Carl Reiner: It's My Party and I'll Criticize the Food If I Want To
Thank you, Carl Reiner, for all of your contributions to entertainment but perhaps most of all for saying what everyone was thinking Thursday night. The million-time Emmy winner’s spontaneity and genius candor was on display and much appreciated by a cocktail-attired crowd as the Paley Center for Media honored him with a “Salute to Excellence” at the Hyatt in Century City. (The organization also honored Showtime Networks.)
The program, hosted by Bonnie Hunt, was really pretty entertaining and very heartfelt, with appearances and tales from Reiner’s son Rob Reiner, Mel Brooks, Lily Tomlin, Dick VanDyke, Larry Gelbart and George Segal. There were clips and jokes and we all remembered how great The Dick Van Dyke Show and Your Show of Shows were and laughed at bits from The Jerk, All of Me, Oh,God! and on and on. It was an unusually good-time gala.
Except … dare I say, the dinner was one of the strangest menus I have ever seen at an event like this at a hotel ballroom. It honestly was not great. Alright, it was just bad. And it immediately inspired a discussion at my table of the show Top Chef and how we might receive it if we were judges. “Contrived,” said one person. “Over-worked,” said, ok, that was me. (Admittedly that’s more of a Project Runway phrase.)
Yep. I will dare say it; the man being honored did.
One of the first things Reiner talked about in his acceptance speech was his history with the org’s late namesake, William Paley, and his love for the Paley Park in NY that the legendary CBS boss created. Paley had installed a hot dog stand at the park, which thrilled Reiner. See, Reiner could always test if he was really sick based on the question of whether he could eat a hot dog, he says. If he asked himself whether he could eat a hot dog and the answer was, “Yes,” he wasn’t really that sick.
"Food is so important,” Reiner says. “Like tonight. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have great food tonight?”
The crowd’s roaring response indicated that we at my table and Reiner at 86 were not the only ones confused by the long, sliced cucumber that wrapped around the salad (ok, my cuke allergy bias is talking a little bit here) or the entrée pastry filled with poultry I believed to be turkey, along with what seemed to be a beef-based stuffing. The main course was accompanied by a gratin potato tower (allergy alert number two) and asparagus and carrots. Dessert was a cheesecake with a brownie on top and a nut-crusted (more allergies—they were definitely trying to kill me) chocolate stick and caramel drizzle, followed by a plate of cookies.
Smack me for complaining. By most standards we were eating very well, but I could not help but agree with Reiner when he said “Wouldn’t you rather have had a Paley hot dog?” and simply: “Wasn’t the food awful?”
“The truth is more important than whoever is going to be hurt by that,” he says.
Photo credit: Kevin Parry/The Paley Center for Media
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