Not too many nonprofits can lay claim to awarding grants to both a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (Tony Kushner) and the creator of SpongeBob SquarePants (Stephen Hillenburg), but that’s the magic of the Princess Grace Foundation, created 32 years ago by Prince Rainier II of Monaco to honor wife Grace Kelly’s legacy by assisting emerging talent in theater, dance and film.
And on Wednesday night, European royalty met Hollywood royalty at the Princess Grace Awards Gala in Beverly Hills.
Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene hosted the event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, recognizing several artists, including ballet dancing sensation David Hallberg (American Ballet Theatre), actor Oscar Isaac ("Inside Llewyn Davis") and beloved actor/comedian Dick Van Dyke.
Guests including Hollywood stars old and new, including a pair of Hitchcock blonds (Eva Marie Saint and Tippie Hedren), tan club legend George Hamilton, January Jones, Eva Longoria and up-and-comers Nathalie Love ("Palo Alto") and Odeya Rush ("The Giver").
Christian Dior Couture was the sponsor, so all the honored guests looked great, including Princess Charlene, wearing maternity couture, a white pleated georgette Empire dress (the royal couple is expecting twins). Dior CEO Sidney Toledano co-chaired the event, along with Dick and Noelle Wolf, Bob Iger and Willow Bay.
The event marks the beginning of a three-year partnership between the Princess Grace Foundation and Dior, which will also sponsor the next two galas. There has always been a bond between the style icon and the maison. Kelly wore a white satin Dior ball gown to celebrate her engagement to Prince Rainier in 1965, and her archives contain more than 150 Dior dresses, according to Toledano. In 2011, Charlize Theron appeared alongside a CGI image of Kelly in a commercial for J'Adore perfume.
Jane Lynch hosted the program. Hallberg, a principal dancer for both the American Ballet Theatre in New York and the Bolshoi in Moscow, who is sidelined right now with an injury, spoke movingly about how a grant from the Princess Grace Foundation helped his dreams come true, adding that he never thought one of those dreams would be to move to Moscow, however. Part of the funds he receives from the award will be designated for a scholarship for a male student at the American Ballet Theatre, he said.
Isaac, who is cast in the upcoming "Star Wars: Episode VII," spoke about how, during his time studying acting at Juilliard, he ran out of money, and was faced with the prospect of having to drop out of school, until a grant from the foundation saved the day.
And Conan O'Brien introduced Van Dyke, recipient of the Prince Rainier III Award for lifetime achievement in the arts and dedication to community service, highlighting his legacy in inspiring a generation of writers and comedians.
"I wanted to be Dick Van Dyke as a young man, and who didn't really?" O'Brien said. "But I felt I had a shot. After all, I, like Dick, was tall but impossibly graceful. He, like me, seemed gangly, loose-limbed and a bit goofy. He was funny and a gentile. When does that happen? What more of a role model could I possibly have asked for?"
After a clip reel that included jokes and tumbles from his 50-year career through "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Mary Poppins," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," and "Diagnosis Murder," Van Dyke bounded up onto the stage, as energetic as ever.
The Hollywood legend, age 88, whose latest film "Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" opens Friday, joked about how he didn't even remember all the laughs on the reel.
Van Dyke singled out Bob Iger, his boss at Disney, for putting him up for the award, which includes a $25,000 grant for a philanthropic organization. (He'll donate the funds to the Midnight Mission in downtown L.A., where he has been a dedicated volunteer for years.)
He spoke about turning 89 in December, said he feels great, and shared that his secret to a long life is a young wife. (In 2012, Van Dyke married Arlene Silver, 40 years his junior.)
Then he danced a little jig off the stage.