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She's Fostering Support for Colleagues

May 14, 1997|MARK EHRMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Monday night cocktail reception at the Argyle Hotel in Hollywood was one of those seemingly low-key affairs that practically screamed the presence of wealth. A lone pianist played in the background while the guests, most dressed in unflashy after-work attire, sipped wine and munched on Rosti potatoes with black caviar or fresh corn polenta with foie gras.

The party was in honor of Jodie Foster, who had just made a "generous donation" to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, and was hosted by the fund's chairman, Jeffrey Katzenberg. "There is no industry that takes care of its own the way we do," Katzenberg said of the 75-year-old fund's activities, which include operating the Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills to provide care for retired and convalescing industry workers. The fund also offers financial assistance, personal and family counseling, child care and other social services.

Lending support for Foster and the MPTF were Katzenberg; Foster's mom, Evelyn Foster; Warren Beatty and Annette Bening; Debbie Allen; Turner Entertainment President Roger Mayer; Stephanie Powers; Lew and Edie Wasserman; Roddy McDowall; Robert Zemeckis; Leonard Maltin; and a bevy of high-salary studio types.

The ceremony featured some brief speechifying by Katzenberg, fund CEO Ken Scherer and Allen before McDowall stepped up to the mike to present Foster with a gift-wrapped token of thanks: a handmade teapot crafted by the residents of the Country House and Hospital.

"I was always led to believe that child performers usually grow up to be worth not one damn thing," quipped McDowall. "You seem to have beaten that rap. Hopefully, Jodie, you comprehend that the measure of generosity that you have displayed toward the MPTF reaches far beyond the boundaries of your monetary contribution."

The subsequent applause was followed by a collective gasp when Foster accidentally dropped the box. She held up the teapot, shaped and painted to look like a vine-covered cottage, making her thank yous with her gift and dignity intact.

And just how generous was Foster? "That's kind of a tacky question," demurred the evening's honoree. (It was $100,000, we heard.) And while it's hard to believe that the likes of Beatty or Wasserman would ever be in need of financial assistance, Foster said the assemblage of affluence belied the needs of many in the industry.

"The film business is not just studio executives," she said. "It's the people who actually work on movies, which is kind of like people who work on buildings or people who work in the automotive industry. And people work very, very hard and in very dangerous situations. I think of my business as much more of a working-class thing than other people do."

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