The event: Matt Damon and producer Jerry Weintraub teamed up Tuesday to emcee the 2014 UNICEF Ball, so often going off script in their lively, largely impromptu dialogue that at one point Damon turned to Weintraub and, referencing Sunday’s Golden Globes telecast, asked if the two were the night’s Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
The honors: Presented by Baccarat, the black-tie affair at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills honored Michael Douglas, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and Ghada Irani, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Southern California board chair, with Danny Kaye Humanitarian Awards for their support of UNICEF’s mission to save and improve children’s lives.
Former Secretary of State James Baker III delivered the tribute to Irani, and in a surprise ending to the festivities, Douglas and Weintraub presented Damon with an award, too -- for his efforts to bring clean water to those in need.
Douglas and Damon starred opposite one another as Liberace and his lover in the Golden Globe-winning TV movie “Behind the Candelabra,” and throughout the evening, the pair bantered about who wore the most sequins.
The awards are named for the late Danny Kaye, the celebrated actor, comedian and UNICEF’s first celebrity Goodwill Ambassador, and his daughter Dena Kaye took a turn at the lectern. “Children are the world’s most valuable natural resource,” she recalled her father saying, and then added, “That’s exactly why we’re here tonight.”
The crowd: The gala attracted business leaders, elected officials and so many celebrities that on taking the stage, Weintraub noted: “Every star in Hollywood is here.” The audience at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel included Sylvester Stallone of “Rocky,” Don Cheadle of “House of Lies,” Anna Kendrick of “Up in the Air,” Michael Sheen of “Masters of Sex,” Sasha Alexander of “Rizzoli & Isles,” James Marsden of “Enchanted,” Leah Remini of “King of Queens,” Laura Marano of “Austin & Ally,” and UNICEF Ambassadors Tea Leoni of “Deep Impact” and Alyssa Milano of “Charmed.” Among others on hand were NBCUniversal Vice Chair Ron Meyer, Keck Foundation Chair Robert Day, composer David Foster, former Gov. Gray Davis, CW Network President John Maata, ”Blue Bloods” producer Leonard Goldberg, philanthropist Eli Broad, cooking show host Sandra Lee and lead benefactors Tamar and Bob Manoukian.
The show: Cheryl Burke and Valentin Chmerkovskiy of “Dancing with the Stars” were up first, followed by Paul Anka singing the classic “My Way.” Tailoring his lyrics to the occasion, Anka stopped at Irani’s table, just before Irani’s husband rose on cue to sing, “We do things her way.”
The night’s headliner, Emmy and Tony Award-winning Kristin Chenoweth, spoke of UNICEF’s mission to end child suffering, before ending her set with a poignant “Over the Rainbow.”
A quote of note: Explaining how he came to co-emcee the ball and present Douglas’ award, Damon said: “There are two rules in Hollywood, as far as I know: One is ‘Never work with children or animals,’ and the other is ‘Never say no to Jerry Weintraub.’”
Ellen Olivier is founder of Society News LA.