Top-notch Napa wines, fantastic food from award-winning chefs and the first-time-ever public musical performance of "Glee" favorites Lea Michele and Darren Criss singing together: that powerful combination lit up the 17th annual "Taste for a Cure" on Friday night, April 20, 2012. And it brought out a bunch of other familiar faces to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, all there to lend support (and cash) to the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation at UCLA.
"UCLA is the best cancer center in America," proclaimed Dr. Judith Gasson, the center's director, as the night's awards and show began. Earlier, she and television favorites like "Community" funnyman Joel McHale, "Hung" beauty Anne Heche and her partner James Tupper (of "Revenge" fame), and "Awake" hottie Wilmer Valderrama sampled tasty offerings from famed chefs Ludo Lefebvre of Ludobites, Suzanne Tracht of Jar, Gilles Arzur of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and Napa Valley favorite Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill, who won over the crowd with her "best in the world" grilled cheese sandwich.
Partygoers packed the ballroom, where amazing Napa Valley wines were flowing freely. It was tough to choose between the cabernets from Shafer Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars, Pride Mountain Vineyards, and the night's main sponsor, Far Niente, so everyone sampled a bit of each. Famed producer Grigh Hills Estate proved they still make the best white around, as they poured their buttery 2008 Chardonnay.
Once all that sipping and savoring was over, the evening got serious for a while. "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy took the stage, introducing Twentieth Century Fox Television chairman Dana Walden (who is also on the cancer center's board of directors). Walden presented her best pal, president of NBC Entertainment Jennifer Salke, with the org's Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award; both were brought to tears as Salke recounted her personal battle with cancer.
"You have to just be the warrior when it comes to cancer, stand in front of it and slash and burn. Look it straight in the eye and beat it," Salke admonished.
Then the mood lightened up as Darren Criss took the stage with guitar in hand and wowed everyone with beautiful renditions of "Almost Like Being in Love" and "Teenage Dream." Then Lea Michele joined that talented musician, who moved to the piano to accompany her on "My Man." Together they finished out the night by singing "To Make You Feel My Love" and brought the sated crowd to their feet in appreciation.
And in the best news of the night, almost $600,000 was raised for the cause of beating cancer. That's a number that made everyone shout out with glee!
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