Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Exclusive: Bad Rap for DefJam Founder Russell Simmons: RUSH Philanthropic Has Vanished, Questions About Finances


Last week in the Hamptons there was a glaring omission on the social calendar: the annual Art for Life gala hosted by Russell Simmons. One of three events given every year by Rush Philanthropic, Art for Life was always a fun affair held in a gigantic corporate tent hoisted up on a potato field near the water in Southampton. The only thing wrong with it, in my opinion, was that they only served vegetarian food. Simmons is an avowed vegetarian.

But now, with Simmons– the founder of DefJam Records–under many legal clouds, MIA and likely in Bali, there is no Art for Life. RUSH Philanthropic has disappeared. A board member, Coppy Holtzman, the founder of Charity Buzz, told me RUSH was “winding down.” He gave me a phone number and email for the person he said was still responsible for RUSH Philanthropic, Richard Smolovitz. But the number and email are no longer working.

Emails to the head of RUSH,  Tangie Murray, have gone unreturned as have emails to anyone else connected to RUSH.  (Murray was paid an average of $170,000 a year for at least three years to run RUSH.) As well, the phone number for their art gallery in Brooklyn  is disconnected. The number for RUSH in Manhattan rings to a voice mail that is full.

It’s Smolovitz’s name as Chairman on the RUSH Form 990 filed with the federal government. He also runs something called the Diamond Empowerment Fund, another not for profit whose motto is “Diamonds Do Good!” Simmons is on the board.

The most recent tax filing for Rush Philanthropic raises more questions than it could answer. For exampleL the Art for Life Hamptons gala held in the summer of 2016 had gross receipts of $1,197,100 dollars. But charged to that amount was $787,677 in “direct expenses.” What were those expenses, which were fairly huge? (It certainly wasn’t spent on food.) This means that only around $400,000 went to the charity. Each of the other two RUSH fundraisers that year also carried high “direct expenses” with no explanation.

There are more reports today about Simmons, who hasn’t been seen in New York since accusations of rape and lawsuits were leveled at him starting last year. The Hollywood Reporter says he’s closed his massive yoga studio in West Hollywood, and is selling all his local real estate. Will Simmons stay in Bali to avoid his legal problems? No one knows. But his social media has been turned over to aphorisms about love and peace. Namaste.



Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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