For nine years, the Alfred Mann Foundation headed by biomedical philanthropist Alfred Mann has hosted an extraordinary gala to raise awareness and donations for people in need of bionic medical solutions. Members of the military, doctors, scientists, and celebs gather to support this undertaking.
It's not every day that I get invited to a billionaire's dinner and charity auction, so when the invitation to this year's AMF's 007/"Casino Royale"-themed "Innovation and Inspiration" gala arrived, I jumped at the chance to adhere to its black/white dress-theme and jetted over to Barker Hanger in Santa Monica. Greeted by the incredibly helpful event press-rep, Omar Cunningham (who was wearing fabulous shoes) I was first struck by the décor details. The walls were draped in black and chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Items up for bidding in the silent auction (including exotic vacations to Paris, New York and the Caribbean, a plasma TV, a sweater autographed by Miley Cyrus, and much more) were placed on tables around the room. A jazz band played in an alcove while waiters served wine, apricot martinis, and spicy shrimp tar-tar.
Omar introduced me to Alfred Mann, who was dressed in a snazzy white suit with what appeared to be rhinestones around the collar. When I complimented him on the outfit, he admitted, "My wife picked it out." Claude Mann, also helped to design the gala. "I think you'll enjoy the event,” said Alfred, “because the speeches aren't long and the food is great!"
Meanwhile on the red carpet was the handsome Armie Hammer accompanied by his beautiful wife, Elizabeth Chambers. Sinbad, wearing a suit with an interesting leopard-skinned scarf protruding from his pocket and hockey legend Luc Robitaille, whose signed jersey was up for auction, also posed for pictures.
Two men were honored at the event this year: Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer, who is highly involved in humanitarian charity, and Colonel Paul Pasquina, MD, whose efforts in medical research and technology for war veterans earned him the "Vision and Scientific Achievement" award. Other philanthropists, like Ziering Family Foundation founder Marilyn Ziering, American Friends of Rabin Medical Center’s Barry & Yvonne Cohen, and Loreen Arbus, mingled.
The real “wow” moment occurred when the doors to the main gala opened to reveal a room transformed into a casino complete with blackjack tables, roulette and craps. With winnings came raffle tickets, with which one could later win an anonymously donated sapphire and diamond necklace valued at $25,000, art, vacations, and other fprizes.
I spotted Olivia Munn and Lucy Punch before the Mistress of Ceremonies—the incredibly talented dancer-choreographer Debbie Allen—took the stage. Robin Thicke performed and did not disappoint.
It was a grand evening in support of a grand foundation. Humble, kind and generous, Alfred Mann is surely a name we should know and appreciate. You can donate to the Alfred Mann Foundation at their web site.
Photograph: Alfred and Claude Mann with their daughter, Cassandra.