Blake Edwards Was the Real Deal for Operation USA

12/16/2010 10:51 pm 22:51:47 | Updated May 25, 2011

I'll never forget that late September day in 1979 when I received a call from Blake Edwards. He had been in Malibu watching local TV on a Saturday which was broadcasting from the LA Zoo. In between a monkey act and Billy Barty, came photos of my first relief airlift to Vietnamese "Boat People" in camps in Malaysia.

Blake and his wife, Julie Andrews, had just 4 years earlier adopted two Vietnamese girls in the closing moments of the Vietnam War. I guess -- although he never told me that -- it was out of an attempt to have any link at all with that nightmare which led Blake to have me come visit him and Julie and describe the details of my modest relief effort.

That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and one which a legion of actors, writers and film crews also experienced with Blake.

Once you were part of The Team, you felt his love, loyalty and his continuing interest in your work.

Unlike the "watch me" generation of celebrity activists and philanthropists, Blake preferred the occasional intervention -- ones which had enduring effect.

"How's the Cambodia airlift going? What do you need?" [money]. "I'll pay for a plane". [how can you?] "Ever seen 10 -- the studio owed me a fortune and they just started paying so charter the cargo plane and get going."

"I've arranged a meeting at CBS. They want to do a prime time special on Cambodia's children and will give you $1 million, part of which has to pay for producing a show and the rest is for Cambodia" ["Because We Care", February 1980].

"I hear you know Queen Noor of Jordan. Let's see if we can find a moorish-style castle for Son of the Pink Panther and I'll make a contribution towards supporting kids in Jordan."

"How's Haiti going? Julie will be on TV tomorrow promoting a new film but she'll be asked about Operation USA's work in Haiti."

There are 31 + years of these occasional gems, ones which every charity wishes its board members would do in their respective fields of expertise and influence.

Blake Edwards, an auteur in film, TV, the stage and radio for 70 years, was also a quiet humanitarian and a hero to all of us at Operation USA.