Just before Patrick Swayze took centerstage Friday evening to open the hourlong telethon for Stand Up 2 Cancer (S2C), show producer and cancer survivor Laura Ziskin offered the audience “party favors,” tossing packages of tissues from the stage, preparing attendees for an emotional festival for hope.
Celebrity took a backseat as athletes, actors and musicians joined together to fight the leading cause of death in the United States. Those who had beaten cancer still found a way to smile about it.
“It took me two years and eight doctors to get a proper diagnosis of uterine cancer,” Fran Drescher told reporters. “I got in the stirrups more than Roy Rogers.”
Lisa Paulsen, president and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) — which has raised $300 million for cancer research — gave thanks to what she called “a small but mighty group of women” who put in two years of labor to bring together the Big Three networks to make the evening a success.
“Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Ellen Ziffren, Laura Ziskin, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz and Noreen Fraser all worked hard to make this happen,” Paulsen told Variety.
Several stars described how the disease has affected their lives, including America Ferrera, who honored the memory of her college professor and mentor who battled cancer and lost.
Stars answering the phones included Chris Tucker, who made sure the spotlight was on the viewers calling in donations.
“Believe it or not I’ve been answering phones since I was 5,” Casey Affleck replied after being asked how he’d handle the phone calls from fans.
T-shirts worn by telethon participants told individual stories of how cancer has affected their lives. Those wearing “In the Fight” T-shirts are still battling. “In Memory Of” versions honored friends and family who’ve lost the battle. And the ones who’ve beaten the disease proudly wore “Survivor” shirts. Each gave hope to the Stand Up to Cancer initiative: accelerated research and early detection of the disease to save more lives.
In addition to the donations being phoned in, a star-studded eBay auction is being held with all proceeds benefiting S2C. To date, bidding on the “Iron Man 2” walk-on role and movie premiere ticket had reached $5,000.
“This is something I’m very proud to be a part of,” Jon Favreau said of the prize. “It’s an opportunity to visit the set… I’ll be friendly to you. I don’t know how busy we’re going to be. It’s going to be a fun set.”
Christina Applegate, Sheryl Crowe and Neil Patrick Harris were also in attendance.