George Christy Talks About Chuck Fries, Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors, Gale Anne Hurd And More!
Arriving in Hollywood, that Cincinnati Kid, who FedEx’s friends his hometown’s irresistible Graeter’s ice cream, became a top banana at Screen Gems and Columbia. Later, at Metromedia, the indefatigable Chuck Fries produced and supervised 26 movies for television and 13 television series, including the acclaimed The Undersea World Of Jacques Cousteau. He’s authored books and plays, and lives in Beverly Hills with wife Ava, who’s raised millions for the Center Theatre Group.
His peers christened Chuck as the Godfather of the Television Movie, and he heads Charles Fries Productions. In addition to innumerable charitable endeavors, he’s chaired the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors these past years. Every December his Caucus of Champions, which acknowledges and supports young talents, hosts a Beverly Hills Hotel dinner that Chuck created, and this time around for its annual 30th fundraiser Valerie Harper served as an enthusiastic emcee.
Lee Miller introduced Valerie, who recalled how “our business and the world has changed over these three decades … the Internet, cell phones and Honey Boo Boo weren’t around. And Facebook? Facebook was what you’d look through in your cosmetic surgeon’s office to choose your new nose. A sex tape wouldn’t wreck your career, it would launch it. Viagra was only a scientist’s dream, not a wife’s worst nightmare. Gay marriage didn’t exist, and today a gay couple has every right to be as unhappily married as anyone.
“What’s the one thing that hasn’t changed over these 30 years? When you mention that you’re a producer, people still don’t know what the hell it is you do. The truth is that at this tender age of 30, the Caucus is more important than ever. Fighting for the rights of producers, writers and directors, nurturing the talent of the future, and ensuring that, no matter what the platform, content remains king.”
Chuck Fries reminded this is the 12th anniversary of the Caucus Foundation. “When we complete our 2012 awards, we will have given 11 grants, 55 percent to women, and well over one million in cash grants and in-kind awards.” The evening’s grantees included Micah Robert Baker, Alethea Avramis, Rebecca Louisell, Joel Noveo Schneider, Jerelle Rosales, Jordan Savatoriello.
America’s Funniest Home Videos creator Vin Di Bona, who recently taped the 500th episode of his groundbreaking series, presented the second place award to Jordan for Graceland Girls about schoolchildren in Kenya. Receiving the first place award was Alethea Avramis for The Foreigner, about a Greek village that would lose its government subsidy unless its small population increases. Alethea is the daughter of a Greek Orthodox priest.
Introducing Gale Anne Hurd, recipient of the Caucus Chair Award, Norman Powell highlighted her Oscar and Emmy-winning career. Producing and co-writing The Terminator, she followed with The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and now produces her AMC series The Walking Dead.
“I feel like a dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants.” Gale Anne Hurd quoted St. Bernard of Chartres. “To be among the company of these fellow honorees tonight.
“I’m a fourth generation Angelena. My ancestors immigrated to California in the 1860s, settled in Boyle Heights, before moving on to Culver City, where grandmother Ruth chose to raise her family. “They say geography is destiny, and, in my case, this is absolutely true.
“My late mother and her four sisters all worked in the ‘local factory,’ and that ‘factory’ happened to be the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios of the 1930s and 1940s. A Catholic school priest made arrangements for students from poor families to be employed at MGM to help pay for their tuition. Hollywood, so to speak, runs in my blood.
“Yes, Hollywood’s a shark tank most of the time, but because of producer/mentors like Roger Corman, Barbara Boyle, the late Debra Hill, Lindsay Parsons Sr., Julian Blaustein, I would never have survived, much less thrived, for almost 35 years. In fact, it only takes one ‘yes’ to change your life, and theirs changed mine. Without Jim Cameron’s belief in my producing abilities, I probably would have gone to law school, which is what my parents wanted me to do. My mother and father are no longer here to see how lucky I was not to have sent in those applications.”
“Time goes by,” noted Norman Powell, “and for me the months seem to pass like telephone poles from the windows of a fast-moving train. Since our last Awards Dinner one year ago, we at the Caucus have lost four close friends.”
He remembered Norman Felton (Dr. Kildare, The Man From U.N.C.L.E); American Bandstand’s Dick Clark, who introduced superstars Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkle, Michael Jackson to the world; producer and director Bob Finkel (The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Andy Williams Show, Elvis Presley’s legendary comeback); publicist Dale Olson, who represented Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Sir Laurence Olivier, strategized movie campaigns, launched franchises for Rocky, Superman, Rambo, and helped make the world aware of the AIDS crisis, guiding Rock Hudson to courageously admit that he was stricken with the disease.”
Tanya Hart presented the Caucus Honors Journalism Award to Ted Johnson, deputy director of Variety, whose brother Tim bid and won two round trip business class tickets on Airberlin that included Hotel Regent Berlin accommodations for $8,000 (value: $l0,000).
John C. Moffitt took home the Distinguished Service Award, and Jay Roach received the Director’s Award from Homeland’s Jamey Sheridan. Dennis Doty then presented producer/director Stan Lathan with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Producer of the Year Award went to Homeland’s Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. Justified’s Graham Yost was honored with the Writer’s Award from Joelle Carter, and Tom Hanks’ producing partner Gary Goetzman saluted HBO’s Programing President Michael Lombardo, as Executive of the Year, topping a rainy night in Tinsel Town.