The master of hundreds of voices, the one and only Rich Little was a huge draw for the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters luncheon on April 20. PPB members wanted to see the comedy giant and renowned impressionist and hear the tributes from his entertaining friends. On the dais were game show host and singer Peter Marshall, comic Tom Dreesen, Laugh Factory Las Vegas host and comic Harry Basil, actress and philanthropist Ruta Lee and next month’s honoree, the always stunning WKRP in Cincinnati actress Loni Anderson.
Before Little was presented with the prestigious Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award, PPB president Alan Perris welcomed everyone and introduced an entertaining video highlighting Rich Little’s abundant artistic achievements. It brought back great memories for the crowd at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, especially clips from The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts where Little mimicked many showbiz icons.
The clip that had Little giving the Jimmy Stewart lessons on how to imitate himself had the audience roaring. There was another funny tape sent by Tony Orlando and Jon Voight who were unable to attend the luncheon but wanted to honor their friend.
From the dais, broadcast legend and great humorist, Peter Marshall, paid tribute with a story about teaching Little how to do a song like famous singers. Of course Little was always a crowd-pleaser when he joined Marshall on The Hollywood Squares.
Little’s good friend from the Las Vegas Laugh Factory, Harry Basil, did a funny routine of disastrous impressions as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump, Anthony Hopkins and Forrest Gump. And after Tom Dreesen showed off his comedy skills and told one of his classic Sinatra stories, he praised Little as another entertainment legend. And, as always, the never shy Ruta Lee was a hoot with her toasting and roasting of Little who has always helped her with numerous charity events.
Loni Anderson was super sweet telling everyone, “Rich Little is the best kisser,” as she found out when they were paired as a couple on The Love Boat. Flubbing his lines on purpose take after take, Rich kissed her as Cary Grant and everyone else in his repertoire.
When it was Little’s time to address the crowd, he told everyone he was a classic movie buff and was particularly fond of doing Jimmy Stewart among the “larger than life legends.” But the native Canadian got his start at the age of 12 when he would answer back his teachers in their own voices. Little said his career was launched with the help of his friend, singer Mel Torme, who got him on The Judy Garland Show, after impressing Garland with his James Mason voice.
Named “Comedy Star of the Year” by the American Guild of Variety Artists, Little did nine comedy albums and three HBO comedy specials, as well as the Emmy-award winning Rich Little’s Christmas Carol. Little has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as the Canadian, Palm Springs and Las Vegas Walks of Fame. He recently released his autobiography Little by Little (Celebrities I’ve Known and Been).
PPB’s Perris offers an invitation for people to join the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters and attend the June 1st luncheon honoring Loni Anderson. Scheduled on the dais (but subject to change) is Linda Gray, Diedre Hall, Marilu Henner, Deidra Hoffman, Kate Edelman Johnson and Bruce Vilanch. Perris said, “If you have worked in broadcasting or in any related field for 10 years or more, please call (323) 461-2121 with your request for an application and join us.”
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years and was proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.