Rita Moreno, Frank Deford charm city


Around Town

October 12, 2003|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,Special to the Sun

A couple of celebrity stop-overs created quite a stir, and raised a few bucks, for a couple of worthy Charm City causes.

Rita Moreno was this year's guest star at the "Annual GEDCO Senator Theatre Classic," which raises money for Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation. GEDCO executive director Julie Pierson says the vivacious 71-year-old singer / dancer / actress made a point of visiting every table at the dinner, graciously posing for photos and signing autographs.

"She was a real delight," Julie says. And her energy won over the audience of 750 folks at the Senator, starting outside when she danced and posed for more pictures -- literally stopping York Road traffic in the process.

And there were the behind-the-scenes stories Rita told the audience inside before everyone settled in to enjoy her performance as Anita in the 1961 Oscar winner, West Side Story.

Julie says Rita recalled how the guys who portrayed the two gangs, the Sharks and the Jets, developed their own playful rivalry off camera.

At one of the dance rehearsals, Rita told the crowd, all the "Sharks" showed up wearing red shirts. So, the next time, the "Jets" came wearing leather wristbands. Rita said, if you look closely, you'll see some of the Jets wearing those leather wristbands, even though they weren't part of the originally planned costumes.

And, remember the big America song that Rita sang, and all the "Puerto Ricans" danced to? There was a little problem with part of it, apparently.

At the end of the dance, the guys were supposed to lift their dancing partners onto their shoulders. But, Rita said, because her costume was a shiny purple satin dress, it kept slipping off the sharkskin suited shoulder of her dancing partner.

"She said they must've done that ending 30 times before they finally got it right," GEDCO vice president Jim Williams recounts.

Both Jim and Julie say Rita Moreno couldn't have been nicer.

"She was happy and positive and really a pleasure to be around," Jim says, "She's just a star. A wonderful star."

The whole she-bang raised a wonderful $83,000 for GEDCO housing and social services for people with special needs.

Downtown at the Hyatt Regency, Frank DeFord wowed 225 folks at the TOP (Treatment Opportunities through Placement) luncheon, put together by the Maryland Chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Hal Hathaway, state NCADD board chairman, says the sportswriter / author had a million stories about all the sports legends he's known -- especially local heroes like Johnny Unitas and Gino Marchetti.

One of Hal's favorite tales came from former Evening Sun sports editor Bill Tanton, as he was introducing Frank to the group. Bill said when Frank was in high school at Gilman, he worked as an intern at the Sun. Although, the term "work" seems to be a bit relative here. Hal says Bill told the gathering he and his colleagues weren't really sure what Frank did, other than sit there and read the sports pages all day. But, any time the sports desk had a call from a reader with a question about any sports stats, the writers knew Frank would have the answer.

Hal says the lunch was a big success, raising some $65,000 for the Access to Treatment program, which provides in- and out-patient drug and alcohol rehabilitation services to those who couldn't otherwise afford them.

About 100 good sports posted at Cross Street Market last weekend for "Touchdown for the Homeless" and helped raised about $25,000 for the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter. The shelter's Melanie Fresh describes the Sunday afternoon gathering as a "mingling type of event." She says that folks enjoyed raw oysters, steamed shrimp, sushi, Bruce Lee's wings and lots of other chow, while taking in a little live jazz and just relaxing with friends.

Among the afternoon's highlights were two Ravens cheerleaders, who greeted guests as they arrived.

"It was funny watching the men go up to get autographs for their 'sons'," says Melanie as she laughs.

A couple of event changes to tell you about:

"An Evening to Remember -- A Night of Food, Fashion & Friends," benefiting the St. Joseph Medical Center Auxiliary was postponed from its original Sept. 25 date. Blame Isabel power problems. But everything's a go for Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Grey Rock Mansion. Call 410-337-1398 for info.

Meanwhile, the Women's Housing Coalition has canceled its "Viva Las Vegas!" party originally scheduled for Nov. 22 at Timonium's Holiday Inn Select. Not to worry, the WHC annual Kitchen Party is being set for next spring.

Towson University

How do you celebrate the 20th anniversary of a movie that first brought Baltimore's charm to America's mainstream movie audiences?

You throw a party. And if the name of that movie was Diner, you might come up with some pretty creative eats, hon. And you might honor the film's director with a Distinguished Life-time Achievement Award.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.