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A Warm Tribute to Legendary Lady Fitz

April 13, 1993|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The man known as Q thanked the woman known as Lady Fitz not only for having been able to work with her on occasion but for the privilege of having heard her sing.

"Ella Fitzgerald is the first lady of American music,"' Q--producer/musician Quincy Jones--said in reverential tones before presenting Fitzgerald with a humanitarian award from the Dream Street Foundation on Saturday night at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The Beverly Hills-based organization supports seven camps in five states, including one in Highland Springs, Calif., for children who have cancer, AIDS and other life-threatening diseases.

"A normal summer camp won't take a child on chemotherapy or in a wheelchair," said Billy Grubman, who co-founded Dream Street with his sister, Patty, nearly five years ago.

Dream Street camps are free, and campers come from as far away as Russia.

While the group has had other fund-raisers, there was never one with an entertainer as a centerpiece. Dr. Mark Weiss, a Dream Street board member and one of Fitzgerald's physicians, asked the singer to participate in the event when he learned of her heartfelt interest in children's causes.

"It wasn't even a plea," Weiss said. "We have children who are hurting and need love and caring, and here's a woman with nothing but love to give."

Included in the evening's goody bag, in addition to the usual perfume samples, were greeting cards decorated by children at the Ella Fitzgerald Day Care Center in Lynwood.

Asked why he wanted to participate in the event, Jones gave two reasons: "I've got seven children. If there's kids, I roll over. And Ella was one of my idols and influences since the first time I listened to music," he said just before the black-tie dinner at which he was seated between Fitzgerald and actress Nastassja Kinski, who last month gave birth to his daughter Kenya.

"Ella, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie are the ones who wrote the rules on what American music is all about--improvisation, inventiveness, freedom of expression," Jones said during an affecting tribute.

"You're spoiling me," Fitzgerald said afterward. "Oh gosh, what a night."

Weiss' wife, Marilyn, chaired the event. Tommy Davidson of "In Living Color" and singer Joe Williams provided the entertainment. At evening's end, Lady Fitz joined Williams for a few bars of scat singing.

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