Benefit raises money for cancer research

Conan O’Brien knew he had his work cut out for him Thursday night as he took to the stage to host the 14th annual An Unforgettable Evening, but this master of ceremonies just couldn’t say no.

“Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson called me and said, ‘We want you to host, and to be funny about cancer . . . women’s cancer,’” he moaned. “So I asked my friend Ricky Gervais what I should do, and he said, ‘Go after the audience, those bastards had it coming!”

All joking aside, the annual festivity raises millions each year for the EIF Women’s Cancer Research Fund, with the help of Saks Fifth Avenue and a cadre of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters. Along with Wilson (Hanks was off working and unable to attend), staunch supporters Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Kirk and Anne Douglas, Kelly and Ron Meyer, Joel and Karyn Silver, Irwin and Margo Winkler, Tobey Maguire and Jennifer Meyer, Billy and Janice Crystal and Annette Bening and Warren Beatty helped jam the packed ballroom.

Bening took home the Nat King Cole Award for her charitable works, which forced O’Brien to opine, “There’s an old saying in this town: as goes the Nat King Cole Award, so goes the Oscar.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Martin Short accepted the org’s Courage Award in honor of his wife Nancy, who lost her fight with cancer last year. Oncologists and cancer researchers from UCLA, USC and other beneficiaries of the grants provided by the EIF Women’s Cancer Fund joined Amber Valletta, Leoni Lewis, Tom Arnold, Lori Loughlin, Rosanna Arquette and the rest of the assemblage in cheering her memory, and Short’s call for national health care for all in America.

Spielberg said the night was “really about honoring the millions of women struggling with cancer,” then Cee Lo Green (subbing for an ailing Rihanna) hip-hopped out a version of his Grammy nominated song “F — k You,” transforming it into “F — k You to Cancer.” That was a sentiment everyone in the house could agree on.

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