Interview with the late Jerry Weintraub. Article appeared in Desert Charities News April/May/June 2011 Issue by Vernell Hackett
Jerry Weintraub Supports and Believes in Eisenhower Medical Center.
When you ask Jerry Weintraub about the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, near Palm Desert, Calif., he has nothing but praise for the 40 year old facility, which is entering a new phase in its history, that of becoming a teaching hospital.
Weintraub has worn many hats throughout his legendary career, including working as a film producer, personal manager, concert promoter, television producer and entrepreneur. He has produced blockbuster hits including the “Ocean’s Eleven” series, the “Karate Kid” series, “Oh God” and “Nashville.”
Before finding huge success behind the camera’s lens, he booked tours for entertainers as diverse as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan. He is also an author, having penned his hugely successful autobiography, “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead.”
“The Eisenhower Medical Center is the center of the desert, Weintraub tells “Desert Charities News.” “It is the hospital that we all use and it needs financial support. We all live there (Palm Desert area) four or five months a year, and we need a great hospital. People come from Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and they all have great hospitals. No one can pick when you get sick, so you better have a good place to go and good doctors, when you get there.”
Weintraub, who owns a home in Palm Desert at Bighorn, is the subject of an HBO feature-length documentary, “His Way,” which debuted on the network April 4 at 9 p.m. Eastern. It focuses on his 50-plus years in entertainment using interviews, personal video and archival footage to document his contributions to the various businesses he has been part of over the years.
Viewers will enjoy interviews with Weintraub’s wide array of friends, including Hollywood superstars and political masterminds, among them George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, Ellen Barkin, James Caan, Elliott Gould, Andy Garcia and Ralph Macchio.
Some of the residents of Palm Desert and the surrounding area were treated to a special preview of the documentary on February 28 hosted by Greg and Stacey Renker, who are friends of Weintraub. What started out as a small showing for a few friends quickly grew to a gathering of 1,100 at the McCallum Theatre, followed by an outdoor party produced by Shari Kelley. There were other premiers in Los Angeles and New York, Weintraub’s hometown.
The Palm Desert preview was to say thank you to many of the Eisenhower Medical Center’s major contributors, who were in attendance at the very casual party. During the event, Weintraub, who is on the board of trustees for the facility, thanked everyone for their past and future support of Eisenhower.
“Jerry feels passionate about Eisenhower Medical Center, and he wrote a letter after the event to everybody who attended,” Michael Landes, president of the Eisenhower Medical Center Foundation, said. “His message was, “Hey if we all want to continue to enjoy life we have to be healthy, so let’s support the hospital and its excellence’,”
Landes says that from the first day Weintraub joined the board of trustees he has asked the question “What can I do to help Eisenhower?”
What led to having the movie premiered here was his desire, and that of Greg and Stacey, to see that something fun and special was offered to the greater community of supporters for Eisenhower Medical Center. They wanted it to be a unique event that would generate excitement about Eisenhower. We had a very unique and fun filled party afterwards and there was no pressure for anyone to do anything but enjoy themselves. That was refreshing for people, to come together and not be asked to do something, but just be thanked. That was the spirt of what happened there, that was the uniqueness of it.”
Landes said that Eisenhower is on the edge of becoming an academic medical institution, having just signed an affiliation with Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California. The facility will be accredited this year to become a Graduate School of Medical Education (GME) and next year they will start making arrangements to have their first residents in internal medicine and family medicine come in from all over the U.S.
“Eisenhower will become California’s newest teaching hospital and will specialize in primary care residents,” Landes explained. “We look to raise 10 million dollars to help launch the teaching hospital. People have been very supportive.”
There are three hospitals in the Coachella Valley, but Eisenhower is the only not-for profit among them. “Eisenhower depends upon its community to support it; it is owned by the community and in order for us to give back excellence, we do need our community to support us philanthropically,” Landes continued.
We’ve already recruited faculty leaders, we’ve started to completely renovate our buildings to house all of our residents and eventually we will have 55 new residents teaching here. We are recruiting new doctors to the valley to help in clinical practice and taking on new patients which the valley desperately needs. We have been on the forefront of solving community health issues. We need more primary care doctors in the Coachella Valley and this teaching hospital will help that. Those doctors will most likely choose to stay here after they graduate from the GME program.”
The Eisenhower Medical Center is not Weintraub’s only charitable cause. He says he is involved with several Jewish charities as well as the UCLA laboratory which does stem cell research. “I get involved because of my friends who come to me with different causes, and because I’m a guy who grew up in New York with a mother and a father who told me when and if I made money, that it was better to give than to get,” Weintraub said.
“I also have a foundation, Not On Our Watch, and George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, are all involved. We give money to Haiti, Chad and Darfur, and we’ll probably do something in Japan. We are investigating that. Because of our celebrity we are able to raise money.”
Weintraub was recognized by UNICEF with that organization’s Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award. He is proud of his charity work, and says he talks to everyone about getting involved. “I tell my children, actors, producers, directors…I talk to the world I think if you can afford to get involved you should, whether it’s five dollars or five million dollars.”
Undoubtedly the producer attacks his work with charities as he did when he wanted to work with Elvis Presley early in his career. “My whole life is just doing it. I don’t hear the word no, I hear the word maybe and then I get it to a yes.”
He goes on to say he never had a master plan for his life. “It was life and just who I am and it all came together. God was on my side and took me through it. I do believe that, and I believe in God.”
“His Way was a different experience for Weintraub, who for the most part is accustomed to being in charge when it comes to cameras and scripts.
“It was interesting and it was scary and it was a new adventure because I wasn’t in charge,” he admits. “I am always in charge of everything I do, yet I had no control over this.”
Upcoming projects for Weintraub include the movies “Oh God” and “The Karate Kid.” I have five or six films I’m working on, but what I really want to do is come to Palm Springs on April 5 when I finish the tour with the movie and rest.”
The HBO special debuted on April 4 and will air again on April 21 (11:00 a.m.) and 25 (midnight).