“Tonight we are here for the one and only Marvin Hamlisch — one of Broadway’s brightest stars” the love of his life honorary chair and award presenter Terre Blair Hamlisch told the 200 guests at the May 4 American Cancer Society Spring Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch at the Hudson Theatre at the Millennium Broadway Hotel.
Hamlisch friend and ACS 2014 honoree Michael Douglas described being awed by Terre’s “contagious energy”” who, with Hamlisch, had been “neighbors when she put this Humanitarian Award together shortly after losing Marvin.” In her introduction of ACS’s honoree Lily Safra — recipient of the Marvin Hamlisch Memorial Award for Humanitarian Efforts” — Terre Blair Hamlisch lauded Safra as “being blessed with a sharp wit, an impeccable flawless style and as someone who leaves beauty in her wake. She has supported numerous scientific and medical breakthroughs and has assisted hundreds of organizations in over 40 countries.”
Terre recalled Safra’s comforting hand and encouraging words at Marvin’s funeral, then in a lighter vein described a balloon ride Marvin and Safra took in France.. “There were no controls, [they] both cowered in the bottom of the basket and prayed ‘Baruch Atah….’”
“Marvin left us too soon,” said a soft-spoken Safra. “He was a kind and generous person who brought life and joy to the whole world. Like every little step and every big note in “Sweet Smell of Success” Marvin’s music is synonymous with the gentle genius he was. He was a good friend to me, to you and the American Cancer Society… I want to share just one Marvin memory with you. Fifteen years ago I was privileged to view the Edmond Safra family lodge at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Every December, Marvin would make a special trip to play and sing for all the patients and families. He was so humble, he never even told me about it. I only found out when someone at NIH sent me a photo of the huge crowds laughing and singing along.”
“We have played a role in most of the major cancer research breakthroughs in recent history”, informed ACS chairman of Special Events Diana Feldman. “A six week stay in New York City for a cancer treatment is financially devastating and not covered by insurance. But ACS is here to help. In New York City ACS’ Hope Lodge has provided more than 3200 nights of free lodging for cancer patients and their families and saved guests some $35 million since it opened its doors in 2007.
Following a sumptuous dinner, guests were treated to a smashing performance of the 2002 musical “Sweet Smell of Success” (based on the 1957 MGM United Artists movie) music by Marvin Hamlisch. Among the Broadway stars performing that night: Marc Kudish as powerful gossip columnist JJ Hunsecker; (“Hand to God”) Jeremy Jordan as Sidney Falcone; (“Newsies); Adam Jacobs as Dallas (“Aladdin”); Lindsay Mendes as Rita (“Wicked”); Marissa McGowan as Susan (“A Little Night Music”) with a knock-you-out-of-your-seat violin solo by Charles Yang.
During my dinner chat with Lily Safra, I recalled meeting her first time years ago at a Sephardic Israeli school event at which computers for underprivileged students were being auctioned off. When few in the room bid, honoree Safra paid for every one of the computers and got a standing ovation.