Russell Brand Accepts Man of the Year Honors from Friendly Group

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“I’ve always been happy to worship on my knees at the altar of femininity,” the actor said in reference to the L.A. women's recovery program.

Beverly Hills – For a guy who earlier this year had trouble covering his box office bar tab as a happy drunk in a remake of Arthur, Russell Brand was a huge hit with a ballroom full of people (the majority women) gathered to support a Los Angeles recovery program for women.

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Brand had been invited to the non-profit Friendly Group’s 60th anniversary luncheon at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday, Oct. 29 to accept an award as their Man of the Year.

“While it is an honor to be here it is also a duty,” said Brand, who last week was standing with the 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters in New York City. “We should use our lives as a way to see where we can be of service. It’s time for all of us to pick a side. I want to be on the side of righteousness. That’s why I’m here today.”

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Brand paid a special tribute to the woman who presented him the award, Peggy Albrecht, executive director of Friendly House for the past 28 years, and a recovering alcoholic, now in her 40th year of sobriety. Albrecht was honored earlier in the program with a presentation that included congratulations via video from actor William Shatner.

“Peggy is a portal to the greatness that is life,” said Brand at the end of a breathless rant about how you can see god in anything if you look at it the right way. “Surely we see God when god is present,” said Brand assuringly.  

They showed a video of Brand getting a tour of Friendly House from Albrecht. She told him that it was the first home for women in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction in the United States, and then he spoke with residents.  

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In her introduction, Albrecht mentioned that that Brand recently had her fly to Chicago to make an appearance on TV when he was the first guest on the new Rosie O’Donnell talk show on Oprah’s OWN network. Brand had told Rosie about his personal battles with addiction, his reaction to fame, and his efforts to be sober.

A vegetarian since his Oct. 2010 marriage to Katy Perry, Brand said that wasn’t all that had changed about him. He said since getting married he has learned women have the power as he played to the crowd of about 700 who had come to support the women who run the Friendly House, and the women who have used it as a ticket to a better life.

“I’ve always been happy to worship on my knees at the altar of femininity,” said Brand, walking across the stage brandishing a mic and bursting with energy. “I wanted to be here today because I love women.”

In accepting his award, Brand joined an illustrious group of previous winners that includes the late Betty Ford, Carol Burnett and Christopher Kennedy Lawford.

Before the show started Lawford, an author, activist and self-described recovering alcoholic, talked about why he supported Friendly House.  “For the last 60 years it has been a fixture in the recovering community In Los Angeles.,” said Lawford. “They do amazing work with women in terms of re-integrating them into society and actually helping them get the kind of lives they deserve to have.”

The son of the late actor Peter Lawford and Pat Kennedy (the sixth of nine children of Joseph Kennedy who was father of President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert and Edward Kennedy – Lawford had harsh words for Hollywood, even though he said it is a place where addiction is rampant.

“There’s lots of people in this industry that not only have this illness but have grown up around it,” said Lawford. “There’s a lot of prevalence, obviously…Many people are public about their recovery. But they could be more public about it.”

Lawford then lashed out at the Screen Actors Guild as an example of the wrong way to address this widespread illness. “SAG dropped addiction treatment from their health care plan.” Said Lawford, referring to a guild policy change just over a year ago. “That’s outrageous in and of itself.’ Because it was too expensive and the actors relied on it.’ The fact is in a town like this, in an industry like this, the fact there was not an outrage, that there weren’t people standing outside SAG with signs going ‘how can u do this to us?’  is outrageous.”

Pat O’Brien was master of ceremonies and did his opening monologue for the room full of recovering addicts and their supporters by telling jokes about people in bar rooms. O’Brien’s own battle with alcohol and drugs have been well documented, and he is now sober.

Wallis Annenberg presented an Excellence In Service Award to Aloma Ichinose. Karl B. McMillen, who has made a fortune in the plumbing business, accepted the Humanitarian Award and then donated a check for $100,000 to the Friendly House, adding to the $250,000 raised at the event.