Virtual Gala for America’s Flagship

On July 3, 2020 at 4 p.m. PST/7p.m. EST, the nonprofit SS United States Conservancy’s West Coast Chapter ( will host its first “virtual gala” in the style of the 1950s classic “Colgate Comedy Hour” variety show, once filmed aboard the SS United States. This event will mark the anniversary of the record-breaking maiden voyage of “America’s Flagship.”

The online gala will air on the Conservancy’s YouTube channel at It will feature celebrity appearances by country music legend Dolly Parton; 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; and feats of magic from Glenn Farrington of Magic Castle fame.

“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 midcentury-modern sparkle to our preservation and fundraising efforts,” 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 largest and last remaining ocean liner built in America, “the Big U” shattered the transatlantic speed record in both directions on its maiden voyage in 1952. No passenger vessel has ever broken it. It played host to presidents, 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 Withdrawn from service in 1969, the SS United States has been berthed in Philadelphia since 1996 awaiting renewal.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 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 it into a mixed-use destination and world-class museum.

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