After diabetes stole her legs and a stroke took her left hand, there is one thing actress Mabel King knows for sure--who her friends are.
And those friends gathered for her 65th birthday Thursday not only to celebrate, but to raise money for King, best known as Mama from the television show "What's Happening!!" who lost her upper teeth 10 weeks ago when she fell from her wheelchair.
But King--never a wallflower--was sassy as ever during the benefit that raised about $5,000 for her living expenses, including false teeth and holiday presents.
In the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences theater, King held court--accepting kisses and hugs from almost all of her 150 visitors--and thanked members of We Care About Life, which sponsored the show.
"I feel like I'm sitting in my own living room with all my beautiful friends around," she said, looking out at the posh red velvet chairs of the theater. "Sure enough, I've been through a lot, but so what? I thank God for my life."
Later, King returned to her characteristic one-liners, quipping, "All I want for Christmas is my upper front teeth," and "I may be old, but I ain't cold, honey."
King accepted commendations from Mayor Richard Riordan in honor of her birthday and from the City Council in honor of her courage.
King snapped her right hand gleefully as 3- and 4-year-old dancers clad in red tutus danced and sang "I Love You Santa Claus."
Among the performers were John and Donald Mills of the Mills Brothers, who sang their hit "Paper Doll," and Leslie Easterbrook, who sang a bawdy tribute to the piano.
"We're not here to raise a whole lot of money, but we want her to feel like a star tonight," said friend and benefit organizer Dick Sheehan.
Close, but not quite, King said.
In actuality, the benefit made her feel "just like Christmas morning."