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Huzzahs to Hizz (and Her) Honor for Community Spirit

October 24, 2000|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Dick does the driving, but Nancy does the navigating." That's how Times columnist Patt Morrison described the partnership of Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and Nancy Daly Riordan. "Dick has the vision of where they're going," she said, "but Nancy makes sure they get there."

Morrison, a founding host and commentator on KCET's "Life & Times Tonight" emceed the dinner last Wednesday honoring L.A.'s First Couple with PBS station KCET's second annual Visionary Award in recognition of their contributions to the Los Angeles community.

More than 400 public television supporters turned out for the event at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Edye and Eli Broad, recipients of the award last year, co-chaired the benefit, which raised more than $800,000. In presenting the awards--whimsical statues by sculptor Tom Otterness--Broad commended Riordan for stepping out of City Hall in 1999 to take on the Board of Education by recruiting and supporting new, and ultimately successful, candidates.

"It's the most important thing I've accomplished in my life," said Riordan.

Entertainment included a performance by the Hamilton High School Jazz Choir, one of Hizzoner's favorites, plus a KCET-produced video documentary on the Riordans featuring Placido Domingo and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (It airs at 8 p.m. on Nov. 16 on KCET.) Each guest took home a tribute book containing Riordan family photos and scenes of Los Angeles painted by local artists Gayle Garner Roski and Dana Torrey.

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'Tis the second grandest night of the year to be Irish, the night of the annual fall gala to benefit the Los Angeles Chapter of the American-Ireland Fund.

The black-tie bash--staged Friday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel--

recognizes individuals of Irish descent who have made significant contributions to humanity and to the preservation of Irish culture. This year's proceeds are expected to exceed $350,000. Former honorees have included Maureen O'Hara, Angela Lansbury, Liam Neeson, the late Gene Kelly, President Ronald Reagan and Patty and Roy Disney.

Roma Downey, star of "Touched by an Angel" received the chapter's Heritage Award; Michael Burns, vice chairman of Lions Gate Entertainment, was given the Distinguished Leadership Award. And the first Hope and History Award was bestowed on Peter Mullin, CEO of Mullin Consulting.

"It's humbling to be singled out from the many Irish diasporans in America, who have worked so diligently to promote peace and unity in Ireland," said Mullin. "I accept the award on their behalf, and I raise my glass to my family and to that gorgeous colleen, Merlie Mae, who is to be my wife. If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough."

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Taking a breather between scenes of "The West Wing," "President Bartlett," a.k.a. Martin Sheen, scarfed a slab of apple pie while pressing the flesh with all the bravura of his real-life counterpart at Citylive 2000, Tuesday's Western-style benefit for the Weingart Center.

"You're the president," I reminded him. "Don't lick your fingers." "OK," he said, "but remember, this isn't the White House. If the Yankees lose tonight, I'll be preempted tomorrow."

Despite the competition from two televised ballgames and a presidential debate, more than 650 supporters of the skid row agency for the homeless turned out for the Western-style party on the Laramie Street set on the Warner Bros. back lot.

The "West Wing" cast had briefly interrupted shooting on a nearby stage to join in the tribute to Aaron Sorkin, creator and executive producer of the award-winning series. The Weingart Center Partners were inspired to bestow their Entertainment Inspiration Award on Sorkin for an Emmy-winning episode titled "In Excelsis Deo," which portrayed the death of a homeless veteran.

For his contributions to the community, Union Bank exec Richard Hartnack received the Corporate Inspiration Award. "Having worked in downtown L.A. for many years," he said, "nothing has moved me more than seeing the struggle of the homeless."

*

Actress Rita Wilson received the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary's annual Ellen Cooperman Angel Award at the group's annual membership luncheon on Thursday. More than 600 women--and a few brave guys including Wilson's dad, Al Wilson, and Wayne's sons Michael and Patrick Wayne--filled the Regent Beverly Wilshire Ballroom for the occasion.

Wilson's friend Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, who was last year's awardee, sent a sweet message delivered by Dr. Steven O'Day of the oncology staff. Her Fergieness wrote: "Rita is an amazing friend . . . a true giver, nonjudgmental and unconditional . . . an angel in my book."

Wilson's longtime friend Dr. Armando Giuliano, director of the institute's Joyce Eisenberg Keefer Breast Center, was all smiles when he made the presentation to Wilson. Auxiliary president Ina Lewis, along with luncheon chairs Sandy Cohen and Donna Rosen, had just turned over a check for $600,000, the funds raised last year by the auxiliary.

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