Debbie Reynolds’ star still shines

Debbie Reynolds’ star still shines

By Carleton Varney

Special to the Daily News

Now, here’s a news flash for you: Debbie Reynolds pops out of cakes albeit cardboard cakes as she recently proved at Jim Nabor’s birthday party in Texas. The actor and singer best known for his role as Gomer Pyle turned 80 years young a few weeks ago, and Debbie was there to sing him Happy Birthday.

Yes, Debbie is still going strong, as I learned firsthand in the lobby of the new and fabulous Casino Club at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, which my company decorated and which I wrote about last week. I can attest that Debbie sings very well, because I joined her in the lobby for an informal duet of her famous Abba Dabba Honeymoon — and with lots of abba dabba dabbas. The star of such films as Singing in the Rain said I was a pretty good singer and “on key,” as well!

I walked down the Greenbrier Theatre corridor with Debbie and her manager/assistant Jenny Powers to point out a picture of the star and her ex-husband, Eddie Fisher, taken at The Greenbrier when they honeymooned there a few — all right, about 50 — years back. The two young stars were photographed on a bicycle and appeared very much in love. Debbie’s comment when looking at the picture? ”Well, he was right to marry me. ... I was a cute gal.”

She was cute then, and she’s cute now. Debbie Reynolds leaves little for us not to admire.

At the Greenbrier opening, she made many appearances, even taking a ride in an open convertible in the local Fourth of July Parade. She is one of the last big movie stars — and she is performing her nightclub act all over the country. She played The Carlyle in New York City recently, but she prefers the big stage and the big audiences of Las Vegas.

“Off to La Jolla for a week to do my act,” I was told by the star who scored big with the song Tammy from her movie Tammy and the Bachelor. I wonder if Tammy is still in love?

Debbie Reynolds lives in Hollywood, not far from the Beverly Hills Hotel. She and her daughter — the actress, writer and director Carrie Fisher — share a big, old Spanish-style Beverly Hills house.

What is Debbie’s passion? Collecting Hollywood memorabilia and seeing it housed and cared for in a museum setting. She once operated such a museum in Las Vegas and is hoping to open another, so that all might come and see original costumes from The Wizard of Oz or Scarlet O’Hara’s hats from Gone with the Wind. I’m told that she has the largest important collection Hollywood memorabilia from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60, purchased very wisely, I must say, from the studios some years ago.

Such items today sell for large sums. Hollywood film posters, for instance, are treasured collectibles. Original posters were often destroyed during World War II paper drives, so they are very rare, indeed. A so-called “three-sheet” poster that promoted The Palm Beach Story is typically offered for a minimum of $7,500, if, and when, it can be located.

I often decorate with film memorabilia, and I own a number of film posters. Betty Grable posters, featuring films such as The Dolly Sisters and Song of the Islands, are colorful. And I shall not forget that an original poster for Singing in the Rain, starring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly, is among the most sought-after movie posters in the world. Whether a poster is in American, English, French or Italian, these real-world items from the glamorous Hollywood days remain in demand.

Oh, to relive the world of yesterday’s glamour — and in that spirit, I thank you, Debbie, for pairing up with me for our abba-dabba duet. That is a memory I’ll cherish. Tammy may not still be in love,


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