That Old Tony Magic's Still Working, as a Season of Broadway Dross Turns to Gold

updated 06/20/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/20/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Even Luke Skywalker rarely sees so many stars. Mark Hamill, currently playing Mozart in Broadway's hit Amadeus, was amazed by the number of biggies who turned out for the Tony Awards show. "At rehearsal," he joked, "I was the only person I had never heard of." Biggies Richard Burton, Lena Horne and Jack Lemmon hosted. Unfortunately, neither Burton nor producer Zev Bufman, who was in the audience, brought la Liz along. But Ginger Rogers, Bonnie Franklin, Diahann Carroll and Twiggy filled out the leading-lady department nicely.

As always, the program was a TV ratings grabber, even though this Broadway season has been more bust than boom. The audience of 1,500 in Manhattan's Uris Theater (permanently renamed the Gershwin that night) got to see a great performace before the show went on the air, as producer Alexander Cohen served up a half hour of quips, caveats and just plain chatter. Among other things, he sternly warned the nominees, who would be on camera, not to chew gum or lean out of their seats, and to limit their acceptance speeches to 30 seconds. Proving he meant business, he nearly brought the house down by revealing that he had mounted a 30-second warning light in full view of the winners.

His admonitions were ignored; the show ran 25 minutes over, and it wasn't until midnight that the guests settled in for a dinner of steak, eggs and champagne at the New York Hilton. Winners (such as Matthew Broderick, of Brighton Beach Memoirs) mingled with also-rans (such as Chita Rivera of Merlin) and just plain admirers (such as Walter Cronkite and Gandhi's Ben Kingsley). Lena hugged Ginger, 71, who was clearly having fun. Diahann made plans to see Torch Song Trilogy (a play about the trials and tribulations of a drag queen), while that show's star, double winner Harvey Fierstein, celebrated his 29th birthday with his mother. "Am I happy?" said Jackie Fierstein. "What mother wouldn't be happy?"

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