Michael Douglas was introduced to the Motion Picture & Television Fund by his father, Kirk, who supported the Alzheimer’s wing, called Harry’s Haven, named in memory of Douglas’ paternal grandfather, Harry Demisky.
The nonprofit facility, headquartered in Woodland Hills, Calif., was founded in 1921 to give relief to those in the entertainment industry. Health care, child care, retirement living and social services are available.
“The thing that strikes me is that you never know when you’re going to need it,” Douglas says. “I’ve been surprised at some of the people I’ve seen up there in their last days, who, either through mismanagement of funds or some bad luck, had this last resource. It hits home and gives you tremendous pride in your industry.”
When the idea for a golf tourney first came up, Douglas figured that it would be a “relatively painless way to raise a lot more money for the fund and have some fun at the same time.” Michael Douglas & Friends Golf Tournament recently celebrated its 10th year. And in November, wife Catherine Zeta-Jones hosts the annual A Fine Romance benefit. So far, $2.7 million has been raised.
Douglas recalls visiting a director at the home. “It was an awkward moment,” the actor recalls. “On one hand, he was embarrassed that he was in this predicament. On the other hand, he looked me in the eye, gave me a handshake and whispered, ‘Just go for it.’ He died a few days later.”
The fund is much more than a retirement home. Shortly after his father died in 2001, writer Ron Burla (“Boomtown”) noticed that his mother began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s, so he took her to the MPTF facilities for an evaluation.
“We had so much support,” says Burla, whose mother was never employed in the entertainment business. “They sent nurses. They sent hospice people. They sent specialists. There was always someone in the house.”
Burla’s mother died May 14, and Burla never saw a bill for anything the org provided.
“There were times where I just wanted to scream,” the writer says. “The fund kept me from losing my mind. I went from a picket line to a hospital every day for a long time. It’s been a rough few years.”
— Anna Stewart