Ted Danson Is Criticized For Blackface Act At Friars Club Roast Of Whoopi Goldberg

Posted: October 10, 1993

* Whoopi Goldberg laughed, as did most of the audience at her Friars Club roast in New York City. But boyfriend Ted Danson's appearance in blackface and his racially peppered jokes angered Mayor David Dinkins, talk show host Montel Williams and others. "I was confused as to whether or not I was at a Friars event or at a rally for the KKK and Aryan Nation," Williams said in a telegram to the Friars. Friars' roasts traditionally are no-holds-barred affairs at which the guest of honor is skewered by jokes that often are crude. The roastee then gets a chance to respond, in kind. Dinkins said later that the jokes at Friday's roast "were pretty vulgar and many were way, way over the line." Not so, Goldberg said in a statement yesterday, saying she was roasted "with humor and a great deal of affection." The uproar came over Danson's arrival on the dais at the 89th annual roast. Danson was in blackface makeup, with huge white lips, wearing a tuxedo and top hat. Model Beverly Johnson, who is black, also defended Danson's performance. "If you can't see the humor at a place where there's supposed to be over-the-line jokes, then there's something really wrong," she told the Daily News. Publicists for Danson did not return phone messages yesterday. In a statement yesterday, the Friars said they were "saddened by the racially offensive nature of some of the material. . . . We apologize to Mayor Dinkins, Montel Williams and all others who were offended by the racial remarks."

THANKS, GETTYSBURG

* Ted Turner tipped his hat to Yankee hospitality with a block-party bash celebrating the opening of his epic film about the pivotal Civil War battle waged just outside Gettysburg, Pa. Three thousand guests Friday were treated to food, music, a free showing of Gettysburg and a chance to chat with actor Martin Sheen, who stars as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Sheen credited about 4,000 Civil War re-enactment buffs who worked on the film for helping him capture the spirit of the famed general. "They treated me like General Lee, so it was very easy to just respond to the way they felt about him," said Sheen.

DEADLINE GIVEN

* A Los Angeles federal bankruptcy judge last week gave Kim Basinger one month to come up with a repayment plan that includes an $8.1 million award for breaching a contract to star in the movie Boxing Helena. Judge Geraldine Mund set the deadline Thursday after questioning the actress' lawyers about an existing reorganization plan that included a house for which Basinger paid $1.2 million and now says is worth only $600,000. Mund also asked about Basinger's $600-a-month gardening bill and asked if the movie star had a kennel license while noting thousands of dollars per month in pet expenses. ''There's going to have to be substantial movement on this next version," the judge said. Main Line Pictures attorney Sally Neely accused Basinger of acting in bad faith, arguing that she was using the bankruptcy filing to delay paying the breach-of-contract penalty.

SPORTS LEGEND HONORED

* A tunnel being constructed under Boston Harbor connecting Logan Airport with the Massachuetts Turnpike will be named after baseball great Ted Williams. At a Thursday unveiling of a sign reading "Ted Williams Tunnel" by Gov. William Weld, the former Red Sox slugger said: "I can't even hardly describe my wonderful feelings about being recognized this way." Williams, 75, who lives in Florida, is the last major leaguer to achieve a .400 batting

average for a season, which he did in 1941.

SQUARE-DANCING KENNEDYS

* The Kennedy clan, in country-western garb, square-danced and ate barbecued chicken yesterday during a prenuptial party thrown by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass.) for his son and future daughter-in-law. The festivities were on the grounds of a mansion on Block Island, R.I. The wedding of Edward ''Ted" Kennedy Jr. and Katherine Anne Gershman is planned for this afternoon at St. Andrew Catholic Church. Kennedy, 32, met Gershman, 34, at Yale University, where she's an assistant professor of psychiatry. She also has a private psychiatric practice. Kennedy is the director of the New Haven Lead Safe Home Project, which works to provide services to children who suffer

from lead poisoning.

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