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A heady mix of Hollywood and retail heavyweights turned out Monday night at the American Museum of Natural History for the annual L’Oréal Legends Gala to help raise $4.3 million for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
Diane Keaton, Pierce Brosnan and Kerry Washington were among the presenters at the event honoring studio executive and producer Sherry Lansing; Richard Baker, chief executive officer of NRDC Equity Partners and Hudson’s Bay Trading Co., and Jonathan Gray, senior managing director at the Blackstone Group, and his wife, Mindy.
Keaton, a L’Oréal spokesmodel, paid tribute to Carol Hamilton, who, as president of the L’Oréal Paris division of L’Oréal USA, spearheaded the development of the research fund to raise $18 million during the last 11 years. “For me, the face of L’Oréal will always be the face of Carol Hamilton,” Keaton said. “That heart of hers was not afraid to risk all for the good of women.” The actress added that Hamilton “made women understand that feeling beautiful is the same as being beautiful.”
Hamilton, who was promoted to president of the luxury products division, has been succeeded by the new L’Oréal Paris president, Karen Fondu, who is taking over fund-raising. As Keaton gave Hamilton her send-off, the stage behind her was filled with some of the 15 Hollywood spokesmodels that the executive had recruited. The group included Linda Evangelista, Dayle Haddon, Milla Jovovich and Andie MacDowell.
In response, Hamilton ticked off the progress of the last 11 years: consumer awareness of ovarian cancer jumped from “nonexistent” to more than 80 percent, and the five-year survival rate improved from 10 percent to the present 45 percent.
Eloquent speeches were given by Brosnan, who described how he lost his first wife, Cassandra Harris, to the disease, and Lansing, whose mother was stricken. Both urged renewed efforts to find a cure. In applauding the scientists who toil in their labs for decades, Lansing said: “Finally they feel the tumblers are in place to unlock a cure — so I will know that my mother did not die in vain and that no woman will suffer as she did.”
“This is going to be hard,” said Baker, upon accepting his award and before recounting the moment he learned his mother had ovarian cancer. He was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike when his cell phone rang and she told him. “Five years later, she passed away….This is a dreaded, tragic disease affecting us all.”
Others at the event included Kyle MacLachlan, Tommy Hilfiger, Jeffrey Sherman, Tom Murry, Brendan Hoffman, Charles Chinni and Suzanne Johnson.