The John Wayne Cancer Institute’s Odyssey Ball put some mighty big men in the spotlight. The Duke’s son Patrick Wayne is 6-foot-2-inches, and he stood next to the event’s “True Grit” honoree Vince Vaughn, who tops off at 6-foot-5. But both looked pretty puny next to a true giant among men, Dr. Steven J. O’Day, the esteemed medical oncologist and melanoma specialist who received “The Duke’s Special Service Award.” They all were on hand to support John Wayne’s legacy to fight cancer through the Institute.
The fundraiser for the John Wayne Cancer Institute (JWCI) at Providence Saint John’s Health Center was held in the ballroom at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills, which took on a Las Vegas atmosphere with its “The Best is Yet to Come” casino theme. Guests were greeted by showgirls and games as part of the cocktail reception.
A performance by the ultra-entertaining four-part harmony quartet, the Moonrays, followed, with longtime JWCI supporter Bobby Herbeck (writer of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film) handling the hosting duties. Herbeck extolled the accomplishments of the Institute since its formation in 1981 and introduced Anita Swift, JWCI Auxiliary president and The Duke’s granddaughter. Swift talked about the legacy of John Wayne and the late Dr. Donald Morton who was the driving force behind the formation of the Institute.
Swift introduced Chairman of the Board of the JWCI, Patrick Wayne, revealing that her uncle was offered the title role in the original Superman film. But he had a more important job at the time, helping his dad John Wayne as he battled cancer. Swift said, “And because he continues the battle against cancer, Patrick is my Superman.” Patrick sheepishly admitted he was on the short list for the Superman role, but the right choices were made. He acknowledged, “There are many superheroes in this audience—true friends, doctors, nurses, researchers, colleagues and partners who will not rest until cancer is history.”
The work of Dr. Steven J. O’Day is helping to make that happen, and Wedding Crashers star Vince Vaughn became one of his biggest fans. Vince said he was happy to “share the evening with such remarkable man.” Vince was also happy that his mother Sharon, sisters Victoria and Valerie, and wife Kyla were on hand. He revealed, “Like a lot of you, we’ve lost too many family members to cancer so this is something that touches me and I was happy to come and be part of this, especially with all the great work that’s done by the Institute.”
Vaughn explained his connection to John Wayne started when he and his father would watch westerns together. “The Duke is part of our culture, so much so that while I was filming Hacksaw Ridge the director Mel Gibson came up to me during one scene and said ‘John Wayne.’ I knew exactly what he meant, but I don’t know if I ever quite hit it like John Wayne did. With him there was a dignity, a strength and a principle that he had. It’s a testament to him that his family and the Institute’s supporters spend his legacy helping other people.”
Vaughn is worthy of the True Grit Humanitarian Award because of his philanthropic work with organizations ranging from the Special Olympics to his dedication to working with veterans. Standing next to the giant logo of the Institute, which is the outline of John Wayne standing tall in a cowboy hat, Vaughn said, “I keep looking up at this icon. The western theme is always kind of man versus everything. One man with principles standing up when it’s not easy to do so. Everybody in this room has the conviction and the principles to stand and do what’s right, and to be counted on when people need you.”
Vaughn thanked the Odyssey Ball co-chairs Shirley Lipstone and Martha Harper for putting the event together, and producer-writer Nic Pizzolatto for presented the award to him. Pizzolatto created HBO’s True Detective series which Vince did last season. Other notables at the event were Motown founder Berry Gordy, Michael Nouri (Flashdance), Ted McGinley (Married with Children) and wife Gigi Rice (Army Wives), Bruce Boxleitner and wife Verena King, western actor Wyatt McCrea, Ruth Weil, Melanie Wayne, Marisa Wayne, and other members of the Wayne family committed to honoring the legacy of John Wayne through the Institute’s pioneering cancer research.
The Royal Crown “Houdini” Brooch will be auctioned by Potter & Potter Auctions on April 8. The historic Houdini Brooch connects two legends in the magic world– the legendary magician Harry Houdini and Milt Larsen, the legendary co-founder of the Magic Castle. The Houdini Brooch, from the collection of Milt and Arlene Larsen, was presented to Harry Houdini by the Czar of Russia. It will be part of the Spring Magic Auction hosted by the Potter & Potter Auctions on April 8. The Royal Crown Brooch is a rare and historic emerald and ruby encrusted crown, which according to the late Beatrice “Bessie” Houdini, was presented to Harry by the Czar of Russia at a dinner party in their honor. It was left to Milt’s mother Geri Larsen in Mrs. Houdini’s will. The treasured item goes on the auction block to create a new theatrical venue for magicians and fans of illusion, the latest enterprise from the magical Milt Larsen. Go to http://potterauctions.com/
The JDRF LA Chapter’s Imagine Gala will be held Saturday, April 22. The gala is always one of Los Angeles’ signature fundraisers with the goal to raise $1.4 million for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Justin Willman (Cupcake Wars) will host the event at The Beverly Hilton. The 14th Annual Imagine Gala honors Max Harris, son of philanthropist, T1D advocate and music producer, James “Jimmy Jam” and Lisa Harris. The Spirit Award will honor Rabbi Harvey J. Fields, who presided over Los Angeles’ oldest synagogue, Wilshire Boulevard Temple for 18 years, and had T1D since the age of 16. The night of inspiration and hope will also offer silent and live auctions, the signature Fund A Cure program, and a special performance by award winning entertainment.
Past honorees and performers have included Aloe Blacc, Melissa Etheridge, Kristin Cavallari, Jay Cutler, Macy Gray, James Taylor, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Brad Garrett, and Ray Romano, among others. Go to www.jdrflaimaginegala.org.