In the 10 years since Linda Marshall started the foundation dedicated to fighting the OCD disease that claimed the life of her son James, she has had help from her old friend, singing legend Dionne Warwick. When it came time to mark the 10th anniversary of the James E. Marshall OCD Foundation, she recruited another legend from her past, actor Robert Wagner, as the master of ceremonies for the organization’s recent annual dinner. The three of them have known each other since the Eighties, when Marshall and Warwick launched the women’s fragrance Dionne in 1987.
This story first appeared in the March 17, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
During the dinner, Wagner, who recently turned 84, sat between Warwick and Marshall in Manhattan’s Union League Club, showing them pictures of his grandchildren. “We’ve been friends for a long time,” he said during his opening remarks. He then praised Marshall’s success as president of Elysée Scientific Cosmetics Inc. and her unstinting generosity as a friend.
“I love and have used her Elysée products for years,” he continued. But he quickly turned to explaining why he was onstage. “One of the assets of being a celebrity is it allows me to bring attention and give voice to people, who — for one reason or another — are unable to speak for themselves. I applaud you for supporting [Linda] tonight and for opening your hearts and your wallets for the foundation.”
The pitch worked. Marshall said the dinner and accompanying auction raised $264,290, lifting the 10-year cumulative total to $2.75 million.
Wagner didn’t have to push the jokes because there were plenty from the honoree of the evening, Mike Indursky, president of Bliss World LLC. His acceptance speech sounded more like the routine of a stand-up comic reveling in a gig than the business leader that he is during the day. “When Linda called me, I was shocked,” he began. “I did not expect this and I told her you can go into Lauder or L’Oréal or Arden and take a dart and throw it and find someone more worthy than me. But fortunately, Linda ran out of darts.”
He thanked his parents, who were in the audience, and noted, “I couldn’t ask for better or more supportive parents. I did ask but nothing became of it.”
Indursky recalled that initially he had a hard time convincing his father to come to his dinner, since the elder Indursky had reservations elsewhere. Then the son mentioned that Wagner was going to be the emcee and his father suddenly sprang to life. “Robert Wagner?” the son said mimicking his father’s voice. “Robert Wagner is going to be there? Bobby Wagner?”
“It’s not Bobby Wagner,” the son corrected.
“Bobby Wagner is going to be there,” the father was quoted. “Of course I am going to be there.”
Indursky gave a shout-out to his mother and brother and showered praise on his daughter, Emma, who was sitting at the head table. “As impressive as all this is,” he said in her direction, “you’re twice as smart as I am, you’re twice as creative and there is no reason you shouldn’t go twice as far I have — or four times.”
He tipped his hat to Warwick, who would later sing a medley of songs. Indursky — who in his off hours often plays music, adopting his favorite persona as a guitar-driving Frank Zappa head — joked that he and Warwick can be found singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” together in a karaoke bar on Avenue A.
“I do believe our success comes from what we learn from others,” Indursky said, turning serious. “And I’ve learned so much from all of you.” He then thanked his mentors, like Bob Phillips, the former head of Elizabeth Arden, who was in the room. Indursky then extended the gratitude belt to encompass everyone he has worked with — inside and outside the company. “You don’t just increase the performance of our company, you increase my performance, too. Thank you for making me better every day.”
Wagner was no slouch when it came to showing gratitude. He had just finished filming an episode of the “NCIS” crime drama, playing the part of a father, and the significance was not lost on him. “It’s a great privilege to be working,” he observed. “As long as they have got to have mothers and fathers, we have a chance.”