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Seen Pesci and pals promote VIPS

Monday, August 12, 2002

By Patricia Sheridan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Joe Pesci as guardian angel to Victims of Injustice, Pain and Suffering (VIPS) may sound like poor casting, but it's a real-life role he takes seriously.

Joe Pesci with Annette Ganassi and her father, Floyd. (Andy Starnes, Post-Gazette)

Better known as an actor who blew them away in "Casino," two "Lethal Weapon" films and "Goodfellas," Pesci was in town Wednesday to promote the "Tribute to a Tradition of Caring Gala," which will be the VIPS Foundation national launch.

As honorary co-chair of the Sept. 18 event at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center with Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. (of the Fifth Dimension), he addressed a small group of potential supporters at the Duquesne Club.

His co-chairs and NFL player Willie Gault also had a chance to explain the purpose of the foundation at the luncheon, which was hosted by Floyd Ganassi and his daughter Annette.

Mitch Stein with Willie Gault (Andy Starnes, Post-Gazette)

Founded in 1997 by a Pittsburgh native, attorney Mitch Stein and his wife Tracey, (after close friend Bobby Ray Finch was murdered the year before on Sept. 11), VIPS financially aids organizations with a proven track record of assisting victims of violent crime.

"We have identified a need, and this is a charity for the walking wounded," explained Davis. Local social lights looking interested included Leslie Sargent, Ellen Golonski, Kevin Battle, Tony Sinatra, Layton Schoemaker and the ever-lovely Robin Hamilton.

The Hollywood-style, star-studded evening honoring Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier promises to be a hard act to follow. Invited guests include Danny Glover, Rene Russo, Mel Gibson and James Woods. For tickets call 1-866-354-0287.

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