Abc Puts on the Glitz with An All-Star Office Party at Radio City Music Hall
The unlikely rubberneckers were among some 150 ABC performers who voyaged to New York to cheer on their network at its annual affiliates meeting. At times, the extravaganza at Radio City Music Hall made it seem that Beverly Hills had migrated to the Big Apple. Evans and Forsythe joined fellow Dynasty star Diahann Carroll and such other luminaries as Ted Koppel, Barbara Walters, Robert Wagner, Shirley MacLaine, David Hartman, Raquel Welch, Emmanuel Lewis, Marlo Thomas, ABC's daytime lineup from Susan Lucci to Jack Wagner and a slew of other celebs (not to mention the Rockettes and the West Point military band). They performed in Broadway-style production numbers that spilled across Radio City's aircraft-carrier-size stage, but the one-performance-only event will not be televised.
The private affair (if you can call a party with 6,000 guests "private") was created solely to hype the network's fall schedule and to impress an all-important audience: the owners of the 212 ABC affiliated stations across the country, advertisers and ABC brass. Networks traditionally cap their annual meetings with such meet-the-star parties. But since falling to third place last season and facing a $3.5 billion merger with Capital Cities Communications next year, ABC was determined to pile on the razzle-dazzle.
The stars themselves, who donated their services in exchange for plane fare and lavish room and board, lounged around the cavernous music hall and cheered on their fellow famous during two days of rehearsal. "That sounds like something I would do," Shirley MacLaine reassured Barbara Walters, who was nervous about performing a humorous routine with Ted Koppel. Ever at ease in a gingham shirt and windbreaker, Perry Como, 73, marveled at the talents of Webster's Emmanuel Lewis, 14. "That little boy has no fear," observed Como, who had flown up from his Florida home to promote his Christmas special. New series hopeful Ann (Hollywood Beat) Turkel talked weight lifting with Rooky's Carl Weathers. And in the presence of their elders, the newcomers were positively deferential. "I'm a big fan of yours," a normally cool Bruce (Moonlighting) Willis gushed to Robert Wagner. "There's nobody like you were," Raquel Welch told dressing-room mate Lana Turner. "What do you mean were?" the 65-year-old Lana shot back.
On the night of the gala, the Radio City block was roped off as for an old-time movie premiere. Inside, ABC's stars showed off their less celebrated talents. Diahann Carroll belted out a rendition of New York, New York that would make Liza Minnelli's version sound wimpy. During a Dynasty fashion show, Linda Evans rose on a platform, dressed like a blond Venus in a silhouette-fitting white gown that would never pass network censors. She was surrounded by 30 brunettes in "Alexis" clothing. (The original Alexis, Joan Collins, was making a miniseries, Sins, in Europe.) Reported Gary Pudney, the ABC vice-president who produced the show, "When I told Joan about the brunettes, she responded, 'You bastard!' "
Walters and Koppel, however, were the hit of the evening. Introduced by former President Richard Nixon (on videotape) as "the thinking man's Johnny Carson," Koppel lived up to his billing, sharing journalistic war stories with Barbara Walters and doing devastating impressions of Nixon and Henry Kissinger. "It's not something they teach you in journalism school," the Nightline anchor conceded.
Scheduled for 90 minutes, the show ran for two hours. Having given at the office, many celebs made only a hasty appearance at the dinner afterward. But there were enough stars in evidence to satisfy the affiliate owners' wives (it's still a man's business), who snapped pictures of themselves with hunks like Willis, Robert Urich and Jack (Hollywood Beat) Scalia. "It was a wonderful party," pronounced the wife of a North Carolina TV station owner. Added her more cautious husband: "Let's wait till next fall."
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