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No slight to the previous 20 editions of “Quarantunes,” but when Richard Weitz returned Sunday to kick off another pandemic concert event, not even 10 minutes in, the WME partner promised it would be “the most special of all.” He claimed to have a good reason, too, in that the forthcoming show would be devoted to 17-year-old daughter Demi Weitz, “the greatest daughter and pandemic co-host a dad could ask for.”
For the past five months, she’s been his co-pilot from their kitchen counter where they had raised $7.9 million over the course of the all-star, invite-only fundraisers that have hosted a who’s who of C-suite executives, producers, talent and close to 250 singers, songwriters and entertainers. Former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing, a regular viewer, returned Sunday to help confirm Richard’s forecast at the start of the virtual show: “It’s the best one…it’s for Demi.” And it was.
Demi received the Champion for Girls Award from the event’s charity partner, Girls Inc., as a way to honor her contributions in helping rally donations while shining a spotlight on a variety of causes against the backdrop of the unique virtual concerts. It didn’t start out that way, however, which is partly the reason she earned Sunday’s spotlight.
In March, as safer at home directives set in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Richard hatched a plan to celebrate Demi’s 17th by hosting a get together with friends and family on Zoom as the networking tool was becoming the go-to platform to connect. He hired Chicago piano man Dario Giraldo to perform but Demi and her teenage friends didn’t immediately take to the entertainment. Instead of giving up, Richard kept testing the format by opening up his Rolodex to invite legendary artists to perform for his industry peers and friends.
Demi came up with an idea to create a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the Saban Community Clinic for which her father serves as president of the board. Their initial goal was to raise $10,000 but that was reached in a flash, so they kept it going, eventually expanding it for a variety of causes. Millions of dollars followed. The two split responsibilities with Richard relying on his encyclopedic knowledge and love of music to inform the events while Demi has always handled the nonprofit Q&As and provided passionate pleas to keep the donations rolling.
First, it was for COVID-19 causes but as the pandemic gave way to social justice organizations in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. To date, the partners have included Saban, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, New York Health + Hospitals, Baby2Baby, United Way L.A. and Worldwide, Team Rubicon, CDC Foundation, Los Angeles Food Bank, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Hope Lodge of the American Cancer Society, Broadway Cares, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, MusiCares, Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative, John Legend’s Free America and Healing California.
Though first covered by The Hollywood Reporter, daddy and daughter Weitz have since become media darlings, appearing on national and local TV shows, being heard on podcasts and written about in print. The most recent “Quarantunes” events included a 20th-anniversary cast reunion of Malcolm in the Middle for Healing California, and a special A-list benefit for John Legend’s Free America co-hosted by Disney’s Dana Walden and Chrisette Hudlin that featured appearances by Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Stevenson and BeBe Winans.
Girls Inc. snagged a spot on the roster Sunday and many of the guests proclaimed it a fitting choice for the current times and for its choice in teenage honoree. “You deserve this,” said Debbie Gibson, who has been on the “Quarantunes” ride since the beginning and was one of the first performers in March. “This is girl power at its finest,” she said. Girls Inc. has been around since 1864 and per its mission statement, encourages “all girls to be strong, smart, and bold,” through direct service and advocacy, mentorship and programming.
Speaking of programs, Richard also promised that Sunday’s would be different than previous iterations. This one played more like a typical awards show with surprises, tribute speeches and videos, and only a handful of musical performances. It kicked off with DJ Cassidy — wearing a pink satin blazer and a t-shirt featuring a young Kamala Harris — and a selection of girl power anthems from the likes of Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Chaka Khan and Mary J. Blige. Then came soccer superstar Abby Wambach and her best-selling author wife Glennon Doyle. “What you guys have done,” Wambach said in praise to the Weitzes. “You guys are ridiculous.”
Deborah Cox returned to “Quarantunes” to perform the classic Whitney Houston song “The Greatest Love of All” while her two daughters looked on from behind her while sitting on a sofa. “It’s from the heart,” Cox said. “I hope you felt the love.”
Judging by the overflowing chatbox, many did. Hovering close to 400 for the day, attendees included “Quarantunes” vet and affable commentator Jimmy Jam, Jennifer Salke, Ellie Kemper, Carole Bayer Sager, Pam Shriver (who said the Weitzes are booked for a “Quarantunes” event in conjunction with the U.S. Open), John Parr, Rob Lowe, John Stamos, Holly Robinson Peete, Mara Brock-Akil, Netflix’s Lisa Taback, Madison Love, Nicole David, Melvin Mar, Julie Plec, Joel Stein, Marsai Martin (on her birthday), Nancy Josephson, Risa Shapiro, Stacey Sher, Yvette Lee Bowser, Nicole Ring, Kerry Brown, Tracey Jordan, Nina Shaw, among others.
Warner Bros. Television’s Susan Rovner, a longtime supporter of Girls Inc who met Richard in a talent agency mailroom 30 years ago, helped push forward the tribute by raving about Demi and said she could see how proud Richard has become. “What you’ve done, it blows me away,” she said. “You are the example of what Girls Inc. stands for. … Thank you for being strong, smart and bold.”
She was followed by Girls Inc president and CEO Stephanie Hull who explained more about the organization’s history, mission and membership. She said it counts more than 135,000 girls as members in 350 cities and towns across the United States and Canada with the majority of its makeup being “Black and brown” youth. Hull said to honor Demi, the organization’s board of directors would contribute $50,000.
After those remarks, Richard surprised Demi with a series of appearances from stars of her three of her favorite television shows, The Big Bang Theory (Kaley Cuoco, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch and Johnny Galecki), New Girl (Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone) and How I Met Your Mother (Josh Radnor). Rauch even had her own reveal, flashing a custom made “Demi Weitz Fan Club” card. “I’m a card carrying member,” she said, to which Bialik replied, “Can I get a card?”
Richard kept the surprises coming. He debuted a Demi-focused sizzle reel that featured highlights from the previous 20 “Quarantunes” events, specifically many of Demi’s interactions with a super long list of boldfaced names. Billie Eilish, Bob Iger, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Clive Davis (a de facto “Quarantunes” co-host), Lin-Manuel Miranda, H.E.R., Josh Groban, Guy Fieri, Marcus Mumford and even Kermit the Frog, just to name a few.
A near show-stopper arrived at the end when Richard surprised Demi with a performance of “If I Can’t Have You” from Shawn Mendes. Sunday’s show also featured appearances by rapper Golden Landis Von Jones, aka 24kGoldn, Alice + Olivia’s Stacey Bendet (who featured Demi as one of her brand’s latest muses), Emmy nominee Robin Thede, three of the actresses who played Eliza in Hamilton (Lexi Lawson, Ari Afshar and Julia Harriman), Rachel Platten (who performed “The Fight Song” and an original debut titled “Soldiers”), a hair raising performance by Soshana Bean (“She Used to be Mine” from Waitress, and “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman for which she originally recorded the demo).
As Demi wiped back tears, Tina Fey appeared to present the award. But first, she also presented a surprise tribute video from a new friend, Daniel Radcliffe. He offered his congratulations to Demi for raising millions “for a list of charities longer than my arm,” before adding, “You’ve put the rest of us to shame. Please keep up the good work.”
Fey, a longtime client of Richard’s, took over and acknowledged that the “Quarantunes” events at first seemed like “a type of therapy” for Richard’s “extreme extroversion.” “You really saved your dad’s life,” Fey joked. “I think what so many parents especially find admirable about what you’ve done…is that you were just willing to spend that much time with one of your parents during quarantine. My kids are in this house and I don’t know where they are — good for you.”
On a more serious note, Fey said the current moment in U.S. history has her thinking and talking to family members about how much people’s life stories are going to change as a result. “People thought they were on one path and that path disintegrated,” she explained. “In these trying times, you really see people’s true colors. … An already lovely young woman grew even more and found her agency and used her privilege to help others. What you’ve done is incredibly impressive.”
Demi wiped back tears again as she accepted the trophy and a hug from her father. “I have never felt this much love in my life,” she said, singling out her father and mother, Candie, the latter of whom was watching on from another room in the house. “She’s been by my side through everything….and is a beautiful light inside and out. I have learned so much from her. She taught me to dream big.”
Demi also thanked Parr for his regular emails packed with inspiring stories and messages that have “kept me going and showed me to keep dreaming.” She noted how they had surpassed $8 million and were inching closer to the day’s goal of $200,000. Lastly, she turned toward her father and said, “I love you dad, thank you for believing in me.”
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