- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Tumblr
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
When Jeffrey Katzenberg was a kid growing up in New York, his father Walter, “a very successful, man-about-town stockbroker,” always carried a wad of discreetly folded $100 bills. As he moved through the day, Walter would “quietly and stealthily” slip one to people in his orbit, whether it be “a doorman, a waiter, a valet, someone standing on the street with a sign about needing help, a maid, a taxi driver, a guitarist on a corner.”
One day, Jeffrey asked his father to explain the generous habit. “He asked me if I ever looked behind us. I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Well, the next time we’re out together, please look back and tell me what you see,’” Jeffrey recalled from the stage Saturday night during the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s 100 Years of Hollywood: A Celebration of Service. “The next day, I looked behind us as he subtly and smoothly just handed someone a bill, and he asked me what I saw. ‘I see very big smiles and incredible happiness.’ Dad said, ‘I want you to remember that and, most importantly, why I do it. I believe it is important to take care of those that take care of us and those that cannot take care of themselves.’”
That spirit of generosity and taking care of the community inspired Jeffrey’s lifetime of philanthropy and, over the past 30 years, the mogul made MPTF one of the main beneficiaries of those efforts. He announced last year that he was stepping down from the organization and on Saturday, he took a final bow by receiving a Silver Medallion during the event, held at The Lot on Formosa in West Hollywood.
Jeffrey and wife Marilyn were the sole honorees on a program that featured celebrity presenters, musical performances and emotional “I Am MPTF” stories from industry professionals whose lives have been greatly impacted by MPTF’s wide range of services. Those taking the stage included presenters Jodie Foster, Adam Scott, Harry Northup, and MPTF champions Yvette Nicole Brown and Jim Gianopulos.
The musical entertainment featured artists paired with notable songs. Tori Kelly covered Celine Dion’s monster hit “My Heart Will Go On,” Ledisi turned out Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear delivered a rendition of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies tapped their way through Common and John Legend’s “Glory” from Selma.
Other guests at the event — presented by City National Bank, Delta Air Lines and UCLA Health, with support from Directors Guild of America, IATSE, PMC, Sherry Lansing Foundation, Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Discovery and the Wasserman Foundation — included Chuck Lorre, Trisha Cardoso, Kimberly Peirce, Amanda Kloots, Cameron Monaghan, Carla Renata, J. Lee, Nicky Whelan, Omar Sharif Jr., Patrick Fabian and Tia Carrere, and more.
Also of note: Veteran industry executive Peter Rice made his first public appearance at the event following his exit from the Walt Disney Co. He was fielding hugs from many of his peers and engaged in close conversation with Gianopulos, Lansing, Katzenberg, veteran producer Lauren Shuler Donner and mogul Casey Wasserman, the latter of whom had the honor of presenting Jeffrey with his award.
The showing marked a profound passing of the torch as Casey’s grandparents, Edie and Lew Wasserman, zeroed in on Jeffrey more than three decades ago to take over stewardship of MPTF after they had been the leading industry champions of it for years. And Casey now serves the board and his foundation helps support MPTF’s work that includes a safety net of health and social services including temporary financial assistance, case management and residential living.
“Thank you, Jeffrey and Marilyn. You’re my friends. You’re my family. I love you both, which is why I want to profusely apologize for the call you got 30 years ago when my grandfather asked you — well, we know he told you — to take over the mantle of the MPTF board,” Casey said in opening. “Like everything you do for our community and country, you did so with a vigor and a drive to not let one person in this town go to sleep without guilt for not donating to the MPTF.”
Casey introduced a video that featured high praise for Jeffrey’s indefatigable work from George Clooney, Hugh Jackman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. Jeffrey has long said that Michael’s father, the late Kirk Douglas, was one of his philanthropic mentors and he shouted him out Saturday along with David Geffen and the Wassermans, calling the group “some of the world’s greatest givers.”
The second half of Jeffrey’s speech focused on “one more really important mentor in my life,” though he admitted it was a bit odd to refer to his wife in such a way. He praised her innate sense of knowing the difference between right and wrong and having an ability to focus on what really matters. “Marilyn may not make as much noise as I do, but there is nothing that I do that doesn’t reflect her support, her guidance, her smarts, her heart, her generosity,” he said of his wife, also was honored with a medallion though she did not take the stage. “And if I ever don’t listen to her, well, it generally ends up in the trades, and it’s usually not very pretty.”
Katzenberg closed his speech by referring back to the beginning with the anecdote about his father, and in doing so offered some advice to the next generation. “I go back to what my dad said about taking care of those who take care of you and that cannot take care of themselves. I would then suggest you do what he had me do, which is look back and see the smiles and see the happiness.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day