“Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime” takes on a greater meaning as ‘Upstage Lung Cancer’ presents ‘Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime: The Music of Dean Martin and the Rat Pack,’ an evening of live performances and much more hosted by Joyce Kulhawik on Tuesday, October 28 at the Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts.
A vibrant evening of dancing, silent auction, and a wine and dessert reception, ‘Upstage Lung Cancer’s’ annual benefit dedicates its proceeds to fund lung cancer research. See the slideshow for an inside look at past performances! Click here for tickets and visit upstagelungcancer.org for more information!
I had the honor of speaking with lung cancer survivor, singer, and President of the award-winning, nonprofit organization ‘Upstage Lung Cancer,’ Hildy Grossman.
Congratulations on the 2014 Myra Kraft Community MVP Award from the Patriots and receiving the Guidestar award for ‘Upstage Lung Cancer!’ It must have been quite an honor, especially since the organization has only been active since 2011. Tell me a bit about what that was like for you.
We are a grass roots organization. I am a survivor who is trying to create community to make a difference and use entertainment and music to affirm life. It has been a huge honor to be acknowledged by the Patriots foundation and I am hoping the visibility will help us raise funds for new research.
The Guidestar award is their highest ranking and is also wonderful. We are an all-volunteer organization, and are very careful about every expense we have. Some might call me cheap! So, when someone donates, they can be sure that their money is invested in a careful, thoughtful and meaningful way to support the finest research on early detection and new treatments for lung cancer.
I understand the inspiration to start an organization to fight lung cancer stemmed from a fall on the basement stairs. What I find so fascinating about that story is you went to get tested for a sore arm and the diagnosis ended up being lung cancer. It must have been shocking – a seemingly unrelated issue leading to that type of diagnosis.
Yes. Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer and 84% of people diagnosed will not live 5 years. I am thankful and lucky. Sadly, most people diagnosed at the earliest stage find it by accident because there are no symptoms.
Also, you were diagnosed early and did not exhibit the early signs of lung cancer. What are the best steps a person can take for early detection and prevention?
Right now there are no consistent tests for early detection of lung cancer. If there are any symptoms at all such as shortness of breath or cough, it is wise to talk with your doctor, especially if there is a family history.
Most people don’t realize that over 60% of newly diagnosed people either never smoked or quit many years ago. However, if you have been a long time heavy smoker, there is hopeful news using low dose CT scan for early diagnosis. This year and last, we have supported research on a test looking at biomarkers in saliva to accompany the CT scan to improve early detection.
Now, you are a singer and came up with the idea to integrate musical theatre into a yearly fundraising event. Your first event I understand took place in a private home in 2008. What kinds of surprises did you run into the first year? How do you think it has been perfected each year since?
The first year, the surprise was to see what an amazing event a house concert was. We had a group of about 50 people in someone’s home. We had a medical speaker and a concert with reception. Frankly, that format has been wonderful! It was a great way for people to learn more about lung cancer, ask questions, and share a great concert as well. We continue to do these concerts and plan one in NYC in late spring.
What inspired you to make this year’s event on Tuesday, October 28 at the Lyric Stage in Boston about Dean Martin and the Rat Pack? Dean Martin passed away from lung cancer and with shows like Ron Della Chiesa’s weekly ‘Strictly Sinatra’ radio show, Boston has a pretty strong Rat Pack following.
Each year we feature a composer, lyricist or singer who lost their life to lung cancer. In the past, we have included Frank Loesser, songwriter for ‘Guys and Dolls,’ singers Nat King Cole and Rosemary Clooney, composer Leonard Bernstein, and last year Alan Jay Lerner, lyricist for ‘Gigi,’ and ‘My Fair Lady.’
Dean Martin was such a lovable performer. He was easy going and displayed such a love of life. I love his music as well as his pals in the Rat Pack. We have NO interest in imitating these icons. Rather our show has the fabulous arrangements and performances by Boston celebrities with Joyce Kulhawik as host. Everyone has returned year after year to volunteer for this event. Everyone in the cast has had some direct experience with lung cancer, personally or in their family.
You have some big names returning to the stage this year! ‘Upstage Lung Cancer: Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime’ features returning talent to the stage such as Joyce Kulhawik, Scott Wahle, Paula Markowitz, Leigh Barrett, Brian DeLorenzo. The evening will also honor WBZ’s Jordan Rich. You will also be performing! How does the process work in finding the talent for the show each year?
We have almost become a company with the dedication and camaraderie we have developed among ourselves. It shows in the performance! We love and appreciate one another and it is a joy and honor to get to work together. Lisa Rafferty returns as director and Ilyse Robbins is our choreographer. Dear Tim Evans is our Music Director and partner in laughter and creativity.
That’s wonderful! You’ve had some wonderful success the ‘Upstage Lung Cancer’ fundraisers over the years. What was your biggest hope for starting this organization and has that hope evolved or changed over the years?
My hope is to be out of the non-profit world as soon as possible because that will mean we have a cure for lung cancer!
What do you think is the best reason people should attend on Tuesday, October 28?
First, to have a great time and celebrate life and secondly, to know you are joining us in our efforts to save lives. What could be better?
What are your future plans for ‘Upstage Lung Cancer? Do you have any new projects in the works?
We will have our annual concert again next fall, but we are also working on our second annual, ‘Sing Out! Youth Music Festival’ featuring young talented performers who will help raise money to support a project called “Young Lung.” “Young Lung” looks at genomic research with young people under 39 with lung cancer. Sadly, this is a growing group.
Are you still looking for volunteers or auction items for the event? How can one make a contribution?
We are open at this time for volunteers. Visit upstageluncancer.org for donations, auction bidding and tickets. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Tickets are also available at the box office.