Almost 18 years ago I attended a surprise 13th birthday party at Fox Studios for a darling young performer, Lacey Chabert, who was starring in the acclaimed Party of Five series. Since then I have followed her career with admiration. Ten years ago, sweet little Lacey went against type for the hit movie Mean Girls. She co-starred with another child star, Lindsay Lohan, who hasn’t been as lucky as Lacey finding personal happiness and professional respect. Over the years, Chabert has racked up impressive credits as an actress and voice artist, and now she has an inspiring role in the Hallmark Channel movie The Color of Rain. Premiering Saturday, May 31, the film is based on the bestseller by Gina and Michael Spehn. It’s a true story about how tragedy brought two families together as one.
Lacey portrays Gina, a mother of two who suddenly loses her husband to cancer. “Warren Christie portrays Michael Spehn, a neighbor with three young kids, who also lost his wife to cancer. They came together in faith, fell in love and got married, becoming a modern-day ‘Brady Bunch,’ helping each other heal and overcome an obstacle no one should ever face,” explained newlywed Chabert who sees Gina and Michael as “a shining example for me.”
Having Gina on the set during the filming of The Color of Rain gave Lacey comfort, but also “a feeling of greater responsibility to be as honest as possible and captured the strength and the beauty of their story.” Lacey also hopes the Hallmark Channel movie brings attention to the New Day Foundation for Families co-founded by Gina and Michael Spehn, an organization that financially helps and gives counseling to families affected by cancer. Michael and Gina were able to turn tragedy into triumph and continue to help families in need.
Another talented star I’ve watched grow up is singer-actress Brandy Norwood of Moesha fame who performed at the Independent School Alliance Impact Awards. The Grammy-winning artist joined the event co-hosts, Wendy Raquel Robinson and Hosea Chanchez, the sassy stars of The Game, to support the Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs. Alliance executive director Keishia Kemp presented Loretha Jones, president of Original Programming for BET Networks, with the Impact Award. Honoree Michael J. Richter, managing director, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC, received the Visionary Award, and Peter Smailes, headmaster of the Curtis School, was presented the Founder’s Award. Also deserving of praise were event co-chairs Beth Friedman and Nina Shaw.
They all came together for the Alliance which provides educational options and on-going support programs for students and their families, and acts as a resource to independent schools assisting them in their efforts to address issues of racial diversity and multicultural education. That’s what the event was all about.
And Brandy’s mini-concert wasn’t the only highlight of the evening. Everyone was moved when three Alliance students spoke poignantly about how the organization has changed their lives. The crowd at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire ballroom also enjoyed pianist Jeremy Weinglass and the Harvard Westlake student jazz band.
Also helping kids was the 15th anniversary event for Reading to Kids celebrating with a Comedy Night and Silent Auction at the fun-filled Hollywood Improv. To spread the joy of literacy, the DOMA Theatre Company sponsored the night and donated the 125,000th book to LAUSD school children. “This is an important milestone for us, for the kids in the reading clubs, and for the schools that welcome us every month,” said Charlie Orchard, managing director of the Reading to Kids organization. “A staggering number of kids in LA don’t have age-appropriate books in their homes. That makes it even more important that they have access to these books at school, where hundreds of children can enjoy each book. And what better way to highlight this 15 year anniversary than with a night of comedy.” The ultra-funny Patrick Keane hosted, and the great comedic talent of Dwayne Perkins (with a hysterical routine about 99-cent store shoppers), witty Brit Matt Kirshen, Fred Stoller, Jason Collings, and Flip Schultz provided (mostly) G-rated laughs.