“I’ve always been in love with dance and always will be,” honoree Joel Grey told the audience at the 33rd Annual Fred & Adele Astaire Awards 2015 held at NYU Skirball Center of the Performing Arts. Recipient of the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award, Grey lauded a roster of Broadway choreographers noting: “My life was in their hands—especially Bob Fosse—for helping me in my career.”
As it happens, the first Astaire Awards gala I attended in October 1986 at the Plaza, honored Bob Fosse and the award presenter was a stunning Ginger Rogers in a peach organza “Gone With the Wind” genre gown who was miffed that groups of people wanted a photo with her. Hands on hips, she exclaimed: “Isn’t anyone going to take a photo of just me!” Fosse graciously posed with “ just” her.
Jennifer Grey, teary-eyed daughter, actress and award presenter, recalled sitting in the dressing room as a six-year old watching her father put on his face makeup to become ‘The Emcee” [in” Cabaret”]. “This world is just markedly better for him being here.”
Describing his ”rough” path to dance, Joel Grey shared childhood memories such as his dance teacher yelling at him, his first paid performance in a Jones Beach Dance show and, after nearly giving up, Hal Prince giving him the call for a show “he thought he’d be good for,” otherwise known as “Cabaret.”
In her introduction of film mogul Harvey Weinstein, recipient of the “Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theater and Film” Award, presenter Tovah Feldshuh touted his commitment to dance in his movies despite not being “a guy who started at the ballet bar… There’s a reason why Harvey Weinstein is thanked more than God,” said Tovah. “He believes in us, he believes in artists.”
Following a rendition of “Neverland” from the musical “Finding Neverland,” which he produces, and a video tribute of dance sequences from his movies — including “Shakespeare in Love” and “Pulp Fiction,” — “Finding Neverland” choreographer and award nominee Mia Michaels presented the award to Weinstein telling him: “Harvey, you make the world and the arts a better place.”
Weinstein informed that [though] “Finding Neverland” was not nominated for any Tony Awards “it makes $1 million per week.” He urged: “We need new voices on Broadway. We need new guys like me on Broadway.” Weinstein recalled that while in film school he got his first introduction to dance when his then girlfriend dragged him to see the musical “Chicago” and was mystified by the choreography of Bob Fosse. “I told my girlfriend, I’m going to make that into a movie.”
A number of years ago Harvey Weinstein’s brother Bob Weinstein commissioned Karen—this column’s photographer/illustrator— to produce a large poster featuring caricature illustrations of all the Miramax films’ stars which Bob then flew to L.A. and presented as a gift to Harvey at that year’s Academy Awards.
Astaire Award Honorary chairs wereDavid Schiff, Jean Shafiroff, Countess Luann DeLesseps, and Wendy Federman. Leading a roster of name guests, award presenters and recipients were Patricia Watt Executive Director of the Awards and Jessica Zippin, Executive Director of the Douglass Watt Family Fund for the Performing Arts.”