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Celebrating Danny Kaye's 100th birthday

Kaye, UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador for three decades, is

Kaye, UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador for three decades, is the class clown on a visit to PS 149 in Brooklyn, which he attended. Photo Credit: UNICEF

There are many in the Act 2 generation who remember the late Danny Kaye, whose career spanned several decades. Older seniors know him as one of the world's biggest movie stars during the 1940s and '50s. Boomers may recall his TV specials and weekly variety show in the 1960s. And while he was a standout entertainer, Kaye was also well known for his years of humanitarian work, especially for UNICEF.

Danny Kaye's 100th birthday is Jan. 18, and the centennial is being celebrated from Hollywood to the United Nations. And next month, the Brooklyn-born Kaye's birthday will be acknowledged with an "Official Danny Kaye Day" in New York.

"My father was such an extraordinary man," says Dena Kaye, the daughter of Danny and Sylvia Fine Kaye. "He was a role model for giving back." Dena Kaye, a writer and journalist, is spearheading and coordinating the numerous events that are under way. Last month, "Christmas With Danny Kaye," a DVD compilation of holiday shows from Kaye's variety series, was released. Hollywood honored Kaye this month with a tribute at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills and outdoor screenings in Los Angeles of his classic 1954 movie, "White Christmas." Saturday in Manhattan, Wynton Marsalis will include a special tribute to Kaye as part of his annual Jazz at Lincoln Center Christmas Concert.

The honors wouldn't be complete without a mention of Kaye's tireless work for disadvantaged children. "It was his face that was synonymous with UNICEF," says Caryl Stern, president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Unlike other stars who give only their image, Kaye logged thousands of miles as UNICEF's goodwill ambassador beginning in 1954 until his death in 1987. "All the good he did . . . lives on today," Stern says.

Dena Kaye hopes the centennial will also revive interest in her father's movies. On Jan. 20, she will co-host a Danny Kaye movie marathon on Turner Classic Movies. "The pleasure I will get is the pleasure he will be able to give to others once they see him, enjoy him and be inspired by him," she says.

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