Memory: Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds, Carol Channing and Ruta Lee (photo via David Blackstock

In the 1990s I staged some of “Hello, Dolly!” for a benefit for the Thalians in Los Angeles that honored Carol Channing, hosted by Debbie Reynolds and Ruta Lee.

The night of the event Debbie, Carol and Ruta were all dressed in DOLLY dresses for the red carpet. When the photo op time came, no one could find Debbie. Ruta asked me to go find Debbie.

Hubby Michael and I went into the huge empty ballroom in the Century Plaza Hotel where the gala was about to take place. Huge ballroom. The tables were all set, including bottles of wine at each table. In the middle of the ballroom sat Debbie in her huge, gorgeous DOLLY dress. She had opened a bottle of wine and was sitting alone. She held a glass of wine against her forehead, clearly wanting a moment for herself.

I walked up and quietly said, “Debbie, they’re looking for you for the photo op.”

Without looking away from her glass, she said “I know.” She paused, put the glass down, stood up, straightened her dress. One last sip of wine, a small sigh, and she said, “Let’s go.” And with that brilliant Hollywood smile, she took my arm and walked with me to the red carpet.

And we laughed the whole way there.

I should add: Debbie was doing AIDS benefits in 1983 – years before Reagan could even say the word in public.

Heroes can be blonde, beautiful, talented, and sing and dance a bit, too. Instead of wringing her hands, she stood up. And once again, stood out – merely by being who she was.

Someone was here. Something occurred.

This is a great, authentic star we have lost. RIP Debbie.