Larry Ellison closed a gala Thursday night on the Paramount lot by asking Brad Grey a seemingly simple question from the stage.
“Brad, how much did you raise here this evening?,” he asked.
“Four and a half million,” the Paramount chief called out from his head table in the second row, where Jimmy Kimmel, Jonah Hill, and Anna Kendrick were seated.
“Ok, I’d like to match that,” Ellison said casually.
That’s how Ellison — the Oracle founding, Hawaiian island owning, America’s Cup winning titan — closed the second annual “Rebels with a Cause” gala in his honor, which benefited the research of Dr. David B. Agus, director of both the USC Westside Cancer Center and the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine.
It did Barry Manilow no favors.
Manilow (then in a cranberry sport coat) followed Ellison on stage. Manilow offered a three song set whose highlight was surprise ballroom lighting cues synched to “Copacabana.”
Top: Dr. David Agus, Cassandra Grey, Brad Grey, and Larry Ellison in the center of the room.
January Jones photo bombs Barry Manilow and Carole Bayer Sager on the way in.
Host Jimmy Kimmel with Grey, and David Foster with Pharrell Williams. Foster said that he and Ellison are both fans of aviation (“him private, me commercial”) and that they’ve both been married four times.
It could have been a running joke on an otherwise serious night that despite Ellison’s major donor history and an industry heavy room — a spectrum ranging from Irwin Winkler and January Jones to B.J. Novak and Molly Shannon – that the mega philanthropist might be only the second (or third) most popular Ellison in Hollywood.
But his awards-and-cash magnet movie producing kids Megan and David came up only briefly, and only David was there.
“My kids are going to take care of me in my old age,” Ellison continued.
“They need to keep those (movie) hits keeping one after another. I have a very expensive lifestyle and I don’t intend to change,” he said.
Regarding his offspring, he is late to the realization.
At an industry event at the start of awards season 2012-13, non-pioneering technology mogul Judd Apatow told the Beverly Hilton: “Note to self: Ask Megan Ellison for $60 million.”
John Stamos and Robert Evans.
For the scoreboard, Megan Ellison’s recent track record includes “American Hustle,” “Her,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Spring Breakers,” “The Master” and Bennett Miller’s upcoming “Foxcatcher” with Channing Tatum, but not “Terminator: Genesis.”
Brother David Ellison and his Skydance Productions are instead financing two-thirds of the budget, with Paramount financing the balance of the film that is slated for July 1, 2015.
Which makes all of this business a neat package for the staging of the gala.
It was a home game night for Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey, who along with his wife Cassandra and Keck School of Medicine dean Carmen Puliafito, were the honorary chairs.
“I feel very proud that everyone at Paramount dove in to this and has made it a priority,” Grey told TheWrap.
Although he went on to say “it’s not the home turf” by having the gala on their lot, there was a lot of internal partners and collaborators in the talent pit on the converted Stage 32 on Thursday night.
The room included Jerry Bruckheimer (Paramount producing deal), Jonah Hill (most recently of “The Wolf of Wall Street”), Christopher Nolan (directing this fall’s Paramount picture “Interstellar”), Sacha Baron Cohen (“Hugo” and “The Dictator”), Alice Eve (“Star Trek Into Darkness”) and former CBS and Warner Bros. boss and current Paramount advisor Bob Daley.
“Because this is Brad and such a good cause, I did come out,” Daley told TheWrap. “I really feel, as far as showing up, unless it’s someone I’m really close to, I just send a check.”
Pharrell Williams showed up, too.
Now in a forest green Arby’s hat (St. Patrick’s day leftover?), Williams opened the night with an umpteenth rendition of “Happy.” Bryan Lourd, Bob Saget, and those in the front row stood in for Lupita Nyong’o and Meryl Streep as he worked through the crowd.
The most serious tone of the night came when Hill and Kendrick read letters from Dr. Agus’ high profile patients as the lights dimmed and music played in the background.
“(Agus) gave us 13 more years of loving and sharing with others,” Madeline Sherak wrote of the benefits realized by her and her late husband, L.A. Film Czar and MPAA president Tom Sherak.
Although he’s been a contributor on CBS and profiled several times in the media, Dr. Agus’ recent extensive appearance on the Howard Stern show discussing his treatment of Robin Quivers introduced him, his philosophy, and his new book “A Short Guide to a Long Life” to new audiences.
Everyone at the gala went home with a new copy of the book, and a Paramount valet that shames the Century Plaza, Beverly Hilton, and Beverly Wilshire.