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 www.mamafoundation.org.
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.