Lauded and loved, Liza Minnelli on Sunday night received the California Friars Club award at the Century Plaza--the evening's most poignant and appropriate praise coming from writer-actress Renee Taylor: "She loved her parents long before it was fashionable."
It was not the first time that Minnelli's show-biz heritage came up, as again and again stars remembered her mother, Judy Garland, and her father, director Vincente Minnelli. Throughout an extraordinary evening--also extraordinarily long, as Milton Berle and Lucille Ball were followed by Sid Caesar, Charles Nelson Reilly, Red Buttons and Dick Shawn--there were constant and loving remembrances of the honoree's late parents. And constant haggling even from participants as to the length of the evening. Writer-Friar Hal Kanter took the microphone, telling Berle, "I've never spent a more amusing weekend . . . but I am not here to talk about Milton. That's why he is here."
The evening was a fund-raiser for Friars charities, which benefit children. And the main attraction was Liza--and her mother. Lucille Ball told the audience: "I've loved this young lady since she was 7 years old. . . . Bless the child who has his own--and, God, have you got it." One touching moment--Minnelli's sister Lorna Luft did a parody of "Cabaret" with the funny-sad line: "Life was a cabaret for Mom."
Great one-liners abounded (only some of which are fit for print). From Kanter: "Why should I lie to you--I'm not in government."
Jack Carter talked about the "turtle heart bypass," saying that on Monday the patient leaves the hospital and on Thursday he reaches the parking lot.
Sid Caesar gave a 10-minute spiel in a variety of allegedly foreign languages, gesticulating at one point and supposedly speaking in Italian, punctuated by several "New York, New Yorks."
Red Buttons declared that evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker were "children of a lesser god."
The audience was high glitz. Producer Allan Carr, attired in a sequined tux, insisted, "It's one of Liza's old things." He was there with Wendy Stark, who said she's looking into some possible film productions.
Michelle Lee said "Knots Landing" was shooting its 30th episode of the season this week--and would be starting on episode one of next season next Monday.
Ginny and Henry Mancini (she's busy on the Singers' Hall of Fame) sat with Lee Minnelli and Cesar Romero. The widow of director Vincente Minnelli looked glamorous in an off-shoulder gown, but said how hard the months since his death had been on her.
Shirlee Fonda wore an extraordinary Bulgari yellow sapphire pendant, a gift from her late husband, Henry: "I can only wear this when I go out with George Christie." No wonder, since the columnist was wearing high-fashion polka-dot evening slippers.
Danny Thomas made it back from Toledo and its sesquicentennial celebration. Thousands turned out, he said, to see him and other native sons and daughters, like Jamie Farr and Teresa Brewer: "Toledo gave the world a lot of people." He and Rose Marie were chatting it up with Bev Hills regulars Ellen and Bernie Byrens and their good buddies Sedge and Henry Plitt, Frances and Sid Klein and Happy and Frances Franklin. (The flash from the jewelry at that table was blinding.) But Ellen Byrens was mostly concerned about her June 3 benefit, featuring Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor. "The Beverly Hills Y is really down and out," she said. Also in the audience: Keith and Bill Kieschnick hosted by Mary Beth and Robert Van Dine. And, nearby, Judge Michael Luros with Debra Mitz joined Judge Armand and Nancy Arabian. On the podium--Loni Anderson, Gregory Peck, Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland and Henny Youngman.
EXERCISING OPTIONS--In New York last week, at Elaine's, a smorgasbord of celebs celebrated the paperback edition of "Callanetics" by Callan Pinckney. In hardback, the exercise-without-effort book was a year-long best seller. Is that how folks like lunch host Raul Allegre (the N.Y. Giants star kicker), Pat Kennedy Lawford and actor Victor Spano stay in shape? There is gold in them-there how-to books, since Pinckney just signed a $1-million deal with William Morrow for a book on back problems . . . And how does actor-racer Oscar-winner Paul Newman keep in shape? Folks in Savannah, Ga., now are getting a first-hand look, as he and his "Color of Money" co-star Tom Cruise cruised the city this weekend and spent lots of time at the closed-to-the-public Roebling Road Race.