News Column

Highland Park resident wins prize to meet Ben Stiller

May 24, 2013

YellowBrix

May 24--The same man who arranged for the marquee prize at Rotary's scholarship fundraiser also turned out to be the one who outbid the crowd to win it.

Len Tenner's daughter, Rachel, is a Hollywood film casting director and producer who arranged for the Highland Park/Highwood Rotary's Annual Giving Gala's top auction prize -- two passes to the Hollywood premiere of Ben Stiller's next movie, a meeting with the actor himself, and entrance to the premiere's after-party.

While Tenner said he's looking forward to meeting Stiller, he said he was even more interested in getting a peak at the behind-the-scenes world of his daughter's Tinsel Town career.

"It was an opportunity for me to see a side of her life that I never see," Tenner said.

The premier to Stiller's film, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," in which he acts and directs, is scheduled for release next winter, and also stars Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine and Sean Penn.

Tenner said he's been told the other co-stars may not be at the premiere due to scheduling conflicts, but -- like any proud father visiting his daughter's workplace -- he'll try to meet as many of them as possible.

"I'm going to shake everybody's hand I can shake," Tenner said.

Tenner's daughter is a Highland Park High School graduate who attended New York University with the goal of becoming a comedy writer, but returned to Chicago and got involved with a casting agency -- one that cast the Coen brothers' film "Fargo." After a decade, she moved to Los Angeles to eschew work with television and advertising, and to concentrate on films while continuing her work with the Coen brothers, her father said.

And though she knows many movie stars, Tenner said he's never pestered his daughter for any introductions.

"She could have, but I didn't want to pull that kind of thing," he said. "I've been on set a couple times when I've been in LA. I saw Tom Hanks a couple times. ... Most of the time when the movie's being shot, she's gone. She's on to something else."

He declined to say how much he bid on the Rotary prize, but that he was intent on winning.

"There were two of us bidding, and I told my wife I was going to win it one way or the other," Tenner said. "I was going to try to get it if it was at all possible."

The April 21 Rotary Giving Gala netted the organization $38,000 for its scholarship program, which provides money to needy college-bound students who are primarily first-generation residents, according to publicity director Dawn LoCascio.

It was Rotary's largest Giving Gala night ever, and will provide scholarships to nine Highland Park High School seniors, to be awarded June 3, she added. Other auction items included a weekend getaway and a Chicago Bears helmet signed by former coach Mike Ditka.

Tenner said he was also happy to help the Rotary scholarship program by his winning bid, along with getting to spend some time with his daughter in her star-studded environment.

"The two things came together. It was the perfect storm," he said.

jhuston@tribune.com

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(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune

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