Lupus LA honored Fox Searchlight co-president Nancy Utley at its annual Orange Ball at the Beverly Wilshire Thursday night.
The Beverly Hills ballroom had a central dance floor with the woman of the hour, Utley, cutting a rug as the band played a wide range of renditions from The Jackson 5 to Ed Sheeran to Bruno Mars.
Utley admitted that she was initially hesitant to be honored, but went on to say that “this organization is trying to make sure that every lupus story has a happy ending.”
“As I’ve lived with this diagnosis for the last 27 years, it took some time to grow from fear and despair to acceptance and optimism,” Utley said while accepting the Daniel J. Wallace Founder’s Award. “I became intrigued about lending my voice — strong, relatively healthy voice — to tell the stories of those who have had it far harder than me.”
Utley, who helped to found the org in 1999, went on t0 tell the stories of two college students she mentors who are living successful lives with the autoimmune disease and further detailed how the org provides education and patient services.
She was shown support at the event from Fox Searchlight co-president Stephen Gilula, presidents of production David Greenbaum and Matthew Greenfield, 21 Century president and Fox Networks group chairman Peter Rice, Paramount chairman Jim Gianopulos as well as Bob Berney, head of Amazon Studios’ movie marketing and distribution.
Laura Dern also lent a hand in helping to honor Utley as the actress presented her the award. Dern decided to make the introduction personal as she shared anecdotes of admiring Utley from afar as well as enjoying her company at industry events, referring to her as “my dance partner and the last one to leave any party.”
“I’ve watched Nancy up close both serving on the board of the Academy and, frankly, being the future of the Academy in my estimation, being such a guide to me and other boards in the past,” Dern said. “She inspires endless great art from our most radical and daring visionaries, she endlessly serves her community, her family, her beautiful partnership with Raymond and she never let’s anything stop her or slow her down.”
Lupus LA chairman Adam Selkowitz was joined by producer Lauren Shuler Donner as well as actors Niles Fitch, Storm Reid, and Scott Michael Campbell at the dinner.
The benefit, which also featured a live auction, raked in more than $525,000 to support those affected by Lupus and research to find a cure for the autoimmune disease. The hot item of the evening was a walk-on role for two in Season 2 of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” that would be filmed in Los Angeles. The prize went for $5,000, but the winner was guaranteed a return on the bid since they would be a paid extra in the series.
The gala also feted Dr. Marc Chevier, head of Lupus Strategy at Janssen Research and Development with the Medical Visionary Award.