Thalians Honor Hugh Hefner

Thalians Honor Hugh Hefner; Jeffrey Ross Acts as Roastmaster General as Stars Salute “Mr. Wonderful”

 

Nearly five months before prime-time TV cast its spotlight on Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy Club” with a new NBC television series, the Thalians named the original playboy “Mr. Wonderful” at its 55th annual Gala.

The event took place Apr. 30 at the Playboy Mansion, where more than 500 guests paid tribute to the legendary founder of the Playboy empire for his lifetime of philanthropy. 

During the cocktail hour, event chair Bob Lorsch correctly predicted that the affair would be the most successful in the history of the Thalians. And indeed, the event grossed more than $1 million with this year’s proceeds going toward Operation Mend, which treats wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Hugh Hefner spans the generations,” said Lorsch. “His appeal is universal – to all age groups, all professions.”

Certainly I agree. For me, spending time with this American icon was something special. Inside the mansion, while Harris and one of her buddies chatted together in another corner of the room, Hefner and I spoke about Playboy’s current super-popularity. 

“It’s amazing how the generations have embraced us,” he said. “It wasn’t always like this. I think there used to be a backlash of misunderstanding of what my life’s about.” He credited TV’s “The Girls Next Door” for much of the change, saying, “The show became instantly popular globally, and primarily with women.” 

Not one to lag behind the times, Hefner typically broadcasts his news via Twitter and that evening, notified followers of his “Mr. Wonderful” award in a tweet. He also tweeted that his longtime friend James Caan (Sonny in “The Godfather”) made the presentation; he then uploaded this photo of the statuette, originally designed by Walt Disney himself.

Hefner said he first started tweeting after Harris gave him an IPad as a birthday present, never missing a Monday or Tuesday during Playmate Kendra Wilkinson’s stint on last season’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

“I used to be a jitterbug. Now I’m a twitterbug,” he said.

Following dinner, Thalians board chair Ruta Lee began the program, which featured Jeffrey Ross, aka the Roastmaster General, Christopher and Kyle Massey, Rich Little, Felipe Esparza and Joy Enriquez. There, too, were recording stars Taylor Dayne, Macy Gray, Mark McGrath of “Sugar Ray;” Matt Sorum of “Velvet Revolver” and “Guns N’ Roses;” Franky Perez of “Scars on Broadway;” Billy Morrison of “The Cult;” Donovan Leitch of “Camp Freddy” and “Nancy Boy;” Steve Stevens of Billy Idol’s band; and Grant Fitzpatrick of “Darling Stilettos.”

Lou Gossett, Jr. presented a special medical award to Dr. Timothy Miller, executive director and chief surgeon of UCLA’s “Operation Mend,” which helps heal wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom attended the Gala.

Founded by the Hollywood community and long led by board chair Ruta Lee and president Debbie Reynolds, the Thalians raise funds to support mental health programs and educate the public about mental illness.

Previously, “Mr. Wonderful” awards have gone to Whoopi Goldberg, Lucille Ball, Clint Eastwood, Sir Roger Moore, Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minelli, Kenny Rogers, Lena Horne, Mickey Rooney and other Hollywood legends. Honorees are chosen for their philanthropy, as well as for their contributions to the entertainment industry.

Kira and Bob Lorsch served as event chairs, with Shelley and Gary Hann as co-chairs, as Thalians honor Hugh Hefner. The Gala’s major sponsors were Kodak, MMRGlobal, the Annenberg Foundation and Associated Television International.

Top Photo: from left, Ruta Lee, Hugh Hefner and his then-fiance Crystal Harris (credit: Vince Bucci/ PictureGroup)

Bottom Photo:  Comedian Jeffrey Ross, aka the Roastmaster General, surrounded by the bunnies at the Playboy Mansion (photo: Vince Bucci/ PictureGroup)

 

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Spring 2011 Highlight: Thalians Honor Hugh Hefner

Published Sept. 19, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA