by Betty Francis
Announcing his age (74) and celebrating his 57th year in showbiz, Anka performed an energetic, entertaining, and highly professional 90 minute concert with no intermission at last week’s McCallum Theatre Gala.
In fact, he never left the stage except for two forays into the audience to shake hands and kibitz. On one of those forays, he visited and introduced his long time friend, Suzanne Sommers.
The evening began, as it has for the past 13years, with the 600 VIP guests enjoying an exquisite early dinner at one of four deluxe restaurants: Wally’s, La Spiga, Jillian’s or Cuistot, all located less than 10 minutes from the theater.
Each person’s theater ticket was waiting as they checked in for dinner, their cars were ready for them when they left, and the McCallum’s battalion of valets was waiting to park it up front at the theater.
McCallum President and CEO Mitch Gershenfeld introduced the evening’s honoree, philanthropist Helene Galen and its well-known co-chairs Donna MacMillan and Harold Matzner.
Gershenfeld also announced the addition of an historic event to the theater’s schedule: A 95th Birthday party for Rancho Mirage resident Carol Channing, featuring two of her Broadway friends, Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming on March 5, 2016.
In keeping with this season’s wonderful trend towards shorter speeches and quicker programs, MacMillan and Matzner kept their praise for Galen short but very, very sweet and she responded in kind. Galen also introduced several members of her family who were present.
Donna MacMillan, in her tribute to Helene Galen, said, “There is no way that anyone can adequately express just how much you mean to this community, my beautiful friend”.
The live tribute was followed by a fast-paced video featuring Matzner, Gershenfeld, Lilly Tomlin, Thomas Lauderdale of Pink Martini, and Lucie Arnez and her husband, Laurence Luckinbill. The video ended on a high note with Tomlin proclaiming in her best “Edith” voice, “And that’s the truth.”
Anka then opened his own performance with a surprise, by standing up from a seat in the audience, singing “ You Are My Destiny” as he traversed a full row of seated guests, shaking hands along the way.
Intermittent videos and personal comments about his family made easy transitions between a dozen of his famous songs including “Diana” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” Various videos showed him performing at age 17, then with Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, famous friends, and several presidents.
He also paid special tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. by joining Davis, (on video) in a duet. Still, Anka managed to work some up-to-date comedy into the nostalgia with comments like, “That was so long ago, Trump didn’t have a single opinion.”
Anka’s final number, the one everyone came to hear, was a perfect performance of the song he wrote specifically for Frank Sinatra, “My Way.”
The Valley’s tremendous pride in – and loyalty to – the McCallum was as spectacular as the searchlights that filled the evening sky.
The $100,000 Diamond Circle donors were the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, Helene Galen, Donna MacMillan and Harold Matzner.
The $50,000 gold circle donors were JoAnn McGrath and Jan Salta.
The $25,000 Silver Circle included Eisenhower Medical Center, Helen & Alan Greene, James R. Houston, JoAnn McGrath, Stacey & Greg Renker, Marion & Robert Rosenthal, Arlene and Jordan Schnitzer, and Wells Fargo Private Client Services.
The $10,000 Bronze Circle donors were the Coeta & Donald Barker Foundation, Barbara Fremont, Ted Giatas, Wendy & Robert Good friend, R.D. and Joan Dale Hubbard, Louise Kermode, Brook& Dan Koehller, Patty & Arthur Newman, Carol Price, Miriam & Wayne Prim, and Ken Yontz and Linda Damiano.
The eleven $10,000 and forty-eight $5,000 donors were particularly important to this event, raising between them $350,000.
The $5,000 Directors Circle donors were Diane Anderson, Bob Archer & Chuck Hilliar, Barbara and Tim Arnstein, Rebecca Benaroya, Barbara
and Eugene Berlanti, Annette Bloch, Elizabeth and George Bovis, Jean Carrus, Nancy and George Croom, Jr. , Frank Dimick, Alvera and Frank Gaeta, Marshall Gelfand and Jacqueline Rudman, Angie Gerber, Diane and Hal Gershowitz, Joy and Harry Goldstein, Patti and Jack Grundhofer, Kay Hanson, Carol and Paul Hill, Sandra and George Kachlein, Barbara and Ronnie Kahn, Kayne, Foundation, Suzanne and Rick Kayne, Sally and Mort Kirshner, Carol and Dale Landon, Mark and Pearle Ray Levey, Barbara and Jerry Lundberg, Donna and Douglas MartinCheryl McArthur, Barbara and Jerry Lundberg, Donna and Douglas Martin, Cheryl McArthur, Barbara and leon parma, William Pierpoint and Virginia Sapp, Mr. & Mrs. Charles M. Pigott, Barbara Platt and Norm Lewis, Carol Probst and Don Alexander, Lila Rauch, Michael and Kris Rembis, Linda and Manny Rider, Rella and Monroe Rifkin, Sally and Michael Schreter, Faye Sarkowsky, Mary Silver, Aviva and ron Snow, Saly St. John, Sharrad and Michael Targoff, Virginia Waring Piano Competition, and the Waddell Family.
The Anka show sold out with a total of 1,100 seats filled. In addition to the hundreds of supporters, about 600 VIP dinner & show tickets were sold at between $500 and $5,000 each with seating assigned by computer on a first come-best seated basis.
» The McCallum presented well over 100 shows last season, with something for every age, budget and musical preference, and sold more tickets in the first quarter of 2015 than any theatre in California.
» The theatre’s education division, the McCallum Theatre Institute, presents year round programs for thousands of students both in the theater and in dozens of local schools, along with its popular Open Call for local talent and the annual Chorography dance festival.
» As a non-profit organization, the McCallum has successfully raised about 40% of its operating budget through donations.
» A program of show sponsorships , begun last year, will raise $1,000,000 this season from donors who financially support specific shows such as Rita Rudner sponsored by JoAnn McGrath, Jack Jones sponsored by Jan Salta, Pilobolus sponsored by Annette Bloch, Hershey Felder sponsored by Dan and Brooke Koehler, Lily Tomlin sponsored by Helene Galen, Lee Ann Rines sponsored by Jackie Autry, Jeanne Robertson sponsored by Barbara and Tim Arnstein and Merriachi Christmas sponsored by R.D. and Joan Dale Hubbard and BIGHORN Golf Club Charities.
MUSES & PATRONESS CIRCLE ACHIEVEMENTS: The McCallum’s dynamic fundraising group reached its highest membership ever this year, with 386 members, including 68 at the Patroness Silver level. Outgoing president Sandy Hill and incoming president Linda Weakley presented Chairman Harold Matzner and CEO Mitch Gershenfeld with a check in the amount of $450,305 at the Muses recent annual membership tea.
TO BE ON THE McCALLUM mailing and invitation list, phone 760-340-ARTS (2787) or go to www.mccallum theatre.com.
Sgt. Rick Espinoza, Julie Coefield, Linda Forzani, Jim Lawrence, Vern Kozlen, Sandie Ware, Bob Ware, Lt. Bill Sullivan, and Sgt. Dave Adams. Heartfelt tributes to Corporal Lawrence came from Palm Desert Mayor Susan Marie Weber, Captain Susan Trevino, Kris Long, and Jaishri Mehta.
For information on this annual award contact Raju Mehta at 760- 773-1040 or police Capt. Susan Trevino at 760- 836-1600.