Celebs and kids joined forces on CBS Studio Center’s New York Street to support the CSUN Music Therapy Wellness Clinic at an event called New York in Hollywood. Now in its third year of being sponsored by the Environment of People Foundation, this event raises money to improve the lives of children with Autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities and traumas.
I sat down with this year’s host, Laura San Giacomo, before the hoopla began. San Giacomo is not only an award-winning acress who you’ll recognize from performances in such gems as Sex, Lies and Videotape, Pretty Woman, and Just Shoot Me, she is also a mom whose son has benefitted from music therapy for over ten years, as well as an award-winning advocate who speaks for children with disabilities.
Music therapy, San Giacomo told me, treats the client “in a theraputic setting as you would traditional talk therapy, but using music instead, to help people learn how to communicate better…and also expressing emotion and maybe retraining their bodies in certain ways.”
San Giacomo’s passion for music therapy and the arts in general has obviously been garnered through firsthand experience. “It’s been so well-documented,” she explained, “the effects of music on the brain and on learning, and those are the first programs that are being cut in schools. Part of what this fundraiser does is allow there to be some scholarships, so that these kids and adults who have found solace in music therapy can continue their work with it.”
Though she keeps busy being a mom and an advocate for children and the arts, I had to wonder if Laura San Giacomo still gets ample chances to flex her own artistic muscles. “I just did an episode of Hot in Cleveland,” she said, “and that was really fun,” though during the rest of her typical week, she says “there’s a lot of laundry and a lot of cooking.”
Outside, the festivities began with a drum circle in which everyone participated. We were all given portable drums, bells, and sticks, and audience members, kids in treatment, musicians, and volunteers all joined in a chorus of fun rhythmic banging. The kids were then thrilled to take the stage as The Sunshine Choir, in a well-rehearsed half hour of rock-n-roll with a full band that was wonderful to watch. Exuberant comedian Judy Tenuta took the stage next, dazzling the audience with her jokes and her crazy lime green polyester pimp suit.
Speaking of fashion, the best dressed guest was most certainly the gorgeous little miss Daphne Blunt, wearing a column dress printed to look like an English telephone booth. Fashion is one of Blunt’s specialties, as she is a red carpet host and the go-to fashion blogger for teen entertainment website Fanlala. She looks to Emma Watson for inspiration: a young lady who went from being a child actress to a fashion icon. “If I could just get on the Teen Vogue best dressed list for like a week…” Blunt mused—and she certainly has a good shot.
In addition to writing and fashion, Blunt has a bright future ahead of her as an actress and singer. She has charisma to spare, and her charming voice can be heard in the Radio Disney webseries My Dream at the moment. “Every kid’s dream is to be on the Disney Channel and be on Radio Disney and my dream finally got to come true,” said the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida native. To watch her star rise, follow Blunt on Twitter.
Outside of our conversation, an auction was happening for items like a guitar signed by Justin Beiber, a Seinfield script signed by the entire cast, and an original drawing by Dave Shelton.
Shelton is the definition of a genius—a kooky conversationalist who turns out to be an award winning writer, cartoonist, voice actor, director, you name it—and it only takes a glance at his blog to see that his “untidy mind” fires on all cylinders. His hobbies-turned-successes stretch from having written the theme song for the Special Olympics to writing and directing infomercials in China. Charities like this one mean a lot to Shelton, who also told me about his involvement with a dog rescue charity called Angels in Fur.
Back on the red carpet, the effervescent actress Rachel Bailit, the event’s celebrity correspondent, was revisiting her prior career as a journalist, interviewing everyone from congressmen to comedians. She talked to me about her current projects, which are still plentiful after the success of her one-woman show, Sugar Happens.
Besides working on a second one-woman show, Bailit has turned her real diary into a webseries called Diary of an Actress, which is hilarious, and, in her words, “really about the heart and soul of what it’s like to live life not only as an actres but also as a human being.” She is also playing a vampire wife in another sitcom webseries called The Vamps Next Door, in which a vampire family is trying to fit into the neighborhood. To keep up with her busy life, you can follow Bailit on Twitter.
Bailit’s work ethic is obvious, and she seemed happy to be stepping into her old shoes as a journalist, for a change of pace. “It’s a different part of the brain for sure,” she told me, “It goes in very unexpected places. It’s very unpredictable and very fulfilling in its own way.”
The event, rounded out by great performances by youth rock band Fallen Rain and jazz supergroup Open Hands, surely made CSUN’s proud. Let’s hope the Environment of People brings back such a colorful cast of characters next year.