>A NIGHT OUT WITH ‘GENERAL HOSPITAL’S’ “JOHNNY ZACCAHARA" AT LEVANT EAST

11 Dec

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BY VIVIAN G. KELLY

No, we weren’t on a stage set for ‘GH’; we met “Johnny” for quite a different reason. We attended a dinner at Levant East, the hot Lower East Side eatery organized by our friend, CLAUDINE GUMBEL, of Think P.R., to learn more about MD [muscular dystrophy]. This disease recently struck down a family friend, whom we watched die before our eyes over the course of his five year battle.
After chatting with the very approachable Barash for a while over a delicious spread of comfort foods prepared by Levant’s MATT LEVINE, we came to the conclusion that there’s nothing remotely shallow about actor BRANDON BARASH. The real world “Johnny Z.” is a hot property, true, but he’s also one who cares greatly about his cause – MDA. He provided us with a scary stat – 9 out of 10 people stricken my MD are men, and usually die by the time they reach their 20s.Brandon’s involvement began years ago, when his childhood friend, Chad, died at age 18, after suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The disease begins, he told us, with enlarged calf muscles and eventually leads to deadly congestive heart failure. At this time, Duchenne is relatively rare, several 100,000 cases have been diagnosed thus far.Brandon made the decision to use his fame to help focus the spotlight on MDA. His role is to act as the public face of the MDA. The organization has some impressive goals: to raise $71 million on the Jerry Lewis telethon, which will go to carefully vetted research, and of course to boost public awareness.

PHOTOGRAPHY FOR A CAUSE –
Not only is the actor donating his time at fan events, but he’s selling his photographs to help out too. Brandon shared photographs from his personal travels to international destinations such as Alaska, Prague, Chicago, Big Sur, Amsterdam, San Diego and New York with us as well as his photography book, which is available through General Hospital fan club events. The sale of these photographs, as well as Brandon’s book, will be donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association for research and awareness purposes.
The sober tone of the evening notwithstanding, we enjoyed an evening spent chatting with Barash and his significant other, casting agent, Becky Silverman, who is also involved in the cause, and the great food.

THE BEST FOOD ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE –
MATT LEVINE is to be congratulated for his menu of what we’ll call “high-end comfort food” – the hands-down favorite being MAC & Cheese. Be sure to order a Cosmopolitan, they’re one of the best in the City. We also have to give him a thumbs up for the decor. We left, in love with the enormous black chandelier in the back dining room, and resolved to start watching “GH”.
To learn more about MDA, visit www.mda.org

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