Remembering the Women's Guild
From 1958 to 1995, the well-connected Women's Guild of Cedars-Sinai held a black-tie, klieg-lighted film fund-raiser annually at such venues as the Egyptian, Grauman's and the Cinerama Dome, followed by a dinner-and-dancing party. Nicknamed "the fur premiere" because it typically took place in December, it was for decades the unrivaled charitable event on Hollywood's social calendar, pulling in major moolah with the debuts of everything from Funny Girl to Lawrence of Arabia. Here, members of the guild, which continues to raise millions for Cedars, tell THR all:
Shelley Cooper, veteran film publicist (Three Kings, Striptease): "It was always the end-all and be-all of star-studded events."
Beverly Firestein, member of the Max Factor family: "These women in the guild, they were movers and shakers in the community. One of them, Fran Stark, her husband, Ray, she said to him, 'How about a movie?' And it grew. In those days, the studios paid for everything: the food, the place. It was always very glamorous."
Joanna Carson, ex-wife of Johnny Carson: "Whoever your contacts were, you brought them to the game."
Anne Douglas, wife of Kirk Douglas: "We all had our customers. I had Lew Wasserman. I would say, 'I need $10,000.' He'd say, 'You got it!' "
Rosalind Russell (in a 1969 interview with the Los Angeles Times): "Five of us gangsters went after the top picture of the year [1969's Hello, Dolly!]. Then 20th Century Fox said, 'We'll be needing 100 tickets for stars, celebs, producers.' 'Fine -- that will be $10,000, please.' While they fainted, we snapped our purses shut with one click and got up. Oh, you should have seen them. It was the biggest holdup of the century."
Wendy Goldberg, wife of producer Leonard Goldberg: "That was their kickoff, instead of a junket."
Douglas: "In the beginning, we were rather powerful. Later on, we had to give the studios and the press a certain amount of tickets, which diminished our income."
Firestein: "Times changed with the way things operated. The studios cut their budgets. It was such a struggle to get a top movie. Nick of Time  was not exactly the same as Fiddler on the Roof or Funny Girl, so we decided to move on."
Goldberg: "These days, the biggest films, like The Avengers, have already been in many countries before the U.S. The way they market a movie is so different. So now we keep it fresh. Last year, we did an event with Cirque du Soleil." -- G.B.