To Sidney with Love

updated 03/30/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/30/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

HAD IT BEEN A MOVIE, IT MIGHT have been called Guess Who Came to Dinner? The answer, when the American Film Institute honored Sidney Poitier with its Life Achievement Award on March 12, was a crazy salad of celebs that included Tony Curtis, Dan Aykroyd (who'll appear with Poitier in Sneakers, a spy caper due later this year) and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks—along with 1,000 other Poitier pals, fans and former costars.

Poitier, 65, the first African-American to win a Best Actor Oscar (for 1963's Lilies of the Field) sat beaming with wife Joanna, 48, through the three-hour tribute and some playful jibes from emcee Harry Belafonte, 65, a longtime friend. Reminding the audience that the actor was also "one hell of a producer," Belafonte introduced Poitier's six daughters, ages 18 to 39.

The gala, at L.A.'s Beverly Hilton Hotel, was taped for broadcast April 4 on NBC. In closing, a grateful and modest Poitier typically expressed concern for the welfare of his fellow man. "I better take old Harry home," he said. "All this excitement is risky for a man of his age."

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