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July 3 “Virtual Gala” for SS United States Conservancy

Media Contact: David Perry & Associates, Inc. / David Perry (415) 676-7007 /  

SS United States Gala 68 Variety Show — Friday, July 3 (4pm Pacific / 7pm East Coast)

In celebration of the 68th anniversary of the SS United States’ maiden voyage on July 3, 1952

First Ever “Virtual Gala” for SS United States Conservancy  recreates style of 1950s-era “Colgate Comedy Hour” as filmed aboard SS United States

Celebrity Video Salutes from Dolly Parton, Kate Burton, and Mercedes Ellington

Special Guest Performances feature Klea Blackhurst and a Rendition of
the SS United States theme song: “First Lady of the Sea”
Featured Guests include Glenn Farrington from The Magic Castle,
Akira Sky singer-songwriter & star of DreamWorksTV’s “Junk Drawer Magic” and Nita Whitaker and her daughters Skye & Liisi LaFontaine

Conservancy West Coast Chapter Co-Chairs Mark Perry & David Perry Host with Susan Gibbs, Conservancy President and Granddaughter of
SS United States designer William Francis Gibbs

Beyond Pix Studios of San Francisco Produces Online Event 

9 June 2020 — Hollywood, CA: The Coronavirus won’t stop the effort to save an enduring symbol of America’s spirit and resilience. On the anniversary of her record-breaking maiden voyage, “America’s Flagship” the SS United States will again serve as a powerful, unifying symbol of American triumph over adversity. On July 3, 2020 (4pm PST / 7pm EST), the nonprofit SS United StatesConservancy’sWest Coast Chapter( willhost its first “virtual gala” in the style of the 1950s classic “Colgate Comedy Hour” variety show, once filmed aboard SS United States.  The online gala will be available on the Conservancy’s YouTube channel at

This exciting digital event will feature celebrity appearances by country music legend Dolly Parton and actress Kate Burton (daughter of SS United States one-time passenger Richard Burton), Mercedes Ellington (granddaughter of jazz icon Duke Ellington who once performed aboard the ship), singer-songwriter Akira Sky, singers Nita Whitaker and her daughters Skye and Liisi LaFontaine, a performance of the ship’s rarely performed theme song “First Lady of the Sea” by cabaret sensation Klea Blackhurst accompanied by pianist Michael Tekulsky, and feats of magic from Glenn Farrington of Magic Castle fame. Donating technical support and sponsorship for the event is Beyond Pix Studios, an internationally recognized leader in broadcast services, headquartered in San Francisco.

“This is what happens when a ship geek with Hollywood connections gets an idea,” said Mark Perry, an Emmy and Golden Globe award winning writer-producer, Conservancy Board Member and founder of the Conservancy’s West Coast Chapter. “The Colgate Comedy Hour of the 1950s was quintessential must-see TV of the era, and once filmed aboard the SS United States. We want to add a little of that mid-century modern sparkle to our preservation and fundraising efforts.”

“Mark and I aren’t related by family, but rather by something much stronger: the family of ship lovers around the world,” said maritime historian and author David Perry, who is co-hosting the gala.“The SS United States is much more than a ship. She is an irreplaceable part of American history and an era when that history represented the very best of human achievement.”

The largest and last remaining ocean liner  built  in America, “The Big U” shattered the transatlantic speed record in both directions on her maiden voyage in 1952.  No passenger vessel has ever broken it. She played host to presidents, Hollywood stars and celebrities, tourists, and immigrants in the days before jet air travel, serving as a global ambassador of American promise. The ship was the height of American post-war innovation, technology, and design. Withdrawn from service in 1969, the SS United States has been berthed in Philadelphia since 1996 awaiting renewal.

The SS United States Conservancy prevented the ship from being scrapped in 2011, and today leads a global campaign to save and revitalize the vessel. Raising funds through donations and working to attract private investment, the Conservancy aims to redevelop her into a mixed-use destination and world-class museum.  In December of 2019, the Conservancy entered into an agreement with a prominent commercial real estate development firm, RXR Realty, which has been exploring a range of options for the SS United States’ redevelopment.

In addition to live commentary, rare film clips, and interaction with virtual audience members, the online gala will feature an auction of rare items related to the famed ocean liner, including a stunning painting by maritime artist Robert Lloyd and original sketches by famed author-illustrator David Macaulay.

“At this challenging time when our nation needs unifying symbols more than ever, the SS United States endures as a pinnacle of technological and artistic achievement. She’s a monument to the American can-do spirit,” says Susan Gibbs, President of the SS United States Conservancy and granddaughter of the ship’s designer, William Francis Gibbs.

“As our nation contends with COVID-19 and other challenges, ‘America’s Flagship’ once again conveys a message of hope and resilience,” Gibbs adds. “Through the miracle of digital technology and allure of Hollywood glamour, this event will introduce the soaring story of the SS United States to a wider audience.”

In the coming days, further details about the online event will be forthcoming. Updates will also be posted on SS United States Conservancy’s website at