Without a doubt the word “icon” is overused inHollywood. But it was certainly used appropriately when screen legend Sidney Poitier was honored by theUCLALongevityCenter. Poitier, 85, received the Icon Award for Artistic Excellence, and it was presented by Quincy Jones, another true icon.
Jones told everyone that he and Poitier have been friends for more than six decades. “He’s a friend, mentor, and brother. For 65 years we’ve been friends, and he’s always tried to lead me down a righteous path. Sometimes he didn’t succeed, but he’s one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever known in my life,” Jones said.
With his signature strong voice Poitier said, “We all go through our lives doing the best we can. We all should go out and reach for our better selves.” He certainly has, winning a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Lilies of the Field (1963). And he has starred in other monumental films including In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? And I felt like a school girl when I had the opportunity to tell Mr. Poitier what an impact his film To Sir, with Love had on me. I loved the way he smiled.
After seeing the film clips from Poitier’s impressive career, Morgan Freeman noted “only a select few achieve that level of excellence. He is a beautiful soul.” Freeman also introduced Grammy-winning singer Natalie Cole, who revealed that Poitier has been a friend of her family’s ever since she could remember. In tribute, Natalie performed, dueting with a recording of her father, Nat “King” Cole, singing the classic “Unforgettable.”
A terrific comedienne-actress and KFI radio personality Lisa Ann Walter (a self-proclaimed Valley soccer mom) emceed the Beverly Hills Hotel celebration with aplomb. More entertainment was presented by The Company Men great singing group. In the audience was music mogul and Motown founder Berry Gordy.
Along with Poitier, well-deserved honors were bestowed on Jane and Terry Semel, longtime supporters who have the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, an essential component of the Longevity Center.
Dr. Peter Whybrow received the Visionary Leadership in Science and Medicine honor, and Shlomo Rechnitz and Steve Rechnitz were honored for Visionary Leadership in Business and Philanthropy. The funny twin brothers got huge laughs, but everyone learned that they take making the world a better place very seriously. Dr. Gary Small, the dynamic director of theUCLALongevityCenter, said, “Each of our honorees is a true icon of healthy and active living.”
Iconic Million Dollar Quartet
It really happened: a quartet of future icons met at the Sun Records studio inMemphison December 4, 1956. Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and the future king Elvis Presley were brought together by fate and Sam Phillips, called the “Father of Rock ’n’ Roll,” and the man responsible for launching the careers of each superstar.
That first and only gathering resulted in what became the greatest jam session in rock ’n’ roll history. And that glorious night has been recreated in the musical Million Dollar Quartet, now playing through July 1 at the Pantages Theatre inHollywood.
The show is filled with songs from the electrifying music stars, who come to life thanks to the performances by Derek Keeling as Johnny Cash, Cody Slaughter as Elvis Presley, Martin Kaye as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Lee Ferris as Carl Perkins. Ferris is actually a local who went to high school inSanta Monica. He’s a surfer dude who went on to have a singing career, and now steps into the “blue suede shoes” of an icon.