Charitys champion scores a big one: show by Mr. Manilow

Person of the Week
by: L.E. BASKOW, Harvey Platt, whose business, Platt Electric, has brought a lot of light into locals’ lives, also shines for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, helping to raise more than $3.7 million over the past 17 years. Now he’s lined up Barry Manilow for a local benefit.

Harvey Platt had barely heard of cystic fibrosis when he went looking for a cause 17 years ago.

Now his efforts in the fight against the disease are bringing one of the biggest entertainers of a generation to town. Barry Manilow will make a rare Portland concert appearance in January to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Platt made it happen.

The concert is a testament to the standing and determination of the 56-year-old Platt, the Portland-born chief executive officer of the family-owned distribution company Platt Electric.

Platt is a revered figure with the foundation, for which he has nearly single-handedly raised more than $3.7 million over the years.

Dr. Preston Campbell, the foundation's executive vice president for medical affairs in Bethesda, Md., says 'The money that he's raised, that's the amount we spent to bring the last two drugs for CF forward.

'What's unique about it is that he has done a lot for CF, and I don't think he's personally affected,' he said.

Not entirely true.

In 1989, Platt wanted to find a venue where his two young daughters and other students from a Beaverton dance studio could stage a performance.

He was told the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall might be available - so long as the event would benefit a charity. An employee, outside sales pro Mike Bonn, had a son that suffered from cystic fibrosis, a debilitating genetic disorder that affects the lungs and pancreas.

'I remembered Mike's son had this disease,' Platt says. 'I didn't know anything about it.'

Platt learned about the progress made in fighting cystic fibrosis and that scientists had identified the gene that causes the disorder that very year.

'I thought, 'It's too much of a coincidence,' ' he says.

The dance performance became an annual fundraiser, and Platt's fight against cystic fibrosis went forward. His company organized a raffle and later a charity golf tournament that grew in popularity, attracting professional golfers and celebrities. Last year's tournament at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains grossed $400,000, Platt says.

'Barry wants to know …'

The Brooklyn-born Manilow wrote advertising jingles and played piano for an unknown New York cabaret singer named Bette Midler before rocketing to stardom in the mid-'70s.

He scored 25 Top 40 hits on his way to becoming one of the most successful adult contemporary stars of all time. He now performs five shows a week at the Las Vegas Hilton Theater.

Last December Platt and his wife flew to Las Vegas to see Manilow do a show benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The two hung around for a post-show event hoping the star would sign copies of an old family photo of their daughter, Melissa, frolicking next to a Manilow record.

When the star proved less accessible than the couple had hoped, they headed home. But back at work, Platt's persistence drove him to contact the Las Vegas Hilton to ask about the autographs.

The inquiry led to a second trip to Vegas. Over lunch with Las Vegas Hilton Vice President Ken Ciancimino, whose daughter with cystic fibrosis was the inspiration for Manilow's December benefit, the hotel executive dropped a bomb.

'He said, 'Barry wants to know what more he can do,' ' Platt recalls. 'My jaw dropped.'

Soon after, Platt proposed a benefit show in Portland and a dialogue was under way. He lined up sponsorships and got Gov. Ted Kulongoski and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to write letters of support.

CEO won't take no

'There's nobody that I've met that has his focus,' Janeen Olsen, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Oregon chapter says of Platt. 'We will get a no on something, and he will not let go until it becomes a yes.'

Tickets for the show go on sale Monday. Though the 60-year-old Manilow does not tour extensively, his popularity has not suffered. An album released early this year, 'The Greatest Songs of the Fifties,' was an unexpected hit, debuting at the top of Billboard's album chart. Tuesday will see the release of a follow-up album, 'The Greatest Songs of the Sixties.'

The foundation's Campbell says Platt's efforts transcend mere fundraising.

'His energy and enthusiasm spill over and affect other people,' he says. 'This is a hard disease. To have someone with his energy and creativity goes a long way in keeping those of us in the trenches going.'

Barry Manilow

When: 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, tickets on sale 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 30

Where: Rose Garden, 1 Center Court

Cost: $49.50-$125, Rose Quarter box office and participating Safeways