Pryor’s favorite aunt
Chastened and cheerful—and looking remarkably fit—Richard Pryor, 39, on the town at a Malibu jazz club, drank beer, not the high-proof rum he claims caused the explosion that burned and nearly killed him in June. (Police say he originally blamed it on freebasing cocaine.) Pryor, who has undergone skin grafts for the burns on his upper body (a lick of which is visible above his high collar behind the ear), joined his Aunt Jenny Pryor to hear his friend, jazzman Willie Bobo, play. She was the woman who saved his life when, brought running by the maid who heard his screams, she smothered the flames with bedclothes. No wonder he calls her “Mama.”
Turner’s trials end
For Ted Turner, 41, yacht racing’s Captain Outrageous, it was time to strike his colors at the America’s Cup trials in Newport, R.I. Last week Courageous, which he skippered to Cup victory in 1977, was eliminated after winning just seven of 28 races in a summer of discontent for the flamboyant sportsman and TV magnate. The wind out of his sails, Turner took his dismissal graciously, but only after showing his bushed crew why he’s called the “Mouth of the South.”
Hagman’s glad hatter
Nashville flipped its lid when Larry Hagman brought a bit of Dallas to Opryland U.S.A. and joined cornpone comedienne Minnie Pearl onstage. “It reminded me of performing with Elvis Presley,” gasped Minnie, who once went to school with Hagman’s mom, Mary Martin. “My hat’s off to him.” Then she proved it by giving Larry one of her trademark skimmers to add to his collection of 500 hats. Asked why he came to Nashville, Hagman answered J.R.-style: “For the money.”
George pirates Linda
Linda Ronstadt got such raves for her Central Park performances in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance that she’s headed for Broadway. But en route Linda caught a solo one-nighter at Manhattan’s Bottom Line by one of her favorite singers, George Jones (whose tour includes appearances with ex-wife Tammy Wynette), and was lured onstage for a D-U-E-T. Jones’ judgment: “Linda and Emmylou [Harris] are the only lady singers worth a damn—except of course for Tammy.”
Although Tina Turner, 38, performing these days minus ex-hubby Ike, still sizzles onstage, she insists, “I am always a lady.” She looked soignée indeed as she chatted with costume designer Bob Mackie at an L.A. bash thrown by Ernest Borgnine’s wife, Tove. Mackie, who decorates Carol Burnett and Ann-Margret, designs Tina’s rigs as well. She’ll take along an assortment when she tours, river deep and mountain high, this month to South Africa.
A toot for Betty
Former screen star Betty Hutton, who blew the whistle on booze some years ago, is back on the bottle. It’s not a real pint though, just a prop for her role in the Broadway hit Annie, in which she’s subbing for three weeks for Alice Ghostley as Miss Hannigan, the hard-nosed, hard-drinking headmistress of the orphanage. Hutton, 59, who once worked as a domestic at a Catholic rectory in Portsmouth, R.I., was scrambling eggs at her daughter’s house in California when the job offer came by phone. “The director, Martin Charnin, asked if I’d audition for Annie, and I said I’d done Annie,” reports the actress, who thought he meant Annie Get Your Gun. When she got that unscrambled, it sounded more chancy to the bottle-battered veteran. “But my kids said do it—and here I am.”
Champion to the end
The long-awaited and postponed Broadway debut of 42nd Street last week was to be Gower Champion’s finest hour. A glittering first-night audience gave the show, a lavish staging of the old Warner Bros, musical, a roaring ovation. Then, after the 12th curtain call, producer David Merrick stepped onstage with a shattering announcement: The brilliant director-choreographer had died at 61 (of cancer), less than six hours before the opening curtain. Champion, a Geneva, Ill. boy, danced in nightclubs in his teens; later he and his first wife (and high school sweetheart), Marge Belcher, starred as a dance team on TV and the screen. Then in 1960 Gower abruptly switched to directing and choreography exclusively (he and Marge were divorced in 1973) and went on to even greater acclaim with a string of musical hits that stretches back to Hello, Dolly! and Bye Bye Birdie (here in 1961). With his death came a final, ironic triumph. The critics and long queues at the box office were testimony that 42nd Street is Champion’s biggest hit.