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Jewish Journal

The Circuit

by Michael Aushenker

July 24, 2003 | 8:00 pm

Research and Rescue

If you yell "action" for a living in Hollywood, you have no doubt visited the Beverly Hills Hotel. But if it's "Women of Action" you want, then the Beverly Hills Hotel would once again be your destination. The home of the Polo Lounge welcomed Israel Cancer Research Fund's (ICRF) Women of Action annual luncheon, featuring keynote speaker Arianna Huffington.

Spearheading the nooner gala was ICRF's board chair Jacqueline Bell and co-vice president Norma Fink, who told the audience -- which included Joanne Worley, Joanna Cassidy and Ruta Lee -- that ICRF raised $28.3 million in grants this year to underwrite Israeli cancer research.

Acid-tongued fashion critic Mr. Blackwell, who introduced Bell, refrained from scrutinizing the summer wear in the room.

Singer Marilyn McCoo introduced her close friend and ICRF honoree Carol Connors, the woman who, among other singer-songwriting achievements, co-wrote the triumphant movie anthem, "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from "Rocky."

"Cancer has touched everyone in some way and Israel is always on the cutting edge of everything," Connors said, before singling out her 85-year-old mother in the audience. The chanteuse sang a song she wrote in honor of her late friend, Frank Sinatra, titled, "Only the Music, Only My Song."

"You'll be pleased to know that I'm not going to sing," said Dr. Carol Hughes Hurvitz, the night's second honoree. Hurvitz shared how she went from her childhood dream of being a country doctor in the English provinces to become a clinical professor of pediatrics in UCLA's School of Medicine. She was introduced by former Beverly Hills Mayor MeraLee Goldman, whose 2-year-old daughter was treated by Hurvitz.

Veteran TV producer George Schlatter ("Real People") recalled how he first met honoree Suzanne de Passe of De Passe Entertainment, when she was a creative assistant working in Detroit for Motown mogul Berry Gordy.

"She was hip when everyone else wanted to be hep," Schlatter said of the woman who brought The Jackson Five to Gordy's attention. "She's won everything but the Pillsbury Bake-Off."

No doubt, if De Passe really put her mind to it, she could win that, too.

Diversity Loves Company

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding held an award presentation at the Beverly Hills home of Steve and Nicole Rifkind. The organization's founder, Rabbi Marc Schneier, presented humanitarian awards to manager and producer Bernie Brillstein, record executive Jeff Harleston and film director Brett Ratner. Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons, the foundation's secretary, was unable to attend.

Speeches by executive director Lawrence Kopp and Genia Wright, who directs the foundation's Washington, D.C., office, discussed efforts to strengthen relations between the Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Asian Pacific Caucus and Jewish members of Congress. Guests included Jay Stern, Niles Rogers, John Herzfeld, Randy Jackson, Lalo Shifrin, Lisa Lovebrand, Andre Hurrell, David Feldman, Taye Diggs, Guy Oseary, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Sofia Vergara. The highlight of the evening: an unscheduled introduction by producer Robert Evans, who regaled the crowd with anecdotes about Walt Disney, Michael Eisner and Ratner. -- Tom Teicholz, Contributing Writer

Captain Courageous

It wasn't your ordinary dedication when an F-4U Corsair -- one of America's top fighter planes in World War II -- was unveiled recently at the Proud Bird restaurant (which doubles as a flying museum), accompanied by a tribute to Lou Lenart.

Then-Capt. Lenart of the U.S. Marine Corps flew the powerful piston-engine plane in combat in the Pacific, and three years later helped form the nucleus of the fledgling Israeli air force in the War of Independence.

He led the first Israel air force combat mission in a patched-up plane against Egyptian forces within 15 miles of an undefended Tel Aviv.

Lenart and three accompanying planes dropped bombs on the Egyptians, curtailing an attack.

American and Israeli dignitaries attended the event, sponsored by philanthropist Jona Goldrich. The Hungarian-born Lenart, a very youthful 82, is working on the production of a feature movie chronicling the birth of the Israeli air force. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

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