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It's a dream come true for a Texas girl

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN
Published April 23, 2007


Long ago, when my little friends and I were playing dress-up in the back yard, our idol was dancer-singer-actress Debbie Reynolds.

Like us, she was a Texas girl, born in El Paso. Even though she moved to California at age 7, she still had that fresh-faced, spunky way that so many Texas girls seem to come by naturally.

She even had a double name (Mary Frances) just like my friends and me (they were Shirley Lee and Lynda Carolyn, I was Bobbi Kay). It took someone out in Hollywood to get her name down to a single word: Debbie.

We all vowed that when we grew up, got married and had a daughter, we'd name her Debbie -only with a different second name so we could tell them apart. Shirley Lee actually did, but I had a boy, so couldn't.

We grew to love our Debbie even more as we got older. My sister and I nearly broke our legs trying to re-create her dance steps from Singin' in the Rain as we whirled around on our front porch and hopped up and down the tall steps.

I suppose that's why I got all teary during the recent Show Palace Dinner Theatre production of Singin' in the Rain; it brought back such wonderful, happy memories.

And it's why I can't believe that on May 9, I'll be sitting less than 25 seats from the real, live Debbie Reynolds when she does a show at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre.

It's the third time the Show Palace has gotten a big name act through its agreement with Ruth Eckerd Hall. The first two were comedian Joe Piscopo and television and Broadway actor Tony Danza, both big hits.

But I think Debbie Reynolds is the biggest (this is my pure prejudice talking here) they will ever have.

She's a megastar from the days when Hollywood had real megastars: Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Fred Astaire, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor. She was nominated for a Tony on Broadway, had her own television show, got an Oscar nomination for one of her scores of blockbuster movies and sold millions of records.

My younger friends may know her only as the mom of Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in Star Wars), but those of us who have been around for awhile remember her as a big part of our movie-going youth and are thrilled when she pops up on Will and Grace and reruns of The Golden Girls.

There's no way to overstate how big a deal Debbie was from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s. Her name on the marquee guaranteed a crowd. And though she married three real rascals, there was never a hint of scandal about Debbie herself.

Movies changed in the 1960s, but Debbie Reynolds didn't. She was still the clean-cut girl next door that she is today, at 75, full of healthy energy and still blessed with that somewhat husky voice and big-eyed wonder.

She's still working, doing television movies and guest appearances, a Las Vegas show and touring. In interviews, she's frank to say that it's not only because she loves to perform, it's because she could use the money.

Her Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas went bust in 1997, reportedly because of her then-husband's financial blunders. It was auctioned off to World Wrestling Entertainment a year later and is now the Greek Isles Hotel.

She's been single for more than a decade, performing almost nonstop, earning rave reviews and working on her huge collection of Hollywood memorabilia.

I was one of the first in line when the Show Palace announced in February that she would be here in May. Her show is a mix of songs, clips from her films, stories of her life and, of course, memories and more memories.

At last, I'll finally see in person the woman I have adored from afar for so long, a woman who genuinely deserves to be called an American idol.

If you go

Debbie Reynolds

When: Doors open at 6 p.m., show at 8 p.m. May 8; doors open at 11:30 a.m., show at 1:15 p.m. May 9.

Where: Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.

Cost: Dinner and show, $69.95, plus tax and tip.

Call: (727) 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll-free elsewhere at 1-888-655-7469.