May 28, 2020

Bangles Rock for Cindi at Theatricum Botanicum Fundraiser


Barely ten days after giving his wife, Cindi, a life-saving kidney, the Bangles’ long-time pianist Greg “Harpo” Hilfman was back onstage with the band at the Theatricum Botanicum for the second benefit event to help defray his mounting medical costs.

The beautiful, meandering grounds of the Theatricum played host to a fundraiser that attracted nearly 300 friends, fellow musicians and supporters from all over Southern California who snapped up the $100 tickets.

Organized by Ruth Lundi, she was assisted by Janis Liebhart, who organized the silent auction, and Catherine McClenahan, who arranged the music.

The outstanding evening of music and entertainment began with wine and champagne, courtesy of Barefoot Wine, and coordinated by Greg's nephew, Zack Hilfman.

The elegant hors d’oeuvres, incredible buffet and desserts were catered by Donna McDaniel-Pavlock of Bella Donna Special Events, who donated all of the food.


Bangles Rock for Cindi at Theatricum Botanicum Fundraiser

The Bangles wowed the crowd with some old hits and a few new songs from an upcoming album. It hardly seems possible that keyboardist Greg “Harpo” Hilfman (center) just donated a kidney to wife Cindi. Music really is good for what ails you.

During the silent auction, guests bid generously on incredible items including a phone greeting recorded by actor Bill Fagerbakke (McClenahan’s hubby) who is the voice of “Patrick” on “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Some lucky bidders won two front row seats to Elton John in November in Ontario; two tickets to the Rufus Wainwright concert at the Greek Theatre on August 20; and a two-night weekend stay in a suite at Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. There was also a round of golf for two with Rocco Mediate and Andy Garcia and a set of Callaway golf clubs and bag used by Mediate from 2008-2009. Bruce and Teresa Royer donated a package of one night, two rooms at their Tuscali Mountain Inn Bed & Breakfast in Topanga. Also up for bidding was a stunning glass beaded bracelet by Topanga artist Penny Chavez and an original necklace from Topanga artist Tara O’Shay.

While Cindi is still recovering at UCLA, friends from around the world continue to send messages and donate money on the Helping Cindi Hilfman Facebook page.

“First off, I want to say Cindi and I are blown away by all the folks that have surfaced to support us,” Greg Hilfman wrote on Facebook. “Thanks again—you have no idea the difference it makes!”

Lundi was still putting the numbers together with this and the Froggy’s event last month.

“The money still pours in every day. Accounting is still in process, but my estimate is that we made between $21,000 and $23,000, for an overall total of about $40,000 for our efforts over the last several months,” Lundi said.

A small sampling of fellow Topangans supporting the event were Jon Shea and his brother, Chris Shea, Toni Colvin, David Chadwick (Lundi’s husband), Adrienne Wright of the Topanga Community Center and Rick and Callie Moos. Old friends, Tom and Emily Karnes, have been traveling across the country, but made a special trip back for the event.

Former Topangan Judy Hein lived near the Hilfman’s on Colina for 35 years and said she would not have missed it for the world. “I read about the concert in the Messenger,” she said. “This is the best concert; just look at this turnout. You need to do what needs to be done.”

Mike and Helen Clinco, from Studio City, keyboardists Jim Wilson and Kim Bullard and his wife, C.C. attended.

Clinco and Bullard are long-time buddies of Greg and formed the “Valley Breakfast Club” years ago to get together when they were all in town.

Bullard, who plays keyboard for Elton John, said they stepped in right away to help any way they could as soon as they learned Cindi had to have a transplant.

“My wife immediately signed up to donate a kidney, literally,” Bullard said.

“I think I did my first project with Greg 20 years ago,” said Clinco, a guitarist who founded the Mike Clinco Quartet. “He called me about tonight. We just love them.”

“I have known Harpo and Cindi for 30 years,” Wilson said. “I will always support them. I love them to pieces. They are such sweet people.”

Friends on Cindi’s side included Tim Davis, M.D., and his wife, Amita. Dr. Davis is a surgeon and spinal interventionist who worked with Cindi at the V.A. hospital in Westwood and is currently on staff at The Spine Institute and UCLA Medical Center.

“We love Cindi,” Davis said. “I’ve known her since 1997.”

The Bangles and Friends

Billy Portman played emcee and long-time Hilfman friend, Susan Anton, was a last-minute addition to the line-up.

Catherine McClenahan, who sings at Froggy’s “Scat Salon,” was one of the opening acts followed by Debbie Ryder and her BluesRyders who stepped up to entertain the growing crowd.

Guitarist James McVay (who donated guitar lessons) took the stage, as did guitarist Michael Mulder who followed with some of his original songs.

As Greg played keyboard, Susan Anton stepped up and sang two songs, including Cindi’s favorite, “Ordinary Miracle,” accompanied by Debbie Ryder.

“We are family. When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us,” Anton said. “I’ve known Greg since before Cindi, but they have such a special spirit…there is something special between them—of course, it would be his kidney.”

While the Bangles set up, silk aerialist Sara Anderson thrilled the audience with her gravity-defying acrobatics on thick red silk cords suspended from the old oak tree that stands tall over the Theatricum stage.

Then it was time for the Bangles – Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbie Peterson – who looked just as beautiful as ever and sounded great as they launched into a rockin’ version of “Hazy Shade of Winter.” With Greg on keyboard, they played a full set including new tunes mixed with their top hits “Manic Monday,” and “Eternal Flame.”

“We are so happy to be here on this magical night, all for Greg and Cindi,” said drummer Debbie Petersen. “This is part of a beautiful love story.

After singing “Under a Cloud” from their upcoming album, the Bangles got everyone up and dancing to “Walk Like an Egyptian” to close the show with a bang.

“We want to send out lots of love and healing hugs to Greg and Cindi,” Petersen said during the standing ovation.

Power Academy Fundraiser

The Vocal Power Academy presented its Vocal Power Singers Showcase at the M Bar in Hollywood the next day, Sunday, Aug. 1, dedicated to Greg and Cindi Hilfman.

Directed by Elizabeth Howard, the show featured seventeen performers who sang numbers from rock to jazz, musical theater and classical. Howard’s student, Topangan Griffith Frank headlined the show and closed with “Unusual Way” a song that Griffith sang on the original sound track of the movie, “Nine.” Greg was the musical director and pianist and half the ticket sales were donated to Helping Cindi Fund.

“It could be close to $1,000,” Howard said. But I don’t know for sure because individual donations were also given directly to Greg at the rehearsal the day before at my studio in Topanga and at the M Bar.”