Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Saturday Night: The Champ Takes It Easy; Cissy Houston Turns Out for A Friend


Saturday in Scottsdale, Arizona: Muhammad Ali, the Champ, took it easy all weekend for his annual Fight Night celebrity fundraiser. Ali, who’s 71 and still in there fighting, skipped the Friday night private dinner and was very low key on Saturday night. There were tons of celebrities, though: Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, “Soul Man” Sam Moore, basketball legend Nancy Lieberman, Jennifer Lopez with her young man, and so on including Billy Ray Cyrus, Bo Derek, producer David Foster, and emcee Reba McEntire. Italian singing star Andrea Bocelli flew in from Italy just to appear at Fight Night….

Saturday in Harlem: Cissy Houston and Dionne Warwick turned out for their great friends Vy Higgensen and Ken Wydro. It’s the 30th anniversary of Vy’s much loved show “Mama I Want to Sing.” At the gala at the Dempsey Theater on West 127th St: Valerie Simpson, 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl, Damon Dash, Angie Stone, and Nate Berkus.

“Mama” is based on the story of Vy’s late sister, the great Doris Troy– “Just One Look (That’s All it Took)”– who defied her family and left the church to sing pop music. Doris was a singer’s singer– she recorded solo album for the Beatles’ Apple Records, and is the voice you hear all though Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

“Mama I Want to Sing” also begat The Mama Foundation in Harlem– a school for young people getting into music, learning gospel. You can always send money their way at

PS the whole “Mama” was underwritten by Freddie Gershon and his wife Myrna, who are great philanthropists. If you don’t know, Freddie was a music lawyer in the early 70s with big stars. Then he joined Robert Stigwood Organization, and was the man behind “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease.” Freddie and Myrna are top notch do-gooders.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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