Jonsson Cancer Center Taste For a Cure

Darren Criss and Lea Michele Serenade Jonsson Cancer Center Supporters With their First Ever Duet

Darren Criss and Lea Michele of “Glee” did more than sing together in public for the first time at “Taste for a Cure 2012,” the Apr. 20 fundraiser for UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation.

“Along with performing tonight, which is such a gift, and so generous, they were both bidding on auction items,” said dinner co-chair Dana Walden, who then turned to the TV stars and declared, “You rock!” Walden is chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Television.

Aside from the auction and show, as the event title suggested, the evening offered a sampling of cuisine from top California chefs and varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon from 15 family-owned Napa Valley wineries. (To see 25+ photos of the event, click here.) 

Among those enjoying festivities at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel were Joel McHale, of “Community” and “The Soup;” Sean Hayes of “The Three Stooges” and “Will & Grace;” Shanola Hampton of “Shameless,” Anne Heche of the upcoming TV movie, “Save Me;” James Tupper of “Revenge;” and Wilmer Valderrama of “Awake.”

The event honored NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke with the 2012 Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award. In ceremonies, Walden praised Salke for her kindness, generosity and loyalty.

“Never in the history of fundraisers has someone had more reason to decline being honored at an event like this, but when it comes to one of her friends and people in need of help, ‘no’ just isn’t in Jennifer’s vocabulary.”

In accepting her award, Salke spoke of her brushes with cancer and thanked the Jonsson Center “for the incredible work that you do every single day to save and improve the lives of your patients.”

Glee creator Ryan Murphy concluded ceremonies by introducing Criss and Michele, but not without recalling Salke’s role in Glee’s inception.

“When I told (Salke) four years ago that I wanted to do a television musical about the worst high school glee club in Lima, Ohio, she could have easily run screaming from the room – but she got it right away,” he said. “’Glee’ is all about optimism and hope, which is certainly something everyone could use a little bit more of in their lives.”

Murphy then introduced “the amazing Darren Criss and the unforgettable Lea Michele.”

Criss, aka Blaine Anderson in “Glee,” started the show solo, by singing “Almost Like Being in Love.” He followed with “Teenage Dream,“ the song he sang on his first Glee episode, and the song he said turned his life upside down.

Calling his performance a warm-up act for Michele, Criss described the show’s Rachel Berry as “charismatic” and “beautiful,” and summed up by saying, “I’m one of her biggest fans and I cry every time she sings on the show.”

Taking her turn onstage, Michele opened with “My Man,” before pausing to praise Salke. “It is because of you that ‘Glee’ is so wonderful,” she said.

The evening ended with the two singing a mesmerizing “To Make You Feel My Love.”

More dinner co-chairs were Jon Holman of The Holman Group, Larry Maguire of Far Niente Winery, Jay Sures of United Talent Agency and Gary Newman, chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Television, who introduced Judith Gasson, director of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Among others attending were David Nevins, Showtime’s president of entertainment; and Kevin Reilly, president of FOX Broadcasting Company.

Participating chefs were Gilles Arzur of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel; Ludovic Lefebvre of LudoBites; Suzanne Tracht of Jar; and Cindy Pawlcyn of Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, Mustards Grill and Brassica.

Click here to see more than 25 photos from the event. 

Top photo, this page: Darren Criss and Lea Michele sing a duet at the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Taste For a Cure 2012

Second photo, this page: Honoree Jennifer Salke, left, and dinner co-chair Dana Walden at the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Taste For a Cure 2012 (photo: courtesy of the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation)

Third photo, this page: Lea Michele, aka Rachel Berry of “Glee,” in a sophisticated black lace Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress Jonsson Cancer Center Taste For a Cure 2012

Bottom photo, this page: Darren Criss, aka Blaine Anderson of “Glee” at the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Taste For a Cure 2012


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Published Apr. 23, 2012 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA