When I was asked to be a part of the Gala Committee for this year’s Gene Siskel Film Center tribute, I was beyond honored but when I found out it would be “An Evening with Robert Downey, Jr.” I lost my mind! I have loved and admired RDJ for as long as I can remember as well as the rest of his zillions of fans. We all felt badly for his past addictions and are now so thrilled he has overcome them in such an amazing way. His wife Susan is to be thanked as well as his desire to begin anew. Robert was born in NY into an acting family: His father, Robert Downey, Sr., is a well known actor, writer, producer, cinematographer and director and his mother, Elsie, is also an actress. He appeared in many of his father’s earlier films. RDJ married local Schaumburg girl, Susan Levin, in August 2005. They had met in 2003 on the set of “Gothika” but Susan was leery of his past history; nonetheless, their relationship continued after the film and he proposed on the eve of her 30th birthday and Billy Joel performed at their wedding in upstate NY. RDJ’s filmography boasts dozens of critically-acclaimed films, including such recent hits as “Sherlock Holmes,” “Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “The Soloist,” “Charlie Bartlett,” “Zodiac,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “Fur” and “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.” He has worked with a virtual who’s who of Hollywood’s biggest talents including directors Robert Altman (who told him, “Whatever you do tonight, don’t memorize your lines.”), Richard Attenborough (who got RDJ’s competitive juices flowing for the movie “Chaplin” by holding up a pic of Tom Cruise and saying, “Isn’t this an uncanny resemblance to Chaplin?”), Oliver Stone, George Clooney, Guy Ritchie, Jodie Foster (who RDJ says was one of his biggest supporters during his tough times), Jude Law, Halle Berry, Michael Douglas, Jamie Foxx (who appeared on video at the event and told RDJ, “You are Van Gogh. May you keep your brushes dipped and keep creating the wonderful shades of Downey.”), Nicole Kidman, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and Ben Stiller (who cast RDJ in his Oscar-nominated role in “Tropic Thunder”). Stiller had this to say about Downey after his “Iron Man” performance: “Yes, Downey is Iron Man but he really is Actor Man. In the realm where box office is irrelevant and talent is king, the realm that actually means something, he has always ruled. And finally this summer, he gets to have his cake and let us eat him up all the way to the multiplex, where his mastery is in full effect.” He is an actor’s actor and all the world adores him and rightfully so. Even though I missed the Gala Committee’s photo op with Robert before the event began, I still got a chance to meet him. I told him about my missed opportunity and he put his arm around me, asked me my name and pointed me toward a camera. We took not one, but two pics! I was in awe and beyond delighted. He was busy as a bee, but still took this moment to make a fan feel very special. And he would’ve taken questions from the audience all night long. This is the kind of guy he is…maybe too nice which is where his wife Susan steps in to protect him. They are a perfect match and earlier this month, they formed their own production company, Team Downey. Their first project will be the Steve McQueen script “Yucatan,” which is a heist film. Robert was interviewed for this evening at the Ritz by another well-known director, Todd Phillips, who has worked with some of Hollywood’s biggest comedic actors, writing and directing films like “Old School,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “School for Scoundrels” and, most recently, “The Hangover.” (Phillips was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on “Borat.”) During the interview, Downey said there have been two films he had to screen test for – “Chaplin” and “Iron Man” – and that he prepared the hardest for “Chaplin” by working on it every day for nine months to a year. Physically, “Iron Man” was the hardest film and he went into full health mode working on this film, drinking vitamin shakes and doing everything in his power to make himself appear as physically fit as the part called for. When asked how he decides what films to make he said, “Ultimately, it’s an intuitive decision. And for the last one, Susan said, “If you don’t make this film, we can’t buy this property” which had the crowd in stitches. He is so honest in his demeanor, likeable and just plain cute that you want to take him under your wing and keep him from harm. Susan is a lucky woman! Phillips told Downey that his performances never seemed to be affected by his past addictions and asked how this was possible. Downey replied, “Simply put, it’s love of the game and I try to respect it. Also, having a gargantuan hangover and a camera in your face is not pretty. It’s a privilege and you kind of just show up and do it.” When asked who he admires most as an actor, he joked laughingly, “No one comes to mind.” His next film which was directed by Phillips, is “Due Date” which will be out in the fall. We saw a sneak peek of the film with RDJ, Jamie Foxx and Zach Galifianakis and it looked like it will be very funny. It was a night to remember and I know everyone there will never forget seeing this incredible actor up close and personal. Congratulations to Gala co-chairs Ellen Sandor and Bill Marcus. Ellen’s formidable connections brought Downey to Chicago. Flying in during a thunderstorm when he had wanted to take a later flight, RDJ jokingly commented that he was terrified, but he realized that “Jewish mother-in-law trumps Hollywood star.” Co-chair Bill Marcus gamely wore an Iron Man helmet to auction off the live auction packages. The L.A. Confidential Package sold for $8,500 and included two first class tickets on American Airlines to attend the premiere of “Due Date,” four tickets to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” an exclusive preview party at the Museum of Contemporary Art and a stay at the Four Seasons. John McMahan won the Chicago raffle which, surprisingly, included a dinner in his own home…too funny! The Gala Committee included Michelle Cucchiaro, Eda Davidman, Melissa Sage Fadim, Marsha Goldstein, David Hundley, Marlene Iglitzen (Siskel), Lynn McMahan and moi but it took a village of dedicated Board Members and a crack PR Agency (Carol Fox and Associates) to put it over the top. A special shout-out to the amazing Joel Mangers for his tireless work on this party, too! The event was a sell-out and the crowd came dressed to impress. Even the goody bags were special and included DVDs of “Sherlock Holmes!” There was a cocktail reception and then the crowd moved into the low lit, intimate ballroom for dinner (each course was named after a movie Robert had done and were all delicious), the Q & A and the presentation of the much- deserved Renaissance Award to Robert who even had his own fan club there who had travelled from Montana, Ohio, California and Arizona just to see him. They came bearing gifts and Joyce Shroder even had a tie with her that RDJ had worn during an “Ally McBeal” episode that she had bought on eBay for $400. (He had signed it for her previously.) This event benefitted the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which presents cutting-edge programs, independent and international cinema, premieres, retrospectives and classic films. The Center attracts an audience of more than 80,000 annually. For more info, please visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org. I will see you all in line for tickets to “Due Date” in the fall! Robert, we love you! (Additional pics by Caitlin Saville...click here to see more!)
Congrats to my fellow “Bold & Beautiful” women selected by Kohler and Chicago magazine recently! Five local women were chosen for this honor and they include Catie Keogh (host and executive producer “24/7 Chicago” on NBC 5), Linda Novick O’Keefe (Executive Director for Common Threads), Laura Schwartz (author of “Eat, Drink and Succeed” and founder and principal of White House Strategies and international television commentator) and Mindy Segal (chef and owner of Hot Chocolate). There will be a private party at The Kohler Store at the Merchandise Mart on Wednesday, July 21st to celebrate. Congrats to my deserving girlfriends!!! :)
Now here is my latest find! I burn candles, all day, everyday. I love to have fresh scents in the house and, let’s face it, with two little dogs running around, this isn’t always easy to do. I recently read about someone’s list of favorite things in some magazine. I know, I know I should at least be able to share the person’s name but I tore the house apart looking for said magazine and it’s gone. But, rest assured, it was someone whose comments I respected or else I wouldn’t have ordered two Cire Trudon candles in the Roi Soleil scent. I was immediately intrigued by the description of the scent: “Fragrance of the Mirror Gallery and the vast wooden floor of the Chateau de Versailles, vapours of wax, candelabras and palace. This kingly and solar perfume blends a green and wooded wake of coniferous trees to the sumptuous dizziness of incense with a light ray of citrus.” Heady stuff, right? Well, I thought if this description is half right, I will be thrilled. I remember the Hall of Mirrors and the rich scent of wood and highly polished antiques and it was intoxicating. I cannot believe these candles smell EXACTLY the same! They are a beautiful mix of French oak, pine and citrus and are created by possibly the oldest candle maker and wax manufacturer in the world, Cire Trudon. Claude Trudon began Wax Trudo in 1643 at 12 Rue du Temple in Paris and initially created candles for the many churches of Paris. Louis XIV, XVI and Marie Antoinette all burned Cire Trudon candles. Napoleon even used the candles for lighting and ceremonies. The Trudon candles have fragrances that are based on the landmarks and history of France. I know they were available at Barney’s in NY but here is a link to order. I’m sure the other scents are terrific too and they are made from 100-percent vegetable wax with pure cotton wicks for the cleanest burn. I can’t wait to try all of them! http://www.ciretrudon.com/
This is it for now! I will be serving on the front lines of the Riviera to bring back a report for Candid Candace on July 14th. Until then, I hope your summer is all you hope it to be!
P.S. Don’t forget to pop into Minibar at 3341 N. Halsted on Thursday, July 22nd to wish everyone’s favorite hotel manager, Shaun Rajah, a wonderful 30th birthday! The party itself is invitation only but feel free to stop by The Drake at any time or by Minibar after 10 p.m. to celebrate!