HOLLYWOOD — Thursday’s City of Hope’s Spirit of Life dinner kicked off with a brilliant touch: Video screens flanking the stage on U’s backlot courthouse square showed Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game giving his sweet, soft rendition of the national anthem.
With one of the most touching interpretations of the anthem ever sung to set the tone, the annual black-tie gala set about the pleasant business of honoring Vivendi Universal exec vice chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. and saluting Motown Records.
Bronfman said there were two reasons he was participating in the dinner that raised a record $5.1 million: He was asked by U Music’s Zach Horowitz, and then he made a visit to the City of Hope facility, where “it wasn’t just the medical care, it was the compassion for the patients that moved me.”
The program began with remarks from Neil Portnow, dinner chair Doug Morris and Berry Gordy, who intro’d Bronfman as “my main, mo’ better man.” The honoree made a moving speech during which he thanked Mary Jo Mennella, Jimmy Iovine and Ron Fair.
Garry Shandling’s standup routine even managed a joke about the current security situation (“I’m a Jewish man. … If you want to terrorize me, get behind my mother!”), before the main entertainment: A dozen artists including Roger Daltrey and Sheryl Crow performed versions of Motown classics, with the topper being Smokey Robinson on “Tracks of My Tears.”
Among those listening were Jean-Marie Messier, Barry Diller, Ron Meyer, Pierre Lescure, Ken Berry, Roy Lott, Sheila Kuehl, Phil Quartararo, Rick Rubin, Glen Ballard, Ben Horowitz, Lyor Cohen, Clarence Avant, Jay Boberg, David Renzer, Jim Caparro, Michael Johnson and John Sykes.