The Professional Dancers Society (PDS) honored the incredibly talented singer, dancer, screen, television, and legend of the Broadway stage, Ben Vereen on March 24, 2013 at the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The almost all-day event was for the 26th Annual Gypsy Award, with a first-time special choreography award presented to Michael Rooney, who has often been referred to as one of our most innovative and influential choreographers.
Mr. Vereen joins the ranks of past PDS Honorees which include the likes of Julie Andrews (last year’s honoree), Angela Lansbury, Ann-Margret, Ann Miller, Bob Hope, Bob Mackie, Buddy Ebsen, Carl Reiner, Carol Burnett, Chita Rivera, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Dick Van Dyke, Dom DeLuise, Donald O’Connor, Florence Henderson, Ginger Rogers, Gwen Verdon, Gregory Hines, Hermes Pan, Jane Powell, Juliet Prowse, June Allyson, June Haver, Joel Grey, Marge Champion, Marie Osmond, Mary Tyler Moore, Mickey Rooney, Milton Berle, Mitzi Gaynor, Rita Moreno, Nanette Fabray, Sammy Davis Jr., Sandy Duncan, Shirley MacLaine, The Nicholas Brothers (Faynard and Harold Nicholas), and certainly not least, because I’m sure I’ve missed many other past honorees, Tommy Tune.
Robert Wood, rights holder and consultant to this fall’s long awaited and highly anticipated Broadway opening of Josephine, the new musical starring Deborah Cox about the life of legendary star Josephine Baker, hit the red carpet with everyone’s favorite Diva, Frances Davis and her Diva Pal, PDS President, Mitzi Gaynor prior to the big kickoff for the fun-filled event led by Miss Gaynor. And if you have ever seen her on stage, she has her one and only brand of show business humor. Telling tales on herself as well as just about everyone else in the celebrity filled ballroom. Also helping with the theatrical shtick was Debbie Reynolds, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Jo Anne Worley, and Florence Henderson. No one was left unscathed, and between Miss Gaynor and Miss Reynolds it was a free-for-all cat attack amongst Hollywood royalty. The fun and laughter never stopped and everyone was wiping their tears with their napkins, either from sheer laughter or emotion. If you ask my opinion, those two gals need to put a two-woman show together fast! It’ll be SRO only! Are you listening, John Bowab?
Ben Vereen. What can we not say about this humble and gracious man? There are few entertainers today that can match the artistic talents of this accomplished and versatile performer. The aura that surrounds him is pure passion. For those blessed enough to have seen him perform, his talents alone encompass huge hits; Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Fosse, Wicked, Grind, Jelly’s Last Jam, and who can ever forget Pippin, which won him the highest awards for “Best Actor in a Musical,” the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award. Last year he received the highest honor in the world of theater, being inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Immediately following, he released his CD Steppin’ Out Live and staged a triumphant return to Broadway with his concert Ben Vereen On Broadway at Town Hall.
We’ve adored his many concert appearances, television movies and specials, and feature films far to lengthy to mention here, but who can ever forget the brilliant “Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie” number from Funny Lady starring Barbra Streisand, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination.
Today, Mr. Vereen devotes his time to lectures and inspiration for thousands of aspiring young dancers, singers, and performers hoping to follow in his legendary spotlight and create one all their own. As he has always been, he remains the consummate singer, dancer, actor, and global entertainer of legendary status.
Mitzi Gaynor said it most eloquently. And God said, “Let there be light” – and the light was BEN VEREEN! Ben changed dancing in the theater, film, television, in life – he made it FUN to kill yourself and love it – he’s MAGIC and we’ve got him – thank you, God.
PDS is an affiliate of The Actors Fund of America, a non-profit corporation formed to serve professional dancers in times of need. They provide comfort and dignity for retired or disabled dancers as well as providing an Emergency Relief Fund to assist in times of crisis. Please contact The Professional Dancers Society and see how you can help as “friends of the dancer.”