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George Christy Talks About Mitzi Gaynor, Box Office Blues, Gone With The Wind and more

Mitzi Gaynor celebrated her Virgo birthday during a dinner for 40 guests in the heart of Beverly Hills

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Garlanded with loops of soft lights, the patio, if we blinked, reminded us of Tivoli, the summer playground in Copenhagen, Denmark.

But we were in the residential heart of Beverly Hills.  Dining at one of the five round tables and applauding the news that she was being inducted by Michael Feinstein in his Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame, with Kristin Chenoweth entertaining, in Indiana, not far from Indianopolis, where Vice President Mike Pence and wife Karen reside, as they did during his governorship of the Hoosier State.  High hopes the Pences may attend.  She and her steadfast producers, Rene Reyes and Shane Rosamonda, are arriving there for the September 30th ceremony.  

She being the great, grand and glorious Mitzi Gaynor whose dancing and singing and acting talents have lifted our spirits time and again.

Her 40 dinner guests she was hosting during the Labor Day weekend were celebrating her Virgo birthday.   With candles being blown out on a mad-bad-and-dangerous-to-know chocolate truffle cake.  

Steven Byrket, the director for catering at El Cholo, planned the three-course menu, a special treat being the mini crab cakes topped with a mango salsa.

Longtime friends offered congratulations.  Dance king Joe Tremaine, philanthropist Joni Berry and novelist spouse Stephen Maitland-Lewis, So You Think You Can Dance producer Adam Shankman, dancers Randy Doney, Alton Ruff, Sonja Haney, Joanie and Norm Crosby, videographer Lee Hale, television’s Richard Neely, Kate Kahn, Milan Adam, Patrica Ward Kelly, rehab director Eldon Teper, Donald Light, “the other” Craig Stevens, Abby Aguirre, BAFTA’s Shirley Green with her talent manager daughter Melanie.  Plus, of course, Mitzi’s indomitable Rene and Shane.

We met Kathy Lennon of the fabled Lennon Sisters, the foursome now performing regularly in Branson, Missouri at the Andy Williams Theatre.  Kathy sat with husband James  Davis.   

We couldn’t help ruminating about today’s youngsters with toe-tapping feet.  Those practicing leggy high kicks will find inspiration checking out Mitzi’s Wikipedia on how to build a  career in showbusiness. 

Mitzi’s lifelong success on the concert stage, films and television began with childhood training as a ballerina, pirouetting with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.  Becoming a protégé of George Jessel who changed her name.  Born Francesca   Marlene Czanvi von Gerber, it was Jessel who insisted Mitzi Gerber sounded like a delicatessen owner and chose the Gaynor moniker after Janet Gaynor, who won the first Oscar in 1929 for  Best Actress for her role in Seventh Heaven.  

Mitzi’s history is a phenomenon, as one explores her life in Wikipedia.  Which doesn’t mention that Mitzi was wooed by billionaire Howard Hughes for months, later marrying her agent Jack Bean in 1954.  

Who will ever forget her presiding over the Technicolor screen in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s immortal South Pacific.   Starring as Army Nurse Nelli Forbush opposite Rossano Brazzi, with Nellie vowing to “wash that man right out of my hair.”

Take a moment, if you will, and check out her set of videos, Razzle-Dazzle, directed by the incomparable Tony Charmoli, and be blown away as you lap up the jump-for-joy singing and dancing  and wonder why such thrilling entertainment is no longer with us. 

Where have our good movies gone? This Labor Day weekend box office results were the most disastrous in decades.  Not only are many movies on the No Man’s Land List, but let’s not overlook rap crap music with the f-word lyrics, dung art, the fashion of mud-streaked torn jeans and shredded sneakers selling for shamelessly high prices at Neiman-Marcus.  

Even the Goldie Oldies are in trouble.  A Gone With the Wind revival screening in Memphis was cancelled with threats of violence.  Why?  “It’s racist!”

The classic film won 10 Oscars, and have we forgotten that the beloved black actress Hatti McDaniel, appearing with Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, won a Gone With the Wind Oscar?

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