The 12th Annual Los Angeles Tony Awards Party, thrown at the Skirball Center on Sunday, June 15th, meant more than a nice dinner and viewing of the only approved feed of the Tony Awards as they happened live in New York. This was a truly impressive gala event filled with purpose.
Firstly, the whole evening was set up as a fundraiser thrown by, and for the benefit of, The Actors Fund. In a nutshell, The Actors Fund (actorsfund.org) is a nonprofit human services organization in its 125th year of operation whose mission is to provide entertainers in theater, music, opera, television, film and dance essential services in times of extreme need. Tommy Tune, winner of an unprecedented nine Tony Awards across four different categories among numerous other professional accolades, was honored after the Tony Awards wrapped by recieving the Julie Harris Lifetime Achievement Award, thus joining an impressive list of luminaries who received it before him, including Julie Harris, Gwen Verdon, Charles Durning, Tyne Daly, Lauren Bacall, Rita Moreno, James Earl Jones, Stockard Channing, Liza Minnellii, Jerry Herman and Carol Channing, who was chosen to present the award in person to Mr. Tune, along with Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch).
There was certainly no lack of excitement in the room as Florence warmed up the audience with her quick wit and her showering praise of Mr. Tune. In case anyone wasn’t fully enlightened as to Tommy’s many achievements, they ran a several minute-long clip reel showing Tommy’s stellar contributions to the arts as an actor, singer, dancer and tap dancer, contributions that resulted in his receipt of The National Medal of Arts from the President of The United States during a private ceremony in the oval office of the White House in November of 2003.
As Carol Channing relieved Florence as second presenter, the room filled with a kind of joy that could only have been the result of her warm spirit and overflowing energy. It made up for her occasional unintelligible comments or non-sequitor remarks. Her charm overtook the crowd who forgave her speech’s mini-hiccups, and she offered some interesting, unique stories about her personal interactions over the years with Tommy.
As Tommy took the platform for his award, the crowd went wild with applause and standing ovations. His overall speech was concise, but not without some nice highlights, including a thank you song with piano accompaniment by Brian Stokes Mitchell and the re-enactment of a few dance steps he recalled from pivotal moments in his career. He commented on various avenues his career. As he exited, he delighted the crowd with a heartfelt, “It’s wonderful…it’s wonderful…that you should care for me.”