Shoah Gala Honors President Obama

USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala - Show
Steven Spielberg, Bruce Springsteen, Conan O’Brien, Liam Neeson, a Kardashian and 1,300 Others Fete President Obama



Where else but Hollywood could you find President Barack Obama, Steven Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Conan O’Brien, Bruce Springsteen, Judge Judy and Kim Kardashian all in the same room?

The answer is probably nowhere else. Yet there they all were, along with scores more VIPs and Bruce Springsteen to perform during dinner.  

So on May 7 in Los Angeles, this esteemed crowd gathered for the  “Ambassadors for Humanity” Gala at the Century Plaza Hotel. Chaired by Spielberg and honoring the president for his commitment to human rights, the affair benefited the USC Shoah Foundation, which documents testimonies from survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides.

For details of the fundraiser, which celebrated the foundation’s 20th anniversary and raised $4.3 million, click here for my story in the “All the Rage” section of the Los Angeles Times online. Read on for more details of my experience. 


USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala - Show

Traffic is everything…

Having never before inhabited the same room as the President, I took the check-in time of 5:00 p.m. seriously, especially as the instructions said the doors would close promptly at 6:00 p.m. In any city but Los Angeles, an hour would sound like a comfortable margin of error. But not so, in the City of Angels. 

So like one of “The Californians” in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, I had the drive paramount in my mind. So photo ID in hand, I left my home 2 hours early to avoid the inevitable #Obamajam.

Outsiders can criticize us all they want for complaining about the consequences of president visits, but the traffic is the downside to life in L.A. It isn’t any fun to sit bumper-to-bumper.

Of course, I arrived 2 hours early, but with a Starbuck’s in the lobby of the Century Plaza Hotel, I was happy enough with my mocha light Frapucchino, wi-fi connection and conversations with my fellow traffic-averse Angelenos. 


The VIPs

Before long, the VIPs began heading down the escalators to the reception:  Barbra Streisand and James Brolin; Rita Wilson and stepson Colin Hanks; Spielberg’s wife Kate Capshaw and her daughter Jessica Capshaw; Judges Judy Sheindlin and Jerry Sheindlin, and their guests Samuel L. Jackson and Wendy Goldberg; Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer, multiple Emmy Award nominee Jeff Garlin and actress/philanthropist Jami Gertz.

Some guests asked for photos with Kim Kardashian, who looked especially beautiful in the all-white, multi-label ensemble she tweeted about earlier.

Flashbulbs popped at the far end of the room, too, where Conan O’Brien and Liam Neeson were unmissable, both towering over the other guests at 6’4″.   

USC Shoah Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala - Reception

More Shoah supporters were DreamWorks Animation chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg; DreamWorks chief executive Stacey Snider and husband Gary Jones; Kelly Meyer and NBCUniversal vice-chair Ron Meyer; Fox Filmed Entertainment CEO Jim Gianopulos; Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos,  Disney/ABC Television president Anne Sweeney; and composer John Williams.

Yet others were former Warner Bros. chair Barry Meyer; Warner Bros. marketing chief Sue Kroll; talent manager Guy Oseary;  USC Keck School of Medicine’s dean Carmen Puliafito; Honest Co. founder Christopher Gavigan; Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal; film producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall; and tech entrepreneurs Jeff Skoll and Marc Benioff.  


The emcee: intolerance, #Obamajams and George Clooney’s engagement…

In his role as emcee, O’Brien said, “If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would be in the same room as Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, President Barack Obama and Liam Neeson, I’d have said, ‘Who the hell is Barack Obama?'”

About Shoah, he noted, “(Spielberg) is recording evidence of prejudice and intolerance – and he was doing this in Los Angeles long before Donald Sterling’s girlfriend.”

And about POTUS-caused gridlock, he addressed the President, “What I mean is, with the greatest respect, sir, but do you have to physically come here?  We love you this town loves you. You’ve got our votes. You’re good,” and then turning to the audience, suggested mailing the Obama his next award. “Or skype, Mr. President. Skype works.”

Taking a jab at last year’s honoree, the newly-engaged George Clooney, (not present), he said, “Clearly this award is a chick magnet. Before you gave (Clooney) the Ambassadors’ Award, George couldn’t get the ladies. But now…”



The program…

After the jokes, videos, Springsteen’s performance and official remarks, as recounted in my LA Times story and elsewhere, the President gave a moving speech about the importance of preserving memories, America’s commitment to Israel and problems of hatred in today’s world.

Just scroll down to see more party photos. 


Top photo: Steven Spielberg, left, presents the “Ambassadors for Humanity” Award to President Barack Obama, at the May 7 benefit for the Shoah Foundation (Photo by Lester Cohen/ Getty Images for USC Shoah Foundation)

Second photo: Bruce Springsteen performs at the fundraiser for the USC Shoah Foundation honoring President Barack Obama (Photo by Lester Cohen/ Getty Images for USC Shoah Foundation) 

Third photo: Kim Kardashian, left, and Rita Wilson at the Century City Plaza, as the Shoah Gala honors President Obama (Photo by Lester Cohen/ Getty Images for USC Shoah Foundation)

Fourth photo: Ellen Olivier with Liam Neeson, who served as special guest, as Shoah Gala honors President Obama 

Fifth photo: James Brolin and Barbra Streisand, showing her appreciation, as the Shoah Gala honors President Obama (Photo by Michael Buckner/ Getty Images for USC Shoah Foundation)


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Shoah Gala Honors President Obama

Published May 15, 2014 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA