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Berle: Vegetarian Nonagenarian

Milton Berle, known as Uncle Miltie, celebrated his 90th birthday Sunday night at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Berle says he began his entertainment career 85 years ago in vaudeville. In the '50s, he became known as "Mr. Television" because of his highly successful Texaco Star Theater.

Berle attributes his longevity to a vegetarian diet and abstention from alcohol.

Bob Hope was among the veteran stars who attended the birthday bash, many of whom had worked with Berle.

Steve Allen was asked how long he had known Berle. "Since I was 2 1/2 years old," he replied straight-faced. "Milton baby-sat with me when he was on the bill with my mother in vaudeville."

Comedian Red Buttons admitted 59 years of acquaintance: "I first knew him when I was in burlesque, and Milton would come backstage at the Gaiety Theater to check out the strippers."

Jokemaster Hal Kanter was asked if he ever worked with Berle. "Didn't everyone?" Kanter replied.

But not Larry Gelbart, creator of the MASH television series and writer of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum.

"Milton was going to be in The Forum, but it didn't happen, and I'm sorry," Gelbart said.

Guests arriving at the Beverly Hills Hotel were greeted by a Charlie Chaplin look-alike. Berle has often remarked that he got his first introduction into show business by imitating Chaplin on the streets of the Bronx.

Phyllis Diller arrived carrying a cigar in honor of Berle's most famous prop.

Among the other arrivals were Jackie Cooper, Cyd Charisse, Tony Martin, Gloria Stuart, Sid Caesar, Ann Marie Miller, Richard Dreyfuss, Johnny Carson, and producer Fred DeCordova.

The dinner was a benefit for the Gershman Family Foundation and the G&P Charitable Foundation for Cancer Research.

Berle will be honored with another birthday party Oct. 5 at New York's Plaza Hotel. President Clinton is expected to be a guest.

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