George Christy Talks About Mitzi Gaynor, Lily Tomlin, Michael Feinstein, Liza Minelli and more!
Over the river and through the woods to our beloved Mitzi’s we celebrate in Beverly Hills.
Twelve of us. Her Thanksgiving tablescape is a wonderment of beauty. Sparkling with Baccarat crystal, English silver, tall candleabra and adorned with grandiose orchids. And with the starshine of our hostess Mitzi Gaynor, the maitresse of party giving, the glorious Lily Tomlin and Michael Feinstein.
To befriend Mitzi is to be blessed with a friend for life. We’ve partied with her and her late husband Jack Bean for decades. After her showtimes here, there and everywhere. At the Oscars, at major openings, and at intimate dinners chez Mitzi. Where she displays her culinary gifts. Did you know that one of her dressings not only included one, but a trio of rare mustards? That’s Mitzi for you.
Her effervescent soul is pure joy. Time and again during the long ago, she reiterated, “Dear One, I was born to make people happy.”
Our Thanksgiving dinner began with chilled Olympia oysters paired with Aquavit, followed by an Hungarian vegetable salad (Mitzi inspired by a family recipe from her Hungarian heritage), roast turkey that “gourmet” mothers would rate A-plus, sweet potato souffle, and ending with a pumpkin bread pudding with a bourbon sauce and an apple cake baked by Shane Rosamonda, our applauded dinner chef for the evening.
Documentarian Shane and his partner René Reyes, the Paley Center’s popular producing executive, are Mitzi’s managers, happily wrapping up work on her memoir, South Pacific, Showbusiness & Me, that will be published at Christmas time next year. Agented by the prestigious Curtis Brown Literary Agency.
Lily’s good news: her hit Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, co-starring Jane Fonda, is renewed for it’s fifth season, and let’s not forget that Lily has been Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, season after season. Along with other impressive awards and nominations.
Lily and Jane play married friends, whose husbands, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, have been romantically involved for years.
Lily revealed during dinner that the largest venue she’s worked (and God knows she’s performed in hundreds) is the Kennedy Center. “Overwhelming,” she says, “but those who have played it insisted we adjust to it.”
Her illustrious career of acting and improvising is peerless. A world-renowned Detroiter just like Mitzi.
Columbus, Ohio gave us the music of inimitable Michael Feinstein. Fabled singer, pianist, archivist, cabaret stylist for years, and now merely 62.
We met Michael at Jean Howard’s annual New Year’s Day party in 1976 where Rex Harrison was holding court. Where he arrived with June Levant, the wife of the late Wit Oscar Levant. June suggested Michael play a few of the undiscovered Gershwin tunes on the grand piano, arousing the sophisticated guests to stand up and cheer.
Michael was researching the lyrics of Ira Gershwin at the time and, of course, uncovered gems that he now plays in his thrilling performances.
Not long afterward, we introduced Michael to Liza Minnelli, and as legend has it, “they blew up in smoke.”
Soon enough, we hosted an evening with the Who and the Who at the Cinegrill at the Hollywood Roosevelt (our main regret was that Mitzi was performing out-of-town) the great lyricist Sammy Cohn fell in love with Michael, as did others in the audience, and Michael was deservingly riding high ever after.
Having recorded dozens of albums, Michael’s completing an album of country music that includes Dolly Parton.
Dining with our superstars were Michael’s husband, Terrence Flannery (both vegans for years with waists like teenagers) and Michael’s mom Mazie, a tap dancer. Terrence is renovating the historic Cravens house that he and Michael have purchased, and will be live-in ready this spring.
Also: Lily’s spouse, the collaborator and writer of 46 years, Jane Wagner, ballerina Kate Kahn, actor/dancer Steven Byrket, and Sanborn McGraw, the tour manager for Michael Feinstein and Liza Minnelli.
As Lily’s dinner partner, we kept remembering her enlightened witticisms. Among them: “The road to success is always under construction.”