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Barbara Davis, who has been putting on the black-tie Carousel Ball for the past 34 years, will be back at the Beverly Hilton Saturday night for the 26th iteration. She has George Clooney as honoree and expects to raise close to $3 million for the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Aurora, Colorado. Hers is the last of a traditional type of fund-raiser: a silent auction comes first (a wedding and 10-day honeymoon in Bora Bora at the St. Regis is one item); a live auction of a Mercedes; plus dinner with speeches and a performance by Neil Diamond. It’s a night when women wear the important jewelry and guests, who last year included Tom Hanks, Sidney Poitier, Joan Collins and Quincy Jones, exit with massive gift bags. THR caught up with her to chat about the Carousel Balls, both past and present.
The Hollywood Reporter: What’s the key element key to putting on the Ball?
Barbara Davis: You have to make the calls yourself. The people who need to be spoken to, I speak to them. People in Hollywood are very generous, but I’m a pain in the neck. I keep making calls until someone says ‘no’, then it’s a bad luck day and I quit. But this is the last week, so there can’t be any bad luck days.
THR: You’re sold-out and you’ve got George Clooney as the honoree. What could the problems be now?
Davis: People calling me about where they’re sitting. Oy, you don’t know.
THR: You and George share an interest in Haiti?
Davis: Yes, after the earthquake in Haiti, the one where George did the telethon, I worried about the people in Haiti with diabetes. There are 400,000 people there with diabetes. I was worried they couldn’t get their medicine because of the chaos. So we found someone who flew in with a prop plane and landed at the end of the runway with insulin, needles and antibiotics. The doctors met him with trucks and took it to the hospital. Whoever flies into Haiti at night in a prop plane, I didn’t know what he does in the daytime, but he did a great job for us.
THR: What’s the one thing you insist on at your hospital in Colorado?
Davis: That we’re nice and kind. It gives you encouragement. It makes you feel like everyone cares. Nice goes a very long way. It’s part of the treatment. There’s so much fear that comes on when someone is rude, rushing, disinterested.
THR: You’ve had some drama at the Ball?
Davis: One year, Jerry Buss, the Lakers owner, collapsed at his table. Oprah thought he was dead, but she’s not a doctor. Jerry was lucky — the whole room was filled with doctors. The first doctor to get to him was Arnie Klein, Michael Jackson’s dermatologist. It’s a great room to be sick – you could get a flu shot, you could have a baby, anything.
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