How a George Lopez Gig Turned Into a Real Carousel Brawl

Memo to Hollywood: If you want a feel-good do-good event, do not bring in a comedian who has a reputation as a bad boy.

But after news of George Lopez leaving the stage broke on Page Six of the New York Post, the Carousel Ball hasn’t spun so fast since the cast of Dynasty, the prime-time soap allegedly set in Denver, actually came to the Mile High City for the 1983 fundraiser, filming an episode with a classic Krystle/Alexis catfight that featured President Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger as extras.

Barbara and Marvin Davis had introduced the annual bash benefiting the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in 1978, three years after Dana Davis, one of their five children, was diagnosed with diabetes. By then, wildcatter Marvin had made a fortune in oil; he and his wife were already big contributors to various causes. (Very big, in Marvin’s case: Just before the Denver Center for the Performing Arts opened the original Stage, there was a scramble to replace a row of seats with a larger version so that Marvin could attend the new theater’s debut.) Marvin Davis became even bigger when he bought 20th Century Fox in 1981 (he got Aspen Skiing Corporation and Pebble Beach in the bargain); he soon moved his family and company to Los Angeles, where his desk was a replica of the one oil magnate Blake Carrington used on the original Dynasty.

Marvin Davis died in 2004, but the Carousel Ball lives on. Barbara Davis introduced a Carousel of Hope Ball in Los Angeles, and now it alternates with the original, which means that every other year, Denver gets to grab some glamour. And unexpected headlines, too.

Although the musical headliner for the 2017 Carousel Ball, Lenny Kravitz, had been booked months before, on September 21, Gala Chair Dana Davis and Honorary Chairwoman Barbara Davis announced that Lopez would be the emcee at the October 7 event. Turns out, the emcee for a very brief period: Back in February, Lopez ejected a heckler from a Phoenix show; this time, he got the boot. “This decision was mutually agreed upon by both parties,” says a Carousel Ball spokesman.
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Blake Carrington (aka John Forsythe) greets the real Jerry and Betty Ford at the Carousel Ball.

Here’s how it came down...or as close as we can come with all that dizzying spin. Ball honorees Sharon Magness Blake and Ernie Blake had already been feted, and Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei, whose son has Type I diabetes, had just anted up a $250,000 donation to the cause when emcee Lopez started a Trump-heavy shtick complete with jokes about the Wall, orange men and white people and, noting the generosity of the crowd, then said something along the lines of “So I apologize to your white privilege.” Most of the people in the audience – who’d paid between $5,000 and $10,000 for a table – couldn’t hear much of anything Lopez was saying, but they could tell that he was being heckled. Loudly. Some guests walked off. Ultimately, so did Lopez.

The gossip columnists at Denver dailies would have had a field day...but Denver’s down to one daily and zero gossip columns. Fox31’s Chris Parente was there and tweeted, “big controversy: host of HUGE charity #CarouselBall, @georgelopez, makes political comments about Trump, drops f-bomb and is escorted out.” A piece by former Denver Post society columnist Joanne Davidson published October 13 on (and reprinted October 15 in the Sunday Post) noted that “a brief back-and-forth between Lopez and those not happy with his subject matter ended with a decision to relieve Lopez from the remainder of his set and to have weather anchor Ed Greene take over as master of ceremonies.”

But a very different version of the story made Page Six the next day.

“We’re told the flap began when Trump backer and Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei donated $250,000 but requested that Lopez cool it with the anti-Trump jokes at the Carousel Ball,” the paper reported. Maffei, however, says that he didn’t ask for anything from Lopez, but did go backstage afterward to tell him that his jokes were “inappropriate” for a charity event and to ask, “Did you hear anybody laugh?”

Lisa Gilford, whose father, Jack Gilford, made a movie with Lopez back in 1981, went back to see the comic, too. “George is tough,” she says. “He was shook up.”

Veteran weatherman Ed Greene, who’d signed on to introduce the Blakes, missed the controversy while he was off stage, but was hauled back in to finish emcee duties. “I’ve emceed thousands of events, as you know, and have just never seen anything like what happened,” he says. “I was just glad they came to me to bail them’s what I do!” The show went on, and everyone agrees that Lenny Kravitz put on a hell of a performance. Ultimately, $1.65 million was raised to fight children’s diabetes.

It would have made a great episode of Dynasty. Unfortunately, the series, which just got a reboot from the CW, is now set in Atlanta.