The Nov. 17 tribute Angela Lansbury - A Celebration, honored both Ms. Lansbury's remarkable acting career and her tireless efforts against AIDS, raising over one-million dollars for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Broadway's Majestic Theatre was packed with some of the brightest stars in show business, and host Nathan Lane kicked off the festivities with a rapid-fire string of ad-libbed one liners, at one point referring to himself as "the Georgie Jessel of the nineties." The evening continued with show-stopping performances by Barbara Cook, Bea Arthur joined by Jack Klugman, Len Cariou, Nell Carter, Jane Connell, Tyne Daly, Davis Gaines, Sam Harris, George Hearn, and Jennifer Holliday, all who sang numbers from Broadway musicals Ms. Lansbury had appeared in.
Lauren Bacall and Phyllis Newman each gave warm speeches honoring Ms. Lansbury's talent, humanitarianism and five decade career, comprised of award-winning performances in film, television, and theatre. A video montage of Lansbury's work was shown in the second act, beginning with her Oscar nominated performance in Gaslight, her film debut, ending with a "thumb's up" from Jessica Fletcher, the beloved amateur sleuth from the hit television series, "Murder She Wrote."
Dr. Mathilde Krim, founding Co-Chair and Chairman of the Board of AmFAR, praised Ms. Lansbury, declaring that "in more than 10 years, Angela has never said 'no' when asked to help." Dr. Krim also reported breakthroughs in AIDS treatment and research, especially the introduction of protease inhibitors, which have completely suppressed the HIV virus in many patients.
The presentation of The AmFAR Award of Distinction to Ms. Lansbury was the final event of the evening. Introduced by Gerald Schoenfeld of the Shubert Organization and Michael Eisner of Disney, Lansbury was welcomed by a thunderous standing ovation. The award's inscription reads, "To Angela Lansbury, for her courageous spirit and selfless commitment in the fight against AIDS."
Lansbury's emotional, 10-minute speech highlighted her relationship to tribute director/producer Barry Brown, and their relationship to Brown's former lover and business partner Fritz Holt, (producer of Lansbury's Gypsy) who died of AIDS. Holt's memory keeps Lansbury motivated in the fight against AIDS, for which her closing remarks prompted the audience to "Never give up on the fight until the war is won. And we will win!"
Perhaps one of the most notable quotes was given by Lauren Bacall, who in her speech recognized that, "Angela is one of the few people who really deserves a tribute like this."