Rita Rudner is grand marshal for this year's Dana Point Festival of Whales Parade. Photo: Courtesy
Rita Rudner is grand marshal for this year’s Dana Point Festival of Whales Parade. Photo: Courtesy

By Andrea Swayne

“When I was asked to be the grand marshal for a whale parade, I thought someone was telling me I was fat,” quipped actress and comedian Rita Rudner with a laugh when asked about her latest gig. “I’ve never been the grand marshal of anything and when they said I wouldn’t have to do anything physical, like run a 5K, and I could just ride in a car and wave and then lunch at Hennessey’s, I was all in.”

Rudner said, in all seriousness, she is very honored to serve as the parade grand marshal for the 45th annual Dana Point Festival of Whales on Saturday, March 5, and counts the city as one of her favorite places.

“I feel very honored to be asked and I feel very fortunate to have a vacation home in this beautiful place,” Rudner said. “My husband and I honeymooned here 28 years ago and one of our goals at the time was to be successful enough to own a house here. It took 26 years, but we did it. I mostly live in Las Vegas and travel a lot—that variety is one of the best things about being in show business—but I always love coming here. This is my favorite, favorite, favorite, triple favorite place.”

Rudner began her career in the entertainment business at the age of 16 with a 10-year stint as a dancer on Broadway before changing her focus to comedy and acting. Rudner recently completed a month-long run acting at the Laguna Playhouse in the U.S. debut of “Act 3,” a comedic play by David Ambrose and Claudia Nellens and directed by her husband, Martin Bergman. In between festival weekends, she will play gigs in Palm Desert and Phoenix, and then she’s off to Isreal in April and looking forward to future “Act 3” performances in Los Angeles and Toronto.

Rudner said she is not only excited to do her part in kicking off the two-weekend event at the parade but also to experience the events at the Harbor. A special event on her to-do list includes attending the Whale of a Concert on the Water, Sunday, March 13, when her daughter, singer/songwriter Molly Bergman, will play at noon. At the age of 13, the talented young musician has already performed at many local venues.

“I’m ready for the parade,” Rudner said. “My husband and my in-laws are English, so I have the queen wave mastered. They get together and are English together and eat potatoes and Yorkshire pudding and complain about American bacon and wave like the queen. I can even do it without any underarm jiggle. And I got my teeth cleaned so I am ready to sparkle.”

The parade begins at 10 a.m. at Selva Road and Pacific Coast Highway and proceeds south down PCH to Golden Lantern.

Read the official Festival of Whales event program here.

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