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There had been some concern before the Oct. 6th Carousel of Hope Ball about what honoree Robert De Niro might say. The Oscar-winning actor has been famously unrestrained about expressing his feelings toward President Donald Trump. In a one-minute video that ran before the 2016 election, De Niro called him a “punk,” a “pig,” a “con” and a “bozo.” Then at this year’s Tony Awards, the actor received a standing ovation when he said, “I’m going to say one thing: fuck Trump. It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s fuck Trump.”
But the Carousel Ball is a very different setting from a New York-based awards show. The event at the Beverly Hilton is a fundraiser for the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes that specializes in Type 1 diabetes research and care. It’s located in Denver, Colorado where founder Barbara Davis and her late husband, Marvin, had lived before he bought 20th Century Fox in 1981. (He sold it four years later to Rupert Murdoch.) A much larger chunk of those attending the Ball are wealthy Republicans — many from Colorado — than you’d get attending the Tonys.
The Ball’s 32nd outing began the traditional way with emcee Jay Leno making jokes. Two lines that got big laughs were “Matt Lauer got fired from the Today show. When Al Roker says ‘no’ he means ‘no’ ” and “Stormy Daniels was on 60 Minutes, which was 59 minutes longer than she was on Donald Trump.”
Leno introduced Davis, who spoke about her Center’s diabetes research and said “we’re much closer to fixing it” before mentioning some of the successful new treatments. She ended by thanking the guests for “your love, your loyalty and for standing by me.” (The dinner raised $1.8 million.) Among those on hand were Sherry Lansing, Lawrence Bender, Quincy Jones, Suzanne de Passe, George Schlatter and Art Linson.
Davis was followed by a Leno-led auction (“If you don’t bid, you’ll have diabetes by the end of the evening,” he said at one point) for items that ranged from a trip to Tuscany valued at $60,000 to a 30-minute meeting with Clive Davis where the winner could play three record demos and receive the music industry legend’s advice. (The meeting went for $15,000.)
And before the award presentation to De Niro, there was strong musical presentation put together by David Foster with Pia Toscano, Shelea Frazier and Fernando Varela plus a set by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. The evening would end with a performance by Gladys Knight.
Introducing De Niro was David O. Russell (he directed the actor in 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook) who said he “imitates your performances any day of the week. It’s like singing old Beatles songs.”
De Niro began his remarks by saying “I haven’t had many opportunities to speak since the Tonys” and noted that people are “afraid I’m going to say …” with his voice trailing off but the implication was he was going to repeat the words from the Tonys. “I’m not going to say that,” said the actor. “But I might be thinking it now and at every waking moment.”
He then went on to praise Davis for her “informed philanthropy” that is about “getting it done.” He ended his remarks by saying, “Tonight the wine is flowing. But remember: If you have too much, you might end up on the Supreme Court.”
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