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Annual Gala

Gala co-chair Roopa Weber, honoree Alan Arkin, Suzanne Arkin, and Gala co-chair Ann Connors.

The Gene Siskel Film Center honored Alan Arkin at its Annual Gala on Thursday, June 5 at the Four Seasons Chicago. The evening was very much a Chicago homecoming for the Academy Award-winning actor as he was surrounded by old friends, including Second City founders Sheldon Patinkin and Bernie Sahlins, and 230 Film Center supporters.

The lively evening featured cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, models wearing dresses by designer-of-the-moment Maria Pinto, dinner, a raffle drawing, a program in honor of Arkin, and dessert. The event netted over $145,000 to support Gene Siskel Film Center programming and educational initiatives. Author and critic Richard Christiansen was guest-host. Ann Connors and Roopa Weber were Gala co-chairs.

The program in honor of Arkin was the highlight of the evening and he was refreshingly frank. Pre-recorded video tributes of admiration came from Chicago native Bob Balaban, who joked that Arkin “still owes me 25 bucks,” and Get Smart co-star Steve Carell, who read a letter—a blank piece of paper—he had written to Arkin when he was 11 years old.

An overview of Arkin's career was given in the form of video clips, including his role as Lieutenant Rozanov in The Russians Are Coming the Russians are Coming (1966) which gave him his first Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Arkin was presented the Gene Siskel Film Center Renaissance Award by School of the Art Institute of Chicago president Tony Jones. Upon accepting it, Arkin said how “deeply moved” he was. He candidly spoke about how when he came to Chicago from New York at the age of 28, his life was in shambles. He credited the recently deceased Paul Sills for steering Arkin to move to Chicago. Arkin said that in Chicago “my life began.” He also said “I want to thank from the bottom of my heart Bernie Sahlins and Sheldon Patinkin. I dedicate my entire career and this award to them…to the deep friendship I've had with them over the past 40 years.”

Callie Siskel, Marlene Iglitzen, and Kate Siskel.

Ellen Sandor, chair, Gene Siskel Film Center Advisory Board, and daughter Julie Sandor, a Hollywood producer.

Howard Ecker and Tony Jones, president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sheldon Patinkin, Second City founder; Alan Arkin, Richard Christiansen, guest-host, and Bernie Sahlins, Second City founder.

Writer/producer/director/actor Harold Ramis, and John Amboian, CEO, Nuveen Investments.

Gala Committee member Averill Leviton and Buddy Leviton.

Screenwriter and director Steve Conrad,
and Betsy Steinberg, managing director, Illinois Film Office.

Kinzie and Valentine Ecker.

Carol and Peter England and Raj and Sheila Chopra.

Wendy and Bud Hum.

Models Crystelle Tipton and Bella Ventresca in dresses by designer Maria Pinto.

Margaret MacLean and Ron Masters.

Photos: Robert Carl
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