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In two weeks time, Richard Weitz’s private Zoom concert events gained enough traction to get Howard Stern’s attention. On Monday’s radio show, Stern read an email he received over the weekend from veteran producer Gary Dell’Abate about an exclusive Zoom party he connected to that was hosted by “a Hollywood agent.”
“I was on for two hours and it was crazy,” Stern said, mimicking the tone of Dell’Abate, best known as Baba Booey, who was also on the air alongside Robin Quivers when the subject of Weitz came up. “Bob Iger, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Tina Fey — they’re all watching and everyone wished Clive Davis a happy birthday. Hozier did ‘Take Me to Church,’ Billy Ray Cyrus did ‘Old Town Road,’ Rick Astley performed …”
Stern then name-checked other prominent guests, like the St. Elmo’s Fire reunion that happened when David Foster, John Parr and Rob Lowe logged on during that April 4 session when the Zoom crew hit a capacity of 500 while others like Jimmy Fallon waited their turn to experience what has become Hollywood’s pandemic obsession. “Who is this guy?” Stern asked Dell’Abate, but he might as well have asked, “What is going on here?”
It started in mid-March when Weitz tested out a virtual birthday party for 17-year-old daughter, Demi, when most of the world had just started isolating under “Safer at Home” guidelines. He booked his favorite Windy City piano man, Dario Giraldo of the Chicago’s Redhead Piano Bar, to entertain an intimate group but after Demi and friends got restless from the nostalgic jams, Weitz expanded the invite list to friends and Hollywood colleagues. It was an instant hit and since then, he’s hosted a half dozen or so events with big-name musical acts logging in to perform their hits while a select roster of invitees look on from their respective homes, effectively launching a feel-good event to connect insiders during an unprecedented crisis.
“I want people to have a good time,” Weitz previously told THR of why he started the gatherings. “It’s like comfort food — songs and artists that people have literally grown up with that make everyone happy and bring joy in this difficult time.” To date across the series, John Mayer has performed “Your Body is a Wonderland,” Josh Groban covered Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” Liam Payne covered Sam Smith’s “How Do You Sleep,” Thomas Rhett turned out “Be a Light,” LL Cool J rapped “I Need Love,” Debbie Gibson sang her ‘80s smash “Only in My Dreams,” Rick Springfield sang “Jessie’s Girl,” Boy George performed “Karma Chameleon,” The War and Treaty — husband-wife duo of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter who are opening for John Legend on his upcoming fall tour — received raves for a performance of “Jealousy,” and there have been appearances by Madison Love, Adam Pascal, the War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel, Krysten Ritter, Fred Savage, Daveed Diggs, Jeff Ross, Max Greenfield, Chris Isaak and dozens of others.
It was the April 4 afternoon installment that got people like Dell’Abate talking, or rather, sending emails. What he didn’t write was how Iger watched from a home office while wife Willow Bay took candids over his shoulder, Fey walked through her New York apartment with a laptop while her husband, Jeff, made pizza dough. It’s the kind of unique experiences produced by the coronavirus pandemic but even more special courtesy of Weitz and the series. A major highlight came when Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez sang Frozen hits with their two daughters. Josh Gad looked on with a huge smile while, in another tiny Zoom box, filmmaker and producer Shawn Levy was spotted singing along with his three kids. In the group chat, Iger took a chance to promote his studio’s streaming platform: “Everyone can find it on Disney+ right now, among other things.”
In the crush of a busy concert, Demi Weitz came up with the idea to launch a GoFundMe to raise money for the Saban Community Clinic for which her father serves as president of the board. Within a day, they raised more than $30,000, and as the dollar figure increased, one of Weitz’s contacts pledged to match it if they got to $50,000. They did and Demi launched an Instagram account to keep the charitable efforts going. The Weitz clan plans to spread the wealth to other charities as the pandemic — and the concert series — continues.
Stern, for one, is looking forward to the next one, expected this holiday weekend. He ended the segment on his radio show by hatching a plan with Dell’Abate to make sure he can get in, even joking about sneaking in before it hits capacity again. “I don’t want to be stopped by the Zoom doorman.”
We can’t wait for next week’s benefit concert where we will be supporting another organization. It is so important to use this platform for good. 9 days ago was my 17th birthday where this was all a fluke. Now we’ve raised 100k!!!! This is unbelievable. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!! thank you again from the bottom of my heart
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