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Keeping his spirit alive

The late Bruce Paltrow is joyfully remembered by family and friends at a Women in Films benefit.

June 27, 2004|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

They called it "A Family Affair," but Women in Film's annual Crystal + Lucy Awards gala might have been dubbed "Father Knows Best." Blythe Danner received the prized Lucy and her daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, the Crystal, but it was the late Bruce Paltrow -- husband, father, mentor, filmmaker -- who garnered the most touching praise during the sold-out June 18 benefit at the Westin Century Plaza.

Some of it came from the honorees. "My father was so incredibly generous of spirit, always doing things to help people he thought had the odds stacked against them," Paltrow said at the end of a whirlwind of poses and interviews on the red carpet. "He had an amazing strength of character. I think that's a wonderful thing to be remembered for.... It's so hard now, after having a child, to know she won't experience my father -- devastating."

After receiving accolades from Morgan Freeman and Debra Messing, Danner thanked the organization with an ebullient, "I am a woman in film and I'm very proud!," and then seized the moment to eulogize her husband. "He was so comfortable in his own skin; the minute I met him I felt I was home safe.... He was a man of wit, grace and resilience who had a tremendous devotion to his family," she said. And then, struggling to maintain her composure, she added that the birth of Paltrow and British rock star Chris Martin's daughter, Apple, had not only taken her "breath away," but helped her understand that, after "your love leaves you," life can "begin to make sense again." "We never do die," she added, softly. "Bruce is very much a part of this child. And I can just hear him say, 'I hope not the nose part,' with his inimitable wit."

More than 1,000 guests streamed into the hotel to enjoy the benefit for the organization that provides a network of contacts, education programs, grants and scholarships -- the newest named in memory of Bruce Paltrow -- for women in the field of entertainment. "We wanted to honor this family because they are extraordinary human beings, great talents," president Iris Grossman said. "And Bruce was a lover of women and a mentor to so many -- not only actresses, but producers, directors, executives."

After guests sipped Sterling wines and dined on chicken and chocolate mousse, they heard emcee Bonnie Hunt applaud the family and predict that "the Apple won't fall far from the tree."

Thanking Women in Film for the tribute, Paltrow said she was "honored that you have honored our family," then excused herself for being repetitious. "I've just had a baby -- if you've been living in a cave," she joked. "My brain cells are coming out of my breast milk."

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