Hollywood has been buzzing this week with a strange story about Liza Minelli’s husband David Gest, who runs several Tinseltown foundations in his spare time. It seems Gest recently replaced former Columbia Pictures chief Leo Jaffe as chairman of his American Cinema Awards Foundation. What’s so odd about that? Jaffe has been dead since 1997.
The whole silly episode got us wondering if any other notable nonprofits were still padding their rosters with celebrities or other notables who had long ago assumed room temperature.
Remember John Banzhaf? He’s the long-time anti-smoking zealot who is now helping a few undisciplined New Yorkers sue McDonald’s because their dietary choices made them too fat. It turns out that Banzhaf’s anti-tobacco nonprofit, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), lists no fewer than thirteen (13) dead people among the 44 notables on its “Board of Sponsors.” Some have been deceased for over ten years, but that hasn’t stopped Banzhaf from continuing to trade on their good names.
ASH’s dearly departed baker’s dozen includes:
Former Savin Corporation Chairman E. Paul Charlup (d.2001)
Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Bernard D. Davis (d.1994)
Former New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Hollis S. Ingraham (d.1994)
Former U.S. Senator Maurine B. Neuberger (d.2000)
UCLA School of Medicine’s Dr. Joseph Ross (d.1999)
Rutgers University’s Dr. Silvan S. Tomkins (d.1991)
Not only is Banzhaf faking the imprimatur of 13 dead people, he’s getting rich while doing it. In addition to his salary at George Washington University in DC, Banzhaf paid himself $653,000 as Executive Director of ASH during the four years between 1998 and 2001. That’s just four years’ salary — ASH has been around since 1968.
No wonder Banzhaf’s license plate reads SUE-BAST (short for “Sue the Bastards”).