L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Marcus Mumford, Charlie Puth and Amy Adams Join Richard Weitz’s Starry Zoom Party

The WME partner and his daughter Demi have pivoted their Zoom concert series from a way to connect during isolated times to a major charitable endeavor that has now raised $300,000 and climbing.
Courtesy of Richard Weitz
Richard and Demi Weitz inside their home Zoom studio

WME partner Richard Weitz’s talent-packed Zoom concert series hit a new high note Saturday — the highest office in Los Angeles.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti kicked off the VIP event at 1 p.m. as he welcomed a virtual audience that quickly maxed out at 500, where it hovered for the next three hours as Weitz, 51, and his daughter Demi, 17, presided over the latest pandemic party in a series that has pivoted from a way to connect amid a global crisis to a major philanthropic endeavor. Garcetti, for one, took note and helped confirm the day’s cause: raising money for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s COVID-19 relief efforts, specifically to support nurses, employees and caregivers.

"This has been an unimaginable hardship, and helping out those responders who are on the line right now in our hospitals at Cedars, like before what you did with the Saban Clinic — is everything," the mayor said during his opening remarks while directly addressing Weitz and his daughter, who, in their first charity drive last week, raised more than $100,000 for the Saban Community Clinic. "We have a foster daughter who is a nurse at Cedars-Sinai, so this means a lot to me personally."

In return, Weitz praised the participation of Garcetti, who during his remarks mentioned his passion for music as a trained classical pianist (he’s also known to have a piano in his office that belonged to his grandmother) and offered guidance for the best ways to be of maximum service to the community. "It’s such an honor for you to be on this Zoom with so many people who love you," Weitz said to the mayor. "Thank you for how fast you responded [in the crisis] — you should be our president."

Richard then welcomed the event’s first performer, Randy Newman, who kept the party focused on the city by performing his song "I Love L.A.," a track from his 1983 album Trouble in Paradise. The song’s hook is repeated over and over and chased each time by "We love it!" Many of the viewers watching at home were seen mouthing the words as Newman pounded it out at his piano. "EPIC beginning!" manager-producer Peter Principato posted in the chat box, always an area worth keeping an eye on during the events as everyone from Tina Fey to Bob Iger have been typing their reactions over the past half-dozen concert events. On Saturday, one worthy of mention came courtesy of Laura Wasserman, who renamed the event "Richella!" as a nod to Coachella, which was scheduled to go down this weekend before the coronavirus pandemic forced a rescheduling to October. 

For many in Hollywood, the Weitz events have replaced can’t-miss festival-style events, especially now that Los Angeles County has extended strict "Safer at Home" guidelines through May 15. The Weitz events started in mid-March, when the WME partner tested out a virtual birthday party for his daughter just as those restrictions first took hold. Weitz booked Windy City piano man Dario Giraldo of Chicago’s Redhead Piano Bar to entertain an intimate group, but after Demi and her friends got restless, Weitz expanded the invite list. It was an instant hit and since then, he has hosted a half-dozen events with big-name musical acts logging on to perform their hits while a select roster of invitees look on from their respective homes. To date, performers have included John Mayer, Josh Groban, Boy George, Debbie Gibson, Adam Pascal, The War and Treaty, Thomas Rhett, Madison Love, Rick Astley, Rick Springfield and dozens of others. During an April 4 event, Demi launched an Instagram account to support the series as well as a GoFundMe campaign for Saban that raked in a six-figure sum, leading the duo to expand their efforts and include Cedars.

It’s now gone on long enough that they were able to expand it to celebrate Weitz’s birthday on Friday when he turned 51. That party — co-hosted by longtime client and friend LL Cool J — featured Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard performing "Meant to Be," the duo’s track with pop star Bebe Rexha; Rev Run of Run DMC’s rhymed "You Be Illin'"; Astley sang "Never Gonna Give You Up" and "Cry for Help"; Cyndi Lauper performed her 1983 classic "Time After Time," followed by her 1986 hit “True Colors,” the title track from the singer-songwriter’s second album; Barenaked Ladies’ lead singer Ed Robertson went solo for the band’s “One Week”; Golden Landis Von Jones (aka 24kGoldn) delivered his hit "City of Angels"; Alexander Jean, the band made up of husband-and-wife rock duo Mark Ballas and BC Jean, turned in a performance of "If I Were a Boy," the track written by Jean and made famous by Beyoncé; Taylor Dayne picked up the pace with her 1988 dance hit "Tell It to My Heart"; and Lauran Daigle (wearing a wig) performed "Look Up Child" and "You Say."

As part of Saturday’s initiative, they welcomed Art Ochoa, Cedars’ chief advancement officer, who addressed the event and thanked everyone for participating and donating to the hospital’s efforts. To put a face (or faces) to their work, the Weitz family also welcomed Cedars workers on the front lines: Bryan Croft, senior vp operations; LaShone Mays, head of respiratory therapy; Maricella Clemens, associate director environmental services; Debbie Castro, retail food director; and Miguel Magana, security operations.

As Demi dropped the fundraising links in the chat box, her father hosted the program by introducing a parade of top-level musical talent. After Newman, James Bay performed "Hold Back the River," "Us" and "Let It Go." Then came Marcus Mumford, who sang his new single "You’ll Never Walk Alone" as showrunner Julie Plec commented, "Already crying." Liam Payne showed up again, this time to perform his new single "Midnight." Alan Menken teamed with his daughter Anna for a 15-minute set featuring notable tracks from his legendary songbook, including from such films as Little Shop of Horrors, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast and Enchanted. The star of the latter film, Amy Adams, also appeared from her home to catch the show and have a quick chat.

Other highlights: Charlie Puth performing "Attention"; Tony Hadley doing a version of his group Spandau Ballet’s "True," featured in 1984’s John Hughes iconic Sixteen Candles; Tears for Fears co-founding member Curt Smith singing "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" before joining daughter Diva for a redo of their duet on "Mad World," a performance of which went viral last week; Little Britain star Matt Lucas delivering his U.K. hit "Baked Potato Song"; Alfie Boe’s take on "Bring Him Home"; Moana star Auli’I Cravalho singing the film’s "How Far I’ll Go" and Little Mermaid’s "Part of Your World"; and Weird Al Yankovic getting lots of love for his performance of “One More Minute.” (For Yankovic, even Payne posted a compliment, “Oh my god, this is my favourite.”)

The afternoon event came to a close with two more performers and some final words from both Weitz and notable viewers like Clive Davis, who offered sentiments to the hosts: "Thank you for being so thoughtful and bringing everyone together through this hellish period.” Added TV producer Zack Estrin, "Today is a total mic drop."

When it was all over, there had been a lot of money dropped, too, as donations exceeded $171,000 and are still growing. Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder and CEO of the social and dating app Bumble, drew cheers when she showed up to announce that her company would donate $50,000 for the day’s cause. Reached by phone early Saturday evening, Weitz, whose voice is always raspy, sounded extra gritty and humbled by the whole affair.

"I can’t thank WME’s music department enough for their years of introductions to both managers and artists so that I could utilize those relationships to put together these shows. I never got a ‘no’ from anyone, and everyone has gone out of their way to help during this crisis. I just wanted a way to bring joy and a sense of community through music by using these relationships, and now it has turned into something that is all for the sake of helping others," he said before turning his attention toward his daughter. "Every time I look at her, I get a tear in my eye thinking of how much she’s grown up through this. I couldn’t be more proud of her."

Weitz was also proud of the final two performers, whose songs were particularly fitting for an occasion of crisis meets charity: Astley with his hit "Cry for Help" and Loren Allred’s "Never Enough."