Vilanch Attends 24th annual Gypsy Awards Luncheon Honoring Carl Reiner

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“A mensch,” “The nicest guy I know,” “My hero,” “My mentor,” “My role model” – those are the words heard at the mention of entertainment icon Carl Reiner‘s name.

During his career, which has spanned more than a half-century, he has won seven Emmys and one Grammy as an actor, writer or director and is revered among his show business peers. Now, at age 88, Reiner has been honored at last for his terpsichorean talent – um, make that “physical comedy” – by members of the Professional Dancers Society. Their 24th annual Gypsy Awards Luncheon, held May 16 at the Beverly Hilton, drew an impressive crowd from old Hollywood – dancers, choreographers and affiliates from stage and screen – to pay homage to a master of the art of slapstick and pratfalls.

The Hilton ballroom is usually packed to capacity for this event, but there were fewer attendees this year, probably due to the fragile economy. However, there are no people like show people. Tinseltown’s old guard turned out in force.

In the mix were stalwarts Betty White, Norm Crosby, Carol Lawrence, Florence Henderson and Dick Van Dyke – all of whom participated in a hilarious roast, which included video clips from Reiner’s early song and dance appearances. Another highlight of the afternoon was a posthumous video tribute to dancer Vera Ellen, who died in 1981.

PDS Chairwoman Joni Berry presided over the doings with help from Stefanie Powers and Margaret O’Brien, who introduced the spectacular entertainment: Argentine tango dancers Miriam Larch and Leonardo Barrionuevo, and the Carousel Dance Company, an amazing precision dance troupe representing dance schools throughout the Southland.

Among the attendees were Bruce Vilanch, John Byner, Barbara Bain, Monty Hall, Toni Basil, Marjorie Lord, Betty Garrett, David Hayes, Stan Mazin, Dick Van Patten, Nanette Fabray, Ruta Lee, Joy Johnson, Bill Hayes, Jane Withers, Anne Jeffreys, Ann Rutherford and Jane Kean.

Actors’ Fund Executive Director Joseph Benincasa flew in from New York to give an update on the fund which aids dancers in need. He said the PDS has raised more than $1.5 million, which is distributed through its affiliation with Actors’ Fund.

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