No, that wasn't a dream. That really was Esther Rolle ("Good Times"). And Valerie Harper ("Rhoda"). And a former Miss America (Debra Maffett). And Cathryn Damon ("Soap") . . . looking at the women's showers, the bedrooms, the lounge and the newly donated color TV at the Community for Creative Non-Violence's shelter for the homeless.
"Oh, Lord. I love it!" exclaimed Dot, a shelter resident who dodged in and out of the scene, gathering celebrity hugs, and going over and over the sudden, hard-to-believe facts:
"Esther Rolle. Oh, Lord . . . I can't say no more than that. Meet you in heaven," she said to Rolle, veering off into the crowd.
"Not too soon," Rolle assured.
It was a happening in a day of happenings -- what CCNV's Mitch Snyder called "a day of education and a day of outreach." The occasion was last night's fundraiser gala and preview, at the National Theatre, of the CBS-TV docudrama "Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story," starring Martin Sheen and Cicely Tyson, which is scheduled to be telecast at 8:30 p.m. Monday. Tickets for the National Theatre premiere ranged from $50 to $5,000, and by yesterday noon the event was sold out.
The day began with a press conference in Crystal City, with Snyder, Sheen, Harper, Rolle, Ned Beatty, Dennis Weaver and other celebrity activists affiliated with the Los Angeles based LIFE -- Love Is Feeding Everyone, a food distribution program headed by Weaver that was to share in the funds raised by yesterday's events.
Later came the celebrity and press tour of the CCNV shelter. And, for the shelter residents, a special preview of the film and a luncheon served by Ridgewell's.
The dinner before the 7 p.m. screening was at Dominique's. It was a small affair, donated by the restaurant, for about 30 guests: Snyder, the celebrities and those who had purchased $5,000 tickets. The celebs had changed into tuxedos and brightly colored dresses, and the CCNV activist wore his usual uniform -- blue jeans and a limp army jacket.
Snyder rejected the idea that the fundraiser -- with its Hollywood connection and rack-of-lamb dinner at a swanky restaurant -- represented a change in his methods. "We haven't changed anything at all. We are still saying the same things. But people are no longer arguing that there aren't homeless or that they're out there because they want to be."
And what did Snyder think of the cinematic limelight? "I find it a little discomfiting to be a centerpiece in a film." So Snyder only introduced, but did not watch, the movie.After the show, when the lights went up and the audience filtered out of the theater, he was sitting at a table in the lobby, selling and signing copies of a $5 paperback book: "Homelessness in America" by Mary Ellen Hombs and Mitch Snyder.
The evening concluded with yet another Ridgewell's affair -- this one a reception in a white and yellow tent pitched in front of the old Willard Hotel. "We thought Snyder wanted us here for an action," said activist Mary Morgan, standing with her husband Dr. Benjamin Spock. "Every time I come to town I wind up going to jail with Mitch," she said. Spock laughed and said, "We didn't know, until we got here, that it was a film and not another demonstration."