The voyage that devoted Doris Day fans make to the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea every spring in celebration of the beloved actress’s birthday occurred again this year.
In late March, the Doris Day Animal Foundation kicked off the 3-day weekend of events leading up to Day’s birthday in April. The celebration included a VIP reception at the Cypress Inn, which included TV host and personality Peter Marshall (perhaps best known as the original host of The Hollywood Squares) along with impressionist Rich Little. Jackie Joseph, Day’s co-star in the 1960s-70s television show “The Doris Day Show” and jazz vocalist Karen Oberlin also performed for those in attendance, many of whom traveled from across the globe to honor the beloved actress. The celebration honoring Day’s birthday has grown over the years but really became a celebration for her fans and locals in 2014.
Day, who lives at Quail Lodge and rarely attends the birthday event, turned 97 on April 3rd.
“Her movies have lasted the test of time,” said Lea Price, director of communications for the Doris Day Animal Foundation. “She exudes that positive energy that everybody loves to be associated with.”
Day has been a Carmel resident for over 40 years and is widely credited with making the town more dog-friendly and setting the same trend for other towns.
Price said this year’s three-day event is the biggest yet in terms of the number of entertainers that have come out to celebrate Day and support the Doris Day Animal Foundation.
On Friday, Turner Classic Movies primetime host Ben Mankiewicz introduced the 60th-anniversary screening of one of Day’s most popular films “Pillow Talk” followed by a Q&A, which featured Day’s co-stars throughout the years. A live auction followed. Saturday evening featured performances by Little and Ambassador of the American Songbook Michael Feinstein.
“I’ve been really excited to be part and parcel of this for a long time,” said the 93-year old Marshall, who was accompanied by his wife Laurie and a canine friend at the Cypress Inn Thursday.
Marshall’s history with Day goes back as far as the early ‘40s when Day performed with bandleader Les Brown. Marshall appeared in the 1951 film “Starlift” that starred Day.
Singer/entertainer Scott Dreier, who has performed at Day’s past birthday bashes and whose entire show “Doris and Me” pays tribute to the actress/singer’s career, was also at the Cypress Inn.
“Whether it was dancing with Gene Nelson, comedy with Rock Hudson or doing serious scenes with Jimmy Stewart, everything she did was so real,” said Dreier.
This year, as in years past, it was her less public fans that made up the events’ biggest presence. Thursday’s reception had 150 attendees while Friday’s screening and Q&A were sold out with 350 and Saturday with 300.
“I’ve loved Doris Day all my life,” said Heidi Addison, through her thick Scottish brogue.
That’s while artist/journalist/producer Danny Proctor traveled all the way from Nashville for the festivities.
“I’ve always wanted to meet her,” said Proctor.
Joseph, now in her 80s tries to come to the event as often as she’s able.
For his part, Little recalled working with Day some 40 years back and said he hadn’t seen her since, noting his sadness about that and hopes he eventually would.
Still, Price said Day appreciates and cherishes every single fan and expression of appreciation.
“She reads every letter and every card, even if she can’t answer them all,” said Price. “The outpouring of love she receives from around the world is truly amazing.
Said Joseph, “The local people should know they have gold dust living in the hills.”