Michael Lombardo to Be Honored By Saban Free Clinic (Q&A)

Michael Lombardo Portrait - P 2011

Michael Lombardo Portrait - P 2011

HBO's programming chief talks to THR about his recent tour of the clinic, the charity's work and why he's offering his support.

HBO programming president Michael Lombardo will be honored with the Saban Free Clinic’s Leadership Award on Nov. 21 (which historically means he agreed to twist arms, fill tables and arrange for talent) at the organization’s 35th annual dinner. It has Bill Maher performing and Entourage’s Jeremy Piven as emcee.

Lombardo is helping out at a crucial time for the clinic. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, health care reform could be on the way. But the clinic feels it will have a key role serving those who fall through the cracks.

Lombardo recently toured the clinic and THR asked him about its work and the upcoming dinner.

The Hollywood Reporter: Why are you doing this?

Michael Lombardo: First of all, Ellen Hoberman, Dana Walden and Sam Fischer are enormously persuasive. And the Free Clinic does vital, critical work. There are so many causes out there, but when you walk into the clinic you see peoples lives being changed. There aren't many places where you see that in action.

THR: You went to the clinic, what impressed you?

Lombardo: What’s unbelievable about the space is it belies the misconception of what a “clinic” should feel like. I had in mind going to something akin to County General. And it was just the opposite. It’s a welcoming, warm environment where people are treated respectfully. It’s like a for-profit hospital.

THR: But it’s a relatively small charity.

Lombardo: What’s unfortunate is they can’t provide more. They don’t have the resources to give medical care to everyone who needs it. There’s something like 3 million people who don’t have health insurance in L.A. County.

THR: Does anything in particular strike you while being there?

Lombardo: Once or twice a week they have volunteer dentists from UCLA providing dentures to people. I know it’s not life and death, but it makes the difference between having a job and not having one. I was really touched by that.

THR: You feel a responsibility to help with this type of dinner?

Lombardo: It comes with the blessings that come to you in life. Also, it’s amazing the number of people in this industry who are not just writing checks to the Clinic but are really involved with it. I worked on Wall Street for a little while; I have friends in other industries, but there’s a philanthropic character that runs through this industry that’s unusual. It makes me enormously proud to be a part of it.

THR: You have good health coverage at HBO?

Lombardo: Yes, we do. But if I didn’t, I’d be happy to walk in the Free Clinic.