BEVERLY HILLS, California — Kirk Douglas knows how to make an entrance. With boxing gloves in every centerpiece and the theme from “Rocky” blaring over the speakers, Kirk, one of the golden age of Hollywood’s last living legends, walked confidently into the Sunset Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel Friday afternoon to celebrate his 100th birthday at an intimate gathering of friends and family.
Flanked by Anne Douglas, his wife of over 62 years, his son Michael, his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones and his grandchildren, Kirk looked out over the crowd of about 150 people, including Don Rickles, Jeffrey Katzenberg, his Rabbi and many of his closest friends and smiled. Not only was he surrounded by friendly faces, he knew, as promised by his doctor years ago, that if he lived to 100, he would get to have a glass of vodka.
But before the vodka was presented in a comically large martini glass, Kirk got to sit and listen to words from his loved ones as images from his many classic film credits such as “Spartacus,” “Lust for Life,” “Paths of Glory” and others played on a screen behind him.
Michael kicked off the proceedings, saying that it’s not just about age, but about the life he’s lived and what he’s accomplished.
“One of the things that I find most incredible about dad is the third act of his life,” said Michael. “After all he accomplished in his professional career and what he’s given for his country, at the point in his life where he’s faced adversity, losing a son, having a helicopter crash, having a stroke, and what he’s accomplished in this third act in his life, I find quite extraordinary.”
Kirk kept his remarks brief.
“I wonder who he was talking about? He said some nice things about someone I don’t know,” Kirk said, joking that Michael was chosen to organize the proceedings because “he has the most money.”
Kirk also thanked everyone for coming and marveled at seeing most of his family in the crowd.
Zeta-Jones then lit the 12 candles on the cake.
“I’m so glad there’s not 100!” she exclaimed, before leading the room to sing “Happy Birthday” with a string quartet accompaniment.
It was only the start of the afternoon, which included remarks from a few of his seven grandchildren, his Rabbi and his doctor. Charley King’s Bluebell Events oversaw the afternoon tea where each table was designated not by numbers but by Kirk’s films. The birthday boy was seated at the “Lonely Are the Brave” table, which is his favorite film.
Off to the side, actress and dancer Neile Adams, who was Steve McQueen’s first wife, recalled Kirk’s resilience, when a few years ago he had both of his knees replaced. Michael, she said, tried to encourage him to just get a wheelchair.