One of the smartest, funniest and most fascinating characters I ever met was Gracie Allen. Although from 1950 to 1958, she was among television's biggest stars -- with an earlier list of movie credits, too -- she was just Gracie, wife, mother and mentor.
When the Alliance for Women in Media came to me recently to say they wanted to honor my late husband, Aaron Spelling, with a "Gracie," I thought how much that would please Aaron and Gracie. They were great buddies. George Burns liked Aaron, and counseled him about his television dreams. Gracie counseled me to prepare to be a Hollywood wife and mother.
The Alliance for Women in Media -- which had been called the American Women in Radio and Television for the last 60 years -- is holding its first-ever Gracies in Los Angeles later in May. In addition to honoring top women in media -- including this year's honorees, such as Suze Orman, Jane Krakowski, Amy Poehler, Peri Gilpin, Niecy Nash, Hannah Storm and Andrea Mitchell -- they also salute people who create programs "that are well produced and accurate in their treatment of changing roles, issues and concerns of women."
Aaron was always proud that he was able to present strong, intelligent role models through many of his shows. Oh, how he would have liked to have cast Gracie, but she passed away long before he created shows with roles for special women.
I was going through some of Aaron's files the other day in preparation for The Gracies and got lost in all the photos and scripts, remembering all the special women.
If that wasn't enough, I was struck by a memory recounted in some of the obituaries for the wonderful Lynn Redgrave, who recently passed away. In between the lists of Tony, Oscar and other award nominations during an amazing career was Lynn's explanation of her lack of work after a studio lawsuit, "I wasn't exactly that I blacklisted, but Hollywood is the smallest town...and it just became more convenient not to hire me."
That was followed by her quote, "I was employable as a guest artist on 'Love Boat' and 'Fantasy Island' and 'Hotel' [all Aaron's shows]..."And people sniffed: 'Well, God... commercials and 'Love Boat' and she's a Redgrave.'"
I next picked up TV Guide, and found a feature about The Love Boat, which was recently celebrated by TV Land. The cast listed the following guest stars as among their favorite show memories: Lana Turner, Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Juliet Prowse, Shari Belafonte and Lillian Gish!
One of Gracie's most-quoted lines was: "I'm a very lucky woman. I was courted by the youngest, handsomest, most charming, most sought-after star in show business -- but I still married George because I loved him." That wasn't quite my story, but I'm sure glad Gracie is helping me celebrate the man I loved, Aaron Spelling, and all the women he loved to cast.