The Do-Good Dozen
updated 10/24/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 10/24/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Every Sunday morning, actor Steve Guttenberg buys four-Loaves of bread, bologna, salami, cheese, apples and cookies. Then, at his rambling, Spanish-style Ironic, the Three Men and a Baby costar makes 50 sandwiches and packs them in brown bags. He drives to the park on Seventh and Colorado Streets in Santa Monica and hands them out to the homeless. He likes the feeling of being involved. "I am not sending $2 a day to South America, hoping a child gets fed," says Guttenberg, 33. Since he began his mission this year, many homeless rely on him. "One morning I came at 11:30 instead of 11," he says, "and one of them snapped, 'It's about time!' "
"I call my friends when I need money, and I beg," says actress Kate Capshaw, 38, who has a power companion (Steven Spielberg, her director in 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) to add muscle to her interest in children's issues. Sixteen months ago, Capshaw, who has three children, organized an advocacy group, the Children's Action Network, and launched a $1.2 million, privately funded program to immunize kids against eight diseases. This year clinics in nine cities will vaccinate about 500 children a day. When Capshaw visits, she finds "that (he kids don't care about me, they want Bugs Bunny—whom we also bring along."
Emma Samms's brother, Jamie, died of aplastic anemia, a blood disease, at age 8. Ten years later the Dynasty actress befriended an 11-year-old British brain cancer patient named Sean and paid for him to visit Disneyland. "Everything was a thrill to him," says Samms, 31, who was inspired to establish the Starlight Foundation, which each year grants wishes to about 1,500 critically ill children. "I know what sick children go through, and I know what their families go through, and I found a way to slightly alleviate that frustration." says Samms, who started the organization with her cousin and manager, Peter Samuelson. Over the years, children have asked Starlight for even thing from Hawaiian vacations to Barbie dolls. Often they request to meet such stars as Kirk Cameron or Janet Jackson. Occasionally they ask for Samms. "In which case," she declares, "I say, 'Don't waste a wish on me!' "
In 1986, just after she assumed the role of attorney Ann Kelsey on L.A. Law, Jill Eikenberry was told she had breast cancer. Though she had a lumpectomy and six weeks of daily radiation treatments, Eikenberry hid her ordeal from all of her castmates except, of course, her on-and offscreen husband, Michael Tucker. Two years later a friend, filmmaker Linda Otto, also diagnosed with breast cancer, convinced Eikenberry to narrate a documentary about 100 survivors of the disease. Since then Eikenberry, 44, has hooked up with three breast-cancer clinics and testified before a Senate subcommittee. Most rewarding, though, is the time she spends counseling patients over lunch, one-on-one. "I get so much," she says, "from talking about how we are going to get on with our lives and not be victims."
On a 1988 visit to her alma mater, Calumet High School on Chicago's South Side, Night Court's wisecracking bailiff, Marsha Warfield, struck up a conversation with one of her former history teachers, Jason Scott. "The only time these kids are mentioned is when somebody does something bad," Scott told her. "If you get a chance, can you mention kids in a positive light?" Warfield did better. In 1989 she established the Jason Scott Inner City Incentive Awards, which each year honor 15 exceptional graduates of three South Side high schools. Winners are chauffeured by limousine to the Windy City's Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where they are feted with lunch, gifts and a $1,000 cash scholarship. "The first year, nobody knew how to react," says Warfield, 37, who never attended college. "Now they're more emotionally appreciative."
LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS
When he finished filming 1990's Young Guns II, Lou Diamond Phillips was adopted into a Sioux tribe. That inspired Phillips, who is perhaps best known for his role as rocker Ritchie Valens in 1987's La Bamba, to start Winds of Life, a foundation that distributes funds to Native American social-service groups. Phillips, 29, who boasts of being part Cherokee, also just produced a documentary on the problems of Native Americans. In his free time he raises funds and talks with tribes on reservations. "People come up and tell me I have had an effect on their lives," he says.
ED BEGLEY JR.
The competition is tough, but the Most Environmentally Sound Actor in Hollywood Award goes to: Ed Begley Jr. Begley, 42, lives in a solar-powered house (even the fax machine and microwave run on solar energy), picks up his dates in an electric car, turns his garbage into compost for his organic vegetable garden and recently re-landscaped his front lawn with drought-tolerant plants. Though the TV (St. Elsewhere) and film (Meet the Applegates) actor makes 15 pro-environment appearances a month, he says, "My No. 1 organization is the one that I run at home." He launched his in-house campaign in 1970, when he bought his first electric car, "a golf cart with a windshield wiper and a horn," which he later gave up for a $1,700 converted Subaru and a $6,000 kit model. His main message? Except for the pricey solar panels on his roof, he says, "nothing I do is out of reach for the average Joe and Jane."
In 1981 Tina Yothers was 9 years old and about to begin playing Jennifer Keaton on NBC's hit sitcom Family Ties, when she first saw a poster for a Christmas benefit for the MacLaren Children's Center, Los Angeles County's emergency shelter that houses abused and neglected kids. Yothers persuaded her parents, Bob and Marilyn, to take her there—and almost immediately began forming a new set of family ties with MacLaren's youngsters. Now 19 and pursuing a singing career, Yothers spends one day a week with MacLaren residents, doing everything from taking them roller-skating to finding them jobs. In 1986 Yothers's family took in one girl as a foster child for two years. In 1988 they signed the papers for a boy to be released from jail in their custody. "I don't have a gift," says Yothers, who has sponsored the shelter's teenage boys since she was about 13. "I just treat them like human beings, and they give it all back."
"Children need to be nurtured and applauded in their own communities," says The Jeffersons star Marla Gibbs, 50ish, who in 1981 founded L.A.'s Crossroads Arts Academy & Theatre to give inner-city residents a chance to study acting, dance, music and self-awareness. Such patrons such as Brandon Tartikoff (onetime president of NBC Entertainment, now head of Paramount Pictures Corp.) paid attention: He saw a production of 227 there, and NBC turned it into Gibbs's popular 1985-90 sitcom of the same name. (Crossroads member Hal Williams played Gibbs's husband.) More than 300 students have taken classes at Crossroads, which occupies two buildings that Gibbs bought last year in L.A.'s Crenshaw area. "People here understand what she's doing," says Crossroads' general manager, Pemon Rami. "That's why there's no graffiti on the walls."
"I just think of it as something that has to be done," says actress Kimberly Russell, who played the brainy Sarah Nevins on the recently canceled ABC series Head of the Class. Russell spends at least one day a week delivering gourmet meals to homebound AIDS patients as part of Project Angel Food, an L.A. volunteer program that feeds 200 people a day. Sometimes she works in the project's kitchen, "chopping up strawberries or carrots" for fancy salads or chicken stews. "It's not like, 'Oh, here's your government cheese, guys, eat up!' " says Russell, 24, whose only goal is "to do my part. I think that if I were a teacher or a secretary, I would still do it," she adds. "Because these people, they have to eat."
Paul Newman calls it "mutually beneficial recycling from the haves to the have-nots." Since he started manufacturing salad dressing under the Newman's Own label in 1982, he has donated more than $40 million in profits to charity. Newman, 66, now also makes spaghetti sauce, popcorn, lemonade and salsa. The Oscar winner (for 1986's Color of Money) also puts his talents to charitable use. Last year he organized a production of Little Red Riding Hood at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn., which he established in 1988 for children with cancer and blood-related diseases.
Think Cheers regular Cliff Clavin can chew your ear off? Well, don't get John Ratzenberger, who plays the loopy mailman, started on the subject of Styrofoam, which, thanks to his lobbying, is now banned from the Cheers set. "Do you know that they use the equivalent of 25 supertankers of oil a year to manufacture the stuff?" he asks. "That's more oil than Ireland used in 1988."
Unlike Cliffie, Ratzenberger, 44, isn't one to sit on his duff. Two years ago he founded Eco-Pack Industries, a Kent, Wash., company that produces an ecologically sound Styrofoam-packaging replacement from lumber scraps and sawdust. Now he has a 15,000-square-foot facility, a dozen staffers, four Macintosh computers and 200 accounts, including Nintendo, the Body Shop and the Harry & David fruits-and-delicacies catalog. "John will often come with me to call on potential customers," says Eco-Pack Accounts Manager Jim Miller. "It's fun to have everyone recognize him from Cheers. It sort of breaks the ice." Ratzenberger, who plows his profits back into research and development, sees ecopreneurship as a growth industry: "The potential is enormous. I hope one day I can say to people, 'You can do the right thing and make money.' "
—ELIZABETH SPORKIN; with bureaus