The couple opened the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Colorado in 1980. The following year, Marvin Davis bought 20th Century Fox, and the Carousel Ball's guest list grew to include Hollywood royalty and two U.S. presidents.
"It's very good to have a film studio: Everybody came," Mrs. Davis said. "Even though it was still in Denver that year, we must have had six or eight planes of stars."
Since then, performers at the gala have included Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Beyoncé, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. This year, it's Neil Diamond.
So far, the gala has raised more than $75 million for the Children's Diabetes Foundation and its treatment center in Colorado.
While the budget for Saturday's gala is private, "everything is donated that can be donated," Davis said. Superstar performers give their time, and companies like Chanel and American Airlines contribute auction prizes. The Beverly Hilton even donates the space.
This year, guests pay from $2,000 to $20,000 to attend as a couple; tables of 10 cost $10,000 to $100,000. About 1,200 people are expected at Saturday's soiree.
That's a lot of schmoozing and fundraising — and write-offs.
The fair-market value of the ticket is $500, so couples attending at the lowest price point can deduct $1,000 as a charitable donation, said David Wheeler Newman, a Los Angeles tax attorney who specializes in nonprofits.
Ads in the Carousel of Hope's souvenir tribute book range from $750 to $12,500 and are almost always a write-off for the businesses and individuals who contribute, whether as a charitable donation or a business expense, Newman said.
Who's motivated to give and why they do it can be complicated, said Newman, "especially in concentrated urban areas like LA or New York or Chicago, because of the relationship networks that people have."