ob Hope, Pierre Trudeau, Henry Kissinger, Vale'ry Giscard d'Estaing, Jose' Lopez Portillo, Lady Bird Johnson, "Tip" O'Neill . . . With them for a supporting cast, who needed stars?
There were some of those too, tonight: President Reagan and his First Lady Nancy and former president Gerald Ford and his first lady Betty, who later brought down the house when she and Bob Hope did a dance routine together. It all started out under a yellow-and-white-striped tent in a nondescript exhibition hall at the Grand Rapids convention and entertainment complex called the Grand Center. And there were dozens of famous names and faces from the not-so-disparate worlds of politics and show biz, here to celebrate tomorrow's official dedication of the $7.1 million Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
Everybody was Jerry Ford's friend and could not have been happier that he was getting his due at last. "This makes Prince Charles' wedding reception look like a back yard barbecue in Bakersfield," Hope told the glittering black-tie audience that watched Hope and a galaxy of Hollywood stars perform in an NBC special taped to be aired next month. Proceeds from the evening will go toward defraying museum dedication expenses.
"I wouldn't have missed it for anything," said former secretary of state Henry Kissinger before the show started. "I'd been rehearsing a speech all week, but I find I'm not on the program."
There were big names from corporate America like Henry and Edsel Ford, Max Fisher, 20th Century-Fox's Marvin Davis and the Amway Corp.'s chairman, Jay Van Andel, and president, Rich DeVos. Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. shared a table with the Van Andels.
Amway is Grand Rapids (or maybe it's the other way around) and very much a presence here. "It's the most distinguished group of guests we've ever had or are likely to have," DeVos told the affluent crowd at the dinner, for which tickets were $1,000 each and entitled everyone to see the show later.
In another part of the center, 600 more guests paid $25 a ticket for a dinner and closed-circuit simulcast of the show.
All day long VIP arrivals at the newly refurbished Amway Grand Plaza Hotel kept crowds riveted. If it wasn't Giscard, the former president of France, it was Lopez Portillo, the president of Mexico; if it wasn't comedian Foster Brooks eating chili it was Susan Ford Lance and her infant son making their way through a crowded airport lobby. Celebrity after celebrity turned up and the abundance of political clout here left Hope musing about who was left back in Washington.
"The White House is empty and deserted," Hope cracked during the show. "Do you realize the Carters might be moving back in again?"
At another point he quipped: "I'm not used to all these leaders. I haven't done this much bowing since I renegotiated my contract."
Ford became the debonair dancing partner to former first lady Betty, Ford to the delight of the audience. In true show-business form, the former Martha Graham dancer changed her clothes after the dinner from a striking black silk gown with quilted jacket to appear on stage in a flowing, turquoise-sequined gown. She moved with ease and grace to the short number without any of the hitches she'd experienced in the afternoon rehearsal. The crowd seemed to love it and so did Hope.
"Oh man, we got away with that, and she hadn't had too much time to rehearse," Hope said.
Jerry Ford shared a box with President and Mrs. Reagan, as well as with the Ford children and their spouses. House Speaker "Tip" O'Neill (D-Mass.) was sitting in the row behind, and when President Reagan saw him, stood up and shook his hand. A wave of laughter and applause swept the auditorium.
At the dinner, Japanese Foreign Minister Sunao Sonoda, speaking through an interpreter, reminded the audience that Gerald Ford had been the first American president ever to pay an official visit to Japan. When Sonoda commended Ford for "his great contribution to your country in renewing the hope and confidence of the American people" upon assuming the presidency in 1974, Ford sat quietly, looking very serious.
"The people will never forget a line in your inaugural address -- 'Let brotherly love purge your heart of suspicion and hate,' " continued Sonoda. "This should be the very line we should call upon for world peace today."
The Japanese government contributed $1 million to Ford's presidential museum, and the former president acknowledged that in a brief response to Sonoda.
Next up to the microphone was Amway's Rich DeVos remarking that "it's really nice to see foreign aid coming this way."
Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal and Canadian Ambassador Peter Towe came from Washington. Ghorbal said he was filling in for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who had been planning to attend until his scheduled U.S. visit was changed to August. Of Ford, Ghorbal said, "He's a man who deserves great tribute."
President Reagan took his bows when Vice President Bush introduced him, but then quickly sat down again to let the others around him into the spotlight. When Bush offered a toast to all four of the visiting foreign dignitaries, President Reagan lifted his wine glass to clink against Betty Ford's raised water glass.
In a brief picture-taking ceremony after dinner, the head table posed much as any family might. Seated in front were the Fords and the Reagans, and standing behind were the Bushes, Lady Bird Johnson and the Canadian, Mexican, Japanese and French VIPs. By this time Bob Hope had joined the group and everyone seemed a little uncertain what to talk about. When a television correspondent asked about the dinner, Ford joked that "Betty was a good cook." At one point Ford turned to Hope and urged, "Be bright."
"A funny thing happened on the way to Grand Rapids," Hope began. Everybody laughed.
The Hope television spectacular starred Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr., Danny Thomas, Glen Campbell, Debby Boone, Tony Orlando and Mark Russell. One number featured Hope with Thomas, Campbell and Davis and a quartet in which the subject of their serenade, of course, was Jerry Ford. It was all vintage Hope, and Ford as much as anybody loved it.
"We're out here in Grand Rapids honoring some local boy who made good," Hope kidded.
"He became president very fast. The first time they played 'Hail to the Chief' to him he turned around to see who was coming."