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Tribute Honors Life, Work of Actress Mabel King : Entertainment: Star known for her roles in 'The Wiz' and TV's 'What's Happening' celebrates with 300 friends.

October 03, 1994|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTH HOLLYWOOD — Mabel King put on her special red dress Sunday night.

And as befits a star of stage and screen, she was glamorized with golden accessories--including a beaded gold hat designed to bring to mind visions of Cleopatra.

Then she sat back and enjoyed the show with 300 of her friends, all of them celebrating King's life and spirit at a tribute that went on for hours at St. Anne's Melkite-Greek Catholic Church.

"I think it's wonderful," King said. "These are all loving people."

The sentiment, friends said, was mutual.

"She's got the greatest attitude you've ever seen," said Dick Sheenan, who produced the show, which featured vaudevillian and award-winning choreographer Fayard Nicholas, singer Barbara McNair and singer-songwriter David Pomeranz.

King, 61, is perhaps best-known for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wiz," both in the Broadway version of the play and the movie. She also played a sitcom mom in the 1970s TV show, "What's Happening."

In 1990, she suffered a stroke. In 1991, her left leg was amputated, and last May she lost her right leg, too.

Sheenan said organizers hoped Sunday's show would raise $10,000--enough to buy King an electric wheelchair so she could get around with ease at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, where she now lives.

Or, King said, even beyond. "I want to get back to work so bad," she said.

On Sunday night, however, it was all play. "I'm having myself a good time," King said, reveling in her hat and matching gold pocketbook. "Even my blood pressure today was just beautiful."

"She is absolutely beautiful," actress Joan-Carol Bensen said. "And she looks absolutely gorgeous."

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