Evening Before: Quarantunes Fundraiser Features Billy Porter, Jeremy Strong, George Clooney
Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Motion Picture and Television Fund turned to Richard and Demi Weitz’s Quarantunes Zoom concert fundraising franchise to save this year’s edition of the Evening Before fundraiser tied to the annual Primetime Emmy Awards fete.
“Succession’s” Jeremy Strong, George Clooney, “Schitt’s Creek’s” Dan Levy, “Pose’s” Billy Porter, Octavia Spencer, Sherry Lansing, Josh Groban and Deborah Cox were among the guests on the presentation which blended fundraising pitches and musical performances. Robin Thicke sang an a cappella selection of theme songs penned by his parents, Gloria Loring and Alan Thicke, including indelible tunes from NBC’s “Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Facts of Life.”
Bryan Adams delivered a heartfelt rendition of “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” on acoustic guitar. Billy Porter unabashedly “got political” and delivered a gospel-flavored cover of the Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”
Porter urged the crowd to pay attention to the political realities of the moment. In a brief interview segment with Spencer, Porter said the lockdown conditions imposed by the pandemic have given him new perspective.
“We need to lean into the power of this moment and the awakening and how special and transformative it can be for those of us who need to put on our oxygen mask for it so we can be of some service for what is to come,” Porter said.
Porter closed with an impromptu a cappella performance of the soaring “Love Is on the Way” from 1996’s “First Wives Club.”
The Evening Before gathering typically draws hundreds of industry insiders and Emmy nominees to Century City for one of the industry’s glitziest charity fetes. The Quarantunes series was started in April by WME partner Weitz and his 17-year-old daughter Demi in April as a private virtual social gathering for industry friends. It soon expanded into an ongoing fundraiser for COVID-19 relief programs. On Saturday, Demi disclosed that the efforts have now topped $10 million in donations from individual and corporate supporters.
Quarantunes has drawn a starry list of performers and high-powered supporters from the start. As such, the partnership between Evening Before and Quarantunes was a natural fit. Evening Before, now in its 14th year, was launched by Katzenberg as a small-screen counterpart to his Night Before fundraiser held annually Academy Awards weekend.
The Evening Before edition of Quarantunes opened with DJ Cassidy spinning a mix of classic TV theme songs, starting with “The Love Boat” (albeit a longer cut of the Jack Jones recording used for the ABC series) and ending with “Thank You for Being a Friend” from NBC’s “The Golden Girls.”
The Weitzes served as emcees for the night from the kitchen of their Beverly Hills home. Weitz joked that Katzenberg, who is head of the fledging short-form streaming platform Quibi, had pushed him to make the whole even under 10 minutes, the length of most Quibi episodes. The crowd swelled to more than 500 participants after the first hour of the show that was scheduled to run more than three hours.
Clooney, a longtime MPTF supporter, addressed the group to report that MPTF facilities have gone 23 weeks without a resident testing positive for coronavirus, a streak he described as “a very big deal.” The industry institution that provides health care and housing for elderly industry workers. Evening Before collected $840,000 before the call began. Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn Katzenberg, vowed to match donations with the goal of raising $1.5 million.
Super-producers Greg Berlanti donated $30,000. J.J. Abrams and his wife and Bad Robot partner Katie McGrath donated $40,000. Former Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing donated $20,000. Yvette Nicole Brown was also among the co-hosts.
“Thousands of industry workers are getting some relief from us because of this disaster with COVID. While we are looking back at our friends and retirees we are also in the process of always looking forward,” Clooney said.