(From left) columnist Janet R. Nepales, Glee actress Lea Michele, and writer Ruben V. Nepales. Photo courtesy of Ruben V. Nepales.

BEVERLY HILLS, LOS ANGELES---Glee’s Lea Michele, dressed in a lovely flower-printed white Valentino dress, turned into a fangirl when she saw Twilight hunk Taylor Lautner at the recently held grants and installation luncheon of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) at Beverly Hills Hotel.

On stage, Lea confessed, “Oh, I have to control myself—it’s Taylor Lautner! How are you? I am so thrilled to meet you!” Then after a photo op with Taylor, Lea exited but was still smiling from ear to ear and almost out of breath with excitement from meeting Taylor.


Twilight star Taylor Lautner with columnist Janet R. Nepales. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales.

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As for Taylor, he simply told Lea, “You make me blush!”

When we asked Lea what she’ll be doing when she graduates from high school in the next season of Glee, Lea said jokingly, “I will not graduate. I will flunk senior year so I can be in high school forever!”

Lea, who admired the Oliver Tolentino black and white embroidered jacket I was wearing, also told me that she just loves the Burlapp line of Alan del Rosario. Kudos to our Filipino designers!

Lea and Taylor, and other A-listers from Hollywood, attended the event to receive checks totaling $1,579,500 that the HFPA donated to 46 film schools and non-profit organizations.

The event also celebrated the election of the HFPA’s officers for its 2011 to 2012 term—one of them is my husband, journalist Ruben V. Nepales, who was reelected for the third consecutive time as a member of the Board of Directors.


HFPA president Aida Takla O’Reilly

HFPA president Aida Takla O’Reilly, who introduced the newly elected officers, revealed, “Thanks to many of you sitting in the room today, the association has been able to give back over $1.5 million to the most deserving entertainment-related charities, foundations, and scholarship programs. After today’s festivities, we can proudly say our organization has donated more than $13.5 million dollars over the past 17 years through our grants program.”

Aida added, “This year, the HFPA membership also made it a priority to lend a helping hand in the wake of devastating international disasters. Over $250,000 was donated to those affected by the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes and the Japanese tsunami.”

While Lea received a check for the Inner City Arts, Inner City Filmmakers, and the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Foundation, Taylor accepted a check on behalf of the Sundance Institute.

Leonardo DiCaprio, on the other hand, received a $350,000 check on behalf of The Film Foundation that was founded by his good friend, director Martin Scorsese, to preserve and restore classic films.

After Leo was introduced by a blonde and slender Gerard Butler (he is currently working on the movie Maverick), Leo, who breezed through the press line on the red carpet, ribbed Mark Wahlberg onstage by calling him Marky Mark.

Mark didn’t miss a beat and quickly replied when he got onstage. “Hey, you better watch out because I am sitting next to a guy over there who is better looking than you, Leo, and in better shape than me. And that is Taylor Lautner!”

Then Mark added, “We’re screwed man! Titanic and Boogie Nights were a long time ago. But that’s all right with me. Out with the old and in with the new.”

Leo, who will soon star in the Clint Eastwood-helmed movie J. Edgar, in which he will portray the late FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, revealed that among the movies that will be saved by the HFPA are The Tales of Hoffman (1951), Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), and Death of a Salesman (1951). He said that the donations of the HFPA to the Film Foundation have already helped preserve 80 movies over the past 15 years.

Mark, for his part, received a check on behalf of several film schools, including those of UCLA, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Cal State Northridge, New York University, and Chapman University.

But these weren’t the only starts who hit the stage to represent various organizations given grants by the HFPA.

Super rock star Yoshiki of X Japan had difficulty pronouncing some words, and with a sheepish charm, he admitted, “I am sorry, but you know Japanese people have a hard time pronouncing the Rs!”


Janet R. Nepales with actor Jim Sturgess and actress Jessica Chastain. Photo by Ruben V. Nepales.

The Tree of Life and The Help actress Jessica Chastain, who was stunning in a blue plunging dress, revealed that she was getting nervous to speak on stage and kept comparing with seatmate, Jim Sturgess of Across the Universe, how long their acceptance remarks were.

Persian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Saddam, Different Kind of Love) had a husky, dreamy voice—we just wanted her to continue talking or break into song!

Other celebrities who were present to accept the checks on behalf of the film schools, organizations and other entertainment-related charities were Kevin Bacon (X-Men: First Class; Crazy, Stupid, Love), Hugh Dancy (The Big C, Dorothy of Oz), Gabriel Macht (Suits, Love and Other Drugs), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, Darling Companion), and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Very Good Girls).

The other newly-elected officers of the HFPA are Jorge Camara (vice president), Serge Rakhlin (executive secretary) and Ali Sar (treasurer). The other members of the Board of Directors are Phil Berk (chairman), Yoram Kahana, Yukiko Nakajima, Meher Tatna and Theo Kingma (alternate).

Click through the gallery below to see photos of the stars who attended the luncheon--and what they were wearing!

E-mail the writer at jrnepales_624@yahoo.com for your comments or questions.

(All photos by Sthanlee B. Mirador unless otherwise indicated)

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