Bruce Helps Energize Crowd At The Annual “One Night Only”

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Variety show energizes crowd, raises money
Loretta Vlach, Special to The Desert Sun
Betty Francis
Special to The Desert Sun
April 29, 2007

Now I know why they called it “One Night Only.”

It was packed with so much high-octane talent, breathless timing, and roof-raising applause, it would have been entirely too much for us season-weary social swirlers if it ran any longer.

I didn’t know quite what to expect when I entered the nearly-full McCallum theater for this $95- to-$175 ticket event benefiting Family Services of the Desert.

All I knew was that Michael Childers, one of the country’s most successful event producers, would not disappoint.

I was also confident that smooth-talking announcer Don Wardell would get us off to a good start and that consummate pros like emcee Doris Roberts, (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) Bruce Vilanch v(“Hollywood Squares”) and Tony-nominated singer Valarie Pettiford could pull off just about anything.

There were names on that mind-boggling 21-star list of entertainers that I did not recognize – like Ronobir Lahiri, Wilson Cruz, Brian Lane Green, Channing Cook Holmes, Chris Callaway, Loretta Devine, Nancy Dussault, Freda Payne, Michael Nouri, Kevin Spirtas and KT Sullivan. But now, having seen them, I am a fan of each one!

There truly was not a dull moment in this two-hour (with intermission) musical variety show, with one entertainer entering stage right as the previous one exited stage left.

Roberts’ and Vilanch’s comedy routine revealed their local ties as they pretended to read personal ads from The Desert Sun, slipping in sly references about locals like Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden.

Slim, beautiful, powerful-voiced Betty Garrett, 88, (“All In the Family” and “Laverne And Shirley”) earned the longest, loudest ovation for her rendition of “Broadway Baby” depicting an elderly starlet still waiting to be discovered.

Sally Kellerman still has hot lips – and hips, and attitude. And boy, can she sing!
Queen of Cabaret Andrea Marcovicci retained her crown, and Emmy-winner Nancy Dussault displayed her incredible versatility.

Rod McKuen can still break – or mend – a heart with his raspy, soul-searching voice and lyrical grace.

Who knew Stefanie Powers could sing like that?

Mezzo-Soprano Suzanna Guzman sang a comedic arrangement from the opera “Carmen” and won our empathy by complaining about the speeding ticket she got in Beaumont.

Beloved Broadway and film star Robert Morse won a huge ovation singing “Lucky To Be Me.”

Joely Fisher, daughter of Connie Stevens and Eddie Fisher, upheld her family’s legacy of talent.

Co-chairs and top supporters Jackie Lee Houston and Mark C. Adams recruited the usual suspects to join them as presenting sponsors: Earl Greenburg, David Peet and Kimberly Nichols, Barbara and Jerry Keller, David Lee and Mark Nichols, Harold Matzner, Tom Hanlon (Wells Fargo bank) and Moore-Carlson Real Estate Associates. The always generous JoAnn McGrath and the Realtors Association were among other major sponsors.

Piero’s Acqua Pazza, at The River in Rancho Mirage hosted a delicious after-show buffet for the cast and supporters, where guest Helen Turner summed it up: “Each star was so good, you didn’t want them to leave the stage.”

Family Services information: 347-2398.