Warren Buffett made a different kind of news tonight after a week which he called “the Pearl Harbor” of the financial world–he gave it a transfusion with his $3 billion buy of GE. Buffett appeared this evening at Beverly Hills’ Paley Center for Media. His son, Peter was appearing in the Center’s “Paley After Dark” program and it was announced that Peter’s father, Warren would attend the private rooftop reception preceding Peter’s “Concert and Conversation.” He did indeed appear there — and added a surprise appearance when Peter invited him on stag at the beginning of his “Concert.” Buffett, hale and hearty — he announced “I’m 78”– rose from his front row seat, sat down next to the piano where Peter was holding forth, picked up a ukulele and proceeded to plunk and purr “Ain’t She Sweet”–immediately joined by the audience in two choruses. Hefty applause and he took his seat leaving the program to his son and moderator Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of the Paley Center, no stranger to the world of interviewees from her own network experience. Seated on a stool alongside the piano, she graciously–and knowledgeably led Peter through his career of music for live theater, commercials, telefilms, animation and bigscreen including the memorable “Dances With Wolves.” The projects were shown on screen as he often backgrounded them his own piano playing and singing to the recorded tracks. He was terrifically accompanied by cellist Michael Todd. Buffett recalled his progress from $1500 gigs to $30,000. He recalled turning down an offer from Mike Ovitz to work in L.A.
Peter Buffett accentuated the love of the family–how his father and grandfather joined in playing songs together. He told of his beginnings as an entertainer when, at 4, he stepped out of the fireplace in the living room to entertain the family by dancing to Paul Anka’s singing a his father played the Uke. “He was always there at dinner,” Paul told of the family’s close relationship. Today, when Paul returns home, he says he still sleeps in his same bed in his same room. The family relationship was accentuated by his introduction of his sister, brother–and beautiful wife. He showed footage of his trips to Africa and related the plight, the sadness and needs to help. He told of the responsibility of administering the gift of a billion (that’s with a B) dollars to him, his brother and sister for charitable distribution. “It’s a tremendous responsibility,” he told me. The fund is called the NOVO Foundation and he received a big hand when he said women will have a large part in putting the funds to work. “Who better than women?” he asked to hefty applause.
Warren Buffett lingered to chat with guests as he had shmoozed with all in the reception preceding the program. He demonstrated his total relaxed, warm, friendly attitude though meeting with the strangers in the showbiz community. When I asked him if his investment in GE would now mean an involvement by him in movies– since one of its companies is–Universal – He laughed and admitted he didn’t know much about movie-making. I’ll bet it won’t be long before Warren Buffett knows a thing-or-three about movies.