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A leading authority on women’s issues, VANITY FAIR writer and former NEW YORK TIMES reporter Leslie Bennetts – author of the new Joan Rivers biography – will share an intimate portrait of a life that is sure to entertain and inspire. Bennetts will also lead a discussion on today’s challenges and opportunities for women to achieve personal success and social justice. It’s sure to be an empowering evening for all!

Thursday, March 2, 2017
6:30 pm

University Club Atop Symphony Towers
750 B Street, Suite 3400  San Diego

Tickets are $100 each and include: dinner, wine, and a copy of Last Girl Before Freeway.
For information on group tickets, or to purchase a table, please click here.

Steph Wagner, CEO & Founder
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Elisabeth Cullington, Managing Partner Placeholder image

Both personally and professionally, Joan Rivers’ life was a roller-coaster ride that ricocheted between dramatic highs and disastrous lows. After building a stand-up career that earned her fame and fortune as the Queen of Comedy, Rivers lost everything in her mid-50’s: she was fired from her television show and blackballed from her profession, her husband killed himself, and she discovered he had squandered all her money on bad investments and she was $37 million in debt. Thinking her future looked hopeless, she contemplated suicide.

Despite her darkest hour, Rivers found the strength to reinvent herself. She soared to new heights, made a new fortune and found the love of her life. During her 22-year marriage, her husband served as her business manager, and Rivers had never handled her own financial affairs. But in her 60s and 70s, driven by necessity, she began designing jewelry and clothing and selling them on QVC, where she built a billion-dollar company and served as CEO. When she died at 81, her career had spanned 60 years and included breakthrough achievements in comedy, television, film, theater, business, fashion, and publishing, as well as pioneering the irreverent fashion coverage that created the modern red carpet and revolutionized television coverage of galas and other awards ceremonies.

When Rivers seized the opportunity to take charge of her life and destiny, her late-life success was so extraordinary it became one for the record books. Her remarkable story makes her an inspiring role model for women of all ages. She is a beacon for empowering women everywhere.


Founded in 1969, Center for Community Solutions (CCS) helps more than 10,000 adults and children each year to heal and prevent relationship and sexual violence. CCS operates the only rape crisis center in the city of San Diego along with a countywide 24-hour bilingual crisis helpline. The nonprofit agency also provides emergency domestic violence shelters, hospital and court accompaniment, as well as legal and counseling services for those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. CCS also works with local community groups and schools to provide innovative prevention programs to promote healthy relationships and peaceful communities.


Leslie Bennetts is a veteran journalist who began her newspaper career at The Philadelphia Bulletin, where she won many awards for writing and reporting, and then spent ten years as a reporter at The New York Times. The first woman ever to cover a presidential campaign for The Times, she also covered metropolitan news, City Hall, Style and cultural news in addition to national politics. Bennetts left The Times for Vanity Fair, where she spent 24 years as a contributing editor and wrote many of the magazine’s best-known movie star cover stories as well as investigative articles on subjects ranging from priest pedophilia to the nation’s war against drugs. At the beginning of her career, she was also a reporter for The Washington Star, a radio host and television correspondent in Philadelphia, the executive editor of Popular Dogs Magazine, and editor of a music trade magazine. Bennetts started covering so-called “women’s issues” in the 1970s and has continued to write about women, marriage, and families ever since.

Bennetts wrote many of Vanity Fair’s best-known cover stories, including profiles of Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Ben Affleck, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Richard Gere, Natalie Portman, Demi Moore, Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett, Katherine Heigl, Teri Hatcher, Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, and Kim Basinger in addition to articles on Hillary Clinton, Michele Obama, Elton John, Peter Beard, Jerry Lewis, Petra Nemcova, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Imran Khan and Jemima Goldsmith, Christiane Amanpour, priest pedophilia, the post-9/11 crackdown on dissent, the U.S. war on drugs, U.S. anti-terrorism policy, and other subjects ranging from political corruption to murder.

Bennetts’ articles have also been published in Town & Country, Columbia Journalism Review, New York Magazine, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, More, Departures, House & Garden, Worth, Family Life, Parents, Child, Parenting, The Nation, Women’s Day, Tango, Modern Bride, Glamour, Self, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Lear’s, Mirabella, Family PC, and The Daily Beast, among many other places.

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