Old Friends, Singers Salute the Songwriters

Marylouise Oates, The Los Angeles Times, Apr 1, 1988

Flashing a "thumbs-up" sign, producer Nick Vanoff called it "one of the country's great benefits."

Comic Jackie Mason (a little tired from his early morning shooting schedule for "Caddyshack II") loved it-"This is one terrific show."

"Don't you think it was great?" asked Joan Weiss, herself an organizer of major benefit events. Yes, said producer Peg Yorkin. Yes, said Occidental's Rosemary Tomich. Yes, yes, said Ginny Mancini. Yes, yes, said songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman, with their friend, composer Michel Legrand, who was among the evening's six honorees.

Yes, the third annual "Singers' Salute to the Songwriters" benefit for the Betty Clooney Foundation Wednesday night crammed the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with a couple of dozen of America's best singers. Many of the stars are old friends of "Rosie," the "national treasure that is Rosemary Clooney," as Merv Griffin described her, and the evening has become an annual hot ticket.

Clooney, along with her close friend and, for the third time, benefit chair Rosalind Wyman and Dr. Sherman M. Holvey (chairman of the board of the foundation that bears the name of Rosie's late sister) had pulled it off once again, raising more than $450,000, much of it profit with entertainers donating their time.

What a list-honoree Melissa Manchester, Patti Page, virtuoso harmonica player Toots Thielemans, Patti Austin and James Ingram, the extraordinary Diane Schuur, Nancy Dussault (singing honorees Betty Comden and Adolph Green's "The Party's Over"), Toni Tennille, the legendary Joe Williams, Dolores Hope, the Lennon Sisters (singing honoree Burton Lane's "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" a cappella), a show-stopping L.A. Jazz Choir, Maureen McGovern and Sue Raney (doing wonderfully well by a couple of the thousands of songs of Michel Legrand).

It was a love feast all around this year, including Wyman being named an honorary songwriter. The presenter was Dorothy Lamour, and for those in the audience not familiar with why that was arranged, here's the story: When the group honored songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen, Wyman kept asking how they could do it without Lamour. And now, whenever someone's name is mentioned, the chant is, "What about Dorothy Lamour, Roz?"

Burton Lane told the audience, cribbing from one of his own songs, "Poor you . . . I'm sorry you are not me so you could hear the songs you've written performed as they are tonight." Ella Fitzgerald introduced honoree Antonio Carlos Jobim, saying "now his very name identifies his music everywhere."

One of the most touching performances, though, was by Holvey's daughter, Sandi, introduced as having "her own survival miracle" after a boating accident. "I know I can never be who I was before my head injury," she said, explaining that a poor memory would keep her from returning to her profession as an emergency-room nurse. Now, she said, as a result of the Betty Clooney Foundation, she was with friends "and we help each other as you have helped us."

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