Thursday's An Unforgettable Evening, benefiting the Women’s Cancer Research Fund, could have been a somber affair, spotlighting as it did the many women who have had cancer. However, with physician turned actor-comedian-producer Ken Jeong as emcee and the Jonas Brothers as the night’s entertainment, the evening was extremely upbeat.
Raising $1.8 million for WCRF, a program of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel honored Renée Zellweger with the organization’s Courage Award. However, before the night’s official ceremonies, Jeong began by giving a shoutout to his wife Tran Ho, “a triple-negative breast cancer survivor."
Jeong kept the evening light, at one point talking about his acting career, beginning with his role in “The Hangover” and his wife’s support of his over-the-top portrayal of his character, Mr. Chow. “It was my idea to jump out of the trunk naked. That was my own doing,” he said, before recalling her response to his idea.
“It will be the feel-good movie of the summer,” he said, to which his wife jokingly responded, “Because every guy will go home feeling good about himself.”
For the award ceremony, in introducing Zellweger, honorary chair Rita Wilson praised this year’s best actress Oscar winner for her “tremendous heart and her beautiful soul, her true courage onscreen and off-.”
Alluding to the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire,” Wilson said, “To borrow a phrase that she added to the global lexicon, Renée Zellweger had us at hello.”
On taking the podium, however, in a surprising and charmingly self-deprecating reversal of roles, the accomplished actress immediately turned the tables on Wilson and threw praise right back at her.
“If I may exercise reciprocity in the embarrassment department, I would like to start with you, Rita,” said Zellweger, proceeding to laud the actress-singer for her courage in facing her bout with breast cancer in 2015 and in publicly sharing her experience. She then went on to praise her longtime publicist, Nanci Ryder, for bravely ripping off her wig and fearlessly exposing the effects of her treatment during a red carpet interview.
And Zellweger didn’t stop there. She then asked all the cancer survivors in the room to stand. “We’ll spare you the lights,” she said, “but can you please stand up. … I know you are here. I’ve talked to all of you.”
As the thunderous applause subsided, Zellweger wrapped up her remarks, saying, “I want to acknowledge you because we all know that courage is contagious as is the easier absence of courage. … Your courage, coupled with the support of everyone here, and those who are compelled to act, will touch lives and encourage others when facing any circumstance of unknown consequence.”
As the evening ended, guests jumped to their feet, crowding in close to the stage, rocking out to the Jonas Brothers. Never mind that, earlier, gala chairs Jamie Tisch and Quinn Ezralow had apologized to the chart-topping pop stars and their team for “the relentless, possibly, and probably exhausting text campaign that we waged to get you here tonight.”
There was no need for regrets. “We’re so grateful to be here. It’s such an amazing cause,” said Nick Jonas between tunes. “Let’s keep this party rolling,” he said, as the group proceeded with “Only Human,” “Jealous,” “Cake by the Ocean” and “Sucker.”
Honorary chairs Wilson and Kate Capshaw joined WCRF founders Tisch, Ezralow, Marion Laurie and Kelly Chapman Meyer. Guests included Katie Couric, Tom Ford and Richard Buckley, Maria Bello and Dominique Crenn, Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin, Ingrid and Jeff Gordon, Tommy Chong, Martin Short, Elizabeth Chambers, Camila Alves McConaughey, Chord Overstreet, Monique Lhuillier, Rachel Zoe, Loni Love, Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Kyle Richards, Cynthia Bailey, Caleb Foote, NJ Falk, William P. Lauder, Danielle Lauder, Judy and Leonard Lauder; and from Breast Cancer Research Foundation, president Myra Biblowit and BCRF-funded researcher Valerie Weaver.
Tickets for the 500 guests began at $1,500 and tables ranged up to $100,000, with funds going toward advancing research and finding innovative approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of women’s cancers.