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INTO THE NIGHT

RSVP : Spielberg Honored at A-List Benefit Event

October 03, 1994|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: Saturday's dinner at the Beverly Hilton where the Chaim Weizmann Philanthropic Leadership Award was presented to Steven Spielberg. Dinner co-chairman Sid Sheinberg said, "Someday Steven might be remembered as much for his efforts on behalf of the welfare of society as for his movies."

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Who Was There: A stellar crowd one wit referred to as "Shindler's A-list." Among the 700 were Spielberg with wife Kate Capshaw and his mother, Leah Adler; Lew and Edie Wasserman, Mike and Judy Ovitz, Chevy Chase, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Gerald Breslauer, Bruce Ramer, Alan and Judy Levine, Jonathan Dolgen, Courtney Sale Ross and Thomas Keneally, who wrote "Shindler's List."

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Money Matters: More than $1 million was raised for Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science. "They do research for humankind," said dinner co-chairman Michael Forman. "Everything from solar energy to cancer to multiple sclerosis to increasing food production."

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How So Much Money Is Raised: "Threats of bodily harm are helpful," said Katzenberg, also a dinner co-chairman. One studio exec said: "Half the people want to be here; the other half are afraid not to be here."

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Quoted: Spielberg talked about being back in the limelight after last season's "Shindler's List" attention: "On the one hand, it feels like, enough of me already. This year it's 'Forrest Gump.' Let's move on to Bob Zemeckis' life. On the other hand, I continue to feel honored by the recognition and the amount of philanthropy generated by an event like this."

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Dress Mode: Very black tie. Michael Richards mentioned that in his pre-"Seinfeld" days, he'd rent a tux. Now major designers want him to be seen in their clothes so, "they send them to me for free. Now I've got four tuxedos. I wish they'd start doing that with planes, trains and automobiles."

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Chow: Jewish dietary laws were observed. The main course was veal; the high point was the sushi bar at the cocktail reception. Rabbi Philip Schroit, who oversaw the food preparation, said: "'I've done many kosher dinners. This is my first sushi party."

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The Program: Emceed by Ben Kingsley (whose accent hovered somewhere between "Gandhi" and "Shindler's List"), the evening included a speech by Institute president Haim Harari and performances by Johnny Mathis and Robin Williams.

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The Best Move: An appearance by Williams could rescue any fund-raising dinner from well-meaning tedium. He covered subjects from politics (Dan Quayle as Forrest Gump saying, "Politics is like a box of chocolates--you just have to buy it") to a comment a writer once made about his rambling performances ("The difference between my act and life is that life eventually comes to an end").

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