It wasn't all monkey business at the Charles Hotel Saturday afternoon--but it mostly was.
More than 500 people and animals turned out for Curious George's 50th birthday party (casual attire), including George Plimpton, Zippy the chimp, and Harvard President Derek C. Bok. Proceeds of the $100-a-plate benefit went to aid a half million dollar fund drive for Philips Brooks House.
The demi-centenarian ape and his best friend, the man in the yellow hat, are the stars of a popular opus that has been delighting children of all ages--but mostly those under eight--since its creation. Presumably, the man in the yellow hat, who found George in a jungle, turned 50 simultaneously.
The characters are the invention of the husband and wife team H.A. and Margret Rey, who penned the ape's first adventure in 1938 in France, where they lived in exile after fleeing Nazi Germany.
Margret Rey, now 81 and living in Cambridge, was originally slated to be among the 300 adults and 250 children who put in an appearance at saturday's event, but she was forced to cancel her plans because of illness. Also invited but unable to attend was Robert Urich of TV's "Spenser for Hire," which is set in Boston. Urich was stuck in traffic in Connecticut, according to a public relations officer for the event.
George Plimpton '48, author and spokesperson, was invited and in attendance. Plimpton came forward midway through the ceremonies to offer a few words of congratulations to the fictitious monkey and his real-life benefactors of PBH, Plimpton in a charateristically low-key presentation, commented on thesimilarity of his first name to that of thefictional simian, but did not read from hisfavorite Curious George book, as had beenadvertised. He did, however, briefly paraphrasepart of one book.
The rest of the evening's entertainment camefrom less august intellectual circles.
Children in attendance said they wereparticularly enthralled with Coco, a real-liverhesus monkey, and Zippy, the roller-skatingchimpanzee. The similarities between Zippy and thefictitious Curious George were highlighted byhaving a real-live man in a yellow hat followZippy around as he did his roller skating tricks.In many of the Reys' book, the fictional man inthe yellow hat chased after Curious George on hisadventures.
After Zippy's introduction, the man in theyellow hat joined the rest of the adults inenjoying the bounty of three open bars andnumerous buffet tables in the the balloon-bedeckedCharles Hotel ballroom. Groups of children andadults scattered about were entertained by aclown, a magician, a make-up artist, and otherperformers.
Besides the well-stocked open bars,entertainment for the adults was provided by alively jazz ensemble and by the Krokodillos. Thoseamong the children who didn't listen to the Krokssought entertainment in an adjoining room, whereCurious George cartoons were being shown on abig-screen TV.
Asked if she enjoyed Curious George's party,one five-year old attendee nodded her head,adding, when prodded, that she thought the partywas "good." Concurred a 21-year-old PBH staffer:"It's fun."
President Bok described his relationship withthe cartoon character as one of "an avid fan," andindicated that he used to read Curious Georgebooks to his daughters.
Although the overwhelming majority of attendeesinterviewed echoed these sentiments about thegolden jubilee, one member of the class of '88,who asked not to be identified, said that theCharles Hotel gala for him was "like a Bar Mitzvahfrom hell."