RIP TAYLOR – REMEMBERED WITH LAUGHTER AND CONFETTI

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On Sunday, Nov 24th, an eclectic group gathered to pay homage with laughter to the memory of The Prince or Pandemonium, The Master of Mayhem, The Crying Comedian, The King of Camp and Confetti, Star of Screen (large and small), Broadway & Vegas Stage … RIP TAYLOR.
Counted among the speakers who lovingly shared every humorous and chuckle inducing moment of the great comedian’s life were Bruce Vilanch, Johnny Whitaker, Julie Newmar, Alison Arngrim, Kathy Griffin, Frank Sheftel, Marty Krofft, Jo Anne Worley, Ruta Lee, B Harlan Boll and his life partner of 44 years, Robert “Robby” Fortney.
Others in attendance included Ann-Margret, Darby Hinton, David Arquette, Elaine Ballace, Geoffrey Mark, Jaime Monroy, John Bowab, Judy Carter, Judy Tenuta, Kate Linder, Karen Morrow, Mary Jo Catlett, Rico Anderson, Roslyn Kind, Shelly Goldstein, Tai Babilonia, Travis Oates, Carole Cook, Tom Troupe, George Chakiris and many more.

Speakers Robert "Robby" Fortney, Frank Sheftel, Marty Krofft, Kathy Griffin, Bruce Vilanch, JoAnne Worley, Alison Arngrim, Juile Newmar and B Harlan Boll

Speakers Robert “Robby” Fortney, Frank Sheftel, Marty Krofft, Kathy Griffin, Bruce Vilanch, JoAnne Worley, Alison Arngrim, Juile Newmar and B Harlan Boll

Rips Friends Frank Sheftel, Kate Linder, Tai Babilonia, Lesley Aletter, Lee Meriwether, Ann-Margret, George Chakiris, Johnny Whitaker, Judy Tenuta, Elaine Ballace and B Harlan Boll

Rips Friends Frank Sheftel, Kate Linder, Tai Babilonia, Lesley Aletter, Lee Meriwether, Ann-Margret, George Chakiris, Johnny Whitaker, Judy Tenuta, Elaine Ballace and B Harlan Boll

The program was held on the Debbie Reynolds Main Stage (named after his long time friend) at the The El Portal Theatre (5269 Lankershim Blvd, Hwd CA 91601) and consisted of costume displays, video clips covering his career on stage, television and the silver screen, Rips induction to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, all culminating with an appropriate explosion off confetti singing Rip’s trademark song, “Happy Days Are Here Again”, led by JoAnne Worley.

A selection of Rip Taylor's costumes from stage and screen

A selection of Rip Taylor’s costumes from stage and screen

Rip was one of television’s most recognizable personalities. He was born in Washington DC becoming a Congressional Page as a teen until he served in the armed forces during the Korean War. He began entertaining during his time in the military and pursued it after he left, becoming known as th crying comedian. A guest star with over 2,000 television appearances under his belt, Rip brought his wild energy to The Gong Show, Password, The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman and to the coveted center square on Hollywood Squares.  Rip became a pop culture icon as a result of such campy films such as Barris’ THE GONG SHOW MOVIE; the “Exorcist” spoof, REPOSSESSED with Linda Blair and Leslie Nielsen; as well as the foreign-made THE SILENCE OF THE HAMS. Frequently appearing on television, he appeared in everything from variety shows to talk shows to sitcoms like THE MONKEES, THE BRADYS and more. Perhaps Rip’s greatest impact in television was when he was picked by Chuck Barris to host The $1.98 BEAUTY SHOW. The campy “beauty and talent contest” brought Rip icon status as he served as ringmaster, gloriously reveling in the glitter and kitsch of “The World’s Tackiest TV Show.” His first Las Vegas appearance was in THE ELEANOR POWELL SHOW at the Dunes. This, in turn, led to sharing the nightly stage with such stars as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Debbie Reynolds, Ann-Margret and Judy Garland, among many, many others including a rare appearance with Hollywood’s greatest bombshell, for which he receive a personalized photo signed “Love & Luck to my baby Doll Chuck Taylor, Love Marilyn Monroe.” For decades, Rip maintained his status as one of the top headliners in Las Vegas. He was named “Entertainer of the Year” three times in a row, spent a year headlining at The Flamingo Hotel’s Rockettes Extravaganza, and in 2002 brought  RIP TAYLOR’S CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR to The Rio. Additionally, Rip has played on Broadway and toured the country as the lead role in productions such as SUGAR BABIES, ANYTHING GOES, OLIVER (as Fagan), PETER PAN (as Cpt Hook), and A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.  He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theatre at 6625 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. An honor he was so proud of that he scheduled trips to buffed and clean his star on a regular basis.

Rip's friends, Mary Jo Catlett, Tom Troupe and Carole Cook.

Rip’s friends, Mary Jo Catlett, Tom Troupe and Carole Cook.

“My memories of Rip dont revolve around he work on stage, screen or personal appearances, but rather the restaurant we ate at regularly .. Hamburger Hamlet, The Silver Spoon, The French Quarter and that culinary establishment, IHop. The greatest joy Rip had in life was from the result of making others laugh.  He didnt have an easy childhood.  Abused and bullied, he said he discovered early, that they werent hitting you if they were laughing.” – Harlan Boll

Robert "Robby" Fortney, Johnny Whitaker, JoAnneWorley, B Harlan Boll, Frank Sheftel, Kathy Griffin and Alison Arngrim

Robert “Robby” Fortney, Johnny Whitaker, JoAnneWorley, B Harlan Boll, Frank Sheftel, Kathy Griffin and Alison Arngrim

Confetti salute to Rip from The Debbie Reynold's mainstage

Confetti salute to Rip from The Debbie Reynold’s mainstage

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:  William Kidston Photography
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