Bill Clinton scanned the 700 or so people who gathered to honor the late Edie Wasserman Friday and told them about the first time he met the woman who was known as the "first lady of Hollywood."
It was the early 1980s, and the former president was then the governor of Arkansas. He had an idea to set up a film office for the state, so he contacted Wasserman's husband, the legendary mogul and chief of MCA/Universal, to ask for help.
"Like a fool, I called Lew Wasserman's office and asked him for an appointment. And I think he was just so aghast that some redneck kid would do this that he said yes. ... I was scared to death."
"Then I got there and I was much more frightened of Edie."
Of course, he quickly fell in love with Edie Wasserman.
As Clinton put it, everybody did.
The former president said that, "Edie proved it was possible for a woman to be well into her 90s and to be sexy and to have a crush on her. There was something utterly magical about her."
Wasserman, a philanthropist who helped raise more than $100 million for the Motion Picture and Television Fund and who loved Democratic politics, was 95 when she died Aug. 18.
At Royce Hall at her beloved UCLA Friday afternoon, several of her remarkable friends remembered her kindness, her intellect, her generosity, her wit and her spirit.
Rabbi Uri Herscher, UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block, the actress Jamie Lee Curtis, U.S. Rep. -- and former Speaker of the House -- Nancy Pelosi, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Clinton spoke, as did Wasserman's grandson, Casey Wasserman, and granddaughter, Carol Ann Leif.
Secretary Clinton remembered her friend as "spunky and gritty and graceful and gracious."
She said that Wasserman "had strong opinions and she was not hesitant" about sharing them.
The former senator from New York -- and former first lady of the United States -- said that Wasserman once told her, "we both married men that nobody thought would go anywhere."
The tributes were heartfelt and eloquent.
Jamie Lee Curtis -- Wasserman's goddaughter -- remembered a woman who was "whip smart," "politic, not political," "caustic and couragious," "prickly yet soft like cashmere."
She said that her godmother "was generous but not gaudy" and that "she showed up but she didn't show off."
Curtis -- like nearly everyone who spoke -- remembered Wasserman's phone calls. She remembered the great lady's standard greeting, "Hi Doll!" She remembered her loyalty and her shrewdness.
Block, the UCLA chancellor, remembered Wasserman greeting the many Wasserman Scholars -- students who received scholarships from her family's foundation.
"Edie would hold their hands and listen," he said. "Edie Wasserman cared about these students. Her students."
Pelosi talked about Wasserman's love of politics and about her interest in the future.
"She brought people together," she said. "She knew how and when to combine forces."
Katzenberg, chairman of the board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation, talked about her devotion to the MPTF and about how proud she was of its facilities.
And he talked about her fancy friends.
"Among all those A-listers," he said, "She was an A-plus."
The A-listers described a tough lady who they were lucky to know.
Her grandchildren talked about a beloved lady.
"Every day that I can remember," Leif said, "I can picture my grandmother wearing the same thing, whether she was going to Nate 'n Al's or the White House."
Wasserman had a pin that spelled out the word "LOVE" in diamonds.
"That pin was my grandmother," she said. "Rocks so tough ... they could cut glass. But put together in just the right way and you get love."
"That was Edie," she said. "Blunt. Direct. Matter-of-fact."
The audience laughed. They knew her.
"My grandmother lived an amazing 95 years," Leif said. "And boy oh boy, she lived them fully."