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A Round of Applause for the Archbishop

May 26, 1999|IRENE LACHER

Who knew that "the Arch"--as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is affectionately known back home in South Africa--does stand-up?

After telling the crowd at the Artists for a New South Africa benefit Monday that "you're neat" for supporting the end of apartheid, the cuddly Tutu dipped into a new genre of comedy--South African jokes.

"Have you heard the story about the South African who was upset because the Soviet Union and the United States were getting kudos for the space program? He said, 'We South Africans are going to launch a spacecraft to the sun.' People told him, 'Long before it reaches the sun, it will burn to cinders.' He said, 'You think we South Africans are stupid? We'll launch it at night.' "


Surprised? Don't be. How do you think a Nobel laureate relaxes after a long day investigating crimes under apartheid as head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

He loves a par-tay.

"And we intend to give it to him tonight," said Artists for a New South Africa co-founder Alfre Woodard, ticking off the artists about to perform at L.A.'s Wiltern Theatre--Stevie Wonder, Joan Baez, Lebo M, BeBe Winans and Hugh Masekela. "So we will make a joyful noise."

Other stalwarts of politically minded Hollywood also took the stage, including ANSA co-founder Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, as well as Samuel L. Jackson, Blair Underwood, Sidney Poitier, Robert Guillaume, Denzel Washington, and Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. The wattage impressed even a star-struck Tutu.

"I'm not going to wash my hands," he said before the performance. "I've been shaking hands with all these incredible people, so when you see me shine, it's reflected glory from superstars."

Winning raves as the moral conscience of the world trumps box office clout, even in Hollywood. At any rate, the combined star power was considered vital to focusing media attention on South Africa's mission to rebuild economically, now that the drama of battling apartheid is over.

"Some people are mistakenly thinking that it's all OK," South African Ambassador Sheila Sisulu said before the three-hour show, "when in fact the struggle to build a nation from 50 years of apartheid is a huge struggle."

Sure, this is the land of domestic splendor, and it's a given that every other home in Bel-Air has a home theater or bowling alley or both. So why not something fresh in the area of home amenities? Why not a personal vineyard?

We picked our way carefully through restaurateur Michael McCarty's hillside grapery in Malibu, where he was host of an Epicurean Evening, benefiting UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation, on Saturday. The Michael behind Michael's grows 2 1/2 acres of grapes, which produce 150 to 200 cases of wine a year under the Malibu Vineyard label.

"Below the tennis court is the Merlot," said the ever-dapper McCarty.

More to the point, in our glass was the 1993 Cabernet. McCarty broke it out for the $1,000-a-plate dinner that raised close to $300,000 for cancer research. The evening's chefs gathered from unusually far-flung places, thanks to the pull of evening co-chairwoman and Bon Appetit executive editor Barbara Fairchild, who lured them from Honolulu, Miami and New York. Michael's donated the talents of its chefs, Santa Monica's Sang Yoon and New York's Jeffrey Gimmel, who were joined by L.A. culinary maestros Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel of La Brea Bakery and Campanile.

Ruby Dee was so overcome by the kudos after Sunday's opening night of her one-woman show, "My One Good Nerve," that she barely touched her fish at the Regent Beverly Wilshire.

"There's been too much excitement," she said in a break from the whirl at the after-party. "I feel like getting a doggy bag. Do you get doggy bags at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel?"

Hey, no problem. It's Ruby Dee Day! After the performance at the Canon Theatre, public officials and their stand-ins trooped onstage to declare Sunday Ruby Dee Day in Beverly Hills and L.A. County.

"I wish I could declare this Ruby Dee Day throughout the U.S.," said U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), "but those Congress people don't cooperate with me on anything."


Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2. She can be reached by e-mail at

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