Clifton Davis-Nancy Wilson, host 1978 UNCF
Clifton Davis | Nancy Wilson
 
 
Merv Griffin

Merv Griffin

 

October 1978, Hollywood, CA. United Negro College Fund "Cavalcade of Stars"

Ron Bookman was the Executive Producer of the first Hollywood segment of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Telethon. The historic UNCF "Cavalcade of Stars" Telethon was taped before a live audience at the legendary Merv Griffin Studios in Hollywood, and was co-hosted by Nancy Wilson and Clifton Davis. Merv Griffin was a featured guest, as were Gloria Loring, the Temptations, Denniece Williams, comedians John Witherspoon and Tom Dresden, former Fifth Dimension stars Billie Davis, Jr., and Marilyn McCoo, the Broadway Cast of "Annie", the late Jazz diva, Phyllis Hyman and Barry Williams of the now classic "Eight is Enough" TV Series.

"That first Telethon was remarkable," recalls Bookman, "in that we were able to produce the entire segment for slightly more than $40,000. We could do that because the performers and artists volunteered their time and talent. On a shoestring budget, we gave UNCF one of its better programs that encouraged future performers, like an Ed McMahon and Lou Rawls, to join UNCF as participants in later Telethons." Bookman observes that budget costs for subsequent Telethons were more than 20 times what it cost for him to produce the first telethon. When asked about the disparity, Bookman candidly states, "sometimes the client simply wants a higher profile producer and is willing to pay a premium for that service. I did not have the same name recognition as producers that followed me, but I'm confident that we gave the client, UNCF an excellent production."


The UNCF ‘Cavalcade of Stars’ initially aired in Houston, Texas on KPRC-TV with anchorperson Ron Stone as the local host, and then aired in select metropolitan markets nationwide.


The 1978 'UNCF Cavalcade of Stars' Telethon, produced by Bookman, became the model and template for the UNCF "Anheuser-Busch Lou Rawls Parade of Stars" Telethon that began the following year in 1979. Since the initial 1978 Telethon aired, nearly half a billion dollars has been raised to date for UNCF and its member institutions by the annual Telethons. Today, the UNCF Telethon has become one of the crucial fundraising vehicles for the organization.

 

 

Redd Foxx
Redd Foxx
 
Redd Foxx Invitation
March 1974, Beverly Hills, CA. "The world’s first $100 a plate Black-tie Bar-B-Que" Celebrity Roast of Redd Foxx

As West Coast Director of UNCF, Ron Bookman developed, coordinated and produced for the United Negro College Fund one of the most innovative entertainment and fund raising events ever undertaken for any African American non profit institution. Produced in association with the 20th Century Fox Film and Television Division Chairman, Dennis Stanfill and Honorary Chairman of the UNCF Southern California Campaign, and the Special Events Committee, the event was "The world’s first $100 a plate Black-tie Bar-B-Que" Celebrity Roast of Redd Foxx. Taped before a black tie audience of over a thousand persons at the exclusive Beverly Hilton Hotel, the Celebrity Bar-B-Que of the lovable comic entertainer was pre purchased and broadcast nationally as a television Special in 1974 by the ABC Television Network. Bookman stated of the historic television first, "we couldn't just roast Redd Foxx, he had to be Bar-B-Qued."


Appearing on the 'Foxx Bar-B-Que', in alphabetical order were: Steve Allen, Milton Berle, Foster Brooks, Ronnie Graham, Quincy Jones, Whitman 'Shady Grady' Mayo, Jayne Meadows, Slappy White, Demond Wilson, and Flip Wilson. Serving as Master of Ceremonies for the historic event was the legendary Richard Pryor. Special Entertainment was provided by the Fifth Dimension, the Rhythm and Blues Quintet, the Dramatics, as well as the dynamic Kathy Bradley and John Daniels' Love Machine. The late two time Emmy Award winning director, Mark Warren, directed the TV special with writers Pat McCormick of the Tonight Show and Adelle Stephenson, story editor for the classic Sanford & Son. Executive Producer was Charles Hack with Cal Burton and Richard Cochran serving as Co-Producers. The law firm of Sanders, Tisdale, Tooks & Williams handled pro bono all legal matters. CPA chores were coordinated by Wilfong, Morris & Company. Public Relations by veteran PR firm, Edward, Windsor & Wright and the ad agency was Wright, Edelen Advertising. The collectors' item program of the Foxx Bar-B-Que was designed by Mr. David Sato of Beverly Hills. Assisting as Talent Coordinator was Margaret Ware.

Just prior to the show's taping, Redd Foxx became Dr. Redd Foxx as he was presented a Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree by Dr. Archie Hargraves of Shaw University. Shaw University is one of the historical black colleges and universities supported by UNCF. Bookman notes, "it was a fitting and long overdue recognition of one of the greatest comic talents of all time."

Just a few of the VIP guests in attendance as the legendary giants of show business ‘Bar-B-Qued’ the late great Redd Foxx were then Mayor of Los Angeles, the late Thomas Bradley and Mrs. Bradley; the late Ewart Abner, President of Motown; the late Esther Rolle; John Amos, and Ja'Net Dubois of the classic "Good Times" TV series; Elizabeth Taylor, Billie Dee Williams, the late Gregory Peck, Dick (Night Train) Lane, Brock Peters, the late Ray Brown, Denise Nichols, Freda Payne, Roger Mosley, and the late Rod Steiger.

Developing and producing the Foxx Bar-B-Que in 1973-74 entailed one of the greatest volunteer efforts for a single non-profit event ever undertaken to benefit black Higher learning. Bookman opines, "these were some of the most talented people in front of and behind the camera that gave freely of their time to ensure the success of the project." It was a colossal and unprecedented undertaking for any organization or group. "Many thought," recalls Bookman," that it was simply beyond the scope of a black organization to develop such a 'first class television project." But nobody told the hundreds of volunteers and some of the most talented people that made the show a reality that it could not work. People like Dennis Stanfill, then Chairman of 20th Century Fox and the Southern California Chairman of UNCF who made available all of the resources of Fox or the late Walter Burrell, one of the great publicists for Fox or Rosanna Wright, VP of the Wright-Edelen Advertising Agency. It was a gargantuan effort of talented people that came together to make history and history was indeed made. Sadly, the efforts of these many volunteers who gave so generously of their time was never truly recognized. But, the appreciation of the thousands of black youngsters who were able to attend college as a result of that historic effort in 1974, 30 years ago was perhaps, thanks enough.

"The importance of the Foxx Show," Bookman recalls, "is in addition to raising immediate funds, we brought a larger audience recognition to the fund raising organization. This, of course, dramatically enhanced its ability to raise monies."


All proceeds for the Redd Foxx Celebrity Roast went to benefit UNCF and its member historical black colleges and universities.

 

Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sammy Davis, Jr.
 
October 1972, San Francisco, CA. Sammy Davis, Jr. pledges an unprecedented $40,000 to United Negro College Fund

Ron Bookman arranged and recruited the legendary performer, Sammy Davis, Jr., to make his first rare personal appearance to benefit the United Negro College Fund. The occasion was the 1972 annual UNCF Directors, College Presidents, and Members meeting held at the Sheraton-Palace in San Francisco. The event marked the first time that Mr. Davis became officially and professionally affiliated with UNCF.

In addressing the Luncheon audience, and with the then Chairman of General Motors, Richard C. Gerstenberg, in attendance, Mr. Davis pledged $40,000 to the UNCF, or $1,000 to each of the 40 colleges and universities represented by UNCF. At the time, it was the largest single pledge ever by an individual donor to UNCF. The overall economic impact of that single gift was not only dramatic but had a far reaching impact for UNCF. With hundreds of news reporters in attendance, it was one of the major media events of the year in San Francisco. Mr. Davis' involvement with the UNCF began a new frontier of donor giving and involvement for the organization that continues today.

At the evening's closing Black Tie Dinner and Gala, Bookman presented for the College Presidents and their invited guests, "one of the greatest Fashion Shows in the history of the Fund" according to Mel Shaw, then Vice President of UNCF and now President and CEO of Shaw & Company, a consulting firm. Staging the spectacular Fashion Show was the late Legendary Bay Area Fashion Designer and Choreographer, Mr. Gregory Burrell. In attendance at the evening's gala dinner was San Francisco's luminaries including actress Vonetta McGee and actor Max Julien.

After the 1972 event, Mr. Davis would lend his tireless energies and talent to raising millions of dollars for the non profit organization. As an example, Bookman points out that at the sole request of Sammy Davis, Jr. the UNCF was one of the major recipients of proceeds from the 1974 premiere of the MGM historic retrospective film, "That's Entertainment". "That's Entertainment" showcased hundreds of the greatest Hollywood stars of classic MGM movies, such as Lena Horne, Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, and Director of "Cabin in the Sky", Vincent Minnelli.

 

 
April 1972, San Francisco, CA. "An Evening for Sickle Cell"

Ron Bookman conceived and produced "An Evening for Sickle Cell" to benefit the Sickle Cell Anemia Research Disease Foundation (SCARDF) of the San Francisco Bay Area. Sickle Cell Anemia is an insidious and deadly disease that primarily strikes persons of African descent. Yet, prior to 1971, little was known and very limited funding was available for the necessary research and development to find a cure. The benefit, held at the San Francisco Playboy Club on Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972, raised over $10,000 with all proceeds going to SCARDF. Equally important was the attendant media and publicity that surrounded the event focusing vital attention on the then little known disease. At the time, this was one of the most successful fund-raisers ever for a predominantly African American non profit organization.

According to the late Publisher and Owner Carlton Goodlet's historic black newspaper, the Sun Reporter of San Francisco, "over a thousand persons were in attendance with many more turned away…for the standing room only event." (Gwen Evans, "Playboy Bunnies Hopping For Sickle Cell," The Sun Reporter, 8 April 1972, The World of Women Section, page 13, cols. 1-3). Among the special guests was the Honorable Willie Brown, then an Assemblyman for the state of California and now Mayor of San Francisco. Also in attendance were: ex-football great, Roland Lakes; KTVU-Oakland, CA., Anchorperson Dennis Richmond; Native American activist Sasheen Littlefeather; and very special guest, then Executive Director of SCARDF, LuLu M. Carter. Great live performances by exciting Bay Area resident performers John Turk and the Third Street Annex, The New Generation Singers, the Emulations and the Sisters of the Ghetto added to a fitting benefit for a very important non profit organization.