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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023

Charity Dealt Strong Hand

Ron Burkhardt, managing director at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank’s office in Century City, has worked with the nonprofit Autism Speaks on the real estate side since 2007, and has participated in its various walks and other fundraising events. But when the 47-year-old broker volunteered to get more involved by organizing a poker tournament to raise money for the organization, he was unaware of the celebrity manpower he had at his disposal.

Three years ago, he presented the idea to Matt Asner, who was then the executive director of Autism Speaks and is now director of corporate development.

Asner, who has an autistic son, immediately loved the idea.

“Matt pulls out his phone and is, like, ‘Hold on a sec,” Burkhardt said. “Then he’s, like, ‘Dad can you host a poker tournament?’ And I asked, ‘Who is your dad?’”

Not only did Burkhardt not know the dad in question was television and film actor Ed Asner, he also was unaware that the actor was a big poker player who held a regular game with his friends.

Burkhardt, feeling slightly ignorant, got to work, finding a venue and sponsors. The first Ed Asner & Friends Poker Tournament was a success that raised $40,000 for the organization and brought in 100 players and 50 spectators. Asner’s “friends” in attendance included the likes of actors Don Cheadle and Johnny Dowers.

The recent third annual Ed Asner tournament broke that record, raising more than $51,000 for Autism Speaks.

Rising Interest

A close encounter with a blimp motivated Mike Macadaan to spend three years working on one.

Macadaan, who’s now 45, explained that when he was in his 20s, he worked as a bartender at Tony Roma’s Steakhouse in Long Beach. A blimp crew once stayed at a hotel across the street and came into the bar.

“The crew chief got really drunk and pulled out the radio one night and was, like, ‘5-6 alpha bravo, this is ground. Can you come over to the Tony Roma’s?’” Macadaan said.

When he walked outside, he saw the blimp and was mesmerized.

“It was at night and the blimp was lit with halogen bulbs and looked like a UFO and was hovering over Tony Roma’s,” he said.

Macadaan, who is now founder and chief executive of downtown L.A. tech accessories company This Is Ground, decided he wanted to go aboard.

Two weeks later, he had managed to get a job working for Richard Branson’s blimp company Virgin Lightships. He packed his belongings, sold his VW bug and went on what amounted to a paid three-year blimp tour.

Staff reporters Hannah Miet and Subrina Hudson contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by Editor Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.

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