It’s pretty special when you receive an invite to a tribute for Carol Burnett at the El Capitan Theatre.
And it’s doubly special when Betty White is set to present the infamous comedienne with the inaugural Honor of Distinction Award, from Hollywood High School Performing Arts Center and Madame Tussauds Hollywood.
Add a bunch of talented kids, a la Glee and you’ve got an evening where everyone’s kicking up their heels and having a ball.
All except Betty White, that is. Sadly, the actress became caught the flu at the 11th hour and was unable to for fill her commitment, very unlike Ms. White, who is a workhorse. But, since this was a night of celebration, the wonderful Jane Lynch came to the rescue and filled Betty’s shoes, to please her TV mom. Who can forget the episode when Burnett guest starred as Lynch’s mother on Glee?
The evening was pure joy. We ran into Lamb Chop at the cocktail party before the show. The puppet, who never ages and doesn’t need the services of any of the great plastic surgeons in town, accompanied her mom, Mallory Lewis, puppeteer Shari’s daughter. Mally took over puppetry duties when her mom passed away.
Chef Kurt Ehrlich and Lorimar Winery and Vineyard catered the party.
And on with the show. Although we wished Ms. Burnett could have been onstage from minute one, we knew the deal. Charlene Tilton, Renee Taylor, Joe Bologna, Deborah Shelton, Dee Wallace, Shirley Jones, Marty Ingels, Erin Murphy, Sally Kellerman, and others talked the merits of Hollywood High and Burnett, who started as a journalism student.
Councilman Tom LaBonge declared it Carol Burnett Day in Los Angeles. He proclaimed that an area near Hollywood High would be named Carol Burnett Way.
Historical clips were shown of the comedienne with TV legends Lucille Ball, Julie Andrews, and Ed Sullivan.
Hollywood High’s performing arts stars of tomorrow did numbers from A Chorus Line, Beauty and the Beast, Chicago, Rent, Aida, and Moulin Rouge. The extravaganza was produced by Stormy Sacks. We can’t list every student’s name but both Bianca and Roger Neal, Jr. were featured.
Jane Lynch called Burnett “my first inspiration and one of the world’s greatest treasures.”
Said Burnett: “Now, I know what it’s like to have a eulogy!” She continued, “I’m overwhelmed. These are my stomping grounds. I lived a block north of Hollywood Boulevard and went to school here. Never in a million years did I think I would be honored like this.”
How can you not love this woman? “I was a nerd! I was very quiet in school and a good student.” She recounted a story about using the name of a classmate on The Carol Burnett Show. Her office received an irate call from the woman, then in Vegas, who said, “You used my maiden name on the show.” Carol’s secretary told her that the two went to school together. The woman replied, “I don’t remember her.” Said Burnett, “I hope she remembers me now!.
Sue Facter owns a news agency that specializes in the luxury brand. Her work appears in USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Women’s Day Australia, on broadcasts and the web.