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by degen pener | December 1, 2014 | Lifestyle
Give back this holiday season and get set for a philanthropic year ahead. We've rounded up LA's best parties, gifts, people, and organizations that do good.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The Hollywood Bowl; the Simon Wiesenthal Center Tribute Dinner last March; Sir Elton John performs during the 22nd annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party; The Art of Elysium’s 2014 Heaven Gala; Moby performs at Global Green USA’s 11th annual Pre-Oscar Party.
The opening-night concert of The Hollywood Bowl every June is not only one of LA’s most enjoyable open-air evenings, but it also raises funds for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its education programs. Last year’s event inducted Kristen Chenoweth, The Go-Go’s, and Pink Martini into the Bowl’s Hall of Fame.
To ensure that the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood continues its acclaimed programming—2014’s run included a stunning Annette Bening in Ruth Draper’s Monologues—buy a ticket to the theater’s Backstage at the Geffen fundraiser coming up in May. Its upcoming shows include “Switzerland” (March 3-April 12), a commissioned work by Joanna Murray-Smith, about novelist Patricia Highsmith.
Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and Jane Fonda took in a performance by Diana Ross at the 2014 annual MOCA gala. The always-boisterous event takes place this year on May 30 and raises funds for the contemporary art programming of the museum, now under the leadership of new director Philippe Vergne.
The Humane Society of the United States celebrated its 60th anniversary last spring with a blowout gala, honoring actor James Cromwell for his lifetime of service to animals; its Impact Award was given to Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of Blackfish, the documentary about SeaWorld’s orcas. Its 2015 benefit takes place on May 16.
A green carpet leads the way into Global Green USA’s annual zero-waste Pre-Oscar Party, which raises funds for climate change solutions including green building. In 2014, Moby and The Crystal Method rocked the Avalon in Hollywood.
UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability has honored such names as Al Gore, Lyn Lear, and Lawrence Bender at its An Evening of Environmental Excellence benefit in March, held on the sprawling grounds of the Beverly Hills home of Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker. Proceeds fund education and research, helping further the work of more than 75 faculty.
On January 10, The Art of Elysium will present its annual Heaven Gala at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar. The evening is to be conceived by artist Marina Abramovic, and Amber Heard will be honored for her service to the organization, which works with artists, designers, and musicians to bring creative workshops to children with serious medical conditions.
The Alliance for Children’s Rights’ annual dinner takes place March 12 at the Beverly Hilton. The event, which last year honored Disney/ABC’s Anne Sweeney, raises funds for the nonprofit’s work providing free legal help and advocacy for children in poverty and in foster care and for families who adopt out of the foster system.
The opening night of the Los Angeles Modernism Show on April 24 benefits P.S. Arts, which partners with schools to provide in-school dance, music, visual arts, and theater instruction all year long. Julie Bowen, designer Kathryn Ireland, and Ted Danson were among those making the scene at last year’s event.
The Elton John Foundation’s Academy Awards Viewing Party can be more fun than attending the Oscars themselves. The 2014 fête drew Lady Gaga, John Waters, and Robert De Niro. The next one takes place February 22 to benefit the HIV/AIDS grant maker.
Suzanne Tracht of Jar and Ludo Lefebvre of Trois Mec have been among the chefs who have made the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Taste for a Cure benefit a culinary classic. Over its 19 years, the late-spring event has raised nearly $10 million for research.
On April 24, philanthropist and MS survivor Nancy Davis will throw her 22nd annual Race to Erase MS gala, to raise dollars for its Center Without Walls Program, funding seven of the nation’s top research centers. “Only a third of good research ever gets funding,” says Davis of the need for giving.
Ron Meyer, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Haim Saban were among the heavyweights who turned out in March of last year for the Simon Wiesenthal Center Tribute Dinner at the Beverly Wilshire, raising more than $1.6 million for LA’s Museum of Tolerance and for the group’s work fighting anti-Semitism.
The Human Rights Campaign hasn’t announced how it will follow up snagging Vice President Joe Biden as the keynote speaker at its Los Angeles dinner last year, but it’s set to take place March 14 at the JW Marriott/LA Live and raise needed funds for the group’s fight for civil rights for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
With an estimated 50,000 Angelenos lacking shelter, Chrysalis does crucial work helping homeless men and women find jobs through computer training, money management classes, interview preparation, and a transition employment program. Its annual Butterfly Ball in June has featured performances by Gavin Rossdale and Aloe Blacc in past years.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Cesar Garcia; Heather Ortner; Demian Bichir.
One year ago, Cesar Garcia opened The Mistake Room to showcase contemporary artists from around the globe who have never shown before in Los Angeles. “I was spending a lot of time abroad and a lot of work from Asia, the Middle East, and South America was not making it to LA,” says Garcia. In January, the nonprofit space near Downtown opens its fifth show, Abstract paintings by Argentina-born, Guatemala-based Vivian Suter.
BodyTraffic, founded by New York-trained dancers Lillian Barbeito and Tina Berkett in 2007, has won acclaim by commissioning works by international composers for its 10-person troupe. The nonprofit company performs at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica February 26 and 27, with a program that includes two West Coast premieres.
In recent years, the nonprofit Sacred Fools Theater in Hollywood has seen its original productions go on to be staged at The Pasadena Playhouse, South Coast Rep, and the Geffen Playhouse. The memberdriven company (members elect the artistic directors) next mounts a production of There Is a Happiness That Morning Is ( January 23-February 28), a work written almost completely in rhyming couplets about two lecturers of William Blake poetry. 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., LA, 310-281-8337
Just as angel investors are key to innovation in Silicon Valley, medical breakthroughs depend on early investing. Phase One, as the name connotes, funds phase-one clinical trials for patients with cancer, the first hurdle in gaining FDA approval for promising treatments. “A phase-one trial is the very first time that a trial is done on human beings. It’s a small group of people,” says Alberto Valner, who cofounded the group 15 years ago after surviving advanced testicular cancer. “The initial stages are where the most money is needed in this world.” The foundation supports research into any type of cancer, including less well known types; one recent grant led to a vaccine that is in the process of being approved by the FDA for certain kinds of kidney cancer.
Another group whose mission is to jump-start research is the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, which its CEO Heather Ortner calls “an incubator” for breast cancer research. Dr. Love (pictured above) and her team have done key work in understanding the anatomy of milk ducts, where most common types of breast cancer start. “We support our own research and we’ll take on very early projects that are often a little bit riskier than some of the established institutions will take on. We are willing to try anything if it makes sense.”
As the ACLU’s Celebrity Ambassador for Immigrant Rights, actor Demian Bichir—who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a Mexican gardener in LA in 2011’s A Better Life—has two important reasons he wants to end mass deportations of undocumented workers. One is the fact that deportations tear families apart. “If your children were born in the US, they can stay in the US, but the parents have to go. But the parents will then do everything they can do to come back to be with their children. It’s crazy and it’s a waste of time and money.” Bichir—who grew up in Mexico and came to the US to further his acting career in his early 20s and now holds dual citizenship—also says it’s a misconception that immigrants from Mexico and Central America are a drain on the economy. “People talk about how important it is to get rid of this community of undocumented workers because they are taking jobs or they are taking money from the government,” says Bichir. “What I’m trying to do is educate people about the fact that this is a community of hard-working people who make our lives easier every day. It’s a force that keeps the economy going, especially in California.” He’s asking people to tell their elected officials to stop the deportations and to simply talk to the people they interact with every day and learn their stories: “It’s not a good thing that you go to work fearing not coming back to your family. We should not allow that in any society, especially people who work for you, from the cooks to the gardeners to the valet parking guys. It’s not a good thing for LA that so many people who live here live in fear. It’s important that we all know each other.”
FROM LEFT: David and Kiki Gindler; Meredith McCarthy and Tom Ford.
David and Kiki Gindler live in Hancock Park, but they may want to consider buying an apartment Downtown across from The Music Center. Between the two, they sit on at least six boards and committees at the arts complex. Kiki, a retired attorney, is a vice chair of the board of Center Theatre Group and on the Center’s 50th-anniversary gala committee. David, an intellectual property lawyer, is the chair of the LA Master Chorale, a vice chair of the board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and on the board of The Music Center itself. “Our main passion, main hobby, and main everything in our life is the arts,” says Kiki, who is working on a new capital campaign for Center Theatre Group. (“I sometimes joke that I’m an unpaid employee there. I spend a good part of 20 hours a week working on things for CTG.”)
She is also a member of The Blue Ribbon, a committee of 500 women established by Dorothy Chandler in 1968 to support the center. The invite-only group is known for its annual Children’s Festival, which brings 18,000 kids to the center to see live performances. “At some point, you realize it’s not enough to donate money. If you are passionate about supporting the arts, you can give your time and your ability to lead,” says David, who recalls that the first thing he did when he got his driver’s license was to get a subscription to the Phil. Among the performances they are most looking forward to: “The Water Passion” by the LA Master Chorale (April 11–12) and Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit at the Ahmanson Theatre (December 9-January 18).
Meredith McCarthy and Tom Ford admit that pillow talk about work is sometimes off limits—due to confidentiality concerns. That’s because the couple is at the forefront of protecting LA’s Santa Monica Bay, but at two different organizations. She’s the director of programs at the environmental protection group Heal the Bay; he’s the executive director at the research-and policy-focused The Bay Foundation. Together, they are fighting to preserve the bay’s precious habitat of wetlands and kelp forests and to stop pollution. Last year, Heal the Bay led a successful effort to ban plastic bags in the City of Los Angeles. The Bay Foundation secures and implements millions in grant money to protect beaches, which helps preserve LA’s $12-to 18-billion coastal tourism economy.
Each year, both organizations work to make sure that the billions of gallons of storm and waste water that enter the Bay are safe for people and wildlife. Ford is now overseeing research and searching for grants to address sea level rise and believes that Los Angeles needs to make its built environment more porous so that the city can collect its own rainwater. “Right now, we import our water from hundreds of miles away, while we take the water that falls here naturally and dump it as fast as we can into the ocean,” he says. Among McCarthy’s initiatives is to keep oil drilling out of Santa Monica Bay. The pair, who has two boys under 10, eagerly encourages Angelenos to volunteer, from beach cleanups to wetlands data collection. “There is something for everyone!” says McCarthy.
1. Wear your art on your arm. The Hammer Museum has released limited-edition temporary artist tattoos to benefit its Hammer Kids programming. For $100, museum visitors can get a complete set of tattoos by artists Laura Owens, Raymond Pettibon, John Baldessari, Friedrich Kunath, and Dave Muller.
2. Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband, Justin Mikita, have already raised upwards of $600,000 for marriage equality through Tie the Knot, their two-year-old nonprofit that sells limited-edition bow ties. Now they’ve partnered with LA’s LZZR Jewelry on a new bow-tie necklace ($105) in hand-made repurposed bronze.
3. 100 percent of the proceeds of this limited-edition, crocodile-embossed-leather Supra Skytop ($115)—released in October to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Elyse Walker’s famed Pink Party—benefit the Women’s Cancer Program at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.
4. A portion of the proceeds from sales of IWC’s Galapagos Islands edition of its Aquatimer Chronograph watch in rubber-coated stainless steel ($11,100) benefits the Charles Darwin Foundation, which has been working in the Galapagos since 1959 to protect the islands’ unique ecosystem.
5. Twenty-nine percent of California schools offer no arts study. Inner City Arts helps fill that gap. At its Downtown campus, the nonprofit center provides arts education to elementary, middle, and high school students. Support the group with the purchase of this Charles Arnoldi lithograph ($850) in a limited edition of 125.
Since 2009, Red Bucket Equine Rescue has saved almost 300 horses in Southern California from abandonment and mistreatment. Volunteers can help with ranch and horse care at its Chino Hills sanctuary, or permanently adopt pets like Cohen, a 10-year-old white Arabian, and Harper, a 5-year-old mustang.
Hospitality guru Eric Goode, responsible for such chic NYC spots as the Bowery and Maritime Hotels, has another passion: bringing back endangered turtles from the brink of extinction at a (no-visitors) breeding facility in Ojai, where species include the rare ploughshare tortoise. Just 600 of them still exist in the wild in Madagascar. Become a member for $100 and you get a subscription to its annual turtle magazine.
Farm Sanctuary provides a home for abused animals rescued from the factory farming system. Tours are available at its 26-acre shelter ranch in Acton, near the Antelope Valley. Meet Bear, a lamb found in an abandoned barn, and Bruno, a black Jersey steer who was saved after falling out of a transport truck.
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas is to orangutans what Jane Goodall is to chimpanzees. Her LA-based Orangutan Foundation International runs an Orangutan Care Center in Borneo, where residents include babies orphaned after palm plantation workers shot their mothers. Become a foster parent for one of them for just $100.
With 9,000 dogs and cats euthanized in Los Angeles city shelters every year, NK/LA—an initiative formed by a coalition of more than 78 organizations—aspires to make LA a no-kill city by 2017. Led by Best Friends Animal Society, NK/LA runs a pet adoption center in West LA at 1845 Pontius Avenue and funds spay/neuter programs for families who can’t afford the procedures to stem the tide of pet overpopulation.
There are dozens of opportunities to mentor throughout Los Angeles, from the nonprofit Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency and homeless youth group Covenant House to student mentoring programs The Fulfillment Fund, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. One organization, Youth Mentoring, takes a distinctive approach, creating groups of 20 mentors and mentees, all of whom support each other in the process. “We find adding this community component makes all the difference,” says Youth Mentoring CEO and founder Tony LoRe, who sold his marketing-systems business 17 years ago to start the group. Most mentees come from high schools in the South Central area of Los Angeles. The commitment: a two-hour session every other week for nine months, with one-on-one meetings eventually alternating with the group sessions.
Youth Mentoring has also partnered with such companies as HBO and Warner Bros. Studios in a way that makes it easy for employees to engage. “We transport the kids every other week to the corporation during lunchtime, and we have our session there,” says LoRe. The program is a success story; kids in Youth Mentoring have a 96 percent graduation rate. “And we draw from schools where the grad rate ranges from 48 to 52 percent,” he says. Youth Mentoring is looking for new mentors to start in January. “It’s a relationship that makes all the difference in a kid’s life. If you give them a mentor, then it essentially wakes up their spirit and then they are more open to all the other help that’s available to them.”
After such catastrophes as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, there were outpourings of giving. That hasn’t happened yet in the case of the Ebola crisis, which has taken the lives of thousands of West Africans. One Angeleno working to stem the virus (the mortality rate is around 70 percent) is Detroit native Tiffany Persons, a casting director and also the founder of Shine on Sierra Leone. With the help of students from South Central and The Buckley School, her organization got off the ground in 2006 by transforming a roofless three-room school (the roof had been burned by rebels) that was the worst performing in the country into a fully functioning facility that’s now ranked third out of 736 schools in Sierra Leone. (Part of its program is a set of affirmations, including “I have friends all over the world” and “My teacher loves me.”)
Now Shine on Sierra Leone is part of a coalition called the Ebola Survival Fund, working to raise money, distribute sanitation and risk-reduction kits, and also fight the stigma surrounding the disease by spotlighting survivors. “We need help from our global community,” says Persons, who first went to Sierra Leone to make a short documentary, Side by Side (2007), about blood diamonds. “It’s especially crucial to provide community healthcare workers with training in how to care for patients.”
If you think sex trafficking of minors is something that happens mostly in other countries, you’re wrong. Experts estimate that 100,000 kids are sexually exploited for profit in the United States every year. In Los Angeles, the nonprofit Saving Innocence rescues and helps restore the lives of these youth. “The most common age when kids are first exploited is 11, and 100 percent of our girls have also been victimized through child pornography,” says Kim Biddle, the charity’s founder and executive director. The group runs a sanctuary residence for around 70 kids in Hollywood and is in need of donated goods (clothing, hygiene supplies), volunteers to train for its rescue team, mentors, and help with public relations and social media. “[These children] are in need of a lot of TLC and support to help them heal and have their childhoods back and begin to dream and hope for the future.”
photography by mathew imaging (hollywood bowl); afshin shahidi (garcia); courtesy hammer museum (tattoos); michael Kovac/getty images for ejaf (john); courtesy of elyse WalKer (sneaKers); marissa roth, courtesy simon Wiesenthal center (may); andreW h. Walker/getty images for ermenegildo Zegna (bichir)