The two prime attractions at Tuesday’s Center to Prevent Handgun Violence benefit were the headliner and the backdrop. The star was prexy Bill Clinton. The setting was Pickfair, whose name came from its first owners, silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.
Though almost none of the original building remains after current owner Meshulam Riklis and now ex-wife Pia Zadora finished a tear-down/construction in the early ’90s, the hilltop estate is still an impressive site.
Tony Curtis recalled living across from the mansion in 1952 and said that if he’d been able to buy the property, it “might now be known as PickSchwartz.”
Guests at the reception saw only the home’s entryway and one living room before being escorted into an adjacent tent. But it would seem the new stone Pickfair has been re-done expansively with marble floors, inlaid rococo ceilings and modern art (a Kitaj hangs by the front door.)
Despite the building’s splendor, most guests were more interested in Clinton. Stanley Sheinbaum said he had “one minute of business to do with the president. I need a yes or a no. But judging by the size of the crowd, I’ll be lucky to get a seat on the shuttle bus back down the hill.”
The formal program began with remarks by emcee Beau Bridges, who called handguns “the most unsafe and unregulated product in America.” He was followed by a two-song performance by Lisa Loeb and Dweezil Zappa before Handgun Control founder Jeanne Shields presented an award named after her late husband to Gregory Peck.
As Peck began to speak, one woman whispered “He looks like Zeus,” and the actor did have an almost Grecian regality as he asked, “What is wrong with keeping guns out of the hands of wrong people?”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein talked about the need for legislation, as well as next spring’s Million Mom March on Washington. And after a performance by the Paula Cole Band, remarks by Sarah Brady and Steve Sposato and an introduction by Whoopi Goldberg, Clinton began to speak.
The president seemed unmoved by time constraints as he spoke for 20 minutes on his friendship with Whoopi, his admiration for Peck, goals for America, NRA lobbyists, gun-control laws and the concept that “if you’re not safe, you’re not free.”
Among those on hand to hear the speech were Brendan Fraser and wife Afton, Jack Nicholson and Lara Flynn Boyle, Bill Maher, Carrie Fisher, Rick Hess, Rob Vinson and Rebecca DeMornay.