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April 1st, 2004

Hollywood Galla Event Honoring: Steven Spielberg, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, and John Travolta

by SoHo Journal Staff

Hollywood and Broadway Royalty add Mega-kilowattage to “Stella by Starlight Gala Honoring: Steven Spielberg, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, and John Travolta”

High atop Rockefeller Center, it was instantly apparent that “Stella by Starlight” Gala benefiting The Stella Adler Studio of Acting was not your usual rubber chicken awards affair. The gleaming art deco entrance halls were packed with a throng of some 60 international photographers, over a dozen TV and radio crews, scores of reporters and bold faced names who came to pay tribute to the legendary acting teacher and applauded the recipients of The 2003 Stella Adler Studio of Acting Awards.

The committee list read like a “Who’s Who” of stage and screen. No surprise with Marlon Brando, Mike Medavoy and Roy Scheider chairing and an alumni roster that includes Alvin Ailey, Warren Beatty, Robert De Niro, Candice Bergen, Diana Ross and Bette Midler to name a few. The evening was organized by renowned painter Ellen Adler (Stella’s daughter) Vice-Chairman of the studio and her son Tom Oppenheim, President and artistic director of the famed New York based acting school who pulled out all the stops to create one of New York’s most magical evenings in recent memory. Roy Scheider, in his best Bob Fosse demeanor, wowed the Rainbow Room crowd with a “Salute to Musical Theater” he and Gordon Hunt conceived. Tony award winners Audra MacDonald and Patti Lupone brought down the house with a duet of “Happy Days Are Here Again” that would make Barbara Streisand green with envy. Lithe and lovely Ann Reinking, delighted as always and new to New York Michael Smith, offered a roof raising rendition of the Showboat classic, Ole Man River. Ellen Adler spoke eloquently and with great humor about her late mother, Stella Adler and Elaine Stritch had the audience in “Stritches” with her tales of working with the great diva.

In speaking of the Adler legacy beginning with his great grand parents, famed tragedians of The Yiddish Art Theater and the vision shared by his grandmother and the late Harold Clurman, Tom Oppenhiem left no doubt in anyone’s mind that The Stella Adler Studio of Acting would continue to flourish under his direction as the world’s preeminent training ground for generations of future artists.

Acclaimed director Sidney Lumet presented the Jacob Adler Award to Steven Spielberg for courageous contributions to American and Jewish culture. The incomparable Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were sung to on stage by the sweet sounds of the Boys Choir of Harlem and received The Group Theater Award for prolific achievement in theater, film and television arts, as well as for community and social commitment. In an evening filled with great passion and emotion, Davis gave one of the most stirring acceptance speeches that was also a call to arms for lovers of the spoken word.

The final presentation of the evening, the coveted Stella Adler Award for consummate artistic achievement and interpretation was presented by director Peter Bogdanovich to John Travolta to thunderous applause led by his wife Kelly Preston, who slid into her seat just moments before-as her LA flight had been delayed. Too bad press activities kept her from hitching a ride in one of her hubby’s 727s!!

The Travoltas-very much non-Holly-wood-charmed everyone with their warmth and graciousness and in turn were treated to a few pleasant surprises. Country Western star Johnny Lee, whose recording of Urban Cowboy theme song Looking for Love In All The Wrong Places, paved the way to the top of the charts for Lee, flew up especially from Nashville, to pay tribute to his good friend.

Among the glitterati were Stella-r friends including Anne Jackson, Ellen Violet (who recently made a major pledge to the studio in honor of the late Irene Worth), Liz Smith, Joan and George Hornig, Rose and Donald Billings, Sony Pictures Classics Marcie Bloom, award winning screenwriter/director Deborah Kampmeier, producer Beverly Camhe, Brenda Siemer Scheider, Zoe Caldwell, Fred Westheimer, Paul Bloch and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The star- studded gala benefited the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, its scholarship programs, community outreach and future expansion.

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