The Crowd: Stars on crusade against cancer

When it comes to charitable event fundraising in the O.C., one woman rises to the top of the "A" list. Lil Spitzer, the ultra-glamorous blonde, is part showgirl, part CEO and part velvet bulldozer. You just don't say "no" to Spitzer, who once again, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Beckstrand Cancer Assn., raised a dazzling $1.81 million at a relatively — by Newport standards — small gala, with 300 invited guests.

Spitzer joined her beautiful actress pal Eva La Rue ("CSI: Miami"), Beckstrand's national spokesperson, welcoming patrons to the black-tie dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel on Oct. 5. Special friends of Beckstrand included Dave and Holly Wilson, Blaine and Renetta Caya, John and Patty Collins, James "Kimo" and Alison McCormick, A.J. and Joni D'Amato, and Keith and Mara Murray. Perhaps the most celebrated guests of the evening were Mike Salta and his stunning wife Jan. The handsome couple blew the roof off the party, offering a $500,000 donation for the Beckstrand cause.

The nearly-$2 million raised will go to support cancer patients with direct financial assistance to cover basic survival needs such as rent or mortgage payments, food, utilities, gas and transportation, even medical insurance co-payments. The aid will enable those fighting the disease to concentrate on treatment and recovery, taking away some of the stress of just managing daily life, especially if the patient is unable to work.

Another substantial donation helped to secure the ultimate financial mark. Moti Ferder of Lugano Diamonds offered a spectacular 10.02-carat un-mounted Ceylon Sapphire and two matching 5-carat oval sapphires for auction. Bidding was furious, ultimately closing at $125,000 sold to the philanthropic Newport Lexus dealer Dave Wilson and his wife Holly. Then, an anonymous donor offered to match Wilson's bid, bringing the charitable total to $250,000.

That was just the beginning. Dinner with actress Lisa Rinna at L.A.'s the Ivy went for $10,000. Tickets to see Justin Timberlake at the Honda Center with dinner at Mastro's went for $20,000. A "meet and greet" with singer Adam Levine and seats at a taping of "The Voice" sold for $22,000, and a getaway to Los Cabos for four, with La Rue, on a private Gulfstream G100 jet, went for $52,500 — twice.

Rinna was in the crowd along with Cindy Ambuehl and husband actor Don Diamont from the daytime drama "The Bold and the Beautiful." Also adding a bit of celeb cachet was actress Daniela Ruah from the hit CBS primetime drama "NCIS: Los Angeles."

Entertainment was provided by the talented Alanis Morissette singing featured numbers from her CD "Jagged Little Pill." Morissette got personal with her audience, addressing all those in the crowd who are or were caregivers for cancer patients. She said, "I've done it too, so here's to all of us."

Special guest and cancer survivor Bryan Fazio made the point of the evening sharing his personal story. Fazio, who contracted Hodgkin's lymphoma, fought a three-year battle until remission. Today he is cancer-free. Beckstrand paid his family's mortgage for seven months when they were on the verge of losing their home.

Since 1974, Beckstrand has been at the forefront of helping cancer patients with direct financial aid when many have had nowhere else to turn. To learn more, visit

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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