David Foster leads singers and musicians in festive session at 2017 Milken Institute conference

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At Late Night, the final May 1 session of the Milken Institute Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, the evening’s host David Foster left the stage and walked over to Michael Milken, who was seated in the third row.

“How’s the day been going so far?” the 16-time Grammy winner asked the Milken Institute chairman.

“We solved all the problems in the world,” joked Milken, “and we’re waiting tonight for new problems, so we can work on them tomorrow.”


“I’ve been married four times,” Foster replied. “So I can give you new problems.” He then presented a variety of talent, in between singing his own tunes, some, he noted, now owned by his ex-wives.

The Milken Institute’s conference is an annual four-day forum, attended by 4,000 people from more than 55 countries, that addresses some of the day’s most pressing economic and social issues.

An ideal diversion from the otherwise intellectual nature of the Global Conference, none other than National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, with guitar in hand, joined Foster to sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Other performers at the nighttime event were singers Brenna Whitaker, Oya Thomas, Ben Gulley and Rogelio Douglas Jr. as well as “America’s Got Talent” finalist Laura Breton, violinist Caroline Campbell and jazz harmonicist  Frédéric  Yonnet.


Just as Frank Sinatra impersonator Paul Salos was about to sing “My Way,” Paul Anka strode onstage, taking the microphone from Salos. The lyricist of the classic, Anka then delivered a new version, which he dedicated to Milken, singing “a great mind, a special kind, you just won’t find, in any banker,” closing the show to a standing ovation.

No doubt, the night provided a break before the ensuing sessions, which end today. At today’s finale, the conference will have had 750 speakers including former President George W. Bush; former Vice President Joe Biden; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Britain’s Prince Andrew; musician and activist Moby; actress/producer Reese Witherspoon; supermodel Naomi Campbell; director/ producers J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau; and NBA Hall of Fame champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as well as leading figures in business, government, health, technology, media and other industries.

Ellen Olivier is the founder of Society News LA.