Monday, November 19, 2012

Hitting its peak

Looking south along Park Avenue from 72nd Street. 3PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, November 19, 2012. Sunny weekend with mild autumn weather, not warm, not cold. The autumn foliage has finally hit its peak in New York. We’re a couple of weeks behind our northern neighbors.
Looking south along Lexington Avenue from 73rd Street.
Along the median on Park Avenue.
There were lots of these trees (this one at the northeast corner of 69th and Lexington) with the most stunning bright yellow leaves.
East End Avenue looking north from 79th Street on Saturday afternoon about 2.
Central Park West at 85th Street, looking into the Park.
Last Thursday night at the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West and 77th Street, they held their annual black tie Museum Gala with more than 700 attending. Cocktails, called for 7 were held in entrance gallery around the massive dinosaur skeleton.

At 7:45 the first dinner gongs were heard throughout the hall, directing guests to move downstairs to the gigantic Millstein Hall of Ocean life with the great blue whale (94 feet in length) suspended above. Getting a crowd of 700 who are enjoying themselves at cocktail hour to move is a bit of a challenge. It was 8:30 before everyone (or almost everyone) was seated. And then greeted by Tina Fey.
Cocktails in the newly restored Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda
Guests entering the Millstein Hall of Ocean Life (with the blue whale overhead) for dinner on Thursday night.
The table set for eight.
Lorne Michaels, the creator/producer of Saturday Night Live was, with his wife Alice, was one of the gala chairs, and there were many attending from the cast and staff of the show. So you could assume that was how we had the pleasure of Tina Fey as mistress of ceremonies. However, there have been frequent sightings of a “Tina Fey look-alike” in the museum exhibition halls over the past few years, always accompanied by children. That’s because the lady herself (and her kids) are frequent visitors.

After brief messages from Lewis Bernard, the museum chair and from the great Ellen Futter, President of the museum, the guests dove into the delicious menu created by Mario Batali especially for the occasion. After the main course, Jamie Niven, Executive Vice President of Sotheby’s came onto the podium to conduct a fund-raising  auction.
Museum Gala Host Tina Fey
Jamie Niven conducting the auction where he raised almost a million dollars, thanks to an anonymous matching grant.
He told us beforehand that a generous donor had already volunteered a matching fund up to a million dollars. After that announcement one individual donated another $100,000; three more donated $50,000 each and before Jamie was through, he’d raised another half million dollars, which of course was doubled by the anonymous donor’s matching gift. The final tally raised from the evening was well over $2 million.

After the auction Tina Fey introduced Maroon 5, the rock band. As they were coming up on stage, someone said to me, “did you see Mick Jagger?” No. Then he was pointed out to me as he and L’Wren Scott were reaching the top of the stairs exiting the hall.
From right to left: Mick Jagger, Tina Fey, David O'Connor, Nancy Fallon, Jeremy Renner, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Jimmy Fallon L'Wren Scott, and Lorne Michaels
PJ Morton, Adam Levine, and James Valentine of Maroon 5
Chairs for the evening were John and Jodie Eastman, Tom Freston, and Alice and Lorne Michael’s. Vice-chairs were Henri Barguirdjian and Marianne Lafiteau. Mr. Barguirdjian is the President and CEO of Graff which was also the sponsor of the evening’s gala. Also vice-chairs: Claire Bernard, Steve and Roberta Denning, Tom Kempner and Kitty Patterson Kempner, Allison and Roberto Mignone, Virginia Hearst Randt, Ted Mathas, Marilyn and Jim Simons, Mary and David Solomon, and Ann Ziff.

The AMNH is probably the most popular museum in the world for children and has always been a destination for generations of children growing up in New York. They often visit frequently (witness Tina Fey with her children) and the children often become learned about the exhibitions, igniting an early vivid interest in the natural sciences. It is open daily from 10 in the morning until 5:45 in the afternoon. Except on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The museum is also home to more than 200 scientists working across the broad disciplines of anthropology, astrophysics, biology, Earth and planetary sciences and paleontology. It is also a leading research institution with world class facilities and researchers carrying out 100 field expeditions around the world annually. It also possesses one of the world’s most extraordinary collections of specimens and artifacts.
Anne Shutkin and her mother Ellen Futter
Christine Varney and Geraldine Baum
Karen LeFrak and Peter Lyden
Judy Gordon and Archibald Cox Jr
Jamie and Lee Niven
Anne Hearst McInerney
Debbie Peltz, Elizabeth Eginton, Miriam Wermelt, Anne Griffin, Allison Mignone, Cecilia Ben Abraham, Sara Roberton, Stephanie Coleman, Betsey Pick, and Tracy Mezzalinqua
Jay Pharoh
Nassim Pedrad and Taran Killam
Richard and Marcia Mishaan and Gillian and Sylvester Miniter
Jimmy Fallon
Tom Kempner, Kitty Kempner, Jessica Kempner, and Peter Ginsberg
Jay Pharoh and Neil deGrasse Tyson
Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, and Olivia Wilde
Jay Pharoh, Nassim Pedrad, Vanessa Bayer, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, Aidy Bryant, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis
Richard and Karen LeFrak
Anne Griffin, Allison Mignone, and Cecelia Ben Abraham
Stephen Spahn, Connie Spahn, Bridgette Foley, and Kirk Spahn
Valerie and Jeffrey Peltier
Mary Solomon, David Solomon and Pari Harrison
Lewis Bernard, Ellen V. Futter, and Roger Altman
Gillian and Sylvester Miniter
Ellen V. Futter, Henri Barguirdjian, and Marianne Lafiteau
Christopher Davis and Willoughby Bain
Zibby and Andrew Right
Julia Koch, Whitney Flesher, Theodore Roosevelt, and Brad Comisar
Sylvain Mirochnikoff and Rebekah Mercer
Massimo LoBuglio and Arden Wohl
Steve Denning and Museum President Ellen V. Futter
Chris Redlich, Sarah Randt, Dana Randt, Gina Randt, Sandy Randt and Roz Seysses
Karen and Charles Phillips
L'wren Scott and Mick Jagger
Joella Lykouretzos (center) and friends
Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde
Stacey Bendet Eisner and Claire Bernard
Museum Gala Host Tina Fey, Museum Gala Chairman Lorne Michaels
Kathleen and David Glaymon
Peter and Josephine Karis
Taran Killam and Keenan Thompson
At the cocktail hour I saw Karen and Richard LeFrak who had recently made a multimillion dollar grant to the museum so that New York City school kids could attend any time for free. 

Karen LeFrak and her champion Gem.
At the gala Karen told me that she and Richard had been to St. Petersburg recently to attend a performance of a ballet she’d written the music for called Gentle Memories, created for the Mariinsky Theatre’s Yekaterina Kondaurova.

The experience was, of course, very exciting for the couple. Not only was Karen honored to have her composition presented at the Mariinsky but Richard was astounded by the coverage on Russian Television. “Ballet is as popular with the Russian people as basketball is with Americans,” he told me, having witnessed the television coverage  afterwards on Russian television.

Karen has also written the music and story for a new children’s ballet called “Bark! In the Park,” an adventure of children and their nanny searching for a lost dog in Central Park. The ballet will premiere at a special benefit for the New York Theatre ballet on Tuesday, February 5, 2013.

It’s a special event for parents (and grandparents) with their children. The ballet will then continue its season at Florence Gould Hall at “family-friendly” prices. Co-chairs for the premiere are Muffie Potter Aston, Gillian Miniter, Sarah Frank, Yaz Hernandez, Cynthia Lufkin, Nancy Missett, Hilary Geary Ross and Kathy Thomas. To learn more, visit
L. to r.: Diana Byer (NYTB founder and artistic director), Pamela Zam with Annabella and Bradley Zam is holding Eloise Zam, Anne Pyne with Louis and Marie Pyne, Karen LeFrak, Chase Brock, NYTB Dancer Izzy Hanson-Johnson is cuddling with Gem LeFrak, Patti Greenberg with Sparkle Greenberg,Barbara Cirkva with Mink Schumacher, Chris Hanley with Melanie Tucker's Clifford Tucker, Olga Korobova with Brooke Cohen's Beacon Cohen, Nancy Raquet with Diva Raquet, and Sarah Frank (NYTB Board Member).

Photographs by D. Finnin and R. Mickens (AMNH)

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