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The Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Gala began with a joyful announcement: Six years ahead of schedule, the hospital has met the $30 million fundraising goal set for its Regenerative Medicine Institute (RMI), the night’s beneficiary. Using stem cell technology, RMI intends to revolutionize treatment for patients with eye and lung diseases, neurological disorders, Crohn’s disease and broken bones. Instead of performing drug tests on rats or mice, RMI takes a sick person’s cells and tissue and grows a model of the most impacted organ in a petri dish, making it possible to gauge remedy reactions.
On Thursday evening at the Beverly Hilton, influential names from entertainment, banking, philanthropy and medicine celebrated the milestone, as well as the generosity long displayed by three honorees. Spouses Bert and Jennifer Salke — the respective Fox 21 Television Studios president and Amazon Studios head — shared the Hollywood Humanitarian Award, while Bel Air Investment Advisors chairman-CEO Todd Morgan accepted the Philanthropic Leadership Award.
Guests included Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, Smokey Robinson, Max Greenfield and event co-chairs Dana Walden (the new chairman of Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment) and Richard Weitz (a WME partner). “You want to be part of the police and a hospital, okay?” Weitz said on the red carpet. “‘Cause you never know, God forbid, when you need something. So that’s really one of the reasons why I joined.”
The lineup was stocked with WME affiliates, including John Mayer, who gave acoustic performances of “New Light,” “Daughters,” and “Waiting on the World to Change.” “All of these songs tonight, in case you can’t tell, are in the theme of [re]generative therapy,” he deadpanned. During another song break, the seven-time Grammy recipient contemplated aloud about how his generation is “racing technology,” and the doctor who “put Botox in my vocal cords to stop them from moving, because” — he whispered — “that’s the only way to get John Mayer to stop talking.”
Will & Grace star and two-time Emmy winner Sean Hayes hosted the $600 per plate affair, peppering the altruistic mission with pop-culture jabs. “As I reappear time and time again, you will grow to resent me,” he predicted. “Right now, we’re like Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson in August, but by the end of the night, we’ll be like Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson now.”
Morgan was lauded by both his wife, Rosanna Arquette (“We’re definitely on the same page when it comes to giving back and politics — thank God — and how grateful we are for each other, and the people in our life. And our magical dog, Pixie”) and a client of 25 years, Barbra Streisand.
The iconic performer sent a video tribute. “Todd, I want you to know that there’s almost nothing that would stop me from being with you tonight,” Streisand started. She explained, however, that she and her husband James Brolin “have a new granddaughter coming into our lives, probably tomorrow, maybe tonight,” via Brolin’s son, Josh. “I treasure your good sense, integrity and kindness,” Streisand said of Morgan, a Lifetime Trustee of Cedars-Sinai and former chairman of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, who has helped approximately 200 Holocaust survivors. She concluded by calling Morgan a “fabulous friend, a financial whiz, a mensch through and through,” and blowing him a kiss.
For 10 suspenseful minutes, Morgan detailed his brother Tommy’s terrifying recent health scare. Their family has a history of heart disease, and while Todd escorted Tommy to Cedars-Sinai so the latter could have stents implanted, Tommy had a massive heart attack, brought on by an allergic reaction to a blood thinner. Tommy spent 32 days in the hospital, and Todd was told that his sibling had a 10 percent chance of survival.
“Off in the background, my wife and I know that the Board of Governors Gala is coming up the next month, in October,” said Todd. “I said to Rosanna, ‘Tommy can’t die.’ Can you imagine me up here, telling you that about two months ago, my brother didn’t make it at Cedars?” Tommy, now recovered, waved from the audience.
Rob Lowe presented the Salkes with their statuette, following taped congratulations from Milo Ventimigla, America Ferrera, Zachary Levi, Wilmer Valderrama, The Hollywood Reporter executive editor Stephen Galloway, Darren Criss and fiancée Mia Swier, Amazon television co-heads Vernon Sanders and Albert Cheng, their children and more. “Look at this room, look at these people that are all here for you, appreciating you,” Lowe told the couple. “Really take this in, because you are two of the most normal, loving, giving, committed people in this business, and this is a direct result of who you are.”
Their contributions to causes like Operation Smile, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and the Get In Touch Foundation got them to the stage, but the Salkes emphasized the many ways their lives had previously intertwined with Cedars-Sinai, “from toddlers launching out of cribs to broken arms on damn trampolines — thank you, Bob Greenblatt — to nights up late with three young kids with terrible, barfing flus.” Jennifer kept her thread going: “Or, most recently, when I kicked a chair in the middle of the night, and my pinky toe was facing sideways.”
Prior to their speech, Bert told THR that when it comes to his energetic wife, “I just hang on to her shirt and just try to keep up.” Now, in front of his peers, he recalled watching her persevere through more serious hardships involving stays at their local hospital: asthma attacks while ill with pneumonia; a preventative double mastectomy when she tested positive for a high-risk BRCA gene mutation; and her late father’s battle with Stage 4 lung cancer.
In February, after her Amazon predecessor, Roy Price, resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment, Salke agreed to leave NBC. “She took over once the show had just begun,” Marvelous Mrs. Maisel matriarch Marin Hinkle told THR. Ever since, Hinkle says Salke has been a constant presence onset, as well as at read-throughs and publicity events.
“What’s great for me is that they got, to be frank, a woman, at a time when we’re really questioning why haven’t there been more women at the top and — particularly for a network that’s beginning — a platform that needs to have new vision,” Hinkle continued, even comparing her studio’s top executive to her series’ heroine. Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creator Amy Sherman-Palladino wants Midge [played by star Rachel Brosnahan] to “feel the adversity” but also “rise above it,” said Hinkle, “And I think that’s kind of Jennifer. … She was working in a man’s world from an earlier time, and has been able to do it with absolute elegance and probably humor.”
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