Fond Memories of An Old Pal and a Night at the Races Attract Stars to a High Stakes Cause

updated 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

It was billed as "A Night at the Races," an evening of elegant excess that would lure some 1,000 show business heavies—including Dolly Parton, Milton Berle and Kenny Rogers—to the Hollywood Park Track to gamble away their pocket money on cards, craps and the nags running in two special races. Promises, promises: To such PR extravaganzas, trumpeted umpteen times a week in party-prolific L.A., many are called and few RSVP. This occasion, however, was a benefit for the Neil Bogart Memorial Laboratories, a children's cancer research center established in memory of the music mogul who died of cancer in 1982 at the age of 39. To honor him and serve the cause, most of the heralded biggies showed up.

Small talk ran to the usual mix of money, careers and egos. Dallas star Linda Gray, accompanied by daughter Kelly Thrasher, 18, updated friends on her latest contract negotiations. Suzanne Somers tattled amusingly about her nude photo spread in the current Playboy: "My son, Bruce, says all his friends can't believe that's his mom on all those pages." Milton Berle cut the conversation and stuck to the blackjack table for two expensive hours. James B. Sikking of Hill Street Blues had no use for such costly excitement. "I've been gambling with my career for 25 years," he cracked. "A little poker now and then with my friends is about all I care to do."

Co-chairperson Carole Bayer Sager Bacharach had seemed a little saccharine when she observed, "One of the best things about being in the entertainment industry is seeing what the collective imagination of creative people can do." In fact the gathering proved just that. At night's end they had enriched the cause of research into children's cancer by $750,000.

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