Malibu Seen

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are all smiles at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Photo by Janet Laird / TMT


Everyone had a reason to smile as Operation Smile celebrated its 25th anniversary at a starry, black-tie bash at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The red carpet was graced by a bevy of Hollywood beauties flashing their gorgeous mega-watt grins. Many are long-time friends of the organization that helps make the world a happier place one smile at a time. Molly Sims, Jessica Simpson and our own Roma Downey are just a few of the famous faces behind the cause.

The life-changing organization was founded in 1982 when Dr. Bill Magee and his wife Kathy traveled to the Philippines on a medical mission. There they encountered hundreds of children who had severe facial deformities and nowhere to turn. Although they had to leave many kids behind on their first visit, the Magees vowed to return. When they did, Operation Smile was born.

Angelic Roma has been on several visits to see the small miracles first-hand. The celebrated actress along with husband Mark Burnett are hoping to line up another trip in the future. “We are trying to block some time and bring the kids,” she told Malibu Seen. “We want them to make that connection.”

She has also been a tireless supporter and spokesperson for the children’s organization. “It takes, what, $300 to do one of these operations? That’s a pair of shoes for some people,” she said. “This is changing lives.”

The evening’s emcee, Billy Bush, had his bags packed and was ready to go. “We are leaving on a mission to Guadalajara tonight,” the “Access Hollywood” host explained. “It’s my first one. I think it’s time.”

But Roma and Billy weren’t the only stars on the red carpet. The night also belonged to little Paige Atkinson. The big-hearted 9-year-old raised $17,000, which will pay for 70 operations in Egypt.

The Magees had a lot of grown-up people to thank, too. Victoria Jackson, Bill Guthy, Molly Sims, Sy Goldberg and Corey Maggette were among this year’s honorees.

The evening began with a VIP cocktail party attended by locals Suzan Hughes and Catherine Oxenberg, as well as Katharine and Ron Marinaro, Sara and Mike Weinstock, Lisa and Jonathan Gordon and Susan Monus. The reception was an art lover’s dream. Dozens of famous lithographs were on the auction block, including Miro’s eye-popping “Dog Barking at the Moon” and Dali’s thought-provoking “Hell Canto.” But it was Picasso’s erotic “Spectacle de Gladiateurs” that caught Billy Bush’s eye. “Very different,” he quipped. “I really like the package.”

Also on display was Lladro’s dramatic “Queen of the Nile,” a five-foot-long porcelain statue that would go to the highest bidder.

Jeweler Steve Zale who accompanied Operation Smile on a mission to Brazil apparently has a soft spot for gems and kids. He created a dazzling necklace for the evening’s raffle fashioned from a rare 54-carat Brazilian opal. “I’ve had many offers, but I’ve never sold it,” he said. “I’ve been saving this one for the children.”

A lively mariachi band played south-of-the border favorites as guests took their seats for dinner. As we tucked into a nice warm goat cheese salad and juicy fillet, we watched moving pictures depicting the profound changes that Operation Smile makes in young lives around the world.

During the last 25 years, the organization and its medical volunteers have performed more than 100,000 operations in countries from Ecuador to Kenya, to Vietnam.

The anniversary celebration will come to a close in November with a global Journey of Smiles offering 43 simultaneous missions in 25 countries and a goal of providing new smiles and new lives for 5,000 children.

The event raised a whopping $2.5 million for even more smiles worldwide.

After 25 years, the impact of Operation Smile isn’t lost on even its oldest friends and longtime supporters. “This was a lovely evening filled with genuine humility, gratitude and warmth,” Roma said. “Heart to heart, person to person, shoulder to shoulder-together-we can move mountains.”

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