It Was Grand If Not Quite Opera When Beverly Sills' Pals Celebrated Her Swan Song
updated 11/10/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/10/1980 AT 01:00 AM EST
Well, the meal may have left something to be desired—"My diner in Brooklyn could have served better food," sniffed one woman who had paid $1,000 for the frigid capon with cold rice and carrots. Still, the show that followed was by consensus incomparable. On the set of Die Fledermaus, Sills, in a sequined, befeathered gown, had just finished one of Rosalinda's duets when Carol Burnett burst onstage, in a flashy flapperish outfit, loudly demanding, "What the hell happened to Gay Vienna?" In the middlebrow medley that followed, Leontyne Price sang What I Did for Love, Placido Domingo warbled Granada, Renata Scotto trilled Over the Rainbow, and Dinah Shore did My Mama Done Tol' Me. Inevitably, Mary Martin's offering was My Heart Belongs to Daddy, but she confided that nowadays autograph seekers sheepishly request: "Do you mind writing 'J.R.'s mother' too?"
After the show the throng retreated outdoors to rub shoulders with the likes of jeans magnate Mohan Murjani (who underwrote the party), Joan Mondale, Helen Hayes and Sarah Caldwell. The dancing went on well past the witching hour, but the guest of honor stole away early. "I'm going home now," she said over her shoulder, "and I'll be in the office first thing in the morning. I've got to start writing the next chapter of my life."