Backstage at the Geffen 2013

Clint Eastwood, Carl Reiner Present Awards to Billy Crystal, Bruce Ramer at Backstage at the Geffen



“Backstage at the Geffen” is never predictable.

This year’s affair honored Billy Crystal, the actor, comedian and 9-time Oscar host, and Bruce Ramer, founding chair of the Geffen Playhouse. No other names appeared on the invitation, just the words, “surprise storytellers” and “musical guest performances.” 

The May 13 storytellers turned out to be an A-list of talent, including Annette Bening, Morgan Freeman, Carol Kane, Topher Grace and Bruce Vilanch.

They told backstage tales, some amusing, some laugh-out-loud hilarious, and much as I’d love to repeat them, host Debbie Allen warned that the stories were off-the-record. So readers won’t find them here, (although if anyone should run into Vilanch I’d suggest asking about Imelda Marcos.)

Yet there are a few more details of the evening in my story in the Los Angeles Times. And as the LA Times, however, only printed one picture – (although a great one: Carl Reiner kissing Billy Crystal’s forehead with his thumb over one eye) – I’ve put more pictures of the talent, honorees, presenters and guests on this page and in the gallery below.

As for the musical performers, Rita Wilson and Jackson Browne sang two duets: “Let It Be Me” and “Dream.” Josh Gad, an original cast member from “Book of Mormon,” opened the show, belting out an irreverent tune about Jesus.

Mona Golabek also told a story, in her case, a poignant tale as she played the piano, just as she had in the Geffen’s long-running “The Pianist of Willesden Lane.”

Here, too, are a few more notes: Clint Eastwood presented the award to Ramer, aided by an empty chair that Allen placed there mid-presentation. Going along with the friendly jab, referring to his stint at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Eastwood continued along in good spirits. 

The presentation to Crystal came next, and Allen began by welcoming her husband, Norm Nixon, to the stage for a video salute from the Los Angeles Clippers.

Comedy legend Carl Reiner followed to give Crystal his award. After doing so, before departing the stage, he appeared to notice for the first time, the storytellers and singers at the far end of the stage. They were quietly sitting there after having shared their stories and songs.

Seemingly startled at the sight, Reiner said, “The greatest talent in the world – in the dark.” 

For his part, Crystal repaid the tribute by telling a story about Geffen founder, the late Gil Cates. He then recounted his own memories of the theater and most impressively, said a few words about nearly everybody’s backstage tale or performance.  

The Geffen’s chairman of the board Frank Mancuso also spoke, announcing proceeds in excess of $1.2 million. 

Faces in the crowd included Roma Downey, whose TV miniseries, “The Bible,” is now setting sales records on DVD; Perrey Reeves of “Entourage;” Robert Zemeckis, director of “Flight;” former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan; Pamela Robinson Hollander, gala committee chair, and Robert Hollander. 

More were Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios; Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, and Ande Rosenblum; Barry Meyer, chairman of Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Wendy Smith Meyer; Jim Gianopulos, chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment, and Ann Gianopulos; Russell Goldsmith, chair of City National Bank, and Karen Mack, author of “Freud’s Mistress,” and Martha Henderson, manager of City National Bank’s entertainment division.

City National Bank served as the title sponsor. Presenting sponsors included the W Los Angeles – Westwood Hotel and its backyard restaurant, where the host committee enjoyed an al fresco dinner; and Audi, also providing cars to shuttle guests from restaurant to theater. 


Top photo: This picture may resemble one taken at Clint Eastwood’s speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention, but that’s because a chair was placed beside Eastwood as he got set to hand out an award at Backstage at the Geffen 2013. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/ Invision for Geffen/ AP Images) 

Second photo:Honoree Billy Crystal, left, with Morgan Freeman, one of the night’s storytellers at Backstage at the Geffen 2013  (Photo by Jordan Strauss/ Invision for Geffen/ AP Images) 

Third photo: Rita Wilson and Jackson Browne sang two duets at Backstage at the Geffen 2013 (Photo by Jordan Strauss/ Invision for Geffen/ AP Images)

Fourth photo: Gala committee chair Pamela Robinson Hollander with Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios (Photo by Jordan Strauss/ Invision for Geffen/ AP Images)

Stars Share Stories at Backstage at the Geffen 2012 with Jane Lynch,  Host; Carol Burnett and Jim Gianopulos, Honorees

Peter Sellars, Margo Leavin Honored at SMMoA’s 25th Anniversary PreCognito Gala; Bill Viola, John Baldessari Do the Honors

Jeffrey Katzenberg Honored at Anti-Defamation League’s Centennial Entertainment Industry Dinner 


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Backstage at the Geffen 2013

Published May 17, 2013 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA