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City of Angles

Is That All There Is?

April 04, 2002|GINA PICCALO AND LOUISE ROUG

Relatives of Peggy Lee were confounded when the beloved jazz singer who died Jan. 21 was left out of the Academy Awards telecast "In Memoriam" segment last month. Lee's daughter, Nicki Lee Foster, has written Bruce Davis, the executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, asking that the singer be included in next year's show.

But Davis says there's no chance of that happening. Lee's family is among scores of people who feel a loved one was unfairly omitted from the popular segment. "I have about 116 of those letters on my desk," Davis said. "This is not an unusual reaction. The 'In Memoriam' segment generates more response than anything else we do. And it's all negative."

Davis said he is also sifting through complaints from relatives of former teen heartthrob Troy Donahue, Oscar-winning special effects artist A.D. Flowers, comedy character actress Kathleen Freeman and actress Dorothy McGuire--all of whom died during the last year but were not honored on the show.

About 100 Academy members die each year, but the telecast has room to memorialize only about 24, said Davis.

"It is a very cruel couple of weeks toward the end" as selections are made, he said.

As far as Lee is concerned, Davis said, she was noted more for hits such as "Fever" and "Is That All There Is?" than her film work, though she earned an Oscar nomination for her role as an alcoholic blues singer in the 1955 film "Pete Kelly's Blues."

Lee's relatives question the Academy's decision to bump Lee yet include young pop star Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash Aug. 25 and had one film role. The young singer, said family spokeswoman Holly Azzari, "didn't have a distinguished film career and yet they eliminated a 20th century icon."

Auction Items for Those Who Have It All

Nancy Davis, organizer of one of the biggest fund-raisers of the year--the Race to Erase MS--has luxury on her mind. Sitting in the living room of her Beverly Glen home on a recent afternoon, Davis talks about how she hopes to use it to coax donations from the pockets of the wealthy at the Race, an auction to be held at the Century Plaza Hotel and Spa next month. Summing up her task, the daughter of Barbara Davis and Marvin Davis asks: "What do you give that you can't buy yourself?" How about a "fantasy sports package"--tickets to the biggest sporting events of the year, including the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA finals, the NHL finals and the U.S. Open (where the bidders will sit at the president's box), as well as first-class airline tickets to get there?

Or a child's playhouse that's a replica of your own house, complete with running water, air-conditioning, lighting and interior design? For the athletic, there's a weeklong luge camp at the U.S. Olympic training village. Then there are this year's most coveted items: "Opportunities," says Davis. "Internships for the children is a hot thing lately. We're getting a lot of calls for that." To meet the demand, Davis and her helpers have arranged for the highest bidder to send a child off to stints at Brillstein-Grey, ICM, or a New York modeling agency. Every item is donated and, each year, Davis gets on the phone to get donations and sell tables. (Individual tickets start at $500, reaching $2,500, and full tables start at $15,000, reaching $75,000.)

"It's hard and scary," she says about soliciting funds and favors. "Sometimes it's hard to get the word out."

This year, Davis and about 40 volunteers collected close to 600 auction items, including a Chrysler P.T. Cruiser custom designed by Tommy Hilfiger, a fashion show complete with one gratis outfit from Badgley Mischka and a trip to the cosmetic company MAC's New York offices where makeup consultants will custom-design a lipstick shade and name it after you.

"People love these things that [they] can't buy," says Davis, like a spot in the next Jackie Collins novel. The writer has donated a character, to be named for the highest bidder. Even those among the expected 1,300 guests who don't bid in the auction will walk away with gifts en masse. This year, items in the proverbial goody bag include a specially designed watch, a silver photo album, sunglasses, T-shirts, a host of beauty products, vitamins ("because I'm a vitamin person," says Davis) and berets from this year's Olympics. All the goodies help beget good. Since the Race's inception in 1993 (the first fund-raiser was a ski weekend in Aspen, Colo.), the event has raised $14 million to benefit the Nancy Davis Foundation for MS.

City of Angles runs Tuesday through Friday. E-mail: angles@ latimes.com.

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