Last Night’s Theatre Museum Benefit

Stewart F. Lane & Bonnie Comley of the Theatre Museum Board, and the Palace Theatre
Stewart F. Lane & Bonnie Comley

Last night’s benefit for the Theatre Museum at the Players Club was a humdinger, and no mistake. Hats off to Mr. Broadway Stewart F. Lane (of the Palace Theatre, and Chair of the Theatre Museum), and producer/ actress (and Theatre Museum board member) Bonnie Comley, for making it a huge success.

The place was hopping! Check it out, look who’s on Joe Franklin’s arm but Marilyn Sokol, from Foul Play, The Front, The Goodbye Girl and Can’t Stop the Music, which, coincidentally, the Duchess and I had watched only a few weeks ago.


The event began with a moving tribute to Helen Guditis, the late founder and head of the Theatre Museum, and the source of my involvement with the organization in the first place. Her presence of course was the one element missing last night, but it was nice to see so many of her family there.

This tribute was followed by a special award to Emerson College, and then it was on to the 100th anniversary tribute to the Palace Theatre, produced and organized by me, which came off better than my fondest hopes thanks to the excellence of the performers.

I palaver about the Palace
I palaver about the Palace

Then I turned the mic over to Master of Ceremonies Todd Robbins, who was at his polished and sure-footed best:


And then on to the acts:

Rodeo Roper Chris McDaniel, whose act recollected the great Will Rogers (coincidentally the Will Rogers Follies had been ensconced at the Palace back in the 90s)

Chris McDaniel photo by Rob Rich © 2013 516-676-3939

Adorable young Ariella Pizza sang Frances White’s “Mississippi Song” and tap danced:

Ariela Pizza photo by Rob Rich © 2013 516-676-3939

Then Joe Franklin came out and gave some hilarious reminiscences of Eddie Cantor (whom he wrote for as a teenager) and other memories of the Palace.

This was followed by a surprise visit by Will Jordan, the popular impressionist from the 1950s and 60s, most famous for his uncanny and highly influential Ed Sullivan, which he has done in countless movies. He, too, shared his show biz memories.

will jordan

That”s how he looks now; here’s archival clip of his act from his heyday:

Following these gentlemen, our favorite waif in the world Poor Baby Bree came out to sing, accompnaied as always by Franklin Bruno:

Poor Baby Bree photo by Rob Rich © 2013 516-676-3939

Then juggling clowns/ musicians Rod Kimball and Andy Sapora of the Flying Karamazov Brothers came out and cut up:


The incomparable Rebecca Joy Fletcher performed her Yiddish cabaret songs:


Lastly Ron Hutchinson of the Vitaphone Project showed a montage of clips of some of the great Palace stars, as well as the 1929 Burns and Allen Vitaphone short Lamb Chops. It was nice to hear their ghosts mingling with those of the Booth Brothers and the other thespians spirits in the old townhouse.

Poster - Vitaphone frame

At any rate this was a killer bill, and these people all donated their services. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

For more photo coverage of last night’s event, see:

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