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Volunteering on the Speakers Committee at the National Press Club in Washington, DC has its rewards. You get to meet many famous and interesting people, including heads of state, business leaders, politicians (with whose POV you might or might not agree), entertainers, and even sports figures. But it’s especially gratifying when you host someone who has a real mission — one that no one can disagree with. Such was the luncheon that I put together for Law & Order SVU’s Mariska Hargitay. It was only after my daughter, Alina, suggested Mariska, not just because she’s a big fan of the show, but also because she knew of the organization she founded — The Joyful Heart Foundation – whose mission it is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.

After months of back and forth emails and phone calls with the Foundation’s staff about getting Mariska to speak at the National Press Club, I was finally able to get the okay. Finding a date that would accommodate both Mariska’s schedule and room availability at the National Press Club would also be a challenge. Remember, the Club is a place where news happens and their conference rooms are sometime booked months out. But it finally worked out that we’d hold her event in the stately Holeman Lounge on March 13, 2013.

I wrote a brief news flash for the Press Club’s “The Wire” notifying members of the upcoming Mariska Hargitay luncheon and then a longer news advisory that would be sent to the media to cover the event. I also began looking to fill the head table with NPC journalist members, who I knew would be interested in Mariska, but more so, about her work as advocate. After weeks of emails and phone calls, I stacked the dais with bureau chiefs, reporters and producers from The Dallas Morning News, Detroit News, Univision, Hearst Newspapers, The Hill, USA Today and even Kathleen Parker a syndicated columnist representing The Washington Post Writers Group.

The easy part of this luncheon was to provide NPC President (and Bloomberg reporter) Angela Greiling Keene with remarks for her to open up the luncheon and introduce Mariska. But what I also included were the staggering statistics on violent and sexual assaults on women and children, and a backlog of tens of thousands of untested rape kits, meaning some prosecutions might not take place for a decade or more.

The day of the event arrived and my daughter and I planned to greet Mariska at the entrance of the National Press Club, then escort her to the 13th floor of the building. She drove up in a large four-by-four and was then accosted by several paparazzi — who I had to push away in order to get Mariska and her team into the safety of the National Press Building.

After intros were finished, Mariska addressed the members of the National Press Club and the Washington press corps. As beautiful as she is, she was equally gracious and was very “on message” — in launching a new campaign, “NO MORE“ Q&A followed her 20+ minute opening statement as would any other news conference . . . and she handled well one of the more difficult questions, concerning what she thought about convicted rapist Mike Tyson having appeared on a recent SVU episode.

This was a luncheon news conference that had a real story to tell and a cause to stand up for; was written up in The Detroit News, in Kathleen Parker’s column, covered on ABCnews.com and more. I’m happy to have played a part in making this event happen. I’m proud of my daughter, Alina, for suggesting Mariska Hargitay as a speaker and I’m also grateful to Business Wire for supporting my efforts as a volunteer at the National Press Club.


I posted a few weeks ago that Mariska will be speaking at the National Press Club luncheon on March 13th. It will be webcast live on March 13th.

Mar. 13, 2013- THIS EVENT IS IN THE HOLEMAN – Members and their guests only
Mariska Hargitay , star of Law and Order, SVU and founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation
Topic: TBA

National Press Club Luncheons are webcast live on press.org. Follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #NPCLunch, or on Facebook at (facebook.com/PressClubDC) and Twitter (@PressClubDC). Submit questions for speakers in advance and during the live event by sending them to @QNPCLunch on Twitter.


This event is open only to members of The National Press Club & their guests.

Mariska Hargitay, Emmy Award-winner who stars as Olivia Benson on television’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will speak at a National Press Club Speakers Luncheon on March 13 in the Holeman Lounge. Hargitay is also the founder of Joyful Heart Foundation whose mission is of healing, educating and empowering survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.

Lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m., with remarks beginning at 1 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session ending at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $21 for Press Club members (NPC Members may purchase 2 tickets at this rate) and $35 for all other non-member tickets.( members are limited to purchasing only 2 guest tickets)

For questions, please email reservations@press.org or call (202) 662-7501. Tickets must be paid for at the time of purchase.

NPC Members who wish to attend the pre-luncheon reception must RSVP separately to VIPreception@press.org 48 hours before the event. Space may be limited. You must have a paid reservation to the Luncheon to attend the VIP reception

To submit a question in advance, put MARISKA in the subject line and email to president@press.org before 10 a.m. on the day of the luncheon.


Last Thursday, more than 1,100 people packed the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Midtown for the 32nd Annual Muse Awards of the New York Women in Film and Television. This wasn’t your typical ladies-who-lunch affair, as a dazzling gaggle of silver screen honorees were acknowledged for their “outstanding vision and achievement.”

The Observer has attended many a high-powered New York City event, but at this one the atmosphere seemed a bit more genuine with enthusiasm and pride. And no wonder, given how deserving those honored were. Awardees filmmaker Lisa F. Jackson, Kim Martin of WE TV, Lucy Liu and Mariska Hargitay were all celebrated for being women who have persevered, not only having achieved professional success, but having demonstrated commitment towards improving the lives of others. For an industry famed for its self-indulgence, celebrating these women for the opposite was a welcome change.

Debra Zimmerman, executive director of nonprofit Women Make Movies, received the Loreen Arbus award.

Ms. Hargitay delivered a poignant speech and spoke of her late parents, noted body-builder Mickey Hargitay and film star Jane Mansfield. Tearfully, she told the assembled: “I miss my mom today. On the back of the chair she had on movie sets was not her name but her measurements: 40,” 21,” 35.” That’s not all she was!

“I embrace a different kind of measurement. I’m a woman of dimension. I’m grateful for my muses who have made this journey possible. My role as Olivia Benson has helped me to do more: I founded the Joyful Heart Foundation to help address the needs of women who have been the victims of sexual assault and suffer deep trauma. Last year I went before Congress to urge the lawmakers to address the backlog of thousands of unexamined rape kits.” Her passion for the cause was clear, and the enraptured crowd soaked up every word.

Afterwards, away from the dais, we asked about her years in the role of the professional, yet sympathetic cop Benson. We were especially curious after The Observer’s recent “Law & Order SVU” feature, which discussed the show’s regular confrontations with sex crimes.

Laughing, Ms. Hargitay told us, “I look at early segments and am amazed I wasn’t fired back then!”

Assuming all good things come to an end, we prodded about future acting plans, intrigued to find out whether or not the actress was planning her next career step to be a little more PG13.

“I’d love to do Broadway!” was all we got from the gorgeous Ms. Hargitay, although her apparent penchant for singing and dancing seemed to suggest that a more lighthearted role might be in order.

We caught her husband, actor Peter Hermann, beam satisfactorily with approval.

Perhaps, after all, that’s all we needed.


New Orleans, La. – The Krewe of Orpheus has announced its plans for Mardi Gras 2013.

At a Thursday news conference, Krewe Captain Sonny Borey surprised krewe members when he revealed that co-founder Harry Connick, Jr. has written an original song in honor of the Krewe’s 20th anniversary.

Krewe members will throw a new Orpheus commemorative LED necklace that plays the new song’s chorus during the spectacular parade. The parade will feature a nostalgic look back at all of the Krewe’s parade themes from the past 20 years.

Another specialty throw will be a doubloon featuring the Krewe’s 2013 Musical Legend, “Uncle” Lionel Batiste, the bass drummer, vocalist, and assistant leader of the Treme Brass Band. Batiste died July 8, 2012.

Leading the festivities and parade with Harry Connick, Jr. are other Celebrity Monarchs including star of the CBS hit show CSI New York, Gary Sinise; Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews; Animal Planet’s Tillman the skateboarding bulldog; and returning monarchs, Law & Order SVU’s Mariska Hargitay , and The Imagination Movers.


“The history of the donuts and their names is that we’ve had many celebrities come in here,” Berman explains. “Certain ones have become a little friendly [with us], so we named a donut after them.”

An example of one of these donuts is the “Mariska,” named after Mariska Hargitay, an actress on “Law and Order.”

“She’s [Mariska’s] been coming here since she was four or five years old,” Berman recalls. “When she was 13 or 14, she would come around and ask me when I was going to name a donut after her. I told her when her name was in the headlights. When she went to New York and got involved with ‘Law and Order,’ I named a donut after her — it’s a whole series of children’s donuts. And she knows it … she comes in here two or three times a year when she’s in the area. One time, she actually took the little sign [in front of the donuts] that says ‘Mariska.’”


Mariska Hargitay and Danny Pino are also helping out after the storm. The “Law & Order” stars dropped off donations in the hard-hit Rockaways at the St. Francis de Sales relief center in Belle Harbor on Sunday night. “It was already dark,” says a witness. “They helped unload warm food from three SUVs, and were very helpful. Mariska brought her son with her to help.” The St. Francis de Sales center, being run by locals, is looking for more volunteers to help with clean-up and providing warm food.


SVU is selected to be nominated for the 2013 Peoples Choice Awards. Vote for SVU here.

Mariska is not nominated for Favorite Dramatic Actress, however you can still vote for her by choosing ‘Other.’ Vote for Mariska here.

The top 5 in each categories will be the nominees which will be announced on November 15th.

It’s a fruitful time for Mariska Hargitay, in every sense.

The star of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit just shot the landmark 300th episode of the procedural crime series, one of the network’s workhorses that’s now in its 14th season. It airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

And she spends her Fridays hammering out new initiatives for her other baby, the Joyful Heart Foundation. Hargitay founded it in 2004 to help victims of sexual assault. This month, as part of her organization’s pledge to carry out small acts of kindness, Hargitay and supporters will deliver specialty kits — filled with toiletries, toys, books and PJs — to kids at child advocacy centers.

It’s easy to spoil your kids and raise brats, so Hargitay says she models behavior for her brood.”When we’re on the street and someone drops something, I pick it up. If you stop for one second and do something, everyone is happy,” she says. “You pay it forward and it comes back to you twelve-fold.”

Hargitay’s rule of thumb?

“When I was pregnant, I was so huge and people on the bus would get up for me. That made me feel so precious and valued and valuable. I try to treat everyone like they’re pregnant,” she says.

As for her day-job, which she only does four days a week now, Hargitay cops to being excited anew to play detective Olivia Benson. She lost her partner when Chris Meloni left the show.

“We just had our season opener. I was strangely and oddly reinvigorated. I had a party for the cast and writers and we watched the show on the big screen. The writing has been exceptional. Everything is shaken up in the squad room,” says Hargitay.

She doesn’t exactly see herself adding to her family, but never say never.

“Three kids is a lot. Three kids is a game changer,” says Hargitay, who adopted Andrew and Amaya last year. “Listen, I thought I was done after Amaya and then Andrew came along. Andrew has been the biggest unexpected blessing. A year ago, if you’d asked me if I’d have three kids, I would have said I’m done. Here I am, loving life. It’s hard. There are times when I cry. I have a dressing room at work and they come twice a week. I have my Fridays with the kids. My weekends are extremely precious. I just figure it out.”


Mariska Hargitay, Mark Ruffalo, Rosanne Cash, Al Paglia, Naomi Watts, and Liev Schreiber will appear in new PSA that debuts at Brady Center Honors

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence today announced that men and women whose lives have been forever altered by gun violence, along with well-known celebrities who’ve filmed a new call-to-action PSA, will play a prominent role in the annual Brady Center New York City Gala on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Coming together under the theme, We Are Better Than This, gun violence victims and family members of those lost to gun violence will join with concerned Americans from all walks of life to honor and support gun violence prevention efforts and leaders at the Brady Center’s gala at Cipriani Wall Street.

This event honors the gun violence prevention community’s determination to deepen and extend the national conversation on ways to prevent gun violence, in recognition that we are better than a country that loses 30,000 people a year to gun violence.

Giving voice to the national conversation emerging in response to the carnage we witness day after day will be:
Roxanna Green, who lost her 8-year-old daughter Christina-Taylor in the 2011 Tucson shooting that injured Representative Gabrielle Giffords;

Annette Holt, mother of 16-year-old Blair Holt, shot in 2007 on a Chicago city bus on his way to help out at his grandparents’ store;

Aurora theater shooting victims Ethan Rodriguez-Torrent (who escaped without physical injury) and his friend Stephen Barton (who was shot in the neck and shoulders), who had stopped in Denver to visit a friend during their cross-country cycling trip;

Brent Gurtek, a hunter from Minnesota, who supports sensible gun laws.

A very special highlight of the evening will be the debut of segments of several We Are Better Than This-themed public service announcements, featuring Mariska Hargity, who plays Det. Olivia Benson on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”; Mark Ruffalo, most recently seen as Dr. Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk, in the 2012 film “The Avengers”; Rosanne Cash, winner of the 2010 Americana Music Association Best Album of the Year for “The List” and eldest daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash; Al Paglia, who played FBI agent Jack Malone on “Without a Trace”; Naomi Watts, who played real-life CIA agent Valerie Wilson Plame in “Fair Game”; and Liev Schreiber, Sabretooth in the 2009 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

The Harlem Children’s Choir will also showcase its talents and share its experiences overcoming the tragedy of gun violence.


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