The Motion Picture & Television Fund commemorated its centennial anniversary with its 100 Years of Hollywood: A Celebration of Service gala, held at the Lot on Formosa in West Hollywood on Saturday night.
Founded in 1921 by silent screen legend Mary Pickford, the nonprofit organization provides working and retired members of the entertainment community with an array of social and health services including financial assistance, child and elder care, and residential living at its Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills.
The gala was originally set to take place last year, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the red carpet ahead of the event, MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher told Variety, “It’s a year in the making because we hoped to have done it last year and so to arrive at this point is great, but the anticipation of what the show is going to be and what the response is going to be is a little nervous-making. At the same time, I’m deeply moved by the fact that we have been able to do it.”
Beitcher explained that he found it challenging to book talent as many members of the industry had returned to work and said that he had been particularly moved by longtime supporter Jodie Foster’s participation in the evening’s festivities.
“The good news is that everyone in the industry is working. The bad news is that everyone in the industry is working,” he said. “I got in touch with Jodie Foster, who has been a big supporter. I said, ‘Jodie, will you do this?’ and instantly she said, “I’ll be there. Tell me what you need me to do.’ And I was literally crying on the phone.”
Foster told Variety, “It’s great to be here. I just finished a movie so it’s nice that I was able to be in town and be able to attend this. I don’t always get to be here and I’ll get to see lots of faces of people that I’ve worked with from the past.”
“We all look the same, we just look older,” she joked.
Co-chair of the MPTF 100th host committee Sherry Lansing said that she was excited to celebrate the nonprofit’s work and specifically the safety net provided by the Wasserman campus.
“People work, they earn good livings and then the work stops,” she told Variety. “It often stops because of age. But now, we are living to be 100. We are living to be 85. And I think what happens, through no fault of anybody is that you outlive your money.”
Lansing continued, “And then what do you do? There are just so many people who have friends that can help them but the home is there for you. And if you can’t pay, it’s OK. And you have your dignity and you have a group of people who you have worked with and you have respect and you can live another 20 years in bliss.”
The evening began with an outdoor cocktail reception catered by chefs Vartan Abgaryan, Ben Ford, Govind Armstrong and Mei Lin. Tom Bergeron served as the announcer for the show, which was held in a soundstage and kicked off with a musical medley of classic movie and television theme songs performed by Rickey Minor and the Rickey Minor Band.
The fundraiser also featured performances by Chloe Arnold’s tap dance band Syncopated Ladies, the singer-songwriter duo Barlow & Bear, R&B artist Ledisi and pop singer Tori Kelly.
Kelly, who had earlier told Variety that she had chosen “a very big, iconic song from an iconic movie” delivered a soaring rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the 1997 blockbuster movie Titanic.
Host committee co-chair Casey Wasserman presented former MPTF chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife Marilyn with the Silver Medallion Award in recognition of their three decades of service to the organization.
In his speech, Katzenberg paid tribute to his father Walter, who served as his role model for philanthropy. He recalled how Walter, a successful stockbroker, would walk around New York City with a wad of $100 bills that he would discreetly hand out to service workers and people who needed help.
“For those of you familiar with the classic film “Sullivan’s Travels”, Dad was a real-life Sullivan,” he said.
Katzenberg also remembered how his father explained the motivation behind his generosity. “He said, I believe it is important to take care of those that take care of us and who cannot take care of themselves.”
Throughout the night, industry figures and MPTF supporters including Jim Gianopulos, Adam Scott, Ashlei Tave, Tony Ludwig, Yvette Nicole Brown, Rebecca Huntley, Mirna Gonzalez, Lorena Soria, Monica Macer and Alex Aguilar Jr. took the stage to share tributes to the nonprofit’s work over the past 100 years as well as personal stories of how the foundation had impacted their lives and the lives of people they knew.
Foster introduced her “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, “Taxi Driver” and “Silence of the Lambs” costar Harry Northrup, who is a current resident at the Wasserman Campus. In a touching speech, Northrup recounted how MPTF helped him and his wife Holly Prado after they were displaced from their home due to an electrical fire in 2017 and had nowhere to go.
“When bad times hit me, I was blessed to become a resident of the Woodland Hills campus,” he said.
In one of the most moving moments of the night, screenwriter Billy Ray spoke of how MPTF came to his mother’s aid after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Ray said, “She’s in Pickford House now and I thank God for that every day. My mom doesn’t know who I am anymore and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know where she is. But she knows she is safe and she knows she is home. All the Hollywood pictures on the wall tell her so and that, believe it or not, is a happy ending.”