I was so thrilled to be able to attend and cover the Stand Up to Cancer telecast for Quarterlette a last month. To me, there’s nothing more inspiring than a large group of people coming together in support of a single cause and that’s exactly what happened at the Shrine Auditorium on Friday, September 7th. It seemed as if every celebrity in Hollywood was involved in the telecast in some manner, from Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon to Modern Family stars Sofia Vergara (a thyroid cancer survivor), Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet.
Such high profile participation has much to do with the inspirational, all female leadership council of Stand Up to Cancer which is essentially a Who’s Who of powerful women in the entertainment industry. The council is comprised of Katie Couric, Noreen Fraser, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, Ellen Ziffren and the late Laura Ziskin who passed away from breast cancer in 2011. The telecast was also executive produced by Gwyneth Paltrow this year who took over producer duties when friend Laura Ziskin passed away.
I started the day off on the red carpet where I snapped pics of celebs walking the press line. I was also lucky enough to interview a few ladies including theatre producer Debra Black and SU2C executive leadership council member Sherry Lansing, formerly CEO of Paramount Pictures and President of Production at 20th Century FOX. (And also a fellow Northwestern University grad!). She has been a big inspiration to me because of everything she has accomplished in her life – from successfully running a huge studio to being a very active philanthropist who serves on the boards of multiple organizations as well as running her own foundation. It may have been hot outside on that carpet – it was a 90 degree plus afternoon in LA – but it was definitely worth it to chat with these outstanding ladies.
After the red carpet, I moved inside the Shrine Auditorium to watch the telecast. One of the most moving parts of the evening was a memorium piece for Laura Ziskin featuring friends, family and recognizable faces such as Emma Stone and Tobey Maguire, whom Ziskin worked with on multiple Spiderman films. In a way, it was a reminder that no one is immune to the threat and effects of this disease, no matter how successful or glamourous your life may seem. I was also so thrilled to see Taylor Swift sing in person, and she did not disappoint with a poignant new song written specifically for the telecast entitled “Ronan”. The song was inspired by a 3-year-old boy who passed away from neuroblastoma, and Taylor co-wrote the song with the little boy’s mother based on a blog entry the mom wrote. I took entirely too many photos while Taylor was singing but it was a beautiful moment and, really, kept me from verging into violent tears territory.
The highlight of the evening for me though was an adorably charismatic little boy named Justin Miller who was in attendance and whose journey fighting cancer was also profiled during the telecast. Fear is not a word in Justin’s vocabulary because as he reasoned in his video, “1) I’m a ninja. 2) Ninjas aren’t scared of anything and 3) that’s pretty much it.” I’m pretty sure this youthfully simple yet fearless assessment got him the loudest and longest applause of the night. Closing the evening was a moving performance of “Live Like You Were Dying” from Tim McGraw. I’d say the song took on a whole new, deeper meaning in this context and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, myself included. Come to think of it, tissues would have been a very helpful accessory for the evening.
Hollywood really knows how to come together in a star studded way for an important cause. I’m so thrilled I was able to “stand up for” Quarterlette at this amazing event. In a way I felt I was also honoring my grandmother who passed away from cancer when I was a junior in high school. Tens of millions of dollars were raised from the telecast to further fund cancer research, and I don’t know about anyone else but I certainly learned at least one important lesson in my time at the Shrine Auditorium: we should all learn how to be ninjas.