Dogged on disarmament, actor Michael Douglas earns UNICEF award

Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:09pm EST
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By Mary Milliken

BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas says his main philanthropic cause - nuclear disarmament - is not exactly the kind of "touchy-feely" issue that celebrities and their fans covet, and it can be awfully frustrating when it comes to progress.

It's one, however, he has stuck with for years as a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 1998, and for that persistence he will be recognized on Tuesday night with the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Peace Award from the U.S. fund for UNICEF, the U.N. branch for children.

"I was born in 1944, one year before the first bomb went off, and I hope in my lifetime to see the elimination of the weapons," Douglas told Reuters ahead of UNICEF's Beverly Hills ball, with childhood friend Dena Kaye, the only daughter of the late comic actor and UNICEF's first ambassador, by his side.

That he is being honored with the Danny Kaye award is especially meaningful, he said, because he knew Kaye as a child, admired his impact on children and can still recite rhymes from his films. He said Kaye "did more for the United Nations and for UNICEF than anyone I can think of."

It will be the 69-year-old actor's second honor this week after winning a Golden Globe on Sunday for his acclaimed portrayal of the exuberant pianist Liberace in the HBO drama "Behind the Candelabra," a role that made many in Hollywood see the famously virile Douglas in a new light.

The recognition for his work both on and off screen comes in the wake of his successful treatment for stage IV cancer that made him so weak, as he said in his acceptance speech Sunday, that the Liberace biopic had to be put on hold.

And although he recognizes that he "is the cancer poster boy right now," supporting cancer charities is not his main focus.

He decided long ago, he said, that to deal with the overwhelming demand for him to show up for charity, that he would principally work with the elimination of nuclear weapons and small arms at the United Nations, a cause that can move at a glacial pace.   Continued...

Actor Michael Douglas holds the Golden Globe Award he won as Best Actor, Miniseries or Movie, for his role in HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" at the HBO after party, after the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 12, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Prouser