The “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment came within 90 minutes of the Save West Bank Cafe Telethon’s start. The GoFundMe campaign to save Steve Olsen’s W42nd Street fabled restaurant (and Laurie Beechman Theater) blasted through its $250,000 target in less than an hour on Christmas Day. Over 900 people donated during the start of the telethon today — adding to over a thousand who had already contributed in the run-up to the live event.
The fundraising began when theater producers Michael and Tom D’Angora heard the rumor in mid-December that Steve Olsen was near to throwing in the towel at the West Bank Cafe and Laurie Beechman Theater, they took action. “We immediately marched in there and said ‘NO WAY’, we’re not letting this happen,” recalls Michael. “We had a very lengthy discussion about his situation. It’s dire (as it is for everyone) and he is operating at such a loss right now, he anticipated that he could survive a week or two maximum.”
“So, within 10 minutes, we had an idea. We had Steve on board, and writer Joe Iconis and actor Tim Guinee enthusiastically jumped in ready to help us produce an event,” enthused Michael — who, with his husband, Tom, launched a GoFundMe page.
At midday today, they launched their Christmas Day Telethon. “We’re gonna ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ this shitty situation for our old pal, Steve,” said Michael. “We’re starting at 12 on Christmas Day and will go until we run out of performers.”
The show started today with a re-creation of the It’s a Wonderful Life movie and an opening number by Joe Iconis.
On reaching the target, Michael and Tom D’Angora told us: “We are over the moon for Steve and the West Bank crew who have shown exceptional generosity to us, our neighborhood, and the theatre community for so many years. At the end of this terrible year, I’m glad we were able to create a small miracle on 42nd Street! Thank you to EVERYONE who donated and made a Christmas wish come true!”
Steve Olsen said after passing the target this afternoon: “This is the greatest Christmas gift ever. We’ve been here 42 years serving the theater community. Over 2,600 people have made donations. I’m going to be busy till the end of the pandemic writing thank you notes.”
This week, Mama Mia 44SW was also rescued from closure thanks to The Barstool Fund and Dave Portnoy’s help.
Over 220 stars are lined up to deliver remarks, tell stories, and sing holiday songs during the telethon.
The roster of stars include: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Pete Townshend, Debra Messing, Chita Rivera, Andre De Shields, Betty Buckley, Alan Cumming, Bobby Cannavale, Tony Shaloub, Kevin Chamberlin, Alice Ripley, Iain Armitage, Isaac Mizrahi, Martha Plimpton, Melissa Rivers, Andrea McArdle, Lewis Black, Dylan Baker, Becky Gelke, Randy Rainbow, Cheri Oteri, Laura Benanti, John Gallagher Jr., Cady Hoffman, David Eigenberg, Diana DeGarmo, Ace Young, Kerry Butler, Lois Smith, Norm Lewis, Anna Chlumsky, Telly Leung, Ryann Redmond, George Salazar, Joe Iconis, Lauren Marcus, Tim Guinee, Lauren Patten, Karl Heringer, David Auburn, Harris Yulin, Warren Leight, Laura Bell Bundy, Annie Golden, Megan Hilty, Brian Gallagher, Jakie Cox, Jinkx Monsoon, Brooke Adams, Judy Kuhn, Perez Hilton, Giancarlo Esposito, Megan Boone, Zak Orth, Patrick Breen, Linus Roache, Brad Oscar, Alison Arngrim, Alison Fraser, Mary Testa, Chip Zien, Debbie Gravitte, Kelli Barrett, Jarrod Spector, Justin Sargent, Tony Sheldon, Anson Mount, Gil Bellows, Rya Khlidstedt, Karen Mason, Christine Pedi, Lauren Molina, Nick Adams, Morgan Fairchild, Ilene Kristen, Kristen Alderson, Robert Newman, Ann Harada, Lori Singer, Geraldine Hughes, Michael West, Christina Bianco, Jason Tam, Jeff Harnar, Lee Wilkof, Julie Halston, Alysha Umphress, Molly Hager, Maya Days, Susie Mosher, Evan Handler, Michael O’Keefe, Eric William Morris, Alyse Alan Louis, Michael Rayner, Michael Gaston, Michael Longoria, John Hillner, Michelle Dowdy, Jordan Wolfe, Rick Crom, Leon Addison Brown, Terry Kinney, Karen Ziemba, Lily Houghton, Lee Rodriguez, Jennifer Ferrin, Jeff Perry, Kevin Smith Kirkwood, Laura Woyasz, Marissa Mulder, Kristy Cates and Gracie, Marty Thomas, Amra Faye Wright, Jennifer Ashley Tepper Marissa Rosen Jeanine Tesori Aaron Kaburick, Liz Lark Brown, Karen Mack-Those Girls, Amy Hillner Larsen, Amy Toporek, Eric Michael Gillett, Jason Graae, Stephanie Wilberding, Chelah Horsdal, David Friedman, Marie Gabrielle,Tedi Marsh, Beckham Peterson, Carly Sakolove, Jim Caruso, Billy Stritch, Klea Blackhurst, Mark Nadler, KT Sullivan, Gabrielle Stravelli, Leslie Carrera, Rudolph Lardpop, Lolly Lardpop, Holly Ann Butler, L Kevin Steven Taylor, Jon Satrom, Sean Bernardi, Neil Martin West, Tracy Stark, Bill Zeffiro, Kevin Michael Murphy, Jennifer
Barnhart, Garry Dial, Terre Roche, Jordan Stanley, Amanda Huxtable, Latrice Royale,
David Auburn, Jimmy Larkin, Bradley Jones, Jennifer Mudge, Dina O’Brien, La Voix,
Sherry Vine, Tammie Brown, Paige Turner, Jackie Sanders, Michael Garin and Mardie
Millit, Lorenzo Pisoni, Coco Taylor, Jackie Beat, Neil Pepe, Chelsea Piers, Michael Hull,
Nicky Paraiso, Kate Pazakis, Natalie Douglas, Michael Kirk Lane, Ben Cameron, Dylan
Hartwell, Gregory Sullivan, Scott Coulter, Billy Recce, Emily McNamara, Scott Richard
Foster, Taylor Crousore, Tulis McCall, Gabrielle Lee, Lorinda Lisitza, Shakina Nayfack,
Badia Farha, Ray Leslee, Billy The Mime, Brandon Cutrell, Lennie Watts, Amy Wolk,
Maggie McDowell and Thomas, Tom D’Angora, Michael D’Angora, Momjian, Steve Olsen, Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, District Leader
Marisa Redanty, a special message from Al Pacino, and Michael L. Walters as
Santa Claus *
*List is ever growing and subject to change.