Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wet and raw

Neighborhood favorite Via Quadronno (on 73rd Street of Madison) dressed up for the holidays. 9:00PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012. Wet and raw with some white stuff mixed in with the rain, but nothing sticking; yesterday in New York.
Down at the Waldorf, bright and early the Breast Cancer Research Foundation held its annual Symposium and Luncheon.  

BCRF Scientific Director Larry Norton, MD (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center) opened the Symposium titled Magical Wands to Make Cancer Disappear: Fantasy or the Future? Clifford Hudis, MD, Chairman of BCRF Scientific Advisory Board (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center), moderated, joined by four BCRF-funded investigators: Gabriel N. Hortabagyi, MD, FACP from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Kathy D. Miller, MD of Indiana University School of Medicine; José Baselga, MD, PhD from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD also Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

The first date for this luncheon coincided with hurricane Sandy, so it was postponed until yesterday. There was concern that the postponement would hurt; this has been a very successful annual affair for several years, with several hundred attending. Evelyn was an indefatigable supporter and made optimal use of the Lauder family’s influence and connections as well as their charity for rallying the troops. The result was to gather massive funds for research of more than $300 million.

She was also very proud of the fact that the expense of the BCRF staff and activities was always never more than ten or twelve cents of every dollar contributed, all of which was earmarked for scores of research grants.

Yesterday’s was a great success. 800 guests attended and more $2.1 million was raised. Deborah Norville emceed the luncheon.

The Jill Rose Award for outstanding research excellence was presented to Dr. Hortabagyi, recognized for his path-breaking contributions advancing all aspects of breast cancer science and care, as well as his leadership in public and professional education, and his mentorship to medical professionals worldwide.

Ann Taylor and LOFT CEO, Kay Krill with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation acting Chairman/Estee Lauder Chairman Emeritus, Leonard Lauder at the BCRF Symposium and Luncheon yesterday at the Waldorf Astoria New York.
During the Luncheon, PLAY for P.I.N.K., a volunteer organization dedicated to raising money for BCRF on a grassroots level, announced that it will support 15 research projects led by BCRF grantees in 2012-2013 with a record-breaking $4 million donation.

Guests also participated in a Text-to-Pledge competition led by long-time BCRF supporter, Roz Goldstein. She made a $50,000 match donation for the initiative. Nearly $200,000 was raised through Text-to-Pledge including a $50,000 donation made by audience member, Meyer Grodetsky.

The BCRF Luncheon and Symposium was co-chaired by Roberta Amon, Anne Bass, Tory Burch, Susan Burke, Marjorie Reed Gordon, Betsy Green, Joanne de Guardiola, Ronnie Heyman, Gail Hilson, Laura Lauder, Cynthia Lufkin, Gigi Mortimer, Wendi Rose, and Arlene Taub.

Evelyn was still very much on everyone’s mind. She spent more than a quarter of her life personally battling cancer yet during that same time, without any reference ever to her own predicament. The result was this great research funding foundation that has made a difference in the lives of millions, and will continue to. There remains much sadness about her but no regrets. Pluck, a natural joie de vivre and a devoted husband saw her through with Good Cheer to the end of her days.
Doctors Larry Norton, Cliff Hudis, Jose Baselga, Gabriel Hortobagyi, Kathy Miller, and Jedd Wolchok at the symposium. Photos: Rob Rich/
Myra Biblowit addressing the 800 guests in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf at yesterday's BCRF luncheon.
Leonard Lauder telling the guests about the newly established Evelyn H. Lauder Founder's Fund, created in her memory with more than $8 million already having been donated by many people. The upcoming sale at Sotheby's of Evelyn's jewelry and Estee Lauder's jewelry is expected to bring another $8 million. These funds will support a large multi-institutional, international research project to be carried out over two to three years that will have implications for the management of not only for breast cancer but other types of the disease as well.
Roz Goldstein and Deborah Norville.
Dr. Cliff Hudis, Leonard Lauder, Myra Biblot, and Dr. Larry Norton.
Last night Shirley Lord Rosenthal had a dinner for 24 at her East Side duplex for George Weidenfeld, Baron Weidenfeld, the British publisher (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), and newspaper columnist. Lord Weidenfeld (George to his friends), was born in Vienna in 1919.

When he was 19, in 1938, Hitler made his Anschluss of Austria into Nazi Germany. Being Jewish, and aware of the dangers that lay ahead (his father had already been arrested) he left Austria five months later in late summer. I asked him last night if he had a hard time getting out. He replied that it was the “getting in” that was hard – finding a country who would take him in. Through a relative he was able to get a visa to enter England. Because he was proficient in five languages and the threat of war was heating up, he got a job with the BBC monitoring other radio  reports from all over Europe. Three years later he was a political commentator for the BBC and writing a  weekly newspaper column. He was also able to get his parents out of Austria.

George Weidenfeld, Shirley Lord Rosenthal, Dr. James Watson, and Elizabeth Watson after dinner last night. Lord Weidenfeld arranged for the publication of Watson's "The Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix."
How he moved so quickly was the result of chance and talent. Talking to him last night, it was easy to see how it happened. His language proficiency and his “foreign” background were the two apparent and important assets. The third was personality. He has a naturally congenial manner and is receptive to a new acquaintance. He obviously likes people and is a natural student, which over a now long lifetime, has brought the gift of friendship.

After the war he was selected by Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel to work as his political adviser and Chief of Cabinet. He was 29 years old, and working along with Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan. The job brought him to New York with Weizmann in 1948/49, to the United Nations to work on establishing a place at the table for Israel. At about that same time, he co-founded a publishing firm in London with Nigel Nicolson, son of Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson, and author of his parents’ relationship, “Portrait of a Marriage.”

In those first years traveling to New York he was able to meet American publishers and make associations with them. Among his early best-sellers was “Lolita.”  New York in the 1950s, he recalled for me, was a world where society and the elite entertained at home. The circle of friends and connections was wider than it is today. Social hostesses put a premium on conversation and “interesting” people, so talent – writers and playwrights, painters, actors – had a strong place at the table. Mrs. Cass Canfield, wife of the president of Harper & Bros. (later Harper & Row and now HarperCollins) was known for her hospitality and her scintillating guests.

Although he wouldn’t have said it, and perhaps never considered it, it is obvious, and I’d heard many times before last night, that George Weidenfeld is a brilliant and charming man who is very easy to talk to. Not surprisingly he’s long been much sought as a guest, and made scores of friends and acquaintances along the way. In 1969 he was knighted and in 1976, he was created a Life peer as Baron Weidenfeld of Chelsea. In 2011 he was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE).

Mark Thompson, the new CEO of the New York Times, with George Weidenfeld, at table after dinner. Jill Abramson, the new Editor-in Chief of the New York Times was also at the dinner.
In 1985 he expanded his publishing interests to the United States, acquiring Grove Press in partnership with Ann Getty. It has since been sold and merged and is now part of Grove/Atlantic. In 1995 he published “Remembering My Good Friends: An Autobiography” (HarperCollins).

Although he is no longer running a publishing house, evidently he is still active in finding works to publish. In 2005 he arranged the publication of “Mercury & Identity, by John Paul II. His involvement with Israel remains. He’s been Chairman of Ben Gurion University of Negev, a Governor of Tel Aviv University, Governor of the Weizmannn Institute, Vice Chair of the EU Israel Forum, among several interests.

In our conversation last night, I asked him about his experiences during the Second World War and his coming to America, and working for Israel, and the UN. We also touched on the changes in the social life of New York over those decades. He thinks that the “changes” occurred with the Viet Nam War and then with the growing “interest in spectacular wealth” and its display. A forest of orchids filling a dining room for a dinner party, for example, might have replaced the quest for interesting talent and conversation, he said. Mrs. Cass Canfield, he said, wouldn’t have even thought of entertaining her guests with spectacular displays of wealth. He said there are those today who entertain, but only among themselves.

Our hostess last night, Shirley Rosenthal – who has known Lord Weidenfeld for many years – is an excellent example of what he was referring to in recalling a different standard. Her guest list at dinner is populated with writers, editors, socialites, business people and artists. When the main course and dessert was finished, the tables are still occupied with conversation. You come away having got to know someone you may never have met before, and learning something you never knew or never considered. Last night it was for her guest of honor and it was a gift for all of us.
The winter wonderland behind the windows of Treillage on 73rd and Lexington.
And next door at Lexington Gardens.

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