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Please Brake for Goodie-Bag Convoys

November 17, 2002|MARK EHRMAN

INVITED TO: Carousel of Hope, Marvin and Barbara Davis' biennial charity ball to benefit childhood diabetes research at the Beverly Hilton.

GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE HOT: "Don't forget, ladies and gentlemen, it's for a good cause, so bid your brains out," urges barker Tony Danza, a Carousel fixture, cooing into a cordless mike in the Jewelry and Luxury Items section. The hotel's ground floor has been transformed into a veritable silent auction souk. Well, not that silent: Fellow barkers Tom Arnold and Ed McMahon find each other at the Sporting Goods section by announcing their coordinates over the P.A. system. Penny Marshall hunkers around the rock memorabilia. "I got a dog with diabetes," she remarks. "I'm not making fun. It's true." But before you know it, it's time to move on to the dining hall, much to the chagrin of Owen Wilson, who took a shine to an Ed Ruscha painting. "I thought it was great," he says. "I just got here and they closed the bidding. Story of my life."

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE: "This year is the silver anniversary of the C.O.H.--we will celebrate 25 years of outstanding progress," announces oil baroness Barbara Davis, whose biennial benefit attended by the likes of Martin Sheen, Samuel L. Jackson, Lisa Kudrow, Oprah Winfrey and the Lizzes--Taylor and Hurley--will this year raise $5 mil for the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Denver. Halle Berry gives a salute to Sidney Poitier, and B.B. King, Sting and Elton John all perform. When Lakers owner Jerry Buss collapses at his table, rumors fly like peas in a junior-high cafeteria ("He stopped breathing!" "White as a ghost!"). But it's just a pinched nerve in his neck, and relieved emcee Jay Leno moves on to the Carousel's traditional celebrity raffle of wacky gifts. Raquel Welch wins an Easy Sew. Dr. Phil, the Epil Stop hair remover ("apparently he already uses one," Leno quips). Kate Hudson takes home a case of Oxi Clean, and Ray Romano, a much-appreciated Contour back pillow ("I got a bad everything," the "Everybody Loves Raymond" lead says.) Thus encumbered, the rich and famous nonetheless wouldn't dream of bypassing the goodie- bag room, where massive swag bags are being bungee-cabled onto portable luggage dollies. Kelsey Grammer and Christian Slater actually lock wheels on the way to the valet. "It's humiliating. I don't think anybody should give a goodie bag you have to wheel out," says Shannen Doherty. Why bother queuing up, then? "Well," the erstwhile "Charmed" star admits, "I'm curious to see what's in it."

*

Celeb Quotient: ****

Davis' Diabetathon keeps its reputation for maximum star density. Sweet.

WOW Factor: ***

Top-line acts, high-ticket biddables, slick production--a bit formulaic perhaps, but still first-class.

Grazing Level: ***

A sit-down sirloin affair with the appropriate hors d'oeuvres, appetizers, libations and dessert. What did you expect for $2,000 a plate? Top Ramen?

Rating Scale:

1=ho-hum 4=yowza

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