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CITY OF HOPE HONORS BIG JON: "THE OBAMA OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY"

Industryites came out in force—and in formal wear—for the City of Hope extravaganza on 10/11 at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica honoring Jon Platt. The Warner/Chappell boss, who will step down at year’s end and begin a new chapter next year as head of Sony/ATV, inspired strong tributes throughout the evening, which raised a mountain of funds for COH's work. Striding through the cocktail hour provided a tour of biz heavyweights.

Dinner was accompanied by music from Trombone Shorty and gospel duo Mary Mary; longtime Platt associate and cancer survivor Warryn Campbell shared some remarks. Host Pharrell kept things moving.

Breakout star Tiffany Haddish introduced survivor Kommah McDowell, whose stunning, deeply moving story of overcoming breast cancer—and becoming a mom—after a dire prognosis has become a key tentpole in the current campaign. A recorded message from billionaire Robert F. Smith (like Platt, a Denver native) announced a $500k donation for underserved patients.

A video reel brought testimony about Big Jon from artists, execs and his family, including his adoring mom.

“I know he’s super-nervous to be here tonight in front of all these people—that’s making me so happy,” exclaimed his pal Jay-Z, who praised the man’s commitment and passion. He recalled Platt bringing him “Empire State of Mind,” his giant #1 smash. “Jon made that happen,” he said of the man he called “a beautiful human being” and—to cheers—“The Obama of the music industry,” adding, “My contract is tied to his; if he leaves, I leave, period.”

He then presented Platt with the Spirit of Life Award.

Platt was clearly overcome, insisting he didn’t know what the other speakers were going to say. “I walked in here blind; I don’t know where this evening is going,” he said. “But I will be Big Jon again at 7 am tomorrow.” He vowed to keep his remarks brief, noting that his “self-awareness” made him understand that though he was receiving a high honor, he was still “the opening act tonight.”

He was emotional in thanking his friend Jay-Z. “I wouldn’t be on this stage tonight if you hadn’t come into my life,” he said.

“This is the worst thing, for a big black dude to be sniffling and shit,” he quipped, but noted that when he was notified of the honor he considered not accepting it, in part out of a desire to stay behind the scenes, but he revealed that when he informed his wife, Angie, she simply said, “Oh, you’re doing that.” Then, he said, he "embraced the opportunity to share the honor with so many people and with the culture that nurtured me,” as well as the execs who’d come up with him.

He looked around the sumptuously attired crowd and marveled that it was a sold-out event, noting that he’d been committed to bringing as diverse a group of attendees as possible. “I want you to look around,” he said, “and see what happens when you don’t exclude anybody.”

Platt acknowledged City of Hope’s work and noted its commitment to its efforts on behalf of people of color, sharing that his son, Jonathan, is living with Type 1 diabetes, and that he’d recently lost two friends and his father-in-law to cancer. “At City of Hope,” he said, “they don’t know the meaning of the word ‘impossible.’”

“As an African-American CEO, I proudly embrace the responsibility to lend a helping hand to people of color who are coming up in this industry,” he said, as well as to share in the success of other black execs who were thriving, name-checking Jay Brown, Ethiopia Habtemariam, Sylvia Rhone, Larry Jackson, Coach K and Pee and “so many others.”

Platt informed the audience that more than $6 million had been raised for City of Hope’s vital work. He cited his assistant, Jackie Petri, in organizing much of the event and the work of Jody Gerson, Doug Davis, Ben Vaughn, Camille Hackney, Shelli Azoff and others.

He hailed his Warner/Chappell family and songwriters and influential people in his life, such as Chuck D and Jermaine Dupri, Steve Prudholme, Clarence Avant (“the closest thing to a father I ever had”), Gerson, Marty Bandier, Roger Faxon, Steve Cooper and Len Blavatnik. He related a saying from Puffy: dream big, “then open your eyes and see it.”

“I dreamed of running the largest publishing company in the world one day,” he related. “Then, a few weeks ago, I opened my eyes and I could see it.”

Then he brought out Beyoncé, who said she was “honored” to celebrate a man “who leads with his heart” and delivered a brief but emotionally captivating set that brought the house down. Befitting the relative solemnity of the occasion, it wasn’t about pop hits this time—no backup dancers, no bubbling grooves—so much as ballads like the tender “XO” and "Halo," which she delivered flawlessly, of course.

Then most of the glittering crowd strolled out to their waiting Ubers, while a more intimate group enjoyed a festive afterparty DJ'd by Dupri.

Really, except for the fact that we somehow got in, the night was a home run.

 

 

Middle photos: (upper, l-r) Angie Platt, Jon Platt, Usher Raymond and Rita Ora; (lower, l-r) WBR tandem Tom Corson and Aaron Bay-Schuck, songwriter/producer Justin Tranter and artist Bebe Rexha. Lower right photo: Quincy Jones and Dr. Dre.

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