It all started when the Los Angeles City Bicentennial Committee decided to commission a 9-by-10 quilt to celebrate you-know-what. A local artist and quilt expert, Pam Hammond, was asked to consult with a suitable bag of celebrities and set them to work.
That was 11 months ago, and now 29 celebs have produced 29 patches which will be sewn together in February for God, country and maybe a little PR. (The 30th square is Hammond’s own.)
The big names got involved to varying degrees. Comedian Arte Johnson, a needlepoint whiz, did his square by himself. So did onetime New York Giants tackle Rosey Grier who, appropriately, diagrammed a football play. “I’ve done needlework since I was about 5,” says the 6’5″, 290-pound Grier, “because I split my pants a lot when I was growing up.” Other contributors simply offered ideas which experts stitched. Dyan Cannon, surprise, wanted a cannon. Cher’s design was 13 stars on a blue velvet background. Bea Arthur (TV’s Maude) asked for zero population growth to be spelled out. Florence Henderson wouldn’t have agreed with Bea. Two of Florence’s four children designed her square, a pilgrim and an eagle. But she did the rest. “I learned needlepoint from Ann B. Davis while I was filming The Brady Bunch,” Henderson says. “She saw me hopping around between takes and got tired of saying ‘Sit still, Florence.’ ”
Sandy Duncan designed a square depicting memories of her East Texas childhood. But she found the needlework tedious. “I worked on it off and on for about three months,” she says, “with Excedrin headaches.” Jean (Edith Bunker) Stapleton chose themes from All in the Family—Archie’s jacket, a TV camera, Edith’s purse. “I’ve darned socks, put on buttons and sewed up seams,” she says of her limited sewing skills. Pam Hammond and 10 volunteers helped neophytes like Jean. Some men—the Smothers Brothers, ex-astronaut Scott Carpenter and Los Angeles Rams tackle Merlin Olsen—pressed their wives into service.
Los Angeles hopes to sell the quilt to someone who will display it around the West Coast. It has little practical value. The quilt is too big for a bed, and too thin for warmth. To tell the truth, what started out as a Bicentennial project looks a lot like another version of Hollywood Squares.