LOS ANGELES — “I don’t ever want to be that invitation you get in the mail and say, ‘Um, let me think of an excuse not to go to this,’” says Nancy Davis.
She needn’t worry. For 10 years, Davis, along with her mother, Barbara, has reigned as the benefit queen of Los Angeles. On Friday, she’ll host her ninth Race to Erase MS gala at the Century Plaza Hotel, a Seventies-themed charity ball to which 1,600 people have RSVP’d. “The biggest question lately seems to be what to wear. I get a ton of calls every day. And it’s a lot harder with the men,” she says with a laugh. “I tell people to think ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘Laugh In.’”
To look at Davis, perfectly poised and coiffed and perched on a pink baroque chair at her Beverly Glen home, it’s hard to believe she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 11 years ago. “The first doctor who diagnosed me told me I’d have to go home and stay in bed forever. He said, ‘At least, you have someone who can bring you meals in bed everyday,’” Davis recalls. “I just couldn’t believe it — I had to prove that wasn’t going to be me.”
The proof, Davis’ Center Without Walls — a foundation she started with Tommy Hilfiger, whose sister has MS — has already raised $14 million for MS research. Says Barbara Davis: “If Nancy were in business, she’d be in the Forbes 400.”
Davis insists on handling the tiniest details herself, not the least of which is assembling 1,600 12-pound goody bags — in her home. “I know this sounds really ridiculous, but this house came with a disco, so we put the goody bags together in it,” she explains.
As she walks toward the elevator, located in a marble gazebo adjacent to the pool, and punches the “down” button, the doors open to reveal a stack of boxes completely filled with Tommy Hilfiger Ts. “Well, I guess we’ll have to walk,” she says. Inside the blue-velvet and smokey-mirrored disco room there are industrial-sized boxes filled with perfumes, bath gels and MAC lipsticks, plus thousands of party favors. (Those favors are the stuff of legend. Barbara Davis recalls one year when Nancy’s Judith Leiber minaudière was stolen from her dinner table: “The thief just couldn’t resist the lure of the goody bag so he stood in line to get one and that’s where he got caught.”)Of course, to get the real goodies, guests will have to fork over a little cash to win auction prizes like tickets to the Victoria’s Secret runway show; a private fashion show, luncheon and dress from Badgley Mischka; fantasy luge camp (that’s right), and five days in the South Pacific with the Olsen twins and a walk-on part in their upcoming movie. Of course, for a family who can afford to buy anything (her father, Marvin Davis, is worth an estimated $4 billion) Davis admits that the operative words are “what money can’t buy.”
“I say to the committee, ‘Tell me your fantasies. If you could have anything in the world what would it be?’” — Marcy Medina