Natalie Cole might be gone, but she is definitely in the heart of her dear friend Nancy Davis, who held her 23rd annual “Race To Erase MS” fundraiser last week at the Beverly Hilton.
Davis–daughter of beloved Barbara and the late Marvin Davis (once the owner of both 20th Century Fox and the Beverly Hills Hotel)– continues to be the indefatigable force she is in fighting Multiple Sclerosis, which she was diagnosed with 24 years ago. She was told then to expect a bleak future to say the least. Nancy with the help of her powerhouse mother and the classiest lady in town Barbara Davis, started the fundraiser which supports Davis’s “Center Without Walls” program, which funds a network of doctors working towards the prevention and cure for MS.
The gala honored Carolyn Rafaelian, CEO of Alex and Ani, for her philanthropic work with “Charity by Design.” The evening started with the events’ famed silent auction, which celebs such as Ashley Tisdale, Loni Anderson, Tommy Chong, Carmen Electra, Diane Warren, Teri Garr, Cybil Shepard, Doug Flutie and more perused. Davis, after being introduced by LL Cool J– who described her as “unstoppable” — paid loving tribute to her close friend Natalie Cole, who was deeply involved in the cause over the years.
“My brilliant friend Natalie, her son Robby is here tonight, entertained [at this event] seven times over the years. She came to the meetings, and was a true champion. She was an unforgettable friend and we all miss her like crazy.”
“Mom” star Jaime Pressly took to the stage to start the silent auction. Before that she paid tribute to her good friend, “Sopranos” actress Jamie Lynn-Sigler, who recently revealed her own MS diagnosis. “Jamie’s sorry she can’t be here tonight, but because of the good medicine she’s working. She’s as good as she’s ever been.”
Randy Jackson introduced KISS, with the explanation that Paul Stanley would not be performing because of recent shoulder surgery, although he added he would be recovered in time to tour with KISS this summer.
Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss ably rocked the house anyway. Jordan Smith, last year’s winner from “The Voice,” sang beautifully and ended his set with his winning song from the show, Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” The most poignant performance of the night was David Foster and Eric Benet’s tribute to Natalie.
Foster, who was the evening’s musical director, as he has been for most years, and Benet, who rightly criticized the Grammys this past year when they did not pay proper tribute to Natalie, flipped Natalie’s and Nat King Cole’s iconic “Unforgettable” around. Eric sang Nat’s part while Natalie was heard singing her part. The room literally went silent; the moment was breathtaking, poignant and heartbreaking.
Davis told the crowd that, “When we started there were no drugs on the market, no protocol, very little help. We just announced the FDA approval of the 13th drug on the market.” The evening ended with all the performers on stage singing, “Lean On Me.” Bravo Nancy Davis for your tireless work! Nancy is right, we all miss Natalie like crazy.