Hollywood Pays Tribute to Playwright Neil Simon—and How California Sweet It Is!

updated 09/26/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/26/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

When showbiz folks aren't busy handing themselves Oscars, Emmys, Tonys and other assorted statuettes, they gather to pay special tribute to one another. So it was that entertainment's finest came out in full force to blow their horns for Neil Simon, 61—and also to raise approximately $200,000 for Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre. With 24 plays and 20 movies (including such hits as The Odd Couple, California Suite and Biloxi Blues) to Simon's credit, it was difficult to find a performer in the room who hadn't appeared in one of his comedies, either on stage, film or TV. Even his ex-wife, Marsha (The Goodbye Girl) Mason, was on hand, saying, "People can still be friends, even if they're divorced." Lucie Arnaz went so far as to credit Simon for her marriage to Laurence Luckinbill. "I was doing They're Playing Our Song on Broadway, while Larry was starring in Chapter Two," she said. "We met because both plays were written by Neil. We named our first-born Simon, for obvious reasons."

The author took the gush-a-rama in stride. During his thank-yous to the crowd, Simon said he could feel like a real sunshine boy except for one thing: His new play, the Broadway-bound Rumors, currently running in San Diego, is having structural problems. With that he exited, not to go home and rest on his laurels but to work on his troubled second act.

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