might say, 'We were both wrong, we need to forgive each other' or 'You were wrong, I was right, not completely wrong, not totally right.' They help people express their feelings. They put them in touch with their emotions. In fact, they're called, 'In Touch.' "
His speech, a visionary message addressing such issues as "Who are we, where do we come from, where are we going?" and featuring such phrases as "You are they, you are me, I am you," enlightened some, baffled others.
"We reach out to help other people prolong life without an understanding of what life is about," he said. "It is really not enough after mastectomy to regain one's sense of femininity. . . . It is more important that one hold on to the eternal self.
"Part of the attraction you have to help your sisters is an attempt to help your brothers as well because you are also your brothers. We are on the dawn of the age of revelation itself. There is a great light in each of us which we will share with each other, the light of feeling, the light of understanding."
Sometimes the message was less nebulous.
"So often, we give to something to keep ourselves busy. We think we don't have anything to do with our time, so we attach ourselves to those forms of giving which are clublike or entertaining, those that help us have something to do in the afternoon. . . . "
Presents New Song
Pianist Richard Froeber, whose song "Palm Springs" was officially adopted by that city's mayor last week, began the event with another new song, "Reach to Recovery." Master of ceremonies Danny Cox awarded such opportunity prizes as a "lamb sweater kit."
Costumes were designed by MGM's Adrian, the man who put Joan Crawford in wide shoulders, and included those worn by such actresses as Jeanette MacDonald, Cyd Charisse, Ginger Rogers and Marlene Dietrich.
Models included show chairwoman Judy Bergersen; co-chair Jayne Berberian, swiveling her hips and otherwise strutting her stuff as "The Merry Widow," and Suzan Kim (not a mastectomy patient), in the dress she originally wore in the movie, "The Good Earth."
Accompanying Mayer was Cyd Charisse's sister-in-law, Kathryn Etienne Charisse, who was Mitzi Gaynor's dance teacher.
According to Bergersen, almost 70 Reach to Recovery volunteers in Orange County made 595 visits to breast-cancer patients last year. Mastectomy patients themselves, the volunteers make understanding and empathic listeners. The Cancer Society chapter supports eight research grants and clinical fellowships at UCI Medical Center. Proceeds from the luncheon totaled $20,000.
Whether or not movie makers have a conscience, the stars still do.
On behalf of High Priority, a national Breast Cancer Research and Information Network, Linda Evans sent out 50,000 letters in the last two weeks; a full-page ad featuring Cher will appear in the May issue of People and other national magazines. Charter members of the network, who believe that early detection of breast cancer saves lives, also include Madonna, Barbra Streisand and Tina Turner.