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The pre-Oscar charity party scene
Only Hollywood could make a cause of celebrating causes during the season of its self-congratulations -- or as the industry likes to call it, the run-up to the Oscars.
This year's award season, with all its spinoff charity events, has been particularly intense. (Blame it on the euphoria over Barack Obama's inauguration.)
Rested up after days of Washington galas, the industry's A-listers -- generally in good moods and trying to make nice with everybody else -- have returned for another round of celebration and money raising. It's a prime opportunity for socializing with a conscience. Savvy celebs and their philanthropy advisors know this.
"Award season for Hollywood is our election season," said consultant Kristina Schake, who advises Maria Shriver. "It's a time when people are naturally together and discussing the issues. For nonprofits, it's a chance to get in there and let everyone know about the good work you're doing."
First, there were the Grammys and all that goes along with it. Then there was Jennifer Aniston's 40th birthday bash (where beau John Mayer penned a special song for the occasion). Sheryl Crow and Courteney Cox -- who are among the glitterati making hunger in America a front-burner cause -- gathered to celebrate their friend's passage into, gulp, middle age.
Tuesday, the party continued with the Saks Fifth Avenue "Unforgettable Evening" gala to raise money for the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Women's Cancer Research Fund. The event was co-chaired by Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. Gwyneth Paltrow and Cox were honored for efforts to raise cancer awareness. (Spielberg told the crowd: "No matter what else is going on in the world, in these complicated times, it's an honor to be here.")
Attendees included almost everyone who went to the Aniston bash and a number of other notables: David Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Meyer, Angie Harmon, Tom Arnold, Isaiah Washington, Amy Grant, Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin. As she did in Washington, Beyoncé brought the house down. (In a surprise announcement, Susan G. Komen for the Cure made a $1.5-million gift to scientists working as part of the Entertainment Industry Foundation's breast cancer research project. The total give topped $2.5 million).
In the middle of the worst recession in decades, there are bound to be some who will find the award season festivities -- even if they are charity events -- a bit much. But Hollywood will always turn out for Champagne, good dinner conversation and an important cause.
This year, the causes are more broadly focused and perhaps even more urgent than previous seasons. Peter Guber and his wife, Tara, are throwing a bash to support women in film, which is by extension a vote of confidence in issue-oriented filmmaking, since so many women are active in the documentary genre.
Meanwhile, war in Africa (and alleviating the suffering of its victimized women and children) has become another major focus of Hollywood concern. Wednesday there will be a fundraiser for relief efforts in Congo at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard, featuring Crow. (Is she the hardest-working woman in Hollywood at the moment?)
Crow also will be headlining Elton John's Global Green pre-Oscar bash along with Gavin Rossdale at Avalon Hollywood on Thursday. Among the RSVPs for that event: Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, Penélope Cruz, Rosario Dawson, Heather Graham, Dominic Monaghan and Damien Rice.
In other words, if Obama wants to see a celebrity, he might have to get on a plane. To some lawmakers' dismay, the glitterati have officially cleared out of the nation's capital.
With all that partying, it's a wonder anyone has enough energy left to turn up on Oscar night.