Since the Brangelinas are donating the proceeds from selling photos of their baby, let’s consider this: that, for all of Hollywood’s wealth, glitter and dizzying array of charity events, its biggest names are largely missing from the list of America’s major philanthropists. Only two entertainment industry figures were in the top 50 (Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey) in a recent Slate survey, and neither is based in Hollywood. So slaps the Los Angeles Business Journal recently. But many denizens do fork over for good causes. Sherry Lansing’s foundation gives to cancer research organizations. Mel Gibson is behind a $15 mil fundraising drive to endow arts programs in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Spielberg launched the Shoah Foundation and its archive of Holocaust testimonies. Haim Saban and his wife donated $50 mil to Childrens Hospital to fund pediatric medical research. Marvin Davis’ widow Barbara funds the Children’s Diabetes Foundation. etc.
And then, in a category all by himself, is David Geffen. His foundation donated $200 million in unrestricted funds to the UCLA School of Medicine, now named the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, making it the largest individual gift ever to the University of California. I also recall how Geffen and Ray Stark together funded medical research into specialized brain surgery to help friend Dawn Steel when she developed an inoperable brain tumor. Now In magazine writer Dana Miller lionizes what it calls the Four Warriors of AIDS fundraising: Geffen, Barry Diller, Sandy Gallin, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. “It was the early ’90s, and we were in the second decade of AIDS with absolutely no hope in sight… It was then I discovered the warriors, and it was amazing. Gay and straight, they were the ones who for almost a decade came together in living rooms and storefronts to provide what our government didn’t. My list of warriors is long, yet this is the tale of four particular individuals who for years I closely watched working behind the scenes to make a difference in the quality of life of men, women, and children they would never know.”