Television Academy Hall of Fame Gala

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Jeff Probst, host and executive producer of Survivor, was host at the Television Academy’s 20th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Gala.

I want to Talk about a thrilling and elegant occasion, incandescent with star power, low-key but high power. While other seasonal celebrity-laden shows are highly publicized and full of fireworks, the inductions to the Television Academy Hall of Fame quietly occur and offer a most heartfelt happening.

David, as a former president of the Television Academy, had the privilege to attend. As his lucky spouse, it’s a favorite occasion, full of class, sentiment, fun and friends — a time to inhale deeply the gold dust in the room.

The Inductees

Jeff Probst, star and executive producer of Survivor, was a superb host for this 20th annual gala at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Actresses Diahann Carroll and Cloris Leachman, cable executive Tom Freston, composer Earle Hagen, writer and producer Susan Harris, broadcast journalist Peter Jennings and game show producer Bill Todman were the iconic and honored inductees. John Shaffner, Chairman and CEO of the Television Academy said, “We congratulate them on this occasion and thank them for brightening our television universe with passion and talent.”

As degrees of separation go, David and I have been lucky to somehow be involved with these excellent folks. Diahann was a gorgeous star in David’s production The Fashion Awards; we last saw Cloris dining at La Costa and I had interviewed her on the “A.M. LA” show where she wouldn’t let anyone in the studio smoke; Tom Freston’s MTV Cable showed my “Snoop Dogg” moment, but his involvement with “The ONE Campaign” has my heart. The beloved and prolific Earle Hagen wrote The Andy Griffith Show theme song (start whistling) and we enjoyed the company of his beautiful and talented widow Laura at Mayberry Days, where she gave a tribute to Earle. The lovely Susan Harris is my pal Marion Segal’s sister, it was fun to play games on Bill Todman’s game shows, and I attended an ABC affiliate’s affair in DC when Peter Jennings was introduced as their young news anchor. Some good friends, other bare brushes, but I’m emotionally tied to them all.

Presenters for the inductees were pretty hot themselves. Film editor George Englund presented to his (former) wife actress Cloris Leachman. Television executive Fred Silverman presented to the very lovely Susan Harris, and Bob Daly presented to Tom Freston. Several inductees were recognized posthumously. Darling Carl Reiner subbed for Dick Van Dyke (pulled ligament) and presented to composer Earle Hagen, fabulous Florence Henderson presented to game show producer Bill Todman, and ABC News’s brave and inspiring anchor Bob Woodruff presented to Peter Jennings. The ever gorgeous Diahann Carroll was presented by David Frost (long distance) and Tavis Smiley, and it was good to learn that she had a real hoot while doing Dynasty.

Each and every one had a life story full of happiness, humor, brilliance and generosity. And the presenters opened windows that helped us learn so much more about these very well known people. I relate this occasion to kind of a “Kennedy Center Honors,” but the Academy gala is more private and the honorees get to give heartening (and hysterical) thank-you speeches.

Here’s a tip: Exclusive coverage of the Hall of Fame Induction gala, including interviews with the inductees, presenters and other behind-the-scenes footage, will be available for the next few days at Emmys.com. A good opportunity to be a fly on the wall. Founded by former Television Academy president John H. Mitchell in 1984, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame has honored on-camera legends and pioneering directors, producers, costume designers, writers, animators, executives, reporters and documentarians/explorers. Past honorees include Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Walter Cronkite, Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Oprah Winfrey, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Lorne Michaels, Carl Reiner, Katie Couric, Bob Mackie, Bob Barker, Bea Arthur, Bill Cosby, Regis Philbin, William Shatner, Bob Stewart, and Candice Bergen, to name a few.

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