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George Christy Talks About Mitzi Gaynor, Joni Berry, the Professional Dancers Society

Chairman Joni Berry and President Mitizi Gaynor hosted their 31st annual Professional Dancers Society Spring Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton, raising funds to help dancers in need. Photos by Nathan Sternfeld
Emcee Dick Van Dyke
Joanne DiVito was voted the winner of Gypsy Robe this year
Dancers Barrie Chase, George Chakiris and choreographer Toni Basil are this year’s honorees

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Hurrahs around the clock for Mitzi Gaynor and Joni Berry.  Those motivating forces behind the Professional Dancers Society.  For several decades, President Mitzi and Chairman Joni have given heart and soul to supporting dancers with their annual Gypsy Awards Spring Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton.  They have raised millions to assist our talented hoofers and hooferettes when aid is necessary.

Dancers have long called themselves gypsies. Not knowing what their next gig will be.

This fun, non-profit event, underwritten by Joni Berry, celebrated its 31st anniversary last week.  Honoring the impressive careers of George Chakiris (West Side Story), Barrie Chase (Daddy Long Legs, Silk Stockings with Fred Astaire), and choreographer Toni Basil (Viva Las Vegas, touring with Tina Tuner and Bette Midler). 

An affiliate now of The Actors Fund, PDS loves dancers, both active and inactive.  Achieving a long-hopeful goal of providing low income housing, along with retirement and nursing facilities for dancers on both coasts.

The PDS roster of prior honorees is legion.  Carol Burnett, Ben Vereen, Rita Moreno, Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury, Ann-Margret, Mary Tyler Moore, Leslie Caron, Paula Abdul, Carol Lawrence, and the indomitable Carol Channing. 

In her always-welcomed, let’s-laugh-a-lot introduction to the program, which features the Carousel Dancers, choreographed by Karen Willes, President Mitzi keeps the sell-out crowd howling. 

Surprising the audience,       when at the tail end of her talk, she didn’t mince words about her age. 

She called it out loudly.  Twice!

We’re not telling.  You had to be there.


Had it not been for the mink coat that brought her to Hollywood, who knows what Cora Sue Collins’ destiny might have been. 

Vacationing in West Virginia from their native Virginia, her mother Clyde Collins hit the ceiling and the road after learning that her husband gifted his secretary with a mink coat.

Mom quickly whisked Cora Sue, then age 3, to Hollywood.  Where a fortuitous meeting with a casting agent landed Cora Sue an audition at Universal.  Chosen over other child actors that included Judy Garland to play the lead in The Unexpected Father (1932).

MGM came calling with a contract and a big break in 1933 when Greta Garbo wanted her to play her younger character’s self in Queen Christina.

Cora Sue continued working at MGM, sometimes on loan to the major and minor studios, playing the younger versions of their female stars. 

She acted opposite co-stars Myrna Loy, William Powell, Irene Dunne, Colleen Moore, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.  Child that she was, she attended school at MGM.

This past week, on April 19, Cora Sue celebrated her 91st birthday at her posh apartment in Beverly Hills with loyal friends and family (daughter Susan, grandson Kevin). 

Arrivals included cardiologist Dr. Stephen Corday with mate Mari Jo Deutschman, who heads the Little Dolphins School in Santa Monica, a multicultural pre-school and transitional kindergarten.

“Steve Corday keeps me hopping.  Year after year … I’m indebted to him now and forever,” claimed Cora Sue.

This Saturday (April 28), the Turner  Classics Movie Film Festival has invited Cora Sue to share her recollections about the filming of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer (1938) starring Tom Kelly as Tom.

With Cora Sue’s infallible memory, engaging voice and crisp diction, we anticipate an afternoon of pure delight for our Good Times Book.

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