UNICEF Ball 2011

Sean Penn, Brooklyn Decker and Dennis Quaid Honor Queen Noor, Medavoy Family


Real royalty – in addition to Hollywood royalty – made an appearance at the UNICEF Ball 2011 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, when the U.S. Fund for UNICEF recognized Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan as a Woman of Compassion. Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn followed, presenting the prestigious Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award to Irena and Mike Medavoy and their son, Nick.

For such an occasion, the stars came out in abundance and for the women, long gowns ruled. Brooklyn Decker turned up in Tory Burch, and not surprisingly did her gown justice, having last year been named Esquire’s Sexiest Woman of the Year and having graced last year’s cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

Both Decker and Dennis Quaid said they came to honor the Medavoys and to participate in the Dec. 8 event, by introducing the night’s featured entertainer, Lionel Richie. “I’ve known Mike Medavoy more than 25 years,” Quaid said, naming the 1989 Jerry Lee Lewis bio, “Great Balls of Fire,” as a film he and Medavoy worked on together.

Also standing out among the 550 guests were Diane Kruger, Nicole Richie, Matthew Morrison, Kate Walsh, Rose McGowan, Quincy Jones, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, Jayma Mays and Adam Campbell, William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman, Nia Vardalos and Ian Gomez, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, Shawn and Larry King, Eva LaRue and Joe Cappuccio, Jenna Elfman, Joan Collins, Cheryl Tiegs, Catherine Bach, David Spade, Adhir Kalyan, Ben McKenzie, Sugar Ray Leonard, Molly Anderson and Adam Rodriguez.

Many said they came out of admiration for UNICEF. “They clearly know what they’re doing and they’re so good at what they do,” said Jayma Mays, while Adam Campbell added that they were impressed by the charity’s work in preventing many thousands of childhood deaths throughout the world.    

In her onstage remarks, Queen Noor praised UNICEF for its goal of reducing childhood deaths from preventable causes to zero. “‘Believe in zero’ is not only a campaign,” she said. “It’s the work UNICEF does every day.”

Mary Hart of “Entertainment Tonight” acted as emcee, introducing auctioneer Andrea Fiuczynski, who offered two popular items money can’t ordinarily buy: lunch with Queen Noor and 12 VIP tickets to a Selena Gomez concert. The Selena Gomez tickets, including backstage passes, sold twice to the high bidders. One bidder bought the package for $19,000; the other, for $20,000, bringing total proceeds from ticket sales, sponsorships and auction proceeds to an estimated gross of $1.3 million.

“My hat is off to you, UNICEF” Penn said during his turn at the podium.

In his tribute to the Medavoys, Penn commended family members for their philanthropy and praised Irena and Mike Medavoy for their long marriage, saying, “It’s all the more phenomenal, when you consider that they’ve overcome the one single most insurmountable conflict that any couple on Planet Earth can face – Mike went to U.C.L.A.; Irena, U.S.C.”

Regarding Mike Medavoy’s career, Penn said the filmmaker has been personally involved in more than 300 features, 16 of them nominated for best picture Oscars and 7 winning them, naming as some notable movies, “Rocky,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Terminator,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “Black Swan,” “Philadelphia,” and Mississippi Burning.”

In accepting the honor, Mike Medavoy thanked UNICEF for the Humanitarian Award “named after one of my childhood idols, Danny Kaye,” calling him funny, talented and a true humanitarian. He also mentioned another trait he and Kaye had in common. He said they both belonged to a small group outside of Ireland: redheads, who, according to Greek history, were thrown off Mount Olympus at birth. 

A diverse talent line-up marked the evening, beginning with the Colburn Children’s Choir, moving on to 10 year-old pianist Emily Bear, guitarist Hunter Perrin, recording artist L.P. and 4-time Grammy nominee Melanie Fiona. As a finale, Lionel Richie performed a three-song set. “I know I’d love you all to sing a little bit, dance a little bit,” Richie said as he began, and before his last number, decreed, “Everybody up!”

Lori Milken, Ghada Irani, and Tamar and Bob Manoukian served as event chairs with Baccarat as presenting sponsor. Host committee members were Red Barris, Rebecka and Arie Belldegrun, Kelly and Robert Day, Danielle and Ernie Del, Kimberly and John Emerson, Vanessa and Billy Getty, Anjelica Huston, Holly Jacobs, Jena and Michael King, Lyn and Norman Lear, Victoria Oberfeld, Veronique Peck, Renvy Pittman, Nadine and Frederic Rosen, Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz, Florence and Harry Sloan, Melinda and Art Spigel, Jennifer and Sylvester Stallone, Cheryl Tiegs, Susie Ekins and Jerry Weintraub, and Cynthia and Bud Yorkin.


Photos from the UNICEF Ball 2011, from top, left to right: Mike Medavoy, Caryl Stern, Nick Medavoy, Irena Medavoy, and Sean Penn (Caryl Stern is the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s president and CEO); Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan; left to right: Sean Penn, Lionel Richie, Dennis Quaid, Brooklyn Decker; event chairs Lori Milken, left, Ghada Irani; and left to right: Rose McGowan in Dolce & Gabbana, Kristen Bell in Christian Dior and Brooklyn Decker in Tory Burch. (Photos: Alex J. Berliner/ ABImages)



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UNICEF Ball 2011

Published Dec. 10, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA