It was a wonderful night to put the spotlight on the “Bigs” in life. And no one was bigger than executive chairman of Viacom and CBS Corporation, Sumner M. Redstone, who was honored by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. It really was a big deal at the BBBS’ annual Big Bash which celebrates making a big difference.
Hearing the media titan’s pearls of wisdom during his tribute was one of the highlights of the affair for me. “You have to set the standard of excellence for yourself, that’s the only way you can bring it out in others around you. And you must be a risk taker,” Sumner said, and truer words were never spoken by the man who literally invented the cinema-multiplex. About his media endeavors, he noted, “I love the entertainment industry, and content is king.” Described as the eternal optimist, he is proud of his philanthropic endeavors, including establishing Viacommunity Day for his company, which is part of his legacy of leadership. The 89-year-old World War II veteran said, “My reason to be here is to help people who don’t have what I have.”
Sherry Lansing, the former head of Paramount Studios, gave a litany of her former boss’ contributions to the entertainment industry and said Redstone was an incredible mentor and the best inspiration she could ever have. “He’s the big brother that I never had,” said Lansing, who is a mentor herself with the BBBS and she personally bestowed the organization’s Walt Disney Man of the Year honor on Redstone.
The gala was blessed with four remarkable honorees, BBBS president Mary Willard noted, “Sumner Redstone, Dana Walden, Roshon Fegan, and Kim Vamos, all of whom have embraced our mission.” They are all examples of inspiring individuals who act as positive role models for young people. Actor-singer and Dancing with the Stars young charmer Roshon Fegan received the Rising Star Award from his father, actor Roy Fegan. Another well-deserved honor went to Kim Vamos, a volunteer leader for BBBS for over a decade, who got the Trailblazer award. Dana Walden, Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Television was the recipient of the Sherry Lansing Award. It was well deserved for such a creative force in the industry, who is a wife and mother of two, yet still finds the time to be a Big Sister to a lucky “Little.”
Great entertainment was provided by Glee stars Lea Michele, Amber Riley, and Darren Criss. Their beautiful songs made Glee producer Ryan Murphy beam proudly throughout their performance. Plus singer-songwriter Jensen McRae delighted the crowd with a heartfelt song she wrote to honor all big brothers and big sisters. And pianist Jeremy Weinglass was extraordinary.
Other luminaries at the Beverly Hilton Hotel event included Pam Dawber, a dedicated Big Sister, who was on hand with husband Mark Harmon. Also Shari Redstone, Les Moonves and wife Julie Chen, Sarah Purcell, Sandy Bilson, Fred Willard, Alice and Leonard Maltin, Dr. David Agus, Amy Povich, Robert Walker, Gary Newman, Nancy Wilson, Julia Alexander, Nancy Taylor, the always wonderful and funny Jo Anne Worley, and Tiffany Siart, president and CEO of BBBSLA.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles is an organization dedicated to empowering children who face economic, emotional, and social challenges through a variety of programs, which provide a professionally supported, one-on-one mentoring relationship with a positive role model.
My big treat at the Big Bash was taking my real big sister Mary Lou Krewson around at the reception and proudly introducing her to my friends and celebrities at the event. It was wonderful to be able to express the joy that a big sister brings to your life, especially when she’s your hero. Yes, all big brothers and big sisters make a big difference.