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Marilu Henner honored at vegan-friendly Art of Compassion gala

April 12, 2010 |  8:02 am

Henner Carol Leifer, a comedian and former "Seinfeld" writer, was in her element at a benefit in Hollywood on Saturday evening. The event was the 25th anniversary Art of Compassion gala for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which lobbies against the use of animals in medical research and promotes plant-based diets. Mom to six rescue dogs, Leifer told the crowd that she took her love of animals one step further two years ago and became a vegan.

"Because I thought, as a Jewish lesbian, I wasn't part of a small-enough minority," she said.

Then Leifer, who appeared on the current season of "Celebrity Apprentice," gave a shout-out to the show's maestro, Donald Trump, for making a donation to her charity, the North Shore Animal League, even though she was the first star to get booted off the show.

The name of TV's absent comb-over king came up again later when Dan Cortese introduced honoree Marilu Henner. He noted that when she was on "Celebrity Apprentice's" first season in 2008, she dedicated her winnings to PCRM.

Coincidence, or has Trump powered his way through the celeb phone book?

It's hard to know, but the celebrity vegan-friendly world is clearly a cozy one. As an ebullient Henner, who received a Voice of Compassion Award, said of presenter Frances Fisher, "Frances and I, we always run into each other in audition waiting rooms or in our colonics place waiting room. We are very connected."

Nutrition book author and "Taxi" star Henner said she first "fell in love with" PCRM (founded by its president, Dr. Neal Barnard) in 1998 when her first book, "Total Health Makeover," came out. In 2004, she and PCRM spoke to Congress about the food pyramid.

"I was trying to get water on the food pyramid, because I thought we could talk about hydration," she said. "In the meantime, there were four people from the dairy industry. There was actually somebody from the Lard Institute, who was talking about how lard was better for you than olive oil."

Yum. Also honored with a Voice of Compassion Award were Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres, who accepted it on her show on behalf of the couple. Bold-faced names at the event included former Viacom CEO Tom Freston and his author wife, Kathy; U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio);  Dr. Dean Ornish; Dr. Henry Heimlich; "True Blood's" Kristin Bauer; Cloris Leachman; David Steinberg; co-chair Cindy Landon; sportscaster and former Laker John Salley; Jane Velez-Mitchell; Michael Nouri; and Melissa Rivers, who indicated the evening was an eye-opener for her.

Said Rivers: "I'm freaking out tonight thinking my son's pet turtle is named French Fry."

-- Irene Lacher

Photo: Marilu Henner in 2000. Credit: Jim Cooper / Associated Press

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