Here's the best phone message of the month: "Betty Ford is on the line." Nobody has to look far to see what a bang-up job the former First Lady has done with the Betty Ford Center for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation in Rancho Mirage. Famous "graduates" of the program are some of America's top stars. But the former First Lady was on the line to say that she has long been concerned about those who want to be at the center but lack the financial resources to make that possible, without health plans or insurance.
That's why she--and a slew of brand-name buddies--jumped at the chance offered them by Stouffer Corp. The offer that couldn't be refused: to celebrate the opening of the plush Stouffer Concourse Hotel near LAX with a lavish benefit for the center, and let Stouffer's pick up the $200,000 tab. On Sept. 18, gathered at the $5,000-a-table party, will be Mrs. Ford's committee members--like chairman Leonard Firestone, Dolores and Bob Hope, Corwin and Nanci Denney, William Morris' Norman Brokaw and wife Maggie, Cary and Barbara Grant, Marvin and Barbara Davis, Frank and Barbara Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, photographer David Kennerly and wife Mel and, we can bet, a lot of other famous people. Details on the entertainment coming soon . . . it would have to be someone rather self-assured with that audience.
WOMEN AT LUNCH--But these were ones usually too busy to make the scene at the Bistro Garden. KCET board member Jane Eisner, the Sept. 5 benefit committee chairs Terry Stanfill and Carmela Speroni and Nancy Livingston might have been eating Beverly Hills, but they were talking Italy. Both Stanfill and Speroni are of Italian descent, which makes them just perfect to head up "Bravo! Italy," the $175-a-head lavish benefit at Bullocks Wilshire. The evening's honored guest will be Ambassador Rinaldo Petrignani, who will no doubt think he is at home when he catches the floors filled with Italian designs--and Rococo's salute to perhaps that most wondrous of Italy's arts. Not painting, not sculpture--no, Italian food.
Moving from the particular to the general, talk at lunch was about the problems of charity fund raising, with more and more pressure being put on the private sector. Eisner, straight from a big success with the "Ruthless People" benefit for CalArts, was clear about the need to stop the costly competitiveness between charities. As one of the cost-controllers on the Italian benefit (mostly underwritten by the department store) Stanfill said she was having florist Milo Bixby use the same terra cotta pots created for last year's benefit for the Music Center Opera Company. After general agreement that KCET was doing a wonderful job and tickets to the benefit would go quickly, everyone got down to talking about how they cooked their Italian sauce ("gravy" to the familiars) and just how long it would be until their next trip to Italy.
"WHAT'S NEW"--Linda Ronstadt will centerpiece the extravaganza, Jack Haley Jr. will produce the show and Elizabeth Taylor steps forward to be honored. Enough brand names? Not for film producer Barry Krost. Instead, when guests arrive at the second annual Commitment to Life Award benefit that he chairs--for AIDS Project L.A--they will be ushered to their seats by yet another star. Or two. Krost has signed up folks like Carol Kane, Teri Garr, JoBeth Williams and Tony Danza for the Sept. 20 gala evening at the Wiltern Theatre. Betty Ford, last year's honoree, is this year's honorary chair. The involvement of Krost and Taylor is a terrific example of the cooperation in fighting the dread disease. Taylor chairs and Krost is on the board of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR), and yet both are raising funds for this local AIDS organization. Good show! And they promise still more stars on stage.
JUST IN TIME--For those lucky enough to have already purchased their $5,000-a-couple tickets to Barbra Streisand's Sept. 6 benefit for Democratic senators, benefit supporter Marilyn Bergman says you were fortunate to be prompt. The event is half sold out, with the invites in the mail less than a week ago. Streisand will sing a full program of her numbers--so imagine what the scalpers price could be.
PILLOW TALK--What, Frank Zappa? Yes, that Frank Zappa, now surfacing as a possible late-night talk-show host. Really. It's from a very good source.
WHO IS THAT MAN?--Nobody but Jerry Weintraub--currently between mogul assignments. Pictures of the bearded Weintraub were snapped at Kennebunkport, Me. (home also of Weintraub buddies Veep George and Barbara Bush), where Weintraub, wife Jane and kids have been vacationing. Since "Karate Kid II" has gone over the $82-million mark this summer, ole Jerry can take a little time off.