'Mad Men,' 'Breaking Bad' Casts, Leslie Moonves, Jon Feltheimer Attend Paley Center Benefit

Josh Sapan Portrait 2011

The annual benefit honored AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan and Capital Research & Management senior vp Gordon Crawford and brought out the likes of January Jones, Kevin Smith and Jon Hamm.

The top echelon of the television industry gathered Monday evening to toast AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan and Capital Research & Management senior vp Gordon Crawford at the annual Paley Center benefit.

The 300-plus person event drew big names from CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer to Mad Men star Jon Hamm and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan. The former were among the presenters on behalf of Crawford, a prominent investor in entertainment and technology companies and long-time Paley Center trustee; the latter were on hand to honor their boss, Sapan, who oversees AMC, as well as Sundance Channel, WE tv and IFC.

They were joined by other luminaries and the casts and crews of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Push Girls and The Walking Dead.

Looking out at the room - a tented rooftop at West Hollywood's The Lot - Chernin Co. founder Peter Chernin called Crawford “one of the most significant,” “powerful” and “nicest" people in the industry. After joking about how many didn’t know who Crawford was, Chernin offered a brief, but telling, primer: “Gordy is the guy that makes Rupert Murdoch jump; Gordy is the guy that Steve Jobs listened to; and Gordy is the guy that Bill Gates is scared of.”

Shortly after the event, it was announced that the Paley Center would soon offer a library of past and present Olympics footage in his honor.

Later in the evening, Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns and Feltheimer took the stage to salute Crawford with a cadre of stories and video segments that traded on the investor’s personal interests, including fishing, golf and horror films. In a series of bits that played more like a roast than a toast, the men teased him about being particularly cheap and showed a video that featured Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence appearing on camera to congratulate Crawford briefly before returning to the frame to flash him.

Speaking on behalf of Sapan were a handful of stars, including Comedy Bang! Bang!’s host Scott Aukerman and comedian/musician Reggie Watts. But it was Braxton Family Values star Toni Braxton who kicked off the evening with a performance, which at one point entailed bringing Sapan - or “Joshie” as she referred to him in song - to the stage and sitting on his lap. He later thanked the singer for “ruining his marriage” with such behavior.

Following that, Gilligan shared stories of Sapan’s quirkier side – a passion for lightening rods, meditation, poetry and diving into dumpsters in search of art - before Hamm and co-star Elisabeth Moss got their shot at the exec - and Dish Network, which just on Sunday had ended a carriage and legal feud with AMC Networks. 

“Before Mad Men, I was best known for my work as the maitre d' at the International House of Pancakes,” Hamm informed the room, with Moss adding: “And I could be seen Wednesday nights as first daughter Zoe Bartlett on a show that was redefining the television landscape, The West Wing.” The gag continued with Hamm questioning her decision to abandon the plan to “do the whole plucked from obscurity thing” because, as she put it, it would be “funnier.” The bit ended with him calling her “the Dish Network of people.”

Like Gordon, who expressed his gratitude with a speech about his own professional journey that began when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1971, Sapan graciously doled out his thanks to a room that was dotted with such heavyweights as Netflix's Ted Sarandos, CBS TV Studio's David Stapf, Warner Bros.' Peter Roth and Bruce Rosenblum, Lionsgate's Kevin Beggs and Sandra Stern, AMC's Charlie Collier and Joel Stillerman.

Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose