Philanthropy

Viacom and CBS' Sumner Redstone and Fox's Dana Walden Honored by Big Brothers Big Sisters

Sherry Lansing paid tribute to her former boss Redstone, while "Glee" castmembers Amber Riley, Darren Criss and Lea Michele serenaded Twentieth Century Fox Television's Walden.
Dana Walden, chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Television, and her family attend the event.

The real stand out stars of this years 2012 Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles’ Big Bash were the actual ‘littles’ ( as they are endearingly referred to), a group of mentee brothers and sisters who appeared on stage and all whom spoke about the profound impact BBBS has had on their individual lives.

Filling the Beverly Hilton's  International Ballroom were notables from all aspects of entertainment. Sumner Redstone, executive chairman of Viacom and CBS Corporation was honored with the Walt Disney Man of the Year Award for his charitable work which has included more than $150 million in donations to many different causes over the years including $1.5 million to the Global Poverty Project.

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Dana Walden, chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Television, who serves on the board of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo, homeless employment organization Chrysalis, UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center and the Saban Free Clinic, was recipient of the Sherry Lansing Award. Roshon Fegan, actor, musical artist and producer, who recently starred on the 14th season of Dancing with the Stars, received the Rising Star Award. And long-time BBBSLA Guild member Kim Vamos was honored with the Trailblazer Award.

Also attending were CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves and his TV host wife Julie Chen;  Twentieth Century Fox Television Chairman Gary Newman; and musician Jensen McRae, who also performed.

Given her award by her friend Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment, Walden had the extra pleasure of being serenaded by Glee cast members Lea Michele, Darren Criss and Amber Riley of Glee, which is produced by Twentieth. Riley belted out Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love,” while her co-stars dueted on the broadway musical Once’s “Falling Slowly.”

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In a tribute to her former boss of 10 years and friend Redstone, Sherry Lansing remembered working with him when he bought Paramount Communications in 1993 when she was chairman of Paramount Pictures. He became her mentor, to her surprise, even though she was already in her late forties. She recounted a story of a film she had made from a hit book, and how when they first tested it with an audience it was such a complete disaster that they decided not to have the audience fill out any comment cards. The next day she got a reassuring call from Redstone who told her that she did everything right: she chose a hit book, hired hit producers and director and she shouldn’t blame herself. “Success is not built upon success, success is built upon failure and frustration and it’s what you do with that failure and frustration that can change your life,” she saaid Redstone told her. The film, which Lansing didn’t name, was reedited and went onto gross $100 million in 1995.

The 89 year-old Redstone needed assistance in navigating his way through the crowds to his table but he was willing to stop and talk with whomever approached him. He said he was supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters because “it’s a wonderful charity and I know the people who run it.” He was seated in a table directly in front of the stage with veteran producer Bob Evans and family members including his daughter Shari, who said her father agreed to be part of the fundraiser because “mentorship is really important to him.” Redstone recently said that despite speculation to the contrary, Shari was still in contention to be his successor. 

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“Sumner believes in education and doing what you can in the early stages of a child’s life,” said Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman at the reception. “Big Brothers Big Sisters reflects his philosophy.”

The organization which has been in existence since 1955 dedicates itself to focusing on providing children facing adversity due to single parent, low income households where one parent is incarcerated,  with strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships with carefully screened adult volunteer mentors that change their lives for the better.

Later in the evening, during a live auction, guests were asked to raise glowing light sticks and make spontaneous donations to the organization. Glee creator Ryan Murphy, there in support of Walden, made one of the highest contributions of the night, $15,000.

The event raised $700,000 in total.

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