Actor David Hyde Pierce's heartfelt commitment to his role as spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Association comes from his own family history. Alzheimer's claimed the lives of both his father and grandfather and was a contributing factor in the deaths of his mother and grandmother, who cared for them.
"This is what's hardest to explain to people who haven't experienced Alzheimer's in their lives," says Pierce, 47, whose hilarious portrayal of the prissy and pretentious psychiatrist Niles Crane on the hit television show Frasier belies his quiet, unassuming nature in real life. "Not only are caregivers dealing with a spouse or a partner or a parent who has a terminal illness, but someone who has less and less recognition of them."
Since 1994 the actor has appeared at fundraisers, testified before Congress, and loaned his celebrity to increase awareness of the disease that affects some 5 million Americans. A four-time Emmy winner who recently won raves for his Broadway run in Monty Python's Spamalot, Pierce is set to take a new play, Curtains, to Broadway this spring. But he continues to make time to spread his message. "This is a disease that affects all of us, whether we get it or not, because more and more people have it," he says. "It's not going away."
*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.