Spike Lee is a happy guy and not because he is in those ready-made-ingredient food commercials where the delivery guy mistakes him for a Chinese cook. Spike and Paramount have nabbed Wesley Snipes to play the movie role of the late great James Brown.
Here's a strictly personal report from my pal Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal about a social burst of true philanthropy. Peggy usually writes about politics but in this case she was telling of the wonderful Lily Safra, and all she has done for the National Institutes of Health.
"The NIH put on a dinner for Lily at the Knickerbocker Club to thank her for building a big lodge near the NIH where families of patients can stay. Lily knew that terribly sick people come from all over the United States and have to stay in local motels, which sometimes they can ill afford. So Lily made life easier. And that's not all she does there.
"Charles A. Sanders, chairman of the NIH Foundation, is tall, white-haired and elegant -- the way senators used to look. He spoke beautifully about the philanthropist Lily. The humanitarian Deeda Blair brought along her inner dignity. She was lovely. I sat near a good friend of the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. This man said to me, 'Watch Sarkozy; he's going to unleash France.' I asked, 'If France becomes more western, more American, and starts sharing the competitive spirit and ethos of the great modern industrial democracies, I wonder -- will it lose some of its Frenchness?' I didn't wait for an answer; I went on: 'The French love the physical things of life -- wine, food, a walk, a long lunch, a love of silk. Do we want France to be subsumed by the spirit of western competition?'
"The man said, 'To keep loving the wine, we must be able to pay for the wine! We must let people earn, then they will like the wine better.' He added that a lot of the French reputation for arrogance can be traced to the fact that they know their pockets are empty. 'When they are more financially successful, they'll be less inclined to put up a front of superiority.'
"Also sitting near me was a brilliant doctor from Algeria. He told me a secret. Ronald Reagan was in the hospital for colon cancer in the late '80s and this was the famous hospital stay where the president said, 'I don't have cancer. I had a tumor in my colon that was cancerous and they took it out.' Or words to that effect. This was the time when some of us in the White House sent him a card reading: WE HEAR THEY REMOVED THREE FEET FROM YOUR COLON. MR. PRESIDENT, WE ARE CONCERNED. HOW DID THE FEET GET IN THERE?
"But I digress. In the hospital, they discovered spots on Reagan's lungs. They said, 'It's metastasizing, we have to operate.' The doctor took a CT scan of Reagan's lungs and told the older doctors that it was not metastasizing, but was scar tissue from the bullet when the president had been shot six years before. Older doctors said, 'No, we should operate.'
"The young doctor turned to Nancy Reagan. 'If we wait six weeks and the spots have grown, we'll know it's cancer. If not, we'll know it's gun residue.' Nancy said, 'We'll wait.' And she and the young doctor were right. Think of what those six weeks were like -- waiting."