New York Charities
A City Harvest truck outside Cipriani 42nd Street for last night's Practical Magic Ball. 7:50 PM. Photo: JH.

Beautiful cool sunny spring day in New York. About 12:30 I went down to the Rainbow Room where God’s Love We Deliver were holding its 3rd annual literary luncheon – “Authors In Kind” – featuring Frank McCourt, Maureen Dowd and Mike Lupica. Mystery writer, former-DA, philanthropist girl-on-the-go, Linda Fairstein was the MC. They also honored John Demsey, head of MAC Cosmetics and MAC Cosmetics with the Golden Heart Award for all their generous assistance to the God’s Love cause.

The Rainbow Room is full of natural light by day. I took one small shot with my humble digital of Central Park just nine blocks to the north. New Yorkers never get over any of this stuff.

I missed out on the actual luncheon arriving just as they were finishing dessert. Ms. Fairstein was introducing Frank McCourt who, after “Angela’s Ashes,” really needs no introduction. Fairstein has such a sunny, informed personality, as if she’s ready for laughter at any moment. And yet you know from her background as a prosecutor and novelist (she’s just published her 8th of a series) that she’s deadly serious. (Or is it dead serious?) She must be astoundingly organized.

Frank McCourt, if you’ve never heard him speak, has a bit of a brogue. His phrases can have a quality of an announcment. Quiet, but an emotional one. He opened with some observations about contemporary American life from stories he’d read in the papers. He talked about the American phenomenon of people sleeping in cars -- because they have no place else to sleep. It’s illegal to sleep in your car. A cop can come along and arrest you for it.

He riffed on the ways it can be pulled off; the in’s and out’s of it. Sitting up, for example, is okay, but supine is not. And if arrested, you have to either pay a $1000 fine or get 90 days in jail. He riffed on those choices. I won’t even attempt to relate his humor, but the audience was roaring with laughter. Irony is his gain, the ultimate Irish gain.

He talked about being homeless and how people survive. One trick is to live near a college campus so that you can use their gym showers to keep clean. Another funny riff on homeless people showering amongst pneumatic overfed athletes.

Maureen Dowd

He concluded by recalling his own Irish childhood where they were poor and often didn’t have enough to eat, or anything to eat. The Irish handled their poverty by accepting it and “offering it up.” The Roman Catholic device for those poor Irish in those bleak times. “Offer it up.” A decidedly passive response but one that was accepted. God’s Love has a newer, more active response, he pointed out, and it too is: “Offer It Up.” Or, pass the hat and feed your brother. Or sister.

After Mr. McCourt came the redheaded New York Times commentator, Maureen Dowd. I’ve never seen Ms. Dowd in person although I’d heard about her red hair. She has a beautiful, thick head of dark red hair. In her girlhood it was probably red as flame. With the redhead’s almost translucent skin. Her wit may possibly protect and preserve her beauty.

She is smaller in person than you’d think from watching her on TV, although not petite. And somehow slightly more diffident in manner, compared to her TV presence where, when I’ve seen her, she looks like she’s in permanent state of bemusement (with her arms folded in front of her). She’s very good looking in a kind of a cool, almost chilly way. You can see where some people might think she’s a tough cookie. And some men might be intimidated although loathe to reveal it. In that way she is not unlike one of her favorite objects of occasional derision -- Hillary Clinton -- also intimidating to a lot of men, but different.

At the podium, however, it all falls into place for Ms. Dowd. She stands erect and focused. Unlike Mr. McCourt, she read her speech. But with a cool, deliberate slant to her voice, which was consistent -- so that you got into her rhythm.

I know this is going to sound nuts but I was reminded of Henny Youngman – a Borscht belt comedian whose shtick was one-liiners about his dumb wife. The little woman, etc. In the 1950s Henny Youngman could have everyone in the room – men and women -- on the floor with his jokes about his dumb wife.

Maureen Dowd can do the inverse. We’ve actually come a long way baby, in case you hadn’t noticed. She can riff on the big dumb little guy who can’t shoot straight and doesn’t know which way is up. Her subject began with the President and the Vice-President. And the audience was roaring with laughter. Ms. Dowd doesn’t lose her reserve throughout, laughter and all. She basically does what Henny Youngman used to do – but with men. She takes all the male image, i.e., macho behavior and points out its epidemic ways with a prodding stick.

In case you’re still talking about whether or not you agree with feminism, Maureen Dowd has answered the question – it’s here. And the men and the women were laughing happily.

She has a new book too, as you may know, on the best-seller list, and although I’ve not read it, I suspect that it’s more of what we experienced today. She’s very smart and her cleverness is just this side of almost innocuous in presentation. I was reminded also of all the columns she’s written that have annoyed me. Her ad nauseum riffs on the Clinton marriage-and-Monica saga could really get my Irish up. However, I can’t deny her operative premise, which is: how absurd it all is. Today it all made me laugh, especially at myself.

Looking north towards Central Park from the Rainbow Room

Then came Mike Lupica, the sports columnist/ commentator and best-selling author. I only know Mr. Lupica’s name from his celebrity and having seen his by-line. I am not a reader of sports columnists although because of my devotion to John O’Hara, who briefly began his career as a sports reporter, I have a longtime imagined awe for their talents. Mr. Lupica talked about his career, his family and his career, especially how he’s been able to use his experience with his children and sports to write books about the experience. He is very popular.

With Mr. Lupica’s talk over, the crowd rose to head back to their offices or errands or homes. Just outside the ballroom there was a table set up for guests to buy the authors’ latest book (with all proceeds going to Gods Love) and get them inscribed.

Frank McCourt
Cynthia and Dan Lufkin

Maureen Dowd

Jane Stanton Hitchcock
Alexandra Lebenthal

Beth DeWoody

Anh Duong and Daniel Romualdez

Linda Fairstein
Susan Silver

Harlan Coben

Maureen Dowd

Lesley Stahl
Mike Lupica

Blaine Trump

Mady Schuman

I rushed up Sixth Avenue to 55th Street and Michael’s where I was having an editor meeting with Quest editors. Still with digital in my hot hand, I couldn’t resist some shots of those who are just inside the pair of double doors at the entrance: Gigi, Loreal, Joanna, Mr. Millington, the general manager, and at the bar, the man himself, Mr. Michael McCarty about to dive into a plate of oysters. It was after two and the place had evidently emptied out noticeably.

Last night in New York, there were several important benefits and exhibitions. Over at Lincoln Center The Academy of American Poets presented its 4th annual, Poetry & The Creative Mind, an evening celebrating the role of poetry in American culture. Co-chaired by Meryl Streep, Rose Styron, Jorie Graham, Agnes Gund and Minnie Driver.

The evening featured artists and public figures reading their favorite poems. This year’s readers included Wynton Marsalis, Ed Harris, Wendy Whelan, Mike Wallace, and Julia Stiles.

Meanwhile, Sotheby’s opened an exhibition of The Life and Work of Francesco Scavullo with Pamela Fiori, editor-in-chief of Town & Country, and Helen Gurley Brown, Founding Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, and now e-I-c of Cosmo International. Helen hired Scavullo to do the Cosmo covers and it was a marriage that lasted for many years and was the signature of the Cosmo look.

The evening included a live auction, conducted by Jamie Niven of vintage Scavullo photographs, with proceeds going to Fountain House.

Scavullo, who died in his 83rd year in 2004, was one of the greatest fashion photographers of the golden era of fashion photography – from 1950 through 1980. The great ones were geniuses at the art of illusion through use of light – an art that seems to be on the wane.

Francesco Scavullo could make any woman look beautiful and glamorous. And sometimes that was purposely tested, the subject running just this side of risking ridicule. But the subject didn’t have to worry because Scavullo never failed. Until shortly before his death, he and his longtime partner Sean Byrnes were very much a part of the New York Art/Social/Cultural scene through all its transitions with a charming presence as an unbiased observer. No doubt last night was crowded with Scavullo’s fans, friends, subjects and those who, were they old enough would have been. And then some.

I began the night stopping by the cocktail pre-dinner reception for Joe Califano’s CASA Awards Dinner. CASA is the National Center On Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. It was created by Mr. Califano and he has created a major force in the business of “combating drug abuse.”

They honored Stephen Schwarzman, the Chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, and Samuel J. Palmisano, the Chairman and President and CEO of IBM. A CASA Special Achievement Award was also given to Mayor Bloomberg.

The Honorary Chairs of the annual CASA dinners are: President and Mrs. Bush, President and Mrs. Clinton, President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush, President and Mrs. Carter, Ladybird Johnson and Nancy Reagan. The Honorary Vice-Chairs are: Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Senate Majority Leader Senator Frist, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Reid, and Democratic Leader of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Mr. Califano’s CASA comes well-recommended, wouldn’t you say?

It is an amazing dinner, as a personal achievement of Joe Califano, bringing all of this power and influence together for his programs, and as an event that brings out some of the most economically influential people in our world. Last night they took in $2 million.

Samuel Palmisano and Steve Schwarzman
Joe Califano and Zena Wiener

Colomba Bush and Patricia Duquette

Bo Dietl
Michael Wiener and Joe Califano

Joe and Hilary Califano

Jones Yorke, Rosemary Weaver, and Betsy Bartlett

Elizabeth Planet, Christine Schwarzman, and Pam Pantzer

From the Waldorf, I grabbed a cab down to Cipriani 42nd Street for the City Harvest annual “Practical Magic Ball.”

I’ve written about City Harvest many times. If you don’t know about it, you should. They’re the people who pick up the left over food at the end of the day and re-distribute it through the city to shelters, soup kitchens and individuals.

A million people in New York don’t have enough food. A large percentage of these people are children – who go to bed hungry at night. City Harvest does something about that. Not everything – although the more support it gets, the more it can do.

This is a charity that has been operating successfully for years. A few friends of mine, such as Joy Ingham, Topsy Taylor, Emilia Saint-Amand, among others, kept it going for years. It was not a hot ticket on the charity circuit, for whatever reason. The aforementioned and their friends made big efforts to raise funds for the cause. And although they succeeded in raising the bar each year, it was not as spectacular as many of the other charities that they and their friends are involved in.

That all changed a couple of years ago, when they were able to recruit some new people to get involved in this wonderful, sensible, practical project. Last year City Harvest delivered 22 million pounds of food to New Yorkers in need. And if they had more trucks (they have 30), they could deliver even more. It’s not supply that’s the problem, it’s delivery.

Among the miracle workers who’ve with their presence and efforts, transformed the annual gala into a major fundraiser. This year they took in over a million. Among the new powerhouses behind this charity are Susan and Gary Rosenbach. The Rosenbachs, who reside in Greenwich, have enlisted several of their friends and associates, including Sheri and David Gellman, Pamela and Andrew Kaufman, Linda and Tom Petrone.

Rosanna Scotto was Mistress of Ceremonies, the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Market Tropicana received the 2005 Food Donor Recognition. The Heart of City Award, James VarnHagen, Executive Director of the New York City Rescue Mission was the honoree. Edie Falco presented Steven Mnuchin with the Star of the City Award, and Richard Brierly of Christie's was auctioneer.

These people have brought some new fresh energy to the table and they’ve brought hundreds more new people involved in City Harvest.

Last night they honored Steven Mnuchin who first was introduced to City Harvest in 1985. They had 14 employees, nine trucks, delivered about 900,000 pounds of food and had a budget of a couple of million. Last year they delivered 22 million pounds of food, had thirty trucks, many more employees and an annual budget of $27 million. Mr. Mnuchin, whose wife Heather is on the board, are active in promoting the organization.

Anita and James VarnHagen
Joy Ingham and Russell Burke

Arthur Backal and Susan Bell

Joy Ingham and Joe Pugliese
Timothy White and Keltus Campo

Liana Silverstein Backal and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff

James VarnHagen and Donté Moore
Donald Trump with Heather and Steven Mnuchin
Jilly Stephens and James Kallman
Paul Teutul Sr., Rachael Ray, Timothy White, Edie Falco, and Josh Lucas
Karen and Richard LeFrak
Fred Krimendahl, Emilia Saint-Amand, and Topsy Taylor
Susan Rosenbach, Pamela Kaufmann, Linda Petrone, and Heather Mnuchin
Elaina and Rosanna Scotto
Jonathan Ingham's new motorcycle, $50,000 later
Steven and Heather Mnuchin with Susan and Gary Rosenbach
Tom and Linda Petrone
Sheri and David Gellman

Andrew and Pamela Kaufmann

Clockwise from top left: Stephanie Winston Wolkoff and David Wolkoff; The dinner scene at Cipriani 42nd Street; Edie Falco and Michael Imperioli.

April 5, 2006, Volume VI, Number 57
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch & DPC/


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/