How many times can you cram the word celebrity into one sentence without losing its meaning? At least two. Which is about as many minutes as it takes actor Martin Starr to identify his opponent Michael Trucco via pun and gesticulation. More on that in a second.
In what may be the most meta-est example of fund-raising parlor games, Largo at the Coronet hosted the Pablove Foundation's version of a Celebrity deathmatch last night. The event included four teams of hip Hollywood folks and high-bidding civilians vying to be the best at miming and identifying famous people — oh, and beating childhood cancer through the funds it raised.
Actors acting out other actors in a celebrity version of Celebrity? Whoa.
For the uninitiated, Pablove Foundation is the Silver Lake based charity dedicated to advancing research in pediatric cancer and improving the lives of cancer survivors and their families through art and music programs. The organization was started by Dangerbird Records' Jeff Castelaz and his wife Jo Ann Thrailkill after losing their six-year old son Pablo to a bilateral Wilms Tumor.
So how does one play Celebrity? (The game, not the, uh, soul-crippling lifestyle). Two teams put notable names into a hat (in this case a computer) and spend three rounds trying to mime, charade, hint and/or cajole each other into correctly guessing those famous folks. Pablove's version used real famous people and a few civilian guests who had bid to play alongside them before a packed audience. Each player took turns as the mimer, or “banger,” the term invented onstage by Nathan Fillion and validated by host Brian Gattas.
Mad Men's Rich Sommer told us before the event, “It's pretty hard to say no to helping kids with cancer…kind of a no brainer.” When asked about his gaming strategy, he said, “I'm a big gamer and I'm terrible at math, so I think I've got a chance with this game.”
Last night's roster of notables included sci-fi geekdom royalty: Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff and Michael Trucco, Firefly's Nathan Fillion and Mad Men's Abigail Spencer — including high-bidding non-celebrities Dave Miller and Vicki Mangess. For the first round of two, those geeks triumphantly destroyed the freak team of Freaks and Geeks' Busy Philips and Martin Starr, Arrested Development's Alia Shawcat, Parks and Rec's Aubrey Plaza and regular person Kim Stouffer.
Round one went down in raucous near drunkenness, as freak and geek alike struggled to convey their rapid fire knowledge of Ronald Reagan, Michael J. Fox and Kermit the Frog, among others. At one point, Michael Trucco's name appeared before the opposing team's “banger,” Martin Starr. In a slow-paced fit of goofball antics Starr flailed his way through charades not realizing he could just point to the guy behind him. Apparently celebrities aren't always as celebrity-savvy about their fellow celebrities.
The round two players watched from backstage, picking up tips and pointers and their version ended up looking slightly more professional — if you can call it that. Actor Josh Malina, along with Sommer, and comedians Sarah Silverman, donor Carrie Daniels, The State's Michael Ian Black and comedian Rob Delaney owned Super Troopers' Jay Chandrasekhar, Wilfred's Jason Gann, choreographer Adam Shankman, civilian Justine Daniels, Pablove mom and co-founder Jo Ann Thrailkill, and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme.
Up next: Silverman's sex life
Even with flat-falling quips about Silverman's fake sex life (she was not really “Fucking Matt Damon,” it seems) and more obscure notable names in the hat, (Catinflas? Mstislav Rostropovich? jeeze), round two took it back home. During a mind-blowing run of points, Malina blurted, “We hate cancer more than you do!” to a peal of laughter.
The organizer — Pablove's original executive director and One Am Radio band frontman Hrishikesh Hirway — was in awe of the variety of star power he managed to get for on such short notice. The idea came when he and some pals were playing the living-room version of the game two months ago, and within that window, he'd set up a few famous team captains from Pablove's donor rolls, Katee Sackhoff and Busy Philips among them, and secured the Largo.
Sackhoff, a cancer survivor herself, needed no arm-twisting to show up last night. Turned on to Pablove through her own Fly Free charity, she told us before the match, “I love their Shutterbug program, because when I was bedridden, I was angry and frustrated, and I had no way to express that.” The Shutterbugs program teaches creative photography to kids living with cancer. She continued,”I thought that was an amazing idea…to allow kids to put happiness and beauty to something so awful and terrifying. I love the idea and the organization so much that I would drag all of my friends here and play this game that I'm going to lose terribly.”
For a first run of what could become the standard in highly entertaining non-profit fundraising, awareness may be more important at the beginning, especially in this town and in a sea of thousands of other wonderful do-gooding organizations.
Which is why Hirway was either reticent or unable to confirm the total dollar amount raised. To that end he explained, “I don't know if the number is as important…it pales in comparison to what we actually did. Well, even if we raised a million dollars for Pablove tonight, we raised even more…” Awesomeness points? “Sure, you can call it that.”
Pablove hopes that their version of Celebrity will happen at least three times a year (twice in LA and once in New York) so stay tuned. If last night is any indication, they've got a great start to kicking the shit out of cancer one goofy spectacle at a time.