Thirty-seven years ago, Ginger Rogers lounged in a huge hotel suite waiting for Walter Pidgeon in her film titled "Weekend at the Waldorf." Last night, after the Tonys and dressed in enough red silk to make Santas Claus suits for every Salvation Army officer in America, Rogers returned to the Waldorf and couldn't get out of the elevator at the right floor.
"Is this the right place?" she asked. "This can't be the right floor . . . Oh, it's not. This is too silly." Suddenly, she spotted her old RKO compatriot Ann Miller. "Annie!" she squealed, in the voice of an 18-year-old ingenue.
"Hiya Honey," Miller said, grappling Rogers in a powerful hug. "Say, where the heck are we?"
"I don't know," Rogers said. "But it sure looks like fun." The two wrapped arms around each other's waists and walked into the vast Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria trailing behind Joshua Logan and ahead of Arlene Dahl. A mob awaited them. And Milton Berle said, "Y'know, of all the award shows this is the only one with any class."
The Tonys, the crown jewel of American award shows, went off as usual last night, showing producer Alexander Cohen's usual combination of Catskills schmaltz and Prussian efficiency. Cohen and his wife, Hildy Parks, divine creators of the television production of the Tonys and this year's "Night of 100 Stars," ran an evening with only one small disaster: the skipping of the presentation of the award for Best Book of a musical. The other near collapse in the ceremony was barely averted when presenter Hal Linden incorrectly gave the costume award to Theoni V. Aldredge instead of to the magnificent cloth rivers of William Ivey Long for "Nine."
The evening had split into a warfare between "Nine" and "Dreamgirls." After early indications that "Nine," with the momentum of a recent opening and better book and music, would walk away with the lion's share, "Dreamgirls" swung back with a counteroffensive, taking a slew of acting awards and giving Michael Bennett half of a choreography acknowledgment after Tommy Tune had walked away with the director's prize.
The warfare carried on past the ceremony and into the gala: Both Bennett and many of his adherents, and Tune and his, left their assigned tables empty at the Taittinger Champagne Midnight Gala. Rumor swept the floor, whisper to whisper, table to table, that Bennett was angry and boycotting. Tune had a ceremonial excuse--he had not attended even the opening night party of "Nine." He did finally show up at about 1:30. But most of the evening, looking down from the highest tier at the Waldorf Grand Ballroom, one could spot two clear patches of empty seats among the mob: the Bennett contingent and the Tune contingent.
The rest of New York danced madly into the night. Joan Fontaine foxtrotted in red; Cher, in a black leather outfit, slung herself around with an innocent escort, who bathed in the flashbulb light. The great Joseph E. Levine hobbled past the great Earl Wilson and his B.W., past Herschel Bernardi, past Jennifer Holliday, past Marvin Hamlisch and on to his table. The big dance band blared Cole Porter, and Nova Scotia salmon with capers, bagels and champagne were brought around to all the tables, including Zoe Caldwell's.
"This," said Levine, the producer of "A Bridge Too Far" and "Hercules in the Land of Darkness," "is a helluva party. Come over to my table in about 10 minutes to talk about it. Better yet call me in the morning."