HOLLYWOOD — Tuesday’s MS Society Dinner of Champions combined two essential, though infrequently seen, fund-raising virtues: brevity and financial success.
The Century Plaza’s ballroom emptied a few minutes after 10 p.m., and the MS Society’s coffers were filled with the $2.8 million raised from the dinner, plus another $903,000 from QVC’s Cure by the Shore event held earlier this year.
“In the 10 years we’ve been having the dinner, this is not only the biggest year we’ve ever had, it’s the most rewarding,” said dinner chair Tom Sherak. “Here we are in an economic downturn, and people are giving not just until it hurts, they’re giving until it feels good.”
A key draw for the industry was honoree Howard Stringer, who joked that he’d “done so many charities on the East Coast, I can’t raise money there anymore. They’re fed up with me. On the West Coast, they haven’t heard my act.”
The Sony America topper added: “I’m also one of the last CEOs standing. Who else is there to choose?”
The dinner kicked off with a welcome from emcee Byron Allen, and included remarks from Dr. Madeleine Sherak, Joe Roth, David Lander, Melissa Sherak Resnick and UCLA’s Dr. Barbara Giesser, who spoke on MS treatment advancing in the past decade from “diagnose and adios, or MRI and say good-bye” to effective medication.
Strong perfs came from Paul Anka and Charlotte Church; Adam Sandler made the award presentation after the showing of a brilliant comic video that featured Connie Chung interviewing Tom Arnold as Stringer (“I find it utterly frightening that you look like me,” said the Sony topper in his acceptance speech) hyping a time compressing gizmo called the Squishman.
Chung ended the video by saying, “Howard, of all the bosses I had, you’re the only one I’d like to spend time with. The rest were pinheads.”
Among those attending were honoree Eric Small, John Calley, Amy Pascal, Alan Horn, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Cyril Drabinsky, Bud Stone, Jim Gianopulos, Tom Rothman, Hutch Parker, Ron Meyer, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Paul Apel, Bob Farina, Roland Mesa, Sid Ganis, Gary Shapiro, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sandy Grushow.