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'Precious' director Lee Daniels thanks those who shared his vision at Vision Awards

September 25, 2010 | 10:47 am
Lee and Billy Bob

One thing you can say about Lee Daniels -- he never forgets the people who helped him get to where he is today, as he demonstrated this week at the Vision Awards gala in Beverly Hills, where he was one of the honorees.

The director/producer of "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" was introduced by Billy Bob Thornton, star of "Monster's Ball," the first film Daniels produced. As Daniels reached the podium to accept the Director of Vision Award, he gave a shout-out to former Paramount Studios chief, Sherry Lansing, who was there to present the Lifetime Achievement in Film Award to her former mentor and producing partner, "Kramer vs. Kramer's" Stanley Jaffee.

 "Ten years ago, we did ‘Monster's Ball,'" Daniels said, "and right after it was over, the lady at Table 10, Sherry Lansing – I had never been on a studio lot, and Sherry picked me up personally in her buggy and drove me to see [studio exec] Ruth Vitale, and she believed in me. I saw you in my peripheral vision as I was coming up, and I love you very much. Ten years, I have gray hair now."

Oh yeah, and that other thing: an Oscar.

Meanwhile, bobsledder Steve Holcomb looked pretty spiffy in his dark suit, but it's the bauble hanging around his neck that helps him get the girls – the shiny gold medal he snagged at the winter Olympics.

Holcomb Shmoozing backstage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Thursday night after receiving the Athlete of Vision Award from his old high school girlfriend, Tristan Gale, a gold medalist herself for skeleton racing, Holcomb confided that he sometimes brings his medal to parties because it's such a chick magnet.

Unfortunately for him, it's also a guy magnet, which can make it hard for the chicks to get through. "They always want to talk about sports," he said. Go figure.

Holcomb went for the gold after a successful surgery last year corrected his degenerative eye disease known as keratoconus. His L.A. surgeon, Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, was also honored during an evening that recognized 19 people in a variety of fields for their vision -- both literal and figurative. The event was the 40th anniversary of the awards ceremony hosted by Retinitis Pigmentosa International and its founder, Helen Harris, who developed TheatreVision -- descriptive movie soundtracks for the blind.

Other honorees at the event included "The Blind Side" producer Molly Smith, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, "Laugh In" producer George Schlatter, who brought along his presenter, Lily Tomlin, and biotech entrepreneur and philanthropist Patrick Soon-Shiong, who apparently has quite an eclectic group of pals –  A FOMS (Friend of California First Lady Maria Shriver, who was one of his tablemates), he was introduced by the odd combination of Black Eyed Peas singer and "Airplane!" director Jerry Zucker (newcomers to the Ministry's list of celebs whose names you will never again see in the same sentence).

-- Irene Lacher

Photos, from top: Lee Daniels and Billy Bob Thornton backstage at the event; gold medalists Steve Holcomb and Tristan Gale flank Lois and Buzz Aldrin. (Credit: Glen Lipton)