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$50M Cancer Bill Honors Laurie Beechman

Two bills--one which would provide $50 million for ovarian cancer education--have been introduced in Congress to honor the late Broadway actress Laurie Beechman.

Rep. Jon D. Fox (R-Pa.) introduced the legislation on Tues., July 14. He represents Pennsylvania's 13th district, where Beechman's parents and sisters reside. The two bills, which had not yet been assigned bill numbers by press time, would be jointly called The Laurie Beechman Memorial Act.

The bill funding ovarian cancer education would increase monies to the National Cancer Institute by $10 million a year for five years. Educational programs would include information for persons suffering from ovarian cancer and their families.

The second bill would authorize the federal Treasury Department to mint a coin stamped with Beechman's likeness. The department would choose a design from submissions by private artists, according to Tony Swanick, Fox's communications director. Proceeds from the memorial coin's sale would benefit Gilda's Club, which provides education and support for those afflicted with cancer.

Fox's office is also organizing a Dec. 7 concert honoring Beechman in Philadelphia, where she was born. Broadway stars Sam Harris, Richard J. Alexander, and Andrea McArdle, along with other performers, are scheduled to attend.

Beechman, a singer and actress who played Grizabella in "Cats" on Broadway for five seasons, battled ovarian cancer for nine years. She died on March 8 at the age of 44.

Beechman made her Broadway debut in "Annie" in 1977. She also appeared as the narrator in "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat," receiving Tony and Drama Desk nominations for her performance.

She joined a touring production of "Cats" in 1983, and soon switched to the Broadway production, replacing Betty Buckley. Last spring, she rejoined the cast in time to celebrate the musical's surpassing "A Chorus Line" as Broadway's longest-running show.

She also performed tirelessly as a cabaret artist from the late '80s on, recording five albums.

"As brilliant as Laurie Beechman was a singer, her spirit soared to even greater heights and lifted us all along with her," Fox said in a prepared release. "She was, for nine years, an inspiration for other women and their families who were fighting the same battle. And while Laurie may have lost her battle in March, she may, in the long run, help us win the war."

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