The Crowd: Chapman event nets $2.1M for scholarships

November 17, 2010|By B.W. Cook

It is arguably the most amazing social event on the fall calendar in Orange County.

For the 29th year, Chapman University presented "American Celebration," which attracted a black-tie crowd of some 750 of the region's most philanthropic citizens. They came, they saw and, in the end, they donated in excess of $2.1 million (net) to support scholarships for Chapman University students. The entire event was nothing short of incredible.

Each year a celebrity guest of honor fronts the excitement. Show business legend Jerry Lewis, whose daughter is a student at Chapman, was the perfect honoree. Elegant and eloquent, Lewis accepted Chapman's Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award on stage with University President James Doti. A massive screen projected clips from Lewis' career, including the classic staircase dance scene from the 1960s-era film "Cinderfella."


Sharing with the audience the back story of how the exhausting sequence was filmed, Lewis told the crowd that he had to be rushed to the hospital with heart palpitations after the final take. Placed in intensive care with plastic sheeting around his bed, Lewis was visited by his father. Pulling open the plastic, his dad moved his head inside to see his young, thirty-something movie star son hooked up to tubes, fighting a potential heart attack. Lewis looked at his dad, unable to speak.

His dad responded: "Do you know what you are doing to your mother?!"

The Chapman crowd roared. Then, major Chapman benefactor S. Paul Musco who, with his wife, Marybelle, chaired the multi-million dollar evening, joined Lewis and Doti on stage and shared a personal memory.

"When I was a very young man I worked at The Biltmore Hotel in my hometown of Providence, R.I.," Musco said. "Jerry Lewis came into town to do a show and stayed at the hotel. I helped him with his bags and escorted him to his room. Lewis was a huge star as a very young man. Meeting him was a big deal for me."

Musco kept going.

"So we got to the room and Lewis could tell I was waiting for my tip," he recounted. "A little more time went by and he turned to me and said, 'Young man, I have a tip for you.' Then there was a pause, 'My tip is — get a better job!'"

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