Yup, you read that amount correctly – Twenty Million Dollars. That’s how much this year’s Friends of the IDF Western Region Gala raked in two nights ago. The event is chaired every year by billionaire Haim Saban, and was in the press least year when Stevie Wonder refused to participate at the last minute.
No such controversy this year. Lionel Richie sang to the audience of over 1,200 people. Here’s how the scene was described by the Jewish Journal blog “Hollywood Jew“:
The gala itself was uncharacteristically tame. In the past, the usually star-studded event has filled the giant ballroom at the Hyatt Regency in Century City, sometimes with upwards of 1,200 guests. Iconic musicians like Andrea Bocelli and Barbra Streisand have performed, while “Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander has dutifully emceed.
But this year, there was little of that. The venue was changed to the Hilton, which is reliable but smaller. No headlining musical act was invited to perform, though the always entertaining David Foster Wallace reprised his role as host of “FIDF Idol” an after dinner concert in which mostly up and coming talents took the stage.
Big name attendees were also scarcer this year, though Israeli mega-producer Avi Lerner was there, as was Electus founder Ben Silverman. The shiniest star in the whole lot, though, was the real “American Idol,” Simon Cowell, who sat gleaming in a corner with his very pregnant girlfriend (Jewish divorcee Lauren Silverman, with whom Cowell had an affair while she was still married) and from where he publicly pledged $50,000 to the Israel Defense Forces.
That’s right: Simon Cowell, critic extraordinaire, is officially a Zionist; and, on his way out of the gala, told me his plans to visit Israel later this year.
The video above showing Cowell singing along with Saban is making the rounds.
There were other big spenders as well. Ynet reports big donors included, “Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, who gave $4.5 million, Haim Saban, who gave $2.3 million, and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who gave $1 million.”