"Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Helen Hayes."
No phrase uttered in the American theatre was more likely to lead to a long standing ovation than that one. The stage actress, whose career spanned roughly eight decades, would have been 100 years old on Oct. 10. To celebrate her career and spirit, the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY, is launching a celebrity-filled gala on Oct. 22, with her son, James MacArthur, serving as honorary host.
Scheduled to pay homage (as of Oct. 20) are Pia Lindstrom, Loni Ackerman, Elizabeth Ashley, Betty Buckley (Triumph Of Love), Bill Irwin, Charles Durning, Zoe Caldwell, producer Robert Whitehead, composer Marvin Laird (Ruthless!), Tovah Feldshuh, Celeste Holm, Arlene Dahl and David Shire. Further notables may still sign on, though some previously-announced stars (including Elaine Stritch, Betty Bostick, Julie Harris and Bernadette Peters) have since had to cancel owing to other commitments.
Film and audio clips will be shown at the centennial celebration at the Hayes Center, which will be followed by a champagne and dessert reception. A pre-gala cocktail party at Hayes' scenic and historic estate, "Pretty Penny," opens the evening, which ranges in ticket price from $100 (show only) to $150 (show and dessert reception) to $1,000 (cocktail party included; room for 50 couples only) per person. For information call (914) 358-6333.
Hayes made her stage debut at age five and starred in such Broadway hits as To The Ladies, Victoria Regina and Mary of Scotland. In 1958 she starred in Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet at what had been the Fulton Theatre but was newly christened "The Helen Hayes Theatre." That theatre was destroyed in 1982 to make way for the Marriot Marquis Hotel, and a neighboring theatre was re-named the Helen Hayes. The comedy Dirty Blonde now plays at the Broadway Hayes venue. According to press materials from the Hayes Center, Hayes once said, "I hope some day to have a little theatre in Nyack named after me -- the place where I have been happiest."
-- By David Lefkowitz