Hollywood Exclusive: How George Clooney Became Prince of the Carousel of Hope Ball
Interesting, the story behind George Clooney becoming this year's honoree at Barbara Davis' gala of all Hollywood galas, the Carousel of Hope Ball.
The socialite philanthropist, whose event draws dozens of stars and power players each year, tells us that she got to know Clooney just after he put together the January 2010 Hope for Haiti telethon.
Medical personnel, on the scene during the earthquake on that poverty-stricken land, needed drugs, including insulin and antibiotics specifically used for diabetics.
Clooney turned to Davis -- whose Carousel of Hope events have brought in more than $100 million for the fight against the disease -- and she turned to the pharmaceutical companies who know her well.
Soon, the asked-for medications were on their way to Haiti -- and Clooney and Davis had become philanthropy pals.
Now Clooney's the man of the hour at this Saturday's, Oct. 20, Carousel of Hope at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel.
"Honestly, I can't rave enough about the man. He uses his celebrity in such amazing ways. There may not be a Santa Claus, but there is a George Clooney," says Davis, whose fundraiser benefits her Denver-based Center for Childhood Diabetes. Her friend George is a huge draw, of course, and it sounds as if the suave star even has Davis a little breathless. "He's so nice you just can't believe how wonderful! He's such a mensh," she gushes.
Carousel of Hope has been called the glitziest, most elaborate event on Hollywood's charity calendar for good reason. Sponsored by Mercedes-Benz (which contributed a $137,505 Mercedes-Benz 2013 G63 AMG design for auction this year), the affair boasts Neil Diamond and Babyface as performers, Jay Leno back as emcee, with George Schlatter as producer and David Foster as music director.
Davis admits her charity, like nearly every charity out there, has felt the impact of the recession (not that you'd notice). "Very honestly, there are some people giving less. But there are also some giving more. People affected by auto immune diseases are more prone to get yet another auto immune disease," she notes. One of her daughters has had diabetes since age seven, the other has MS -- both auto immune diseases.
Among the expected attendees this year: Tatyana Ali, Antonio Banderas, Adrien Brody, Cheryl Burke, Sophia Bush, Jessica Capshaw, Jackie Collins, Joan Collins, Cindy Crawford & Rande Gerber, Clive Davis, Jane Fonda, David Foster, Quincy Jones, Shirley MacLaine, Alyssa Milano, Shaquille O'Neil, Sidney and Joanna Poitier, Don Rickles, Smokey Robinson, Sarah Silverman, Jaclyn Smith, Sharon Stone, Alan Thicke and Diane Warren.
And among the items being auctioned off, in addition to the Mercedes: a luxurious Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week, including tickets to runway shows by Valentino, Versace, Giorgio Armani and others; and a Bora Bora dream wedding valued at $250,000.
WELL-DESERVED: Nice to see Mel Brooks being designated next year's American Film Institute lifetime achievement honoree -- as well as getting the full-on biographical treatment from PBS's "American Masters," also for next year.
The hard part will be dealing with time constraints, considering the funnyman's contributions and hilarious behind-the-scenes stories.
Three of Brooks' movies are on AFI's top 100 list of all-time great comedy films ("Young Frankenstein," No. 13; "The Producers," No. 11; and "Blazing Saddles," No. 6). And then there's his Broadway success and his serious side (eg: "The Elephant Man.")
And he's not done yet. The man who told us he delights in "putting pins into balloons, deflating pompous types" has a comedy horror picture called "Pizzaman" on his to-do list, with Cary Elwes and Stacy Keach.
"I've been accused of vulgarity and rightly so," admitted Brooks. "I think that vulgarity, pointed properly, can be a good weapon in the hands of a creative person." It's certainly worked for him.
THE FUNNY SIDE: Kellie Martin says that one of the appealing aspects of her Oct. 20 'I Married Who?" was that the movie -- about a woman who wakes up wed to a movie star she doesn't know -- gave her a chance to work her comedy chops.
"Usually I have to be really upset and emotional," says the veteran of drama series including "ER," "but this was 'Learn your lines and have fun.'" Fun she did have, including adding improvisational bits to some scenes, with a director who encouraged the cast to stay loose.
"There were times I felt it was way too big or too broad, but when they put it all together I was so surprised they used as much of the improv as they did ... I needed to feel safe, to be able to try and fail."
Ethan Erickson plays the movie star, and Kellie applauds him for making the most of his perfect looks for comedy's sake.
"It's Hallmark's answer to 'The Hangover,'" she adds with a laugh. "A super clean version of the Hangover.'"
© COPYRIGHT 2012 STACY JENEL SMITH
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