Of all the Burbank High 1968 graduates, perhaps our classmate Laura Ziskin was the most famous and known outside of our class. I have written about her before — if you click these links: “A celebrity in our class” and “Speaking from the grave“, you’ll read all about her star-studded productions of the Academy Awards (2002 and 2007), and movies such as Pretty Woman, What about Bob, As Good as it Gets, and Spider-Man. Her last film was The Butler, and she died on June 12, 2011 of breast cancer.
Of her many accomplishments, though, the one Laura would probably be most proud, was the co-founding of Stand Up to Cancer, a charitable organization of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which aims to raise funds for cancer research through online and television specials. It was started in the fall of 2007 by women who had been affected by cancer and aims to raise awareness that everyone is connected by cancer, either directly or by family relative. The American Cancer Society statistics they quote are one out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Sobering, isn’t it?
Look through the Memorial List of just our Burbank High 1968 classmates and see the names of those who have died of cancer: Dawn Bennett, Max Byers, Cathy Carlson, Ron Dandy, Patti Dobson, Rich Franco, Martha Garrett, Roger Golnick, Mark Grogan, Jackie Handley, Kay Hoadley, Sean Largey, Raymond Lewis, Julie Ann Livingston, Bob Northrop, Nancy Pierce, Steve Potter, Patrick Reynish, Janis Shovald, John Thomas, Kathi Wagner, and Laura Ziskin.
And just last night, I sat down to read the latest Time magazine, and on the last page was an interview with television anchor Katie Couric. Right away, the first question to her was “How did the nonprofit you co-founded, Stand Up to Cancer, get involved with the PBS series premiering March 30?” and she answered:
Cancer has been life-shattering for me. My husband died of colon cancer in 1998. My sister died of pancreatic cancer three years later. Laura Ziskin, one of my co-founders, died of breast cancer. She’d read an advance copy of The Emperor of all Maladies and immediately said, “We have to turn this into a documentary.”
Isn’t it amazing, that almost four years after her death, her name would still be brought up for her accomplishments?