Do you think the opening of "Hollywood: Legend and Reality" Dec. 5 at the Natural History Museum will pull in a lot of really major stars?
Before you break up laughing, here's how one person answered: Michael Fuchs, chairman of Home Box Office, sat back in his Polo Lounge booth, shrugged a satisfied shrug and allowed himself as much of a smile as New Yorkers permit when in L.A. on business.
That shrug must be interpreted as Fuchs' knowing that having stars turn out is a proverbial piece of cake for this particular opening, since Time Inc. is involved. It is picking up the tab on the traveling exhibit (400 photographs and major artifacts including everything from Rick's piano from "Casablanca" to the Golden Calf from "The Ten Commandments"). Celebrities crave attention--and when Time's subsidiaries, HBO's Fuchs and People publisher Don Elliman, host this party, they will have no trouble getting their dance cards filled.
An event with political purpose, especially on the increasingly vocal Leftside of L.A., brings out lots of involved stars. A good example is the Nov. 7 benefit for Refugees International, which has dozens of famous names on its invite, and the likes of T-Bone Burnett and Kris Kristofferson performing. They, and committee members like Sam Waterston, are involved in the effort--and they will all turn their friends out for the event.
Attracting the Big Stars
But not all parties are such easy draws as these two.
There are just hardly enough celebrities to go around--especially once organizers of an event want to attract brand-names beyond the usual suspects who seem to follow the axiom "have invitation--will travel." The demand on major stars to appear at parties started out with charities, and is now being echoed by businesses (although the celebrities don't seem to mind it for major national publications). A star's appearance at a company's national convention or board meeting nets some real cash--although for many celebs, charity events are not done for charity.
With most stars who perform at charity events, there is frequently the honorarium. "Some stars get money. Most of them get an honorarium. It ranges from expenses to $25,000," according to publicist Alan Neirob.
And then there are the stars who show up to sit in the audience. Race-car driver Danny Sullivan will be attending the Commitment to Life benefit for AIDS Project/LA Nov. 1. "He gets invited to everything and he's never paid," Neirob explained. "They want him because of his name value for publicity. Why does a celebrity attend a charity event? They are friends with the person honored, they have an obligation to the organization, or they are going because of their publicity."
Some charities have no problem, like the annual Scopus Award dinner. "It seems like it is difficult for everybody except Sally Fleck," said publicist Susan Reynolds, talking about the West Coast coordinator for the American Friends of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "They do such a wonderful job each year and the artist that they honor and the star they get to perform is so pleased, that they've got a great reputation by word of mouth." Barbra Streisand was honored one year, with Neil Diamond performing. Last year it was Steven Spielberg. Success breeds success: "When you have somebody you want to honor and you feel deserves to be honored, you just tell them the past honorees, and that speaks for itself," Reynolds said.
Some stars (only a relative few) become involved on a long-term basis with charities for personal reasons. Victoria Principal for four years has served as the national chairman for the Arthritis Foundation--both her parents are afflicted with forms of the disease. John Ritter's brother has cerebral palsy, and for 10 years, Ritter has been involved with the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation.
This past Tuesday, Los Angeles Rams owner Georgia Frontiere was honored with the Gold Medal from the National Foundation for Ileitis and Colitis. On hand as emcees were Mary Ann Mobley and her husband, Gary Collins. She pointed out to the audience the problems of people dealing with "our disease."
And then again, some events have moved beyond screen stars to kitchen stars and artist stars--like Wednesday's reception launching the Omega Art watch at Neiman-Marcus. Honored there will be architect Frank Gehry, designer James Galanos, interior designer Nick Berman, photographer Matthew Rolsteon and chef Wolfgang Puck.
And when a chef has as much pulling power as a prince of the screen, you know you are in Hollywood.