RWQuarantunes, the benefit series hosted by WME partner Richard Weitz and his teenaged daughter Demi, took the show from the Weitzes’ usual kitchen base to Dodger Stadium Friday night for a star-ballplayer-studded webcast that brought in more than $1.1 million in partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
The four-hour telethon included many of the music performances that are the usual grist of these benefits, including a few that took place right at center field in the floodlit but virtually empty stadium. There were perhaps slightly fewer than usual of the usual marathon songs, though, since much of the webcast amounted to a Zoom reunion of the most familiar names from the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series championship roster — with Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Will Smith, Andre Ethier, Joe Kelly and David Price joining manager Dave Roberts — along with past players like Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Garvey and one headline-making future Dodger, freshly inked pitcher Trevor Bauer.
COVID-era restrictions ensured that very few participants were on hand in person for the events; from a perch in the right field stands, Variety saw fewer than 50 crew members or guests in sight at any time. That number included the bands that were on hand to back center-field performances by El DeBarge and Robin Thicke, singing individually and together, or, for the “after-party” jam, Guns N’ Roses member Gilby Clarke’s band. Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick of Fitz & the Tantrums, went solo at the stadium with.”Hand Clap,” a stadium favorite that countered any ghost-town feeling in the cavernous surroundings. DJ Cassidy had an elaborate setup but kept the personnel count low, of course, as his own one-man band.
One other notable musician was on hand, but not in the outfield: Dodgers organist Dieter Ruehle, offering occasional points of punctuations to the proceedings with blasts of music that, we can personally attest, have a much more startlingly loud, Sensurround-type effect when there aren’t 50,000 fans in the stands to muffle the decibels of the seventh inning stretch. The voice of Dodgers announcer Todd Leitz landed nearly as loud among the empty stands.
Weitz told Variety how strange but uplifting it felt “to be at Dodger Stadium when no one else but the Dodgers have been there, see how empty it was, and know that no one has been able to physically be there to help celebrate with these guys. To be there with (virtually) Dave Roberts, Magic Johnson, the entire Dodgers leadership and so many of these players to give them a little celebration was so meaningful. To top it off with raising enough money to feed over 3.4 million Angelenos who need food… Demi and I were in tears. The spectacle of this was great, but I do it to raise the most amount of money along with providing the most entertainment value — along with having this lifetime memory of the experiences I get to have with Demi every week. I can’t even comprehend it anymore.”
Among the musicians participating from afar was the country-pop duo Dan + Shay. The pair performed their breakthrough smash “Tequila” acoustically over Zoom as prelude to raising glasses to the 2020 champions in a four-shot with Dave Roberts, Mookie Betts and Richard and (non-imbibing high school senior) Demi. The senior Weitz had brought along a 1942 bottle of tequila for the toast, and as it turned out, coincidentall, Dan Smyers had a ’42 bottle in his Nashville house, too, and ran off-screen to retrieve it.
Dan + Shay also modified their recent hit “10,000 Hours” to “10,000 Dollars” at the request of Demi Weitz, who announced they’d had three $10,000 contributions come in during the course of the tune.
“I called Trevor and told him ‘Welcome to the Dodgers’,” said Magic Johnson, sharing a screen with the Cy Young Award winner whose signing was announced Friday. “I know he is an amazing competitor, and he’s gonna do some great things working with Dave and the team. Sometimes when you go to repeat, you need somebody new to keep everybody on edge, somebody who hasn’t won a championship. So Trevor’s job is to keep everybody on edge and making sure they’re doing their job, just like he’s going to do his job.”
Betts, a country fan, was enjoying sharing a screen with Dan + Shay, noting that he is in Nashville himself at the moment and had visited the Big Loud studio a few times with a friend, the singer/songwriter Ernest. Roberts pointed out that Betts has a knack for excelling at pretty much everything outside of baseball, too, including basketball, and took an interest in Betts’ Nashville interests: “I want to see him lay down a track and pick it on the guitar or something,” said the manager.
The presence of late Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was deeply felt at the event. Broadcaster Bob Costas interviewed Garvey about Lasorda’s legacy early in the evening. Later, a video was introduced of Charlie Puth singing his tearjerker “See You Again” with a montage paying tribute not just to Lasorda but Don Sutton, Hank Aaron, Dodgers mega-fan Larry King and — veering further outside the realm of sports — Weitz’s recently departed friend, former ABC president Jamie Tarses.
Perhaps the toughest get for Friday evening in some ways was Fernando Valenzuela, who, Weitz noted in introducing him, is “a very private person.” Weitz said “he wanted to come on once he saw the video saluting Tommy.”
On the musical front, DJ Cassidy made two appearances, one on the field with a California-centric medley and again on tape as his recent “Pass the Mic 3” all-star webcast was reprised, followed by live appearances by participants like Boyz II Men, Lisa Lisa, En Vogue and SWV. Others Zooming in for a live performance included Deniece Williams, doing an impromptu performance of “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” and Joe Esposito.
Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen dropped in, as well, with the former introducing a clip from “Mr. Mayor” that was filmed at Dodger Stadium right before the pandemic hit, of his character throwing out the first pitch (with the real catcher, the star pointed out, standing right off-camera).
Magic Johnson started off the webcast by announcing a contribution of $50,000. A more private pre-show party that took place prior to the main event brought in $600,000, or about half the night’s tally, before the show started. Clayton Kershaw jerseys auctioned off in the middle of the proceedings also helped boost the total. The biggest-ticket items, though, were three World Series rings — a few of the only ones that will be handed out outside the Dodgers organization — that found three bidders each willing to hit the $100,000 mark for a ring, with a bit of encouragement.
Proceeds going through the Dodgers Foundation were ultimately earmarked for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank; a statistic intermittently displayed on the diamond vision screen hovering over the stands claimed that one in four Angelenos is uncertain where his or her next meal is coming from. Ultimately, the $1.1 million raised during the evening will provide 3.3 million meals to locals in need, organizers said.
Producer Kerry Brown was a constant on the field or at the Weitzes’ positions at home plate or the outfield stands during the event, as he and his Rolling Live Studios, who’ve become a go-to for west coast livestreams during the pandemic, were RWQUarantunes’ production partner on the stadium webcast.
It’s the third time RWQuarantunes has been hosted on location among the 40 shows that have taken place since the Weitzes started the charity series last April. Broadcasting from the stage of an empty Ahmanson Theater late last month, they raised $750,00 for the Los Angeles Center Theater Group, with live or pre-taped appearances by Dolly Parton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sting and a large cast of musical-theater heavies. Last Memorial Day weekend, the Weitzes hosted live from the Hollywood Bowl to benefit No Kid Hungry and the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. Kenny Loggins performed live from the Bowl seating area for that one, with remote guests that included Gustavo Dudamel, Elvis Costello, the Killers, Barry Manilow, Herbie Hancock and (in non-performing hellos) Billie Eilish and Mayor Garcetti.
About 400 performers have participated in the RWQuarantunes webcasts so far, Weitz says, including Rod Stewart, John Legend, Barry Gibb, Art Garfunkel, John Hiatt, John Mayer, Luke Bryan, Randy Newman, Josh Groban, Alan Menken, John Legend and the entire original cast of “Hamilton.”
Richard and Demi both wore Dodger jerseys with the number 40 on them in honor of this being the 40th official RWQuarantunes (not counting a handful they did for fun last March for more intimate audiences before deciding to turn it into a charitable series). The total they’ve raised now for a wide variety of charities on both coasts and in-between is more than $18 million.
The next RWQuarantunes will be Feb. 26, raising funds for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and honoring essential health care workers at every level, from doctors to respiratory nurses to custodial staff. With total fundraising for the Zooms now at $18.3 million, Weitz says their goal is to hit $20 million before they reach their official first anniversary on April 4.