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Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday

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John Ritter came with wife Nancy and their two kids in tow, but this version of Three’s Company starred Barbara, Gwyneth and Pilar, the just-turned-1-year-old triplets of Richard Thomas, 31, and his wife, Alma, 35. Last week a gallery of amigos enjoyed a Mexican-style first-birthday party for the tykes at the Thomases’ Hollywood Hills home, complete with a candy-filled piñata for the kids, free-flowing margaritas for the adults, a tostada-and-tamale buffet, Mexican dancing and a white sheet cake which the sisters, wearing miniature sombreros, tore into con mucho gusto.

Actually, the party was 17 days late. First Thomas had to wrap up filming his NBC movie Living Proof, in which he plays country singer Hank Williams Jr., in Nashville. Then he attended the San Francisco Opera opening of good friend Luciano Pavarotti, who was the first non-family member to see the triplets after their Aug. 26, 1981 birth. But nobody seemed bothered by the delay. “Wonders never cease!” exclaimed ecstatic great-grandma Grace Thomas, 75, flown in from Paintsville, Ky. to see her great-granddaughters for the first time. “I just can’t wait till they come to visit me on my farm.” Hitter, who years ago played Reverend Fordwick on The Waltons, was awed by the parents’ endurance. “I’d have to drink a lot of coffee,” he laughed. “We can hardly keep up with two kids [Jason, 2, and Carly, 6 months] as it is.” Sally Struthers, imagining herself in Alma’s place, exclaimed simply, “I’d die.” Some 50 mostly non-showbiz friends and relatives shared that sentiment, as did the proud papa. “I get up every morning and thank God I have three beautiful little girls and a wonderful son,” said Thomas, also father to Richard Jr. 6. “But I know who makes it all work—Alma. She’s a wife and a mother, and she has a great sense of pride and accomplishment in that. And she still remains her own woman.”