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Burt Reynolds Raises Heat
For Chernobyl Children

Text and Photos by Tim Boxer

The ladies were swooning over heartthrob Burt Reynolds. The handsome actor was the centerpiece at a gala dinner and celebrity auction at Sotheby’s in New York to benefit Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl (CCOC). Singer-actress-impressionist Marilyn Michaels, who had one of her paintings up for bids, told me she used to go out with Burt before her present marriage. After meeting her former sweetheart she sighed, “He just embraced me and I melted, melted.”

Marilyn, who has since found happiness with heart surgeon Peter Wilk, said, “The only way to find a perfect man is to give birth to one. Meet my son Mark.”

To ingratiate himself with Mark, Reynolds did an impersonation of Gregory Peck. The 16-year-old was not overly impressed. The talented kid showed off his impressions of Woody Allen and Michael Caine.

“Genetics works!” Marilyn exclaimed as Reynolds applauded.

Reynolds tried to impress a young dinner guest with his screen credits.  “Have you ever seen Smokey and the Bear?” he asked 11-year-old Danni Falk. The youngster said no. “Well,” he said, “next year it’ll come out with sound.”

The bidding became heated with the offering of a dinner for 20 of your intimate friends with Dr. Ruth Westheimer catered at your home by Foremost. I asked Dr. Ruth if she’d given any advice to sex symbol Burt Reynolds. “No,” she replied. “He gave me advice!”

Oliver Stone’s mother, Jacqueline, said her son’s away making a new movie called, Beyond Borders, starring Kevin Costner and Meg Ryan. “He’s doing it for his mother,” she said, “because I’ve always wanted him to do a love story.”

Celebrity chairman Jon Voight presented the Children at Heart Award as tribute chairmen, Nancy Spielberg and Gabriel Erem stood by.

“I am pleased to present this award to my friend who has a great and handsome heart, Burt Reynolds,” Voight said. If I may quote from the Talmud, one of the highest mitzvahs, deeds, is to provide a person with work.”

“I am the only actor,” Reynolds chuckled, “to be cancelled by all three networks.”

Voight also presented a Humanitarian Award to Jonathan Durst, a board member of Chabad’s Children of Chernobyl and co-manager (with brothers Douglas and Kristoffer) of the Durst Organization, a real estate dynasty that has shaped the midtown Manhattan skyline.

In its 10 years, CCOC has rescued 2,000 children from Ukraine and Belarus following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 14 years ago. The contaminated children were brought to Israel for cancer treatment, rehabilitation and education. Although President Bill Clinton recently announced that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant would be closed, people will continue to suffer the effects of the radiation spill.

As Burt Reynolds said, “I am here because of the children.”


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