Canadian Celebrities Play Scrabble for a Cause

Published: April 8th 2010
in Culture » Society

Jeanne Beker and Barry Flatman, co-hosts of Scrabble with the Stars
Pic: courtesy of DW Communications

“It’s not the kind of thing where you just sit back and eat dinner and listen to a bunch of speeches,” says Jeanne Beker of Scrabble with the Stars. “It’s something where you really get involved and have a blast and meet a whole interesting community of people.”


A five-year veteran of the annual Toronto fundraiser, Beker, host of CTV’s FashionTelevision, loves playing Scrabble for a cause. So do the many Canadian celebrities lending their wordsmithing talents to this year’s event. Hosted by Beker and actor Barry Flatman, Scrabble with the Stars pits more than 40 Canadian luminaries against guests in games of Scrabble (with some cocktails, mingling, and a silent auction thrown in), all in support of PAL Place, a unique residential complex in downtown Toronto that is operated by Performing Arts Lodges (PAL) Toronto and provides housing for aging Canadian artists.


There’s also an impressive Jewish presence at this year’s festivities. In honour of the event, Shalom Life threw out five questions to five of the participating celebrities, including Beker, musician Amy Sky, Harold Green Jewish Theatre artistic director Avery Saltzman, Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin, and event chair and PAL resident Vivenne Muhling, who at 83 years old, is organizing Scrabble with the Stars for her last time.


1) What do you most enjoy about participating in this event?


Jeanne Beker: I just enjoy the community. I started out as an actress in Toronto in 1968 when I was 16 years old, and believe it or not there are still some people who come out to this thing who were around from those days. And Scrabble’s always fun. The social aspect of the evening is really a blast and we’re helping a great cause, so you can’t lose.


Avery Saltzman:I love catching up with old friends in the business and also the thrill of the game. I love Scrabble and playing for charity is the best way to get the competitive spirit up!


Vivienne Muhling: That while fulfilling its mitzvah of helping PAL Toronto care for ailing and aging members of my performing arts community, it is a unique, friendly function that all participants, both sponsors and participating celebrities, tell me they truly enjoy.


2) What are you most looking forward to this year?


Amy Sky: Playing Scrabble. I love words – and raising funds for a good cause.


ASaltzman: Getting the right combination of letters…please not seven consonants at the same time.


VM: Watching a ballroom full of people enjoying my favourite pastime – playing Scrabble.


3) Why is the cause, PAL Toronto, important to you?


JB: These are people who have spent their whole lives working in the entertainment industry and really entertaining people. When you work in that business very rarely do you have any kind of security and very rarely do you have any kind of big stash of money tucked away for your retirement! It’s a real feel-good thing to be giving back to this community that has given us so much for so long.


Mark Breslin: I grew up around care facilities – it was a family business. It's very important for elderly people in the arts to have a place to go. There are few support systems in the arts community.


VM: Coming to live at PAL among my fellow pros is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I love volunteering in every way I can, everything from serving on the Board of Directors to serving tea and coffee at our morning Kaffeklatsch.


4) How often do you play Scrabble? How good are you?


ASky: Summers at the cottage with my kids – I enjoy it but I am no expert! I expect to be handily trounced.


Related articles: (society, scrabble, jeanne beker, PAL Toronto, avery saltzman, mark breslin)

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