March 18, 2002 11:00 AM

Retired talk-meister Phil Donahue, white-maned as ever, struck a high profile in Washington this weekend at the American Task Force for Lebanon Gala, where he accepted an award on behalf of his actress-wife, Marlo Thomas, reports PEOPLE. Thomas, 58, is the daughter of the late beloved entertainer Danny Thomas (1914-1991), who often proudly spoke of being a Lebanese American. (Fans of his “Make Room for Daddy” ’50s sitcom fondly recall his Lebanese Uncle Tonoose on the show, played with aplomb by Hans Conreid.) Thomas was in L.A. to shoot an episode of “Friends,” leaving hubby Donahue to pick up her trophy as well as introduce public-interest advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Jordan’s Queen Noor-Al-Hussein also took to the stage to introduce Selwa Roosevelt, the former U.S. chief of protocol. “My father in-law was knighted by two Popes, and I was just recently named Man of the Year by Transvestites,” joked Donahue, 66. Donahue introduced Nader by calling him “the most important private citizen in America.” Later asked about any potential presidential plans for 2004, Nader, 66, told PEOPLE, it was “too early to tell.” After the awards ceremony Donahue took the time to talk about the state of talk shows. “We can’t seem to be able to draw an audience for serious stuff,” he told PEOPLE. “We’re looking at a culture in decay.”

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