April 17th, 2011
10:18 AM ET
As you may have heard, the "TV Land Awards 2011" are set to premiere tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
The show was pre-taped last Sunday, and we were able to conduct a few red carpet interviews with cast members from "Family Ties," "The Cosby Show" and "The Facts of Life," as well as Regis Philbin.
When we asked Philbin why he thinks he was selected to win the Legend Award, the ever-jovial TV vet joked, "I think they ran out of other legends - they're all gone! I'm the last one left!"
Meredith Baxter, who played hippie mom Elyse Keaton on "Family Ties," remarked on the series being honored with the Fan Favorite Award, saying "it's nice to see that it had such a profound and long-lasting effect on people. I had no concept of that. When you're in it, you're just a tile in the mosaic. What a gift!"
When asked what she believes her character might be up to in 2011, her cast mate Michael Gross - who played patriarch Steven Keaton - joked that Elyse "would've come out," referring to Baxter's recent reveal that she is a lesbian.
"She probably would've had to come out at some point and bid a sad farewell to her husband," said Baxter. "Or maybe he just accommodates her and moves downstairs."
When a certain CNN.com staffer asked Gross if he wouldn't mind repeating her favorite line of dialogue from "Family Ties" –"There was a kangaroo in my living room" - the actor happily obliged, and even told a story about how the writers had actually tossed that line in as a lark. Gross actually remembered the scene and repeated it, saying, "Alex, when parents go away they expect a few little accidents - a broken piece of crockery, some spilled milk... there was a kangaroo in my living room."
When we asked Gross where the Keatons would be today, and whether Steven would still be managing the local PBS station, WKS, Gross stated, "WKS would be fighting for its life. We'd be visiting our son, Alex, who'd be in federal prison with Bernie Madoff. We figure he would have gone to Wall Street and gotten into trouble... No, he probably would have followed the straight and narrow because Alex being Alex was the product of this union and so when push came to shove he did the right thing. He might've ratted on Bernie Madoff."
Gross is mainly doing freelance acting jobs these days, which he enjoys "particularly if things are as wonderfully nutty as Larry David and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'" Gross has a guest role as Larry's dermatologist in the upcoming season of "Curb your Enthusiasm," which airs in July. He couldn't say anything more about "Curb" other than "I'm committed to secrecy. Larry David would have to kill me."
We also had a chance to speak to singer Billy Vera, whose name you may not know, but surely you are familiar with his voice. (Unless you happen to remember his recurring role on "Beverly Hills, 90210" as Brandon's betting bookie, Duke. But we digress... ) Vera's song "At This Moment" topped the charts in 1987 when it was featured on "Family Ties." He'd written the song long before "Ties," and it hit the lower end of the charts five years prior. It was re-issued as a result of the "Family Ties" popularity and went to No. 1.
Vera took a moment to reflect: "It's thrilling. I never expected it, and I was surprised because I'd had songs on shows before and never the kind of reaction that I got with 'Family Ties.' I think the story of the song - boy loses girl - was the same as the story of the episode. And I think that's why America connected with it. NBC told us that they had more phone calls and letters about that song than in the whole history of the network."
We also spoke to Marc Price, who played the neighbor Skippy on "Family Ties." Price, now a stand-up comedian, joked that he used to tell people he was "Skippy from 'Family Ties'" but now finds that it is more effective to tell people that he's "Stewie from 'Family Guy.'"
We also spoke to Sabrina Le Beauf, who played eldest daughter Sondra on "The Cosby Show." She spoke about "Cosby" being honored with the evening's Impact Award: "It's fantastic! I'm so happy that people still enjoy it and that it's still relevant and that we still have fans out there who watch it everyday."
We recalled Sondra's various career moves (failed wilderness store owner, law student) and one of us suggested that perhaps in 2011 her character serves as in-house counsel for a company like L.L. Bean.
"Unfortunately my mind is not so creative," laughed Le Beauf. "But when you talk to Geoffrey [Owens, the actor who played Sondra's husband, Elvin], he always says the best things. But I always say they grew up and all of that and they did what they were meant to do and what Mom and Dad wanted them to do and they raised great kids and great-grandkids and they're just fine."
Owens said that his character, Elvin, "always swung very widely. First he was a wrestler, then there was the wilderness store, then he was a medical student. So by now he's probably a pilot for United Airlines and a stand-up comedian."
Owens also reflected on the "Cosby" award, saying, "It feels great. It makes sense to me that we're getting an Impact Award because for years people have been coming up to me and telling me how much of an impact the show has made on their lives, so that makes a lot of sense that that's the award we're getting."
Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam told us that she believes her character Rudy Huxtable "is well-adjusted, she's gone to college, she's graduated, she's enjoying living life and having a wonderful career. Not sure if she's done the family thing yet, but maybe."
We also had a lovely chat with actress Raven-Symone, who played little Olivia on the last three seasons of "The Cosby Show."
"['Cosby'] broke a lot of records," she said. "It set a vision of a type of family that wasn't out before. It lasted over many generations and I think it still has issues and topics that are relevant today... and it's funny!"
When asked about Cosby's impact on her career, Raven-Symone said, "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Mr. Cosby and Sidney Poitier and everyone that was on the set. I wouldn't have a career at all."
As for upcoming roles, Raven could barely contain her excitement when she said, "I have a job, and I'm super excited! I've been on vaycay for, like, three years just to get myself together. It's called 'The Great State of Georgia' on ABC Family. It's a wonderful, wonderful show that reminds me of 'That Girl' with Marlo Thomas. Super cute, super grown-up! I'm very excited because there's going to be a bar setting so people can understand that I am 25. In Hollywood, I'm like middle-aged."
Charlotte Rae, 84, who played Edna Garrett on "The Facts of Life," was thrilled to be reunited with her cast mates and couldn't stop gushing about her "girls."
"We're very thrilled to be together," said Rae. "We got together this morning in Kim's [Fields] hotel room with her little boys and Nancy's [McKeon] two girls and I brought my granddaughter along. It was wonderful! I knew these girls when they were 11 and 14. To see them grow up in such a beautiful way, and their children - it's very heartwarming!"
Actress Nancy McKeon, who played tomboy Jo, called the evening's "Facts of Life" Pop Culture Award "a tribute to [Rae's] talent. She's our fearless leader and we had the privilege of working with her for many years."
Actress Lisa Welchel, who portrayed Blair, added: "You don't work for that long with each other and not mesh as a family - we sure did!"
After the red carpet arrivals it was show time!
Surprise guest Liza Minnelli kicked off the evening with a performance of "New York, New York." This was the first year the show, now in its ninth year, was not broadcast from Hollywood, so they sort of made a big (apple) deal out of it. Minnelli nearly blew the roof off the brand-new extension of the famed Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
Other memorable moments included an impromptu performance of "Higher Ground" by none other than Stevie Wonder; the presentation of the 35th Anniversary Award, which was given to the cast of "Welcome Back, Kotter" (including John Travolta!); and the Music Icon Award, which was presented to Daryl Hall and John Oates. The duo then performed "Rich Girl," "Kiss on My List" and "You Make My Dreams."
Not a bad way for us to have spent a Sunday evening, and not a bad way for you to spend tonight.
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