Rita Hayworth Gala Kickoff





You might not know that Rita Hayworth, Hollywood’s quintessential glamor goddess, had something tragically in common with Hollywood’s playful Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder: both were Alzheimer’s victims. The 31st Annual Rita Hayworth Gala will welcome the Wilder family May 12 at the Hilton Chicago.


Rita Hayworth (Columbia Pictures, photograph by A. L. Schafer).

Top supporters and committee members of the Alzheimer’s Association gathered recently to kick off the Gala at Museum of Broadcast Communications. Gala co-chair Jon Harris of Conagra Brand welcomed guests to the highly popular Saturday Night Live exhibit of sets and costumes, a show where Wilder’s third wife, Gilda Radner, reigned as comedic queen.


Jon Harris.


Jim and Susan Draddy, Dan Murphy III, Phoebe Nitekman, Joan and Paul Rubschlager, Jon Harris, Kathy Schmalen Abbene, Betsy Goltermann, Barbie and Bruce Taylor, and Julie Gordon.


Michael and Phoebe Nitekman.

The resolute Princess Yasmin Aga Kahn founded the Gala in honor of her movie star mother, with this year’s theme, Pure Imagination, honoring Wilder and the imaginative researchers, caregivers, and advocates striving to fulfill the vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.

Former Today Show host Natalie Morales, who now hosts Access Live, will receive the Caregivers award at the Gala. Natalie voices her advocacy for caregivers, whom she calls “the true champions” in battling Alzehimer’s, and speaks about her family’s own experience with the disease.

Karen Wilder, who was married to Gene for 35 years until his death, will be honored for her Alzheimer’s activist role. Gene’s nephew, filmmaker Jordan Walker-Perlstein, whom the actor co-parented for many years, will be recognized for championing research. Jordan and his uncle collaborated on an audio version of the star’s last book, Even Dogs Learn To Swim.


Gene Wilder, 1970 (Warner Brothers/Tandem Production).

Karen has said that even when Gene could no long remember the name of perhaps his most famous movie, Young Frankenstein, he was still able to act it out.


Darci and Andrew Moore with Julian Jackson.


Susan and Jim Draddy.


Samantha Lendzion and Dan Murphy III.


Lynne Carey, Jon Harris, committee member Julie Gordon, and Ann Marie Arzt.


Paul and Joan Rubschlager with Betsy Goltermann.


Kate Meyer with Michael and Phoebe Nitekman.


Rob Rizzo and Susan Jun.


For more information about the Rita Hayworth Gala, visit alz.org/galas/Chicago.


Photo credit: Bill Richert