The theme of Thursday’s ninth annual “Gala of Champions” may have been to “give back childhood,” but self-deprecating humor was most definitely the night’s common thread.
Celebs used their star power to draw attention and raise funds for the nonprofit CoachArt, which offers arts and athletics coaching to youth with life-threatening illnesses and their siblings. Hosted by Sal Masekela and Brooke Anderson, the gala on Oct. 17 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel offered live entertainment from children currently in the program, who had mastered musical instruments in a matter of weeks.
“I offered my services to teach kids how to cook crystal methamphetamines and they said no,” Cranston joked. “And I said, ‘You realize it’s like almost 99% pure?’ And they said no. I did say, ‘But it’s a very kid-friendly light blue color’ so we’re talking.”
Cranston honored United Talent Agency CEO and co-founder Zimmer with the champion of heart and humanity award. Zimmer’s agency reps the star.
“I left 10% of my food on the plate if he wants to pick that up later,” he said. “It’s by habit now. I’m going to try comedy next. I’m going back into comedy.”
Zimmer had no trouble keeping up with the punches. He thanked his wife for keeping him “aroused and flustered and in love” before poking fun of himself.
“I participated at a CoachArt summer program and I played a drum, I painted murals, I danced in a conga line with kids and the joy was undeniable,” he said. “That morning in the church committee room I experienced the pure joy of living, which came about as a direct result of connecting with and caring about someone else. Then I went back to my normal day and immediately self obsessed and forgot all about that experience.”
Wilson presented the news anchors with the champions of courage and hope award. After recovering from cancer in 2008, Robin was diagnosed with the blood and bone marrow disease myelodysplastic syndrome last year. Sally-Ann donated bone marrow for a transplant that ultimately saved her younger sister’s life.
“I feel that Robin is my hero; she’s grown to be my big sister,” Sally-Ann said. “I’m proud of her, not just because she was able and went back to work with her dear friends that she loves at ‘Good Morning America’ doing the work she loves …”
“The No. 1 morning show in America,” Robin interrupted, leaving the crowd in stitches.
“Robin uses that humor and her position to inspire so many,” Sally-Ann continued. “Everywhere I go, whether it’s a post office or a grocery store, people come up to me and sometimes their eyes are brimming with tears as they tell me, ‘You don’t know what it means for me to see Robin on the air because I know what she’s been through.’ … And they say ‘Because Robin has been able to go through it, I think I can, too.’”
When Robin took the mic, she said she and Sally-Ann each exemplify one half of the award: Sally-Ann had the courage to donate millions of stem cells, giving Robin hope of survival.
“I literally have her DNA,” she later said. “I have her blood type now. I have her allergies. I have her sweet tooth. Though more importantly, I have her zest for life and her desire to be of service to others.”
Demonstrating just how in sync the two of them are, both dropped their glass statues during their speeches.