“He’s two minutes away,” an assistant breathlessly alerted us backstage at the international ballroom of the Beverly Hilton last Saturday night as we started the program of the 33rd Annual Vision awards.
I introduced Helen Harris and she announced the International Vision Award recipient was — Los Angels Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The handsomely black-tied Mayor generously got the evening off to an impressive start. He delivered inspiring words and grateful thanks then made a quick, exit as he was due at downtown L.A.’s California Plaza in a half hour–to introduce Al Gore (there with Tipper) at the L.A. Film Fest screening of Paramount Classics’ “An Inconvenient Truth ” to an outdoor screening audience of 4000.
The previous night, Friday, in Westwood, the Mayor cut the ribbon opening the L..A. Film Fest and the screening of “The Devil Wears Prada.”
This year’s Vision Awards raised $374,000 for the Retinal Cell-Adult Stem Cell Transplant Fund. It was reminded that 26 million people suffer from retinitis pigmentosa and/or macular degeneration. Everyone left the hall wearing a bracelet stating, “No Child Behind.”
Award-winning director Arthur Hiller, chairman of the event, said, “When I was honored on this stage a few years ago, I never dreamed I would return one day as the Chairman of the Vision Awards. However, my story is all too common to those familiar with retinitis pigmentosa. Due to macular degeneration I had eyesight one day and it was gone the next day. Just like that. And the fact is it can happen to any of us. To any of you.”
The evening’s award recipients related a member of their family had become one of the numbers to whom Arthur Hiller had referred. Among the celebrities/awardees participating in the evening were: Malcolm Jamal Warner, Peter Falk, Melissa Rivers, Gill Dennis, Barbara Bain, Kathleen Bird York, James Keach, Cathy Conrad, Bruce Greenwood, Caroline Baron, Rick Overton, Robert Levy, Peter Abrams, Andrew Panay, Jennifer Hudson, Rob Marshall. Also “Entourage,” “Commander In Chief” and “One Tree Hill” cast members.
Auctioneer Drew Donen, as always, drew many more thousands in contributions from the evening’s attendees.