Michael J. Fox Talks Being Face of Parkinson's at Annual Gala

Michael J. Fox, Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams Paisley and Tracy Pollan at Michael J. Fox Foundation Event - H Getty 2017
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Guests Brad Paisley, Susie Essman and Jane Pauley shared why they've helped fund research into the disease.

On Saturday night, Michael J. Fox and famous friends Denis Leary, Seth Rogen, Susie Essman, Brad Paisley, Joan Jett, Jane Pauley and more attended the Michael J. Fox Foundation's annual A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's gala at the Hilton New York.

During the event, Fox reflected on his impact of bringing attention to the disease through his high-profile platform. “It’s nothing I ever aspired to do,” the actor told The Hollywood Reporter of becoming the face of Parkinson’s. Fox also discussed how his status as a public figure might help those unfamiliar with Parkinson’s gain a better understanding of the disease. “Perhaps people who don’t have Parkinson’s, when they’re dealing with someone that does have Parkinson’s, can say, ‘Oh, I know about this from Michael Fox.’” He added, “It’s not a job you apply for, but it’s one you take on with a big deal of respect and a feeling of purpose.”

Since 2000, the Michael J. Fox Foundation has raised more than $750 million to help find a cure for Parkinson’s. “I just think that we’ve been able to reach so many people and inspire scientists to investigate new lines of research,” Fox said of the accomplishment he’s most proud of with the foundation. The actor’s wife, actress Tracy Pollan, added, “They’ve raised so, so, so much money and the money goes directly into the research in a way that just is astounding.”

CBS News Sunday Morning host Pauley, meanwhile, said she hoped that research being conducted on the brain could have wider implications.

"Parkinson’s is a brain disorder and I have a brain disorder,” she said of her bipolar disorder. “The more the Fox Foundation investigates the mystery of the human brain, the sooner Michael and his community of sufferers can have happy, productive full lives and the more they’ll learn about a lot of other aspects of the brain that will make life better for a whole lot of people.”

Country singer Paisley, who was the featured musical guest at the gala, said he "couldn't be prouder" to be involved with the organization and event.

“This could be the disease we cure in our lifetime, so to be a part of something like this where a man like Michael J. Fox, such a high-profile, beloved figure, to have now dedicated his life to making this world a better place and getting rid of this disease,” he said. “I really think the lion’s share of credit once we cure this will go to Michael and the money he’s raised and the awareness he’s raised and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.”

For Essman, the cause hits close to home. “My brother has Parkinson’s disease. He’s involved with the organization,” she shared.

The Curb Your Enthusiasm actress talked how her platform as a celebrity allows her and others to contribute to important causes like the cure for Parkinson’s disease. “There’s a lot of crappy things about celebrity. One of the great things is that you can use your celebrity for good causes and to raise money for things that you care about and this is an organization that I care a great deal about,” she said. “They do amazing work and if you could raise money by making people laugh, it’s a win-win."