Jeffrey Katzenberg Takes Aim at Trump at amfAR Gala: "Demagogues Have Had Their Day"

The DreamWorks New Media chairman said:  "Day after day, we are being subjected to the hateful speech of a man who is actually trying to turn the clock back. He's trying to take us back to darkness. We must not let this happen."
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With the presidential election now less than two weeks away, Jeffrey Katzenberg is concerned.

One of Hollywood's biggest Democratic supporters who has been rallying support for nominee Hillary Clinton, expressed his emotions about the current state of the political landscape while on stage accepting his honor from amfAR at the organization's 7th annual Inspiration Gala Thursday night at Milk Studios in Los Angeles, sponsored by Cadillac, Harry Winston and MAC. And he took aim at Donald Trump without ever mentioning the reality TV star turned Republican nominee by name. 

"I'm concerned," he said simply after noting the "real progress" that has been made over the years in both the fight against HIV/AIDS and the push for equality and gay rights issues. "Day after day, we are being subjected to the hateful speech of a man who is actually trying to turn the clock back. He's trying to take us back to darkness. We must not let this happen. We have come to far. We are getting too close. And, here's the good news: No one knows better how to defeat that man and his message than the people in this room."

And those in that room did their part. The event, presented by Harry Winston and M•A•C Viva Glam with signature sponsors Cadillac and Moët Hennessy, raised more than $2 million for amfAR’s AIDS research programs. But Katzenberg wasn't yet done doing his part, accepting one of two major awards during the evening with the other going to Academy Award-winner and United Nations Messenger of Peace Charlize Theron, who was honored for her work on behalf of her foundation, Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Program. 

"We've seen his sort before," Katzenberg explained, again not mentioning Trump by name. "Demagogues have had their day. Now they are the ones who must retreat to the shadows, so this is not the time for complacency. This is not the time to rest, This is not the time to wait for others. If intolerance wins, amfAR and all it stands for loses."

Katzenberg, joined at the event by wife Marilyn and their two children, picked up his Inspiration Gala honor from onetime boss Barry Diller who hired an ambitious Katzenberg to be his assistant at Paramount Pictures. Diller praised his tireless work ethic and selfless spirit but not before taking a walk down memory lane.

"I met Jeff Katzenberg a long time ago, shortly after I joined Paramount in 1974. I was 32, he was 23. I didn't now Jack about the movie business and so my first act was to hire somebody who knew less, but he did have energy," Diller recalled. "He didn't have anyone then to who could join him on his now standard three breakfasts a day, nor anyone to call on his now endless to-do lists. You can only imagine how relaxing it was to have him around the office. But it was clear from the first moment — as it often is with tornadoes — that he was going to have a profound effect on anything that he came into contact with."

Diller continued that Katzenberg has "been maniacally at this entertainment thing for more than 40 years," but it's not his professional resume that he's most in awe of. "What I have been even more impressed with is, over those years, what a fine and generous citizen he has become. He's been there through the very dark times when supporting this unloved disease took a lot of courage."

After taking the stage, Katzenberg confirmed Diller's details about when their relationship started, but said he wouldn't have become the man or the mogul he is without having had that experience. 

"I was 23 years old when Barry took me under his wing at Paramount. Over the next 11 years, he was both my boss and my mentor, nurturing me all the way from his PA to president of the studio," remembered Katzenberg, who went on to run Disney and co-found DreamWorks Pictures. "It's really not possible for me to list all the incredible lessons that I have learned from Barry from storytelling to marketing to creative to deal-making — Barry is master of all of these things and so many more. He uses them to do something that he's very, very good at, and it's called winning.

But victory isn't what piques Katzenberg's interest most, he said.

"Here's what I actually find most interesting about Barry: He taught me that there is something more important than winning and that is giving. Time and again, I've seen Barry on his own and in partnership with his incredible wife Diane (von Furstenberg) give generously over and over again to causes that matter to our community, matter to our country, and matter to our world."

And that is exactly why Theron also took the stage, for making a difference through her foundation. Longtime friend Chelsea Handler presented Theron with her award, and both poked fun at Theron's weight gain. (She has changed shape — a reported 30 lbs. —to play a mother in the upcoming Tully.)

Weight aside, Handler praised Theron as someone not afraid to say what's on her mind. "I know this to be true because I've witnessed this firsthand many, many times over the course of our friendship," said Handler, a former host of the Inspiration Gala. "For example, when I was dating a guy who everyone knew was terrible for me and no one said a word, she said, 'What the fuck are you doing. Get away from that guy.' "

Theron didn't add any more to that anecdote when she took the stage, but she did say "I am very fat right now," before adding how nervous Handler makes her. "Chelsea, I f---ing love you," she said. "It is so scary to watch you come up here and introduce me. It really is gut-wrenching. With all of my heart, that was so sweet. I just love you so dearly, you're such a loyal person in my life."

And proving that she's loyal to the cause, Theron then took the opportunity to dedicate her award to sex workers, a population that has been greatly affected by the disease. It's also one she forgot to mention when she spoke at the International AIDS conference in July. She not only mentioned them, she outlined strategies to help end the epidemic. 

"Despite our best intentions, sometimes people are still falling through the cracks, and too many are not being seen. It's tough to admit, as much progress as we've made, sometimes it feels like we're failing the ones who need us the most," said the mother of two. " We know that to end this epidemic, we need big, bold investments in science and medicine. That we know. But we also need bit and bold investments in outreach. We need big bold ideas to fight poverty end discrimination in hard to reach places. We need big bold messages to fight empathy in our governments and in our own communities. If we're going to end stigma, we have to check our own biases and ask, who are we missing when we talk about ending AIDS?"

Both Theron and Katzenberg received standing ovations for their passionate speeches. And they each went home with limited-edition Harry Winston Countdown to a Cure timepieces, for their contributions to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. Other attendees of the Inspiration Gala included Heidi Klum, Jon Hamm, Dita Von Teese, Lea Michele, Victoria Justice, amfAR Global Fundraising Chairman Milutin Gatsby, amfAR Chairman of the Board Kenneth Cole, Sophia Amoruso, Estelle, Peter Fonda, David Foster, David Furnish, Brad Goreski, Kelsey Grammer, Courtney Love, Angela Lindvall, Maureen McCormick, Jesse Metcalfe, Shemar Moore, Mia Moretti, Samantha Ronson, and Cara Santana. 

The event also featured a competitive live auction conducted by Alexander Gilkes. Among the items were a painting by Givenchy getaway to Paris with airfare by Delta One; a mural by the art world's hot duo the Haas Brothers; a Bansky work titled "Donuts (Chocolate)" that sold to event chair Aileen Getty; and a work by renowned artists Gerhard Richter titled "Haggadah."  For the first time, event sponsor Belvedere offered generous guests the chance to snag personalized Belvedere Bespoke bottles for a $500 donation.

Jane Lynch and Cheyenne Jackson (a new father after the birth of twins Willow and Ethan with husband Jason Landau) opened the event with a rendition of "A Whole New World" from the Aladdin. Katzenberg greenlit the animated film during his days as president of Disney. The peformance can be seen below. 

 

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