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Doin' It for Charity (and P.R. and Gifts)

September 11, 1988|ISOBEL SILDEN

Gortner recalls that William Shatner had never participated in an event before, until Gortner asked him. Despite Shatner's reputation for sometimes being difficult, Gortner told him how many interviews he had to do, how long he had to stay at the cocktail party and that he had to attend the dinner Saturday night. "It all went on schedule as I'd promised him, and he was wonderful, because he knew I'd keep my word.

"I do auctions too. That's another source of income for the charity. I raised $188,000 in a half-hour for SHARE (the biggest annual charity fund-raiser in Hollywood). I auction items no one can buy. Susan Sullivan gives you a day on the 'Falcon Crest' set with her, and lunch with the cast. Robin Leach gives you your own episode on 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.' I sold that for $10,000. Altogether, I guess I've raised around $6 million to $7 million with the auctions."

David Mirisch is the son and nephew of the famed Mirisch Bros. film producers. A former publicist, he's been in the event business 15 years. He is more diversified than his colleagues, doing tennis, golf, skiing, softball, basketball and getting celebrities to go down water slides in theme parks, all for sweet charity.

"I do about 50 events a year, I work with 1,800 celebrities. Because I was a press agent, when other publicists sign new clients, I'm one of the first people they call, to tell me what the new client's interests are, so I can invite them to events."

Mirisch works only with charities: the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis, United Cerebral Palsy, the Special Olympics, the Kidney Foundation, and he is currently setting up a celebrity horseback riding event at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center for The Brass Ring--children with multiple sclerosis who can't walk are in total command on a horse. They will benefit from this fund-raiser next spring.

He finds celebrities want to give their time for worthwhile organizations. Often they have a personal interest.

"Pat and Shirley Boone gladly hosted an event for SIDS recently, because Shirley's sister lost a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If they could help other parents in tragedy, they wanted to," he says.

Mirisch, whose fees average $12,500 for big promotions, says the most-in-demand stars are those on current TV series. When he invited young Kirk Cameron to Tucson for the Michael Landon tennis tournament, it was necessary for the teen throb to have two security guards with him the entire time.

He "casts" his celebrities according to the event. He is working on a party for the Kidney Foundation at a Florida resort whose guests are mostly retired folk.

"They wouldn't know who Kirk Cameron is, but they'll bethrilled to see Anne Jeffries, Marie Windsor and Lloyd Bridges."

Mirisch also knows how to handle stars. He knows, for example that Charlton Heston would agree to be picked up by limousine to play in the Tracy Austin tennis tournament but would stay only to play his exhibition game.

"If I'd said I needed him from 9 to 6, he wouldn't do it. It's too much: Actors' time schedules are too tight."

Mirisch has noted that major movie stars, for the most part, rarely if ever participate in these functions because of their stature and busy schedules. One never sees a Meryl Streep or Sally Fields doing this, but fans are just as happy to see John Forsythe and Lloyd Bridges, he says.

It's anyone's guess how much money has been raised for charities in the years since stars have been lending their names and personas for these occasions. Mirisch's figures show he's responsible for more than $5 million raised in 300 events. In its 29 years, Bob Hope's Desert Classic, the oldest celebrity oriented charity event, has raised $17 million for the Eisenhower Medical Center and 90 other charities.

Rita Tateel is the "rookie" among the celebrity fund-raisers. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she was born on a chicken ranch in Fontana and remembers sitting on a curb in Hollywood with her parents watching the annual Christmas parade. She worked for the Jewish Federation for 17 years and learned to know and love working with celebrities. Her company is the Celebrity Source.

"I have access to over 3,000 celebrities and a computer listing everything about them from hobbies to home towns to T-shirt sizes to every conceivable thing in which they might be interested. When they complete filling out my five-page, super-confidential questionnaire, there are no secrets," she says with a laugh.

Two of her prime clients are the Hollywood Christmas Parade and the City of Los Angeles Marathon. This Thanksgiving will mark her third parade. It ranks second in size in the nation, after the Rose Parade, and attracts the most stars, about 100. It's syndicated to more than 140 cities in this country, 86 nations, so the parade provides major exposure--and thus is attractive--to any celebrity.

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