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Turning Raindrops Into Rainbows

March 17, 1993|BRIDGET BYRNE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"I know why Barry Manilow 'made it through the rain.' He got straight into his limo. He didn't have to walk to the self-park like us," said one joker, as guests leaving the Starlight Foundation gala Saturday night found raindrops falling on their heads.

The ball at the Century Plaza Hotel had been a cozy cocoon all evening, warmed by words of friendship, love and support and a slew of sentimental ballads as "The Child in All of Us Gala" honored talk show host Arsenio Hall.

"I'm terrible at being honored," said Hall, dabbing the sweat from his brow after a long photo op before the festivity. "I think I'm actually better at taking criticism than I am at taking compliments."

Then, of course, when Luther Vandross handed him the Humanitarian of the Year plaque, Hall handled it all smoothly, expressing the sentiment that in a world where "we hear so much that is negative, it is just nice to be in a room with positive people for a positive purpose.

"This is the best idea you ever had, and I've heard your others," Hall told actress Emma Samms, who with her cousin Peter Samuelson founded the Starlight Foundation 10 years ago to grant wishes to seriously ill children.

"My favorite wish was the child who asked to see a rainbow," said Leslie Cohen, whose husband, Marc, is president of the foundation's Southern California chapter.

That child was treated to a trip to Niagara Falls where rainbows are plentiful, but other children choose trips to Disneyland and Hollywood.

Over the years, the cast of "Star Trek" has hosted many such visitors, and in recognition, Patrick Stewart and LeVar Burton, along with other "Next Generation" cast members, were given the Children's Friendship Award presented by fellow Trekkie Whoopi Goldberg. In addition Michael Gunn, senior VP of marketing for American Airlines, accepted the Founders Award recognizing that company's "Miles for Kids in Need" involvement with the charity.

The evening had begun with carnival games. There was also a silent auction and later, after dinner, a far-from-silent follow-up, conducted by spielmaster John Moschitta, who drummed up two $13,500 bids for cruises to Scandinavia and Russia.

Then came all the heartfelt music to which the audience was encouraged to sing along. Performers included Nancy Wilson, Johnny Gill and saxophonist Dave Koz. Comedian Elayne Boosler made a short, sharp appearance. Then it was on to Manilow, who just by singing some of his favorite hits, cornered the market in appropriate sentiment.

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