Jim Gianopulos Honored at Chrysalis Butterfly Ball

Jim Gianopulas and Stacey Sher - 17th Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball -June 2, 2018 -Getty-H 2018
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Activision Blizzard Studios' Stacey Sher and chef Curtis Stone were also lauded at the 17th annual event.

Few philanthropic occasions have landed on as apt a metaphoric title as the Chrysalis Butterfly Ball, but the 17th annual event yet again demonstrated the transformative power of offering a hand to those in need — in this case, those seeking a path out of homelessness and poverty through employment and self-sufficiency.

Over 700 attendees gathered on Saturday evening at the Mandeville Canyon estate of Susan Harris and Hayward J. Kaiser, long the traditional locus of the event, to celebrate the achievements of those who’ve found success with the aid of Chrysalis and to pay tribute to a trio of notable benefactors with the Spirit of Chrysalis Award: Paramount Pictures CEO and Chairman Jim Gianopulos, veteran producer and co-president of Activision Blizzard Studios Stacey Sher, and chef/restaurateur Curtis Stone.

“Once you see Skid Row, you realize it's not a street: it's a city of people that have gotten accustomed to just living on the street,” Gianopulos told The Hollywood Reporter of his visits to Chrysalis’ central office. “There right in the middle of it is this organization full of people, filling out forms and resumes and job applications and finding their way out. You just want to be part of that."

“Once you experience it firsthand, you work with some of these people,” Gianopulos continued. “Help them make a resume, help them look for a job, talk about their backgrounds, and some other things that they face, whether it's the criminal justice system, or drug issues, or other issues. They have the courage to bring themselves out of it and just need help… They need a break and they need encouragement and hope. Once you see it, you're in.”

Paul Feig was on hand to join Gina Rodriguez to present Gianopulos with his award, telling THR that the Paramount chief was more than just a studio head. “Jim is one of my best friends. I just love the guy to death,” said Feig. “I go to some many events honoring Jim and you realize ‘Oh my God, he does so much charity work and amazing.’ He's a loving caring guy. I’ve worked with a lot of studio heads. I like them all. Jim just goes that extra mile — you truly become friends. I've been on vacation with Jim. I've been in a rib boat that he's steered at top speed and trust him with my life.”

In a video segement an assortment of talent starring in recent and upcoming Paramount releases — including Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenbergen, Angela Bassett and John Cena — also sang Gianopulos’ praises.

Prior to taking the stage for her honor, Sher told THR she’d walked Skid Row as well. “At any given any time there's between 6,000 and 8,000 people who call those streets home, and I said ‘Anything that I can do to help...’” she revealed. “I'm just grateful to be of service.”

Jamie Foxx, who appeared in the Sher-produced Django Unchained, presented her with her award, noting “I actually did a movie about the homeless, and had you produced it probably would have done a lot better because you are amazing.”

Sher was also feted via video by an all-star assortment of her collaborators including John Travolta, Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Hilary Swank, Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson, Danny DeVito, Kerry Washington, Harvey Keitel, Walton Goggins, Jessica Simpson, Oliver Stone and screenwriter Richard Lagravenese.

“Five years ago, I employed my first Chrysalis employee in one of our restaurants, Maude in Beverly Hills, and we fell in love with him,” Stone, who attened with his wife, actress Lindsay Price, told THR. “We fell in love with everything he brought to the table, and then we employed our second and our third and our fourth and we got to know the charity pretty well. And last year we said, ‘You know, let's really try and help these guys out.’"

Recognizing that the Chrysalis clients needed job opportunities as much as the organization needed backing and financial support, Stone’s restaurants committed to exclusively working with the group to provide a pipeline for employment.

“We've made such good friends with these guys and it's interesting,” Stone added. “You at the very beginning of it, you're like, ‘Goodness, what's it going to be like having someone that's been in and out of prison or maybe homeless or maybe had an addiction to something?’ And the truth is, it's no different than anyone else, and you get to know people on a really granular level and meet their families and hear their stories, and you become a part of that story. And it's pretty cool.”

Rebecca Gayheart-Dane — who co-chaired the event along with Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley, Evolution Media’s Rick Hess, CAA’s Josh Lieberman and WME’s Richard Weitz — welcomed a coterie of familiar faces to attend the event, including Roseanne and The Talk star Sara Gilbert, L.L. Cool J, Vanna White, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Soliel Moon Frye, Perrey Reeves, Linda Perry, Diane Farr and Robin Weigert to the fete.

Comedian/roastmaster Jeff Ross served as the evening’s emcee, at one point quipping from the stage to Gilbert, “you deserve a fucking drink, girl.”

Gayheart-Dane told THR she remains as committed to the cause as ever. “There's so much wealth here [in Los Angeles] — there should not be homeless people,” she said. “We could eradicate it if enough people decide they want to.”

“There's just nothing better than hearing a client's story of their challenges, their struggles, and in the moment that they got some help by being at Chrysalis,” she added, “and how that little bit of hope turned into a little more hopefulness, and a little more confidence, and then they got that job. That's always a life-changing moment: when clients get their jobs. We have a success bell, which is a tradition down at Chrysalis, where we ring a bell and everyone stops what they're doing and we celebrate with them. Those are the moments that make it worth it. When I'm going through my own personal things, it gives me perspective. It makes me feel grateful, and it also inspires me that I can change things.”

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