From the West Side to the East Side this past week was one gala dinner after another. Every single night, from the West Side to the East Side of L.A., and everywhere in between, there were people recognizing one another for their accomplishments. Or, as Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries and recipient of the Friends of Boyle Heights Genesis Award put it, people were "recognizing each other as accomplices in their accomplishments."
It was sort of a citywide festival of "You're great." "No, YOU'RE great."
On Thursday evening Heal The Bay hosted their "Bring Back The Beach" annual benefit dinner for 1,000 guests - and raised over half a million dollars to support ongoing education, advocacy and community outreach. It was held at the Santa Monica Airport Barker Hangar and featured a mid-dinner performance by Cirque du Soleil. Watching the steel-cut muscle bound men perform their superhuman feats of balance and strength lent me, and the other women sitting at my table, an appetite for dessert. Cirque announced their partnership with Heal The Bay that evening.
Heal The Bay volunteers Ariel Lange, Susan Miller and Staffer Alison Lipman who runs the Stream Team Program for Heal The Bay, Photo by Paige Donner
Heal the Bay honored Google Ocean, photographer Catherine Opie and board member Mark Attanasio for their contributions. Sharon Lawrence, actress and environmentalist, spoke just after the video tribute to the late Dorothy Green noting that she'd wished she'd met Dorothy. Mark Gold, Green's handpicked wearer of the water crown, remarked that the video tribute to Dorothy left not a dry eye in the entire hangar. Senator Fran Pavley was on hand for the benefit dinner as was water woman Paula Daniels.
TreePeople Staffer; Stephanie Molen from Sen. Pavley's office, Andy Lipkis of TreePeople and Paige Donner of Greening Hollywood at Heal The Bay Gala
The Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center honored Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas and Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican-American woman elected to Congress. She shared that she is, "Very very excited about [Sotomayor's] appointment. We're all working very hard to make sure she gets the support that she needs. Never before have we had anyone more qualified to sit on the Supreme Court."
Boyle Heights Youth Technology Center Kids interview Congresswoman Roybal-Allard at Boyle Heights Community Awards Gala, Photo by Paige Donner
Among the interviewing press was the Youth Team from the Technology Center who worked the press line like old pros. Celebs like Latin Music star and Grammy winner La Ley turned out as well as Alfre Woodard . The Youth Technology Center sparkles like a gem in this East L.A. neighborhood. Its Executive Director, Ozzie Lopez, has a "rising political star" buzz on him. The Center leaders coordinated the team of youth interviewers who wielded Canon XL-1s and professional grade mics to work the press line. The reporters-in-training alternated interviewing and camera operating among the team, while talking to government officials and A-list celebrities they otherwise see on TV and in films.
When I caught up with Arianna Huffington at the Global Green Millennium Awards Gala on Saturday night, she echoed this enthusiasm for Sotomayor's nomination. You can read her fired up "Rock on Love" blog about it here at HuffPo.
When I mentioned to her my recent lunch with U.S. Rep. David Obey, and several others, even she was impressed. You know the lady knows her politics when the name "Obey" draws immediate recognition.
Congressman and Environmentalist David Obey and Paige Donner at Rogers & Cowan office luncheon, May 2009
Austin Nichols of One Tree Hill commented at the Global Green USA annual Millennium Awards how he would like to make videos and put them on YouTube and fire up the youth to make them "environmental revolutionaries." He's all about greening the schools and getting kids into environments more conducive to learning - such as natural daylight, fresh air, and school yard gardens. Speaking of gardens, a must read for any aspiring gardener is this Space Of Love Magazine.
Austin Nichols and Jeff Skoll, Santa Monica, Global Green USA
I couldn't help but think that more of the Global Greenies ought to talk to the Boyle Heights Youth Techies...no telling what might get accomplished with accomplices from across the Eastside/Westside divide.
The only person I saw effortlessly cross that divide this week was Mayor Villaraigosa who presented awards at both Boyle Heights and in Santa Monica to friends and colleagues.
Mark Nathanson, Falcon Waterless Technologies, Global Green USA Awardee - onstage with a coffee can "the original waterless urinal" he said. Photo by Paige Donner
Although I believe Rosario Dawson also qualifies as an Eastside Westsider. I saw her at the Byron & Tracey salon in Beverly Hills on Friday and she gave me a big, warm-hearted smile, the kind that says "I'm just a person in this world, too." She looked glamorous in her Carrera shades. She was a presenter at the Global Green Awards and when the Mayor thanked her, she simply said "de nada" as she strutted offstage.
Rosario Dawson at Byron & Tracey Salon, Beverly Hills
Dawson presented the award to Jeff Skoll, founder of Participant Productions and the Skoll Foundation which, he will delightedly tell you, "celebrates, invests in and connects social entrepreneurs." He noted that one of their six major issue areas is the environment. He commented that Global Green USA is an organization he has only recently become familiar with.
I do want to check out that new hopping place in Boyle Heights, called Eastside Luv, one day soon. Richard Montoya of Culture Clash, MC of the Boyle Heights Community Awards, who is also the Commissioner for the Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of Los Angeles and Larry Frank, said they like to take their wives there for date night.
Adrian Grenier and Rosario Dawson at Global Green Usa Awards, 2009, Slam Poets Steve Connell and Sekou "Tha Misfit" in background, Photo by Paige Donner