Stars Walked Among Us!
Valley autograph hounds must have thought they'd been put to sleep and gone to heaven. Simply put, the town was lousy with stars in the Eighties. And as we forge into the Nineties, it's time to tick some of them off.
Guess who came to dinner? How about Laugh-In bench-warmer RUTH BUZZI and Happy Days has-been DONNY MOST, just two of the stellar power-diners who broke bread with PETER LAWFORD's widow during a star-studded supper at Scottsdale's La Relais back in 1985? There was plenty to celebrate. Hoisting a glass of wine midway through the boozy fete, the Widow Lawford announced plans to write a memoir about her late husband. "It's going to be a schmucky book," she vowed, shortly before taking a catnap--right at the table. And after reading the tome (which, among other things, chronicled her valiant struggle to wean her Peter from the dread Acujack, an electronic ejaculation aid), few readers would disagree.
Stressed to kill? Take a tip from the formerly problem-prone DESI ARNAZ JR. In town to promote a 1987 self-help seminar, Lucy's lad shared several secrets of his newfound nirvana. Now full of bliss and vinegar, the actor explained, "People worry over the absence of worry, which is like thinking the end of the storm means the end of the sky . . . Letting your life be taken over by another person is like letting the waiter eat your dinner." To paraphrase his pop, "Desi, ju gotta lotta 'splainin' to do!"
Look! . . . up in the sky! It's a bird! . . . it's a plane! . . . it's DONNY OSMOND! Or at least that's what audiences might have seen if the Osmonds had followed through with the big entrance they'd dreamed up for their 1983 Fourth of July show at ASU's Sun Devil Stadium. According to the original plan, Donny would wave to fans as a low-flying helicopter buzzed the venue. Then the whirlybird would circle back for a return greeting--only this time, Donny (or at least an identically dressed dummy) would fall from the 'copter and plummet to earth. Unfortunately, the prank never got off the ground-- possibly because the Osmond siblings realized concertgoers might feel cheated once they discovered it was only a hoax.
Jessica H. Christ! Fleeing from their Palm Springs pleasure pad after the PTL scandal broke, fugitive fundamentalists JIM and TAMMY BAKKER parked their U-Haul in Phoenix long enough to wolf down at a Waffle House on I-17. Praise the Lord and pass the syrup!
What's my line? Don't ask MARY MARTIN. During a 1986 tour of the play Legends!, the actress had such a hard time remembering her dialogue that she resorted to wearing a shortwave receiver that cued her speeches. But she was finally forced to get the bug out of her ear when the show hit Symphony Hall--Martin ditched the device after she claimed she was picking up radio-dispatched taxi calls.
Hollywood harvested the crime of the crop of Arizona lawbreakers for a trio of made-for-TV movies during the past decade. Inspired by a prison break gone seriously awry, 1983's A Killer in the Family starred ROBERT MITCHUM as the big bad dad of the carnage-crazed Tison clan. In 1984, Scorned and Swindled found PETER COYOTE making marry as convicted career bigamist Giovanni Vigliotto, with TUESDAY WELD as the wife who marched him to the altar of justice. And in 1989 FARRAH FAWCETT continued her thespic descent into domestic violence in Small Sacrifices, the saga of murderous mom Diane Downs. What's next? TIFFANY as self-styled "kidnaping victim" Shantih Schmid?
"Aw, Beav, ya little goof!" During a 1983 radio promotion held at the Ramada Townehouse, former child star JERRY MATHERS slipped a pair of underwear--no, they weren't Miss Landers'--over his head and spouted catch phrases from Leave It to Beaver. Maybe Eddie was right.
Over at the now-defunct Hollywood Cafe, nightclubbers really had to mind their p's and q's (not to mention their t's and a's) when noted linguist JESSICA HAHN hosted a spelling bee in 1988. But the year's most highbrow hoe-down came to a merciful end when a couple wearing Jim and Tammy masks suddenly materialized, dancing around the baffled Bible bimbo to the tune of "Like a Virgin."
"I was framed!" Or so sex murderer JOHN WAYNE GACY might have hollered after a Phoenix nightclub hosted a 1988 exhibition of his jailhouse paintings. The local artist who set up the ghoulish gallery praised the "childlike" quality of Gacy's work and claimed that the amateurish dabblings revealed "another side of the man" who'd buried more than thirty boys in the basement of his Chicago home.
Say it isn't so, Joe! Community-spirited GAIL FISHER, the Emmy- winning Gal Friday on TV's Mannix, slipped into town in 1985 to officiate at a Gay Bartender of the Year awards ceremony at Hotbod's Desert Dance Disco.
1984's most anticipated coming attraction? Try porn czarina MARILYN CHAMBERS, who was scheduled to do a publicity tour of the Valley (including a guest shot on Rita Davenport's TV cooking show) to promote the smut pic Up 'n' Comin'. But the much-ballyhooed visit never happened, leaving a bad taste in at least one other person's mouth. After Chambers began demanding luxury perks that would have cost $7,000, the downtown porn theatre owner who was footing the bills simply blew her off.
"I'm otay, you're otay." Asked to explain the larger-than-average attendance at Maryvale High School's 1986 variety show, a student connected with the production credited the presence of a "big name" entertainer. The class act in question? A Phoenix man who brought the house down with reminiscences of his years as the Hollywood child star who played BUCKWHEAT in the Our Gang comedies. A slight problem: Billy Thomas, the real Buckwheat, had died six years earlier.
The Albert Schweitzer Award to sexual suffragette ANGELA BOWIE! After moving to Scottsdale several years ago, David's ex was asked if AIDS had put a kink into her much- publicized bilateral boudoir bouts. Not at all, sniffed the haughty hedonist, who went on to characterize the epidemic as "some stupid fly-by- night disease that a vaccine is going to be found for."
A shopping spree with ZSA ZSA GABOR! What a way to cap the Eighties in Phoenix! It was "Dahlink" for dollars all the way when La Gabor stormed into the Valley earlier this month to lead a shopping safari sponsored by radio station KAMJ. Like a Hun on a mission from Hell, the slap-happy Hungarian barged through the aisles of Saks Fifth Avenue with newshounds nipping at her ample tail. Media-ites shared a laugh when someone finally figured out why the gabby Gabor chose to address most of her comments to Channel 10's Diane Ryan. "They're swapping tips on driver license alteration," purred one colleague, recalling how Ryan, like Zsa Zsa, had been caught shaving years off her age. Meow . . . .
During her brief stay, the aging LA cop-swatter was treated like royalty, receiving limo service and a posh suite at the Phoenician resort. Still, in an attempt to shore up her sagging image, the diamond-studded dowager revealed plans to donate her $3,000 fee to various charities. But as she swept off to a dressing room to be cinched into a $2,000 gown, ZZ topped herself in the Gall Department. She suggested that her participation in the shopping safari might somehow qualify as part of the "community service" sentence she'd received earlier this year.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.