Carl Reiner honored at Paley gala

No ' lousy, juicy stories to tell' about the industry veteran

Carl Reiner is a kind and "normal" person, while Showtime Networks has built a successful business by pushing the envelope.

Those were the sentiments expressed by a parade of stars paying tribute to the actor-writer-director-producer and the premium cable service Thursday night during the Paley Center for Media's Los Angeles gala at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza.

The Paley galas sometimes turn into a bit of a roast for the people being honored, but Lily Tomlin, who co-starred in Reiner's "All of Me," perhaps summed up the sentiments of all those who paid tribute to Reiner when she said: "He's talented and normal and creates a great working environment, which means I don't have any lousy, juicy stories to tell."

She did tell a sweet story of going to see Reiner's wife, Estelle, perform at a jazz club, where she observed Reiner on his "hands and knees" helping to set up for her show.

"That shot Carl sky-high in my heart," she said.

Reiner's son, actor-writer-director-producer Rob Reiner, said he idolized his dad when he was younger and pointed out that his father was on television before he even owned a television. He told of how the elder Reiner would send him and his siblings secret messages at the end of 1950s series "Your Show of Shows."

"He would tell us, 'I can't see you, but you can see me,' " Rob Reiner said. "Every Saturday night, he would bow goodbye and he'd tell us, 'I want you to know I'm there.' So he'd touch his tie, and that meant, 'I love you,' and that it was time for us to go to bed."

Carl Reiner regaled the crowd with a rant about the "awful" food served at the gala and a touching remembrance of his wife, who died in October. Of the late singer-actress, eight years his senior, he joked that he was like Ashton Kutcher, who married the 16-years-older Demi Moore.

The 86-year-old also said he'd been working in TV since 1948, getting his start on a show called "The Fifty-Fourth Street Revue," but he never imagined the then-upstart medium would grow into what it has today.

"I was under contract, and I got an offer to do Broadway," he said. "I asked if I could buy my way out of the contract. I didn't realize how important TV would become."

After leaving the stage, Reiner recruited audience member Mel Brooks for an audience-pleasing impromptu reprisal of their classic routine "The 2000 Year Old Man."

Also honored during the event, hosted by Bonnie Hunt, were Showtime chairman/CEO Matthew Blank and president of entertainment Robert Greenblatt.

"Weeds" co-stars Elizabeth Perkins and Justin Kirk said Showtime, after it launched in 1976, became a place for storytelling and characters not normally seen elsewhere on TV with shows like "Resurrection Blvd." (centering on Latinos), "Soul Food" (African-Americans), "Queer as Folk" (gay characters) and "The L Word" (lesbians).

"Showtime became a powerful microphone for often marginalized voices to entertain, inform and be heard," Perkins said.

Blank and Greenblatt did take some ribbing from Showtime talent during a video, in which Tim Robbins (the pilot "Possible Side Effects") congratulated the network for being honored for its "excellent lesbian programming," while Ira Glass ("This American Life") joked that when he first met Blank, he noticed a striking physical similarity to the boss from Reiner's "The Dick Van Dyke Show," Mel Cooley (Richard Deacon).

Onstage, Tracey Ullman ("State of the Union") cracked a joke about Showtime's "The Tudors," saying that, attending school as a youngster in England, she believed that King Henry VIII was "fat and bald. But when he's being brought to you in the 21st century by premium cable, he's Jonathan Rhys Meyers."

In his remarks, Blank paid tribute to Reiner, saying he was convinced his late mother never understood what he did for a living but would have been proud of his being honored on the same stage as the film and TV legend.

Of his job, he said: "We get to break a lot of rules, create unique and different programming and have a lot of fun."

Greenblatt, meanwhile, referred to the "golden age" of television and said he believes that this is the "new golden age in cable. We're allowed to do things nobody is allowed to do and push the envelope."
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