A royal Hollywood evening with Astaire & Travolta 1

Dance · Film

A Rat-Packy night in L.A. — so much royalty, show biz and more. The memorabilia comes from arts·meme pal Larry Billman, founder of the Academy of Dance on Film.

From Larry’s photo archive, a groovy snapshot of cocktail hour preceding the 22nd annual ball of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences honoring Fred Astaire. The date, February 4, 1978.

astaire, billman
Prior to the event, at the bar in the Astaire home: (L to R) Larry Billman, dance historian, Dick DeNeut, writer, Princess Shahrazad Pahlavi, niece of the Shah of Iran, Tomo Billman, Fred Astaire, choreographer Hermes Pan, Feb. 4, 1978.

Remembers Billman: “We [Billman and his wife Tomo] were part of a circle that included Mary Tyler Moore, Grant Tinker, Betty White and Allen Ludden. Fred’s sister Adele was part of that group.

“The Shah’s [niece] was Hermes’ date. She went by the name of “Sherrie.” Hermes had a very long and deep friendship with the [Iranian] Royal Family.

“I love the fact that Fred’s bar was decorated with photos of his horses, rather than show biz connections,” writes Larry in an email. “No Emmys, etc. He did have one very ugly painting by Irving Berlin!”


Fred Astaire, John Travolta at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences 22nd Annual Ball, Feb. 4, 1978.

Billman explains: “Astaire invited Travolta to join his table after seeing “Saturday Night Fever.” Fred called him and said, ‘I’d love to meet you.’ He did that, as well, with Michael Jackson after he [MJ] did the moonwalk. Fred reached out to all the up-and-coming people.

“John didn’t [quite] know how to behave. It may have been his first time he wore a tux. And he’s wearing that scarf.

“This is a photo of a man in his golden age … sitting with a man who just struck gold.”

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One comment on “A royal Hollywood evening with Astaire & Travolta

  1. Larry Billman May 9,2013 4:40 pm

    Thanks for these wonderful memories. My wife, Tomo, and I met Mr. Astaire through his daughter, Ava, and her husband, Richard McKenzie, who remain treasured friends. Meeting Fred as the “Father of a good friend” allowed us to have casual times and dinners with the family and most often, dear Hermes. Fred was always reluctant to talk about his career and wanted to talk instead about the present and the future. He’d ask about our daughters and my career with Disney and we came very close to working together, me as a show director and he as a composer for a L.A. Unified School District spectacular at the Coliseum. Because of limited funds (sound familiar?) the show was cancelled but he was delighted to be included as a composer – something he wanted to be. Good times with a great man.

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