11:51am PT by Chris Gardner
WME's Richard Weitz Fights Back Tears as "Quarantunes" Charity Concerts Pass $5M Mark
On a special Father’s Day edition of Richard and Demi Weitz’s “Quarantunes” all-star pandemic concert series — hosted the day before the holiday, on a Saturday, as a benefit for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater L.A. — the WME partner paused the festivities to make an announcement.
It was nearly two hours into the program, just five minutes before 6 p.m., and Weitz looked directly into the laptop camera as he cleared his throat several times fighting back tears. “This time has been so emotional, these organizations have been so emotional for me,” he said, before excusing himself to catch his breath. “We're at $386,000 and 12 weeks ago, we started with zero. On behalf of Demi, Aidan and Candie, we’re donating the $14,000 and now we’ve raised how much?”
Daughter Demi — his energetic 17-year-old cohost these past three months as they’ve rallied Hollywood insiders to open their pocketbooks for a roster of nonprofits amid the COVID-19 pandemic while entertaining them on Zoom with exclusive performances from A-list musicians — then broke the news.
“We’ve raised $5 million!”
The major fundraising milestone came courtesy of Weitz’s donation taking the day’s total over $400,000 for BBBS but after a long list of organizations that have been the beneficiaries of the Quarantunes series that started in mid-March and as of Father’s Day had raised $4.6 million. It began as simply a way to celebrate Demi’s 17th birthday with some music and casual connections with friends via Zoom when the networking tool was becoming the go-to platform as isolation orders forced by COVID-19 were setting in.
The Weitz family then turned their informal Zoom concerts into a can’t-miss weekly fundraising event. They partnered with organizations and hospitals including the Saban Community Clinic, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, New York Health + Hospitals, Baby2Baby, United Way L.A. and Worldwide, Team Rubicon, CDC Foundation, Los Angeles Food Bank, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the Hope Lodge of the American Cancer Society. They've hosted the shows from the kitchen counter while welcoming performers from across the globe. However, they went on location one time to effectively open and close the Hollywood Bowl season with a one-off show live from the iconic venue.
While the organizations have been a primary focus of giving back, what the invite-only audience has received in return were exclusive performances from more than 150 artists, including many legends in the music business. Too many to list here but just a few include Sting, Barry Manilow, Billie Eilish, John Legend, John Mayer, Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, Rufus Wainwright, the Killers, Jimmy Jam, Rev Run, Johnny Gill, Gustavo Dudamel, John Williams, Kenny Loggins, Fantasia, Jeffrey Osborne, Carlos Santana, Rob Thomas, Marcus Mumford, James Bay, Josh Groban, Rick Springfield, Sheila E., Beck, Rick Astley, Dionne Warwick, Smokey Robinson, Boy George, Hozier, Lindsey Buckingham, Luke Bryan and even Kermit the Frog.
The audience has sometimes been just as notable as the performers. Bob Iger, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jennifer Salke, Dana Walden, Jeff Shell, Greg Berlanti, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Adams, Tina Fey, Rob Lowe, Diane Warren, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Courteney Cox, Fred Savage, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Yvette Lee Bowser, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, countless producers, showrunners, agents and the most passionate fan and honorary co-host Clive Davis. But it seemed fitting that Weitz himself would pony up the cash to cross the $5 million mark on a day like Father’s Day as he would be the first to say that the surprise of the series is watching his daughter Demi step up and shine a spotlight on the organizations helping vulnerable populations amid the troubled times.
“I want to be the one to break us there,” he said after Demi’s mic drop moment. “I thank everybody for supporting us. This [was not supposed] to be a TV show. This [was] supposed to be good people doing good things. We didn't know what was going to happen with the world … with George Floyd, Black Lives Matter and then with COVID. For me, as a father, I just thought we needed to give money.”
He’s committed to giving more experiences, too. Though he tried to hold back the news, Weitz confirmed that the Quarantunes series will continue as they shift focus yet again to shine a spotlight on the LGBTQ community via Broadway Cares during Pride month but first, on Friday, they will support the Black Lives Matter movement with a special appearance by the original Broadway cast of Hamilton ahead of the July 3 Disney+ debut of the performance film.
After his comments, Weitz threw to Sherry Lansing, a longtime BBBS supporter, who said she was equally emotional watching the day’s show. “You made me cry with your donation,” she told Weitz. “That is the most generous thing in the entire world, and all of us are looking at you. You are the best father, the best friend, Demi, you are the best daughter. You have the most amazing family. I just have to say, this is the best one yet. I know I say that every single time that we do this, but I've been involved in this organization for 30 years. And as you can see, it works. You can see the direct result of it.”
Speaking of direct results, Amazon chief Jennifer Salke also participated to share about her own experiences as a mentor in the BBBS organization, joined on the call by her "Little" Paola Franco. Together, they shared what the organization and their relationship has meant to each of them. Others who helped the BBBS cause for the Father’s Day event on the music side included bands like Asia and Toto, musicians including Bryan Adams, Tommy Tutone, The Outfield’s Tony Lewis, Aloe Blacc, El DeBarge (with a surprise appearance by Faith Evans), Melissa Manchester, Chloe x Halle (debuting a song off their new album Ungodly Hour), The War and Treaty, and more. Also debuted during the event was Quarantunes merchandise designed by Teddy Kelly.
The program also included two music video presentations. The first came from the legendary and late Aretha Franklin on the Adams-penned “Never Gonna Break My Faith” as a nod to the current moment of racial injustice. Following the video, Adams talked about the process of writing the track and getting it to Franklin, and then Weitz asked him to perform an acoustic version himself, which he did. The second video, John Legend's “Never Break," closed the show, with Weitz saying it proved to be the theme of the entire Quarantunes series. “We will never break,” said Weitz, who also thanked wife Candie and shouted out his own parents, Stanley and Joyce Weitz (ubiquitous guests along with brother Andrew). “This is for you. Thank you. We love you.”