Singing Praises to Writers of the Songs

KEVIN ALLMAN, The Los Angeles Times, May 1, 1991

It was probably the first time Carol Channing and the rock band Toto have played the same bill. The time was Monday night, the place was the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the occasion was the sixth annual Singers' Salute to the Songwriter, benefiting the Betty Clooney Foundation for Persons with Brain Injury.

Rosemary Clooney founded the organization in memory of her sister, who died from an aneurysm in 1976, and the singer shared hosting duties with her brother Nick Clooney. Conducting for the fifth year was Peter Matz; Allen Sviridoff produced for the sixth time.

This year's songwriter honorees were Matt Dennis, Jerry Herman and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Cole Porter was given a posthumous American Legend award, and Marty Paich received an award for outstanding arrangements.

As the honorees ran the gamut of American popular music, so did the performers. The show began with Rosemary Clooney performing "In the Still of the Night" and ended more than three hours later with Little Richard, clad in lavender from top to toe, pounding out "Jailhouse Rock."

"It's nerve-wracking," said Lorna Luft. "This is like singing with your friends, but try performing a Jerry Herman song when Jerry Herman is sitting just a few feet in front of you."

Suzanne Somers performed Porter's "Too Darn Hot," and that could have been the theme at the backstage party-too many performers and too many reporters in too darn small an area. Little Richard, his face streaming, began to panic when a phalanx of photographers surrounded him.

"Hurry up!" screamed the rock star turned preacher. "This makeup is coming off! There is holy water running off of me!"

"You are the best," Barry Manilow told Vikki Carr. "Ah, you're saying that to all the girls," replied Carr.

Also in the backstage crush were Debbie Allen, Bea Arthur, LaVern Baker, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Michael Crawford, Beverly D'Angelo, Pat Duval, Michael Feinstein, Debbie Gibson, Sam Harris, the Hi-Lo's, Bob and Dolores Hope, Al Jarreau and the L.A. Jazz Choir.

Also Quincy Jones, Peggy Lee, Marilynn Lovell, Phylicia Rashad, Lee Roy Reams, Mike Reid, Chita Rivera, Savoy, Diane Schuur, Leslie Uggams, Warren Vache and Billy Vera.

For rhythm and blues legend Ruth Brown, the evening had a special significance.

"I just flew in from Tokyo," she said. "My saxophone player had a brain hemorrhage. Right on stage with me, during a performance. He's now brain-injured himself, so tonight has special meaning for me."

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