Actress/singer Lorna Luft stood in the entryway to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in her scarlet cowgal dress with the silver fringe and said casually, "Another show, another million dollars."
Luft was referring to the SHARE Boomtown Party, an annual Western-themed extravaganza that manages to be show-bizzy and down home at the same time. SHARE (Share Happily and Reap Endlessly) supports the Exceptional Children's Foundation, the Center for the Partially Sighted, the Hathaway Home for Children and several other organizations, a great chunk of its revenue coming from this yearly $400-per-person benefit that will probably raise $1 million.
The main draw is the show, this year a Busby Berkeley-esque extravangaza that was a salute to Hollywood's 100th anniversary. SHARE seldom has trouble drawing big stars; on the bill Saturday night were Bruce Willis, Ann-Margret, Tony Danza, Phylicia Rashad, singers Diane Schuur and Peter Allen.
But, then, SHARE never did have any trouble getting connections in the industry, since most of its members are either in it or married to men who are. Members include Janet Leigh, Mary Ann Mobley, Ruth (Mrs. Milton) Berle, Neile McQueen Toffel, Rosemarie (Mrs. Robert) Stack, Elinor Donahue, Altovise (Mrs. Sammy) Davis, Joanna Carson, Pat (Mrs. Larry) Gelbart, Wendy (Mrs. Leonard) Goldberg, Sherry Lansing, Ginny (Mrs. Henry) Mancini and Victoria (Mrs. Ed) McMahon. Berle and Pam Korman coordinated the show; Shirley Turtletaub and Roni Sue Malin were in charge of the party. These women are always referred to as SHARE ladies .
Dressed in identical red cowgirl dresses and red boots, the ladies were on hand to greet guests at the entrance to the auditorium promptly at 6 p.m. "These ladies have been rehearsing for months " said Luft. "It's amazing--it's all for only one night."
SHARE president Judy Feder looked calm but revealed, "My stomach is like a washing machine going around and around."
Interpretations of the "dress Western" theme included cowboys and gals in leather chaps, prairie princesses in denim and lace, a few Pocahontas wanna-be's, at least one ersatz Belle Starr and enough turquoise and silver jewelry to choke a trail horse.
It took two hours for the 1,000 guests to trickle in; among the recognizable faces were Kenny and Marianne Rogers, Marvin and Barbara Davis, Allan Carr (in a fawn suede fringed jump suit), Richard and Alma Thomas, George Peppard, Hugh O'Brian (in a beige Western suit appliqued with gold leaves), Candy Clark, John and Nancy Ritter, Deidre Hall, Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin, Donna Mills, Michele Lee, Dyan Cannon in a white miniskirt, Shirlee Fonda in a black leather pantsuit, Kate Jackson, Jerry Buss and producer Stephen Cannell and wife, Marcia.
Barbi Benton squeezed into a pink leather micro-mini and matching bustier, but that wasn't nearly as flashy as the inchlong marquise diamond on her finger. Trendy dudes and dudettes wore acid-washed jeans over their cowboy boots.
Pre-show entertainment came in the form of a country & Western band and an auction, the latter conducted by Marjoe Gortner, who tapped his preacher roots and did a rapid-fire patter selling everything from cruises to shopping sprees to a photo session with glamour photographer Harry Langdon. In all, the auction brought in $120,000; it's no wonder Gortner closed his deals with "Hey, hallelujah!"
At the end of the auction guests filtered into the auditorium for dinner, also Western-themed, with barbecued ribs, chicken, corn pudding, chili and flan with strawberries. Tables were crammed uncomfortably close, so table-shmoozing was left to the intrepid.
The show was heavy on the glitz, as the SHARE ladies danced in bigger-than-life production numbers. Tony Danza did a cute tap number with Neile McQueen Toffel, Bruce Willis re-defined the meaning of success ("Your car phone has an answering machine") and Ann-Margret told anecdotes about George Burns. The evening featured acts from the sublime (Diane Schuur's singing) to the unusual (Don Wilder, who appears to have three legs as he dances). Peter Allen obliged his fans and sang "Rio," complete with dancing atop the grand piano.
The finale featured the SHARE ladies again in a tap and chorus line number with a finish that Flo Ziegfeld would have been proud of. Ladders dangling over the audience descended and the ladies left the stage and scrambled up, then swung, trapeze-style, as they showered guests with confetti. The stunt drew gasps from those below who were alternately amazed and fearful of a SHARE lady losing her balance and hurtling into the audience.
But there were no mishaps and guests went home stuffed, happy and clutching party favors--huge bags crammed with everything from pens to Danielle Steel's book "Fine Things" in hardback. Another show, another million dollars.