This was a name-dropper's paradise. There were Hall of Fame athletes like Jim Brown, Magic Johnson, Jerry Rice and Jerry West. There were show-biz stars like Jeremy Piven, Cedric The Entertainer and Ali (The Bachelorette) Fedotowsky. There was even a former head of state, Vicente Fox, the ex-president of Mexico, and another guy who has probably interviewed just about everyone else on the guest list, Larry King.
That's the way it is at the annual Harold Pump Foundation gala. The Pump brothers, Dana and David, line up the biggest stars for a bash to honor their late father Harold and raise money to fight cancer, and this year's event, the 11th annual, was no different as movers and shakers from sports and beyond gathered last week in Century City.
The superstar wattage was stunning, but one of the reasons why the Pumps have been so successful in raising money with their foundation -- nearly $5 million with the lion's share going to Northridge Hospital -- is that they've found a way to personalize the message: Cancer affects everyone. As the brothers made this point in their opening remarks, I found myself visibly nodding in agreement.
Both of my parents are cancer survivors.
Now I've known this, obviously, but this was the first time I'd ever uttered that particular sentence, albeit in silence. Not to inappropriately mix metaphors, but I imagine it is similar to when a substance abuser stands up at the group meeting and introduces himself as an addict. The first time you say it has memorable impact.
My dad has been fighting cancer for the past year. The outlook is promising after a major operation in the spring, but grim images from the hospital are still fresh and flashed through my mind as Dana and David spoke. Then Magic Johnson said that if he died now, his fondest wish would be for his sons to honor him in the same meaningful way the Pump brothers have honored the memory of their dad with this foundation.
That forced me to ask myself an uncomfortable question: What would I do in memory of my dad, if it came to that?
I don't mean to kill the mood here, because the resounding message from the gala was positive, all about fighting the good fight, prevailing against this vicious disease, and I hope I am in some way conveying how this event was overflowing with spirit and optimism.
Rule No. 1 in sports journalism is that there's no cheering from the press box. But perhaps there ought be a corollary that says it is more than OK to root for an organization that converts celebrity star power into donations that help real people.