Jay Leno Hosts, Jennifer Hudson Sings at Carousel of Hope Fundraiser

Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Jay Leno and Josh Groban at the 2014 Carousel of Hope Ball

Magic Johnson was honored at the star-studded event to raise money to fight children's diabetes

Before the Oct. 11 Carousel of Hope Ball began at the Beverly Hilton, Magic Johnson said the reason he agreed to be honored at the event’s 27th go-round was “diabetes is rampant in my community. It’s the work and Barbara Davis.”

The Ball is definitely Davis’ baby. She’s the driving force that’s made the children’s diabetes fundraiser succeed 27 times and raise over $100 million since 1978.  “It’s a good cause, but there’re a lot of good causes,” said Motown founder Berry Gordy. “Barbara is so committed, it’s hard to say no.”

The evening began with emcee Jay Leno trying to perform over the black-tie crowd’s chatter, and his first line was: “Welcome, rich people who are eating – every comedian’s nightmare.” A bit later, when he returned after a 9 year-old girl with diabetes said a brief prayer, Leno quipped: “I could have used that when I went on.”

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Among those in the crowd for the George Schlatter-produced show were Clive Davis, George Hamilton, Diane Keaton, Mimi Rogers, Barry Manilow, Sidney Poitier, both Jackie and Joan Collins, Raquel Welch, Rod StewartKathy GriffinJohnny Mathis, Derek Theler, Anjelica Huston, Quincy Jones and musical director David Foster.

Before dinner, Davis spoke of the 30 million people in the United States who have diabetes, that one-in-three infants will develop it in their lifetime and how it’s “a devastating disease that’s nearly doubled in the last two decades.”

After dinner (which featured a dessert of ice cream covered in meringue with chocolate sauce that any diabetics attending probably should have avoided) were performances by Josh Groban, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds on acoustic guitar and a set by a Jennifer Hudson with the high-point coming on Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah."

Former Laker Kareem Abdul Jabbar presented Johnson with his award, and the honoree in turn reminded the crowd of Jabbar’s five championship seasons and his being the all-time NBA point scorer. Johnson said his living for 25 years with HIV constantly reminds him that “what you do for people is so important … God has kept his hands on me and let me do the things that I do.”