Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

VERNON SCOTT, United Press International

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The best Hollywood birthday party of this or any other year was the blowout for comedian/director Dick Martin, a study in deja vu.

The genial Martin, surviving member of the Rowan and Martin comedy team, was toasted by friends and colleagues at the posh Bel Air Country Club where he has played golf and tennis for years.


His wife, Dolly (Read) invited more than 100 of their many friends made over the years to his 80th birthday celebration, one of the happiest, most successful parties in memory.

To a generations of TV fans who never missed "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," going back to its 1968 debut, it would have been a singular treat.

The guest list included a galaxy of stars, dressed informally, who hoisted many toasts to one of the town's most popular couples.

A half hour after the party began, during the cocktail hour, Martin fainted and was quietly taken to a nearby room where paramedics were called. Not all of the guests were aware of the emergency.

Two doctor friends attending the party went to the stricken comedian's aid along with the paramedics. He was administered oxygen, given an EKG and told it was okay to return to the party.


Dinner at tables for 10 in the sumptuous dining room consisted of hamburgers, hot-dogs, baked beans and other favorite Martin fare. Dessert was a huge ice cream bar at which guests concocted their own sundaes and other delicious goodies. The meal was a delightful contrast to the champagne and choice caviar served during the cocktail party.

Fortunately, the first guest to address the celebrants was Don Rickles, the peerless attack comedian with his rough-and-tumble wit.

Said Rickles, addressing Martin, "I gotta be honest with you Dick. I'll give you 24 hours." His humor set the tone for the evening, relieving the anxiety of guests who had been aware of Martin's momentary spell.

Among the guests was long-time pal Bob Newhart for whom Martin directed 100 episodes of his TV comedy shows.

It was an evening of laughs with such other funnymen as Jack Carter, Carl Reiner, Norm Crosby, Tim Conway, Rickles, Buddy Hackett and Shecky Greene to name a few.

On hand too were many members of the old "Laugh-In" troupe: Gary Owens, Joanne Worley, Ruth Buzzi and Henry Gibson.


Dick Crenna and Mike Connors, long-time golfing companions, turned comedians for the night with a satirical song written to the tune of "Making Whoopee" poking fun at their pal and wife Dolly.

With his hesitant, dry delivery, Newhart recalled stories of being directed by the guest of honor along with some behind-the-scenes madness.

Conway had the crowd holding its sides, insinuating Martin was one of Hollywood's legendary topers, confiding that the birthday boy had started drinking at age 10.

Doing the math, Conway figured Martin, a one-time bartender, had a few drinks every day, except perhaps on 11 occasions. Therefore, he conjectured, Dick had consumed approximately 6,420 drinks according to careful calculations.

Jan Murray and Jack Carter contributed to the merriment with outrageous memories of Martin's conquests among Hollywood's great beauties, some of whom were at that moment sitting at the dinner tables.

During and after dinner a full orchestra, led by Les Brown Jr., played music of yesteryear (especially the swing era). His father's old-time soloist, Butch Stone, 97, sang a solo.

Following Rickles' lead, most of the other speakers mentioned Martin's illness and alluded to his ancient age, warning what he had to look forward to: loss of memory and loss of balance among other things.


There were Viagra jokes aplenty.

Everyone, including Dick and Dolly were doubled over with mirth.

Mack Davis sang a song about growing older with affection and humor.

The "Laugh-In" gang sang a parody about the old show, filling the room with sentiment about the good old days.

A high point of the evening was an announcement that a group of friends, including several at the party, had arranged for a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame to be installed for Rowan and Martin in April.

Two huge screens flashed photographs of Martin taken with

"Laugh-In" visitors and party guests over the years. Actor Crenna said, "We saw our lives flashing before our faces."

There were a few nostalgic tears too.

Comedy writer Larry Gelbart recalled their work together in a tribute.

Booze flowed freely before during and after dinner and people stayed to dance to the orchestra.

The dining room was decorated to resemble a nightclub with black tablecloths and polka-dot napkins, significant because Martin always wore polka-dot handkerchiefs in the breast pockets of his jackets.

Dolly's preparations were heroic. Throughout the party the big screens carried clips from old "Laugh-In" gags with guests and highlights.


Martin's 80th birthday party was a night to be treasured.

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