October 10, 1988 12:00 PM

It was the sort of Hollywood evening that can induce psychological whiplash. Inside Ed Debevic’s, a trendy L.A. diner, 50 terminally or seriously ill children and their families gathered to meet 300 of their favorite television and movie stars. Outside, some of the same celebs, along with a mob of writers, starlets and industry wannabes, shmoozed, gossiped and stargazed their way through a simultaneous gala, featuring minicheese-burgers, singing waitresses and an Elvis impersonator, in celebration of the restaurant’s first anniversary. Some, like Family Ties’ Scott Valentine, found the juxtaposition jarring. “It’s just a shame. It was like two different parties,” said Valentine. “Outside was this beehive of Hollywood bullbleep, and inside were these kids who are going to die.”

Many of the stars, including Valentine, Michael J. Fox, Dudley Moore, Rob Lowe, Goldie Hawn, Michael Keaton, Amy Irving and Danny DeVito made a point of spending most of their time with the children. None left unaffected. “This is absolutely what it’s all about,” said Fox, who talked to every kid in the room. “I can’t understand why it makes any difference to those children that I’m here, but if I say, ‘Hey, I got a shirt like that,’ the kid gets so excited, he spills his soda and goes through the roof. To help take a load off these kids’ minds for 10 minutes is a tremendous privilege. It sounds so corny, but I feel you come away from a situation like this with so much more than you came in with.” Television producer Danielle Alexandra organized the event for the L.A.-based Starlight Foundation, which attempts to grant the wishes of seriously ill children. “Starlight is remarkable,” said actor Martin Short. “It’s something I believe in very strongly. I have two healthy children, and I’m reminded how lucky I am by going to something like this.”

Even Morgan Fairchild, though dressed for excess in a black sequined minidress, spent most of her evening with the kids and left when they did at 11 p.m. “Somebody told me that a lot of people didn’t want to go in to see the kids,” said Fairchild, “which I thought was terrible. But that’s why I came. It’s nice that just showing you care enough to be here can mean so much to these kids—though why they’d care about a bunch of dorks like us, I don’t know.”

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