Before a lavish dining room filled with fathers and celebrity supporters of Baby Buggy — a nonprofit started by Jessica Seinfeld in New York 14 years ago to provide childcare goods to families in need — luncheon host Jerry Seinfeld spoke about fatherhood from experience.
“When the child is born, for the female, instincts kick in. For the male, nothing kicks in,” said the comedian who scored a chorus of laughs from glamorous guests (including Gwyneth Paltrow, Judd Apatow and his former “Seinfeld” co-stars) when delivering introductory remarks at the first Baby Buggy Fatherhood L.A. fundraiser at the Palm Restaurant in Beverly Hills on Wednesday. He similarly used humor to relay the organization’s new initiative: “When the father’s involved in the kid’s life, the kid tends to do well. When he’s not, he tends to go to jail.”
Not that Seinfeld speaks from experience here. “He’s an incredible father,” said his wife Jessica, who set out to help needy fathers after statistics indicated that children in father-absent homes are four times more likely to be poor — and whose inaugural L.A. lunch (with further expansion planned) raised nearly $250,000. “He puts his phone down when he gets home and he doesn’t pick it up until the next morning. And he’s so present with our kids, and he entertains them, and he’s really, really patient with them in a way I’m not… And so it’s a good balance.”
“I’m a man-guy, I’m a guy-guy, I’m a big supporter of male living, which no one else really is,” Seinfeld told Variety. “The man is the one we want to tear down most of the time! But I want to kind of strike a blow in support of men who want to do right, live right, and take care of their children and are not able to because of these obstacles. So, I’m very pro-men.”
His friends — who enjoyed Caesar salad and mammoth steaks seated around ritzy round tables, where Paltrow popped over to chat with Apatow, Jason Bateman and Dax Shepard; former “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” co-stars Seth Green and Michelle Trachtenberg mingled; Kevin Hart hung with George Wallace; and director Mel Woods caught up with “Star Trek” producer Alex Kurtzman — proved to be very pro-Seinfeld.
“Jerry’s a good friend of mine, we go way back,” said Jay Leno, a big proponent of Baby Buggy. “It’s great idea, actually! I wish I had thought of it!… You just think, ‘oh, dads aren’t involved,’ but of course, that’s not the case.” What sort of a guy was his father? “I was one of the lucky ones! It wasn’t until I moved out here that I met dads that acted like children. My dad wasn’t my friend, he was my dad! Out here, dads are like divorced, you go out with your dad picking up girls, and it’s creepy. My dad was always Mr. Leno, you know, to my friends.”
Bob Saget also reminisced about his father. “I guess what my dad taught me was (to) try to be as honest as I could be in my life,” said the “Full House” star, who still spoke quite vaguely about the new movie he’s directing and “TV show thing” he’s working on, in addition to a stand-up comedy tour kicking off in N.Y. in April. “I have two daughters that are amazing, 25 and 22 now, they’re my life… This is a lovely piece of giving back.”
“When Jerry calls, I go!” declared Jason Alexander, after enacting a mini “Seinfeld” reunion on the carpet when Michael Richards joined him and the lunch’s host for photos. Alexander’s been doing stand-up and singing in symphonies around the country, with an unannounced television project in the works; but work isn’t what defines him. “In some ways, (fatherhood) is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said.
And the thrills were entirely unexpected. “When we got pregnant, I wasn’t a kid person! You know, I liked kids, but I didn’t know what to do with them! And you think, ‘oh, I’m going to be a terrible father because I don’t know what to do with these little people.’ But your heart expands and opens in ways that you cannot imagine because these little people exist.”
James Van Der Beek, who attended with wife and former Baby Buggy co-chair, Kimberly Brook, spoke equally endearingly about fatherhood. “You just wonder, what did I do before? What was important to me? What did I think was important? It’s a complete perspective change in the best way,” said the star of “CSI: Cyber,” who feels lucky that he can provide for his children, but sympathizes with fathers who can’t. “That’s where Baby Buggy comes in and invests in these dads, and gives them something to take home, diapers or a crib or a stroller, and gives them the tools that they need to be a good role model and a big part of their kids’ lives. It’s a huge investment in their future.”
And judging by his recent “Power/Rangers” short, Van Der Beek knows a thing about charity. “We did this little experiment (where) everybody worked for free. The intention the entire time was not to sell it, just to give it away on YouTube for free to the fans who might like it, and had no expectation it would blow up as big as it did.” Why did it? “Because it was formed outside of any studio system, I think maybe it has a fresh feel to it. But it was also made by fans. Adi Shankar was a huge Power Rangers fan! And there are all kinds of tiny little references and tributes to what he loved about the franchise as seen through his own unique lens.”
Bateman, who oddly decided with Shepard that they wanted to walk the carpet as a comedic pair, suddenly looked at Seinfeld through another lens. “What paper are you with?” the actor joked when encountering the host before reporters, prompting Seinfeld to quip, “You’re the funny guy!”
Silliness also carries through to Seinfeld’s home. “It’s all fun, it’s all silly,” he said, before growing reflective when asked to recall a fond fatherhood moment. “I was trying to get (my son) in bed the other night. And he kept sticking a leg out of the covers, and then he would stick another leg out, and then an arm out, and just fighting with the arms and the legs. You just start laughing,” the comedy great relayed with a glow. “And it’s not like, a trip to Disneyland… but it’s actually better.”
(Pictured: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Baby Buggy founder Jessica Seinfeld and host Jerry Seinfeld at the Inaugural Los Angeles Fatherhood Lunch at the Palm Restaurant)