As Singers Sang to Help Their Own, the Sweet Tones and High Notes Were All for Ella
updated 05/15/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/15/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT
An unprecedented assembly of Big Band stars—including Fran Warren, Helen Forrest, Kitty Kallen and "Liltin' " Martha Tilton—nuzzled up to the Beverly Hilton Hotel mike, some performing for the first time in decades. But the night belonged to Ella. "I'm feeling pretty good," said the guest of honor, who underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery in 1986. Though she had spent her actual birthday, three days earlier, sitting at home, there were so many well-wishers, "I couldn't get off the phone." The night after collecting her award she was back where she belongs—behind a microphone—and singing her heart out for an audience of students at UCLA.