Home is Where the Heart is

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I want to talk about the de-vastating closures at the MPTF Hospital and losing my heart to Carol (again).

Carol Channing

I’ve fallen in love with Carol and her husband Harry… again. After breaking her hip… again (just two months ago!) at age 88, Carol Channing was on her feet and doing her magic in “The First Eighty Years are The Hardest” for the Inaugural Cabaret perfor-mance at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. The opening stand-up (her real life stories) was totally Laugh-Out-Loud. Her singing and dancing, her wit and timing and the genuine connection to her audience were the things that only this superstar owns; she is rightly adored and revered. Some are agile, others are fragile.

The MPTF and Some Broken Hearts

This is something that would break Carol Channing’s heart. I want to talk about the motion picture and television fund, which offered home and haven to many retired film and TV professionals. As a long time member of the entertainment in-dustry, I’ve had the blessed security of knowing that if all else fails, I would have a safety net. It seems now that the net is fraying; many are waking up to the fact that this ‘dream come true’ was really just a dream after all.
The Motion Picture and Tele-vision Fund announced last month that it will close its hospital and nursing home by the end of the year. For over seven decades, the MPTF have had a history of un-matched, long-term care. And now, poof! Goodbye? This closure immediately affects the sickest and most vulnerable residents. This is a grievous problem to the members, their families and the community.

“Taking Care of Our Own?”

Bruce tickles everyone, Carol tickles Bruce! (L to R): Jackie Joseph, Mark Cirillo, Bruce Vilanch, Carol Channing, Joyce Ammie and Dr. Leo Ward after the electrifying debut of “The First Eighty Years are The Hardest.”

Bruce tickles everyone, Carol tickles Bruce! (L to R): Jackie Joseph, Mark Cirillo, Bruce Vilanch, Carol Channing, Joyce Ammie and Dr. Leo Ward after the electrifying debut of “The First Eighty Years are The Hardest.”

Taking care of our own is a glorious commitment. All of us have gladly had automatic deduct-ions to the MPTF taken out of every paycheck to take care of our industries workers, and to our future (50 years for me). It is a great charity. Toluca Lake’s MPTF’s Clinic is staffed with great doctors and incredible facilities. I love these accomplishments.
So, a puzzling and confusing a conundrum. One can somehow see both sides of the issue. Money, money, woe, woe. How-ever, can’t exceptions be made for the current frail patients at the MPTF hospital and long-term care facility? The Fund has created a paradise full of personal and loving attention but now it is transforming these deserving individuals to a wilderness of strangers; to a place that is not home. There are promises from the fund to keep an eye on all concerned. Unsettling and not quite right.
The independent resident-retirees, currently living in the cottages and facilities, are not affected. Their truly wonderful situation still exists. But my friends that live there (and families of friends that are maintained there) are more than shaky. What happens when they are ill and need caretakers? Will they be “vacated” from their homes? So many stories. Desperate feelings and decisions. Separated spou-ses…  There are Internet sites that offer both the case for the Fund’s decision, and the affected families and their supporter’s reactions. Accusations. Rebuttals. Many questions. Many answers. I suggest you read all about it. It may not affect you now, but odds on, it will. “Saving the Lives of Our Own” is looking to create awareness within our industry. Their leaders invite you to for an in-depth tour of long-term care facility and to meet their mothers and friends who are being faced with imminent action of eviction. To read information and reactions from the Motion Picture and Television Fund, Google MPTF and all sorts of sites and data are there for you.
Personally, it’s a shattering reality. Freefall. Maybe like a divorce in a way. I can’t imagine the sense of abandonment the present victims of this change must feel. Not just losing their home and the care but losing the supporting players, like the staff (many of whom will be looking for new jobs) and the volunteers with the enthusiasm and passion they bring (I was lucky to work a variety show there with one of the 3 Stooges). The facilities built by the donations from all of us are five-star qualities; any other place pales by comparison. It’s great. It’s sad. How to feel?
“Many people look forward to coming here, and I’m one of them,” said talented actor John Schneider, of “The Dukes of Hazard” (and so much more). “They all paid for their rooms in there, and they shouldn’t be forced to move out. There’s still time to do something. This was indeed a fiscal decision made in a vacuum. We didn’t lose the debate; we weren’t even invited to the debate.”
Voices of the disenfranchised protest the planned closure and vowed to keep the facilities open They want a chance to raise the money and to find donors to help. They feel betrayed. Fund officials issued a statement saying the charity was “committed to working with families to find the best possible long-term care facilities and creating a transition process that will cause the least amount of disruption.”
This charity was started by Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford to care for entertainers who fell on hard times. We can’t lose steam because of “hard times.” Can’t modern-day Hollywood’s creative greats (Spielberg, Katzenberg) bring this script a happy ending? It must be possible. Look who they helped elect for President!
“Saving the Lives of Our Own” is planning a fundraiser/screening of Michael Schroeder’s “Man in the Chair.” Check their website (savingthelivesofourown.org) for the date and time information.
In memory of some of our own greats who we took care of, the great producer/director Stanley Kramer, Robert Cummings, Joel McCrea, Jerry Calonna and Toluca Lake’s Dick Wilson (of Mr. Whipple fame). We’ll talk…

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