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FAM Tour-Louisiana 4

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The old adage of actions speaking louder than words is playing out in the Los Angeles production community, where a powerful grassroots coalition of below the liners, above the liners and entertainment industry vendors are taking hurricane relief efforts into their own hands.A lynchpin to these recent and ongoing acts of goodwill is Avon Studio Transportation, a local company that has supported the entertainment industry for the last 30 years. When Nelson Silver, president of Avon Studio Transportation, and Julie Lawson, VP, starting getting calls from various crew and stars, they offered up—at no cost—Avon trucks and vans equipped with qualified drivers to get the donated goods to the hard-hit gulf states.“I got a call from actors Patricia Arquette, Jake Weber (Medium, NBC) and art director Donna Willinsky (Rock Star: INXS, CBS), who were committed to getting something going, and we were thrilled to help them,” says Lawson, who has been fielding calls from numerous local 399 teamsters, crew members and actors since the storm hit.“Gerald Knight (local 399 member and transportation coordinator on Medium) worked really hard with Patricia (Arquette) to get the trucks to Van Nuys Airport loaded and ready to roll to the areas where goods were needed,” adds Lawson. Asked about his participation, Knight said: “I helped organize the transportation and drivers, but Patricia and Julie put it in action”.The convoys of trucks leaving Los Angeles for the Gulf states of Louisiana and Mississippi were filled with every imaginable item needed.“Our business is the most adept at dealing with crisis, oddly enough,” said Arquette. “In production, you are used to making things happen quickly.“It shows that Los Angeles can come together in a really powerful way,” Arquette added. “The best thing we can do is keep up this momentum, to tell people in our community to go to the Katrina Victims Action Coalition website at www.kvac.us and see where they can drop off goods. Company and corporate sponsors are needed. Whatever your socioeconomic situation, there is something that you can offer to help.”Art director Willinsky also made the call to Avon. “I just couldn’t sit there watching the news another minute without trying something, anything to help these people,” said Willinsky. “Julie at Avon was so awesome. She said whatever I needed, I could have.”Willinsky got a passenger van, loaded it with animal supplies, crates, blankets and towels, medical basics and food, and had her assistant art director, Don Graben, and her husband, Frank Armstrong, head east on the I-10, staying at homes of friends and strangers along the way who knew of their mission, to get to the Ag Center at LSU in Baton Rouge.“My producers on Rock Star were so cool. They let Don go for a week to do this even though we were taping,” says Willinsky.After distributing the various supplies to the most in need at LSU and a local Salvation Army site, Graben and Armstrong had a sign up on their van that read “Heading West” and offered a family in need with a dog in tow a free ride to relatives in Arizona.Below the Line has received reports that Days of Our Lives actors are heading to Mississippi for a benefit concert, and the show’s local 706 crew is helping to get needed personal grooming and haircare products along with skilled stylists to two centers—one in Houston and one in Louisiana—to aid storm victims. Naimie Ojeil and Sam Bekerian of Naimie’s Beauty Center and MAC Cosmetics are also reported to be donating grooming products to the relief efforts with the Days of Our Lives crew.

Written by April MacIntyre

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