Friday, March 2, 2007

A Festive New York Night

At the Winter Ball of the Museum of the City of New York: Grace Hightower and Dan Lufkin; Nina Griscom and Leonel Piraino.
It was a rather mild and busy night in New York last, and a rather festive one. The stock market took a big drop of almost 500 points yesterday afternoon but the shock was absorbed with the speed of a “delete” button. After all, this is not the first time. Or the worst time. So they say.

Over at the Rainbow Room, high above
Rockefeller Center and the NBC Studios, the Lincoln Center Institute was holding its annual gala awards dinner. The Institute was begun in 1975 as a kind of artist-in-residence program, designed to expose students to the arts as audience members. An effective way for developing younger audiences by immersing students and teachers in an intensive aesthetic education program. They bring the arts into the classrooms around the New York metropolitan area, as well as across the nation.

Since its inception, they’ve worked with more than 3.1 million students in 500 New York City with more than 50,000 educators. It’s purpose is far more than marketing the arts of Lincoln Center. Its purpose is awakening the life-enhancing aesthetic within us, and in some cases cultivating the garden of great creative talent ad perhaps even genius.
The Temptations entertaning and Susan Rudin, left, paying tribute to Susan Lacy.
Last night they honored two great forces of PBS Channel 13/WNET and WLIW – Susan Lacy, the  Emmy award winning creator and executive producer of American Masters, and Bill Baker, the retiring president and CEO of WNET. The professional lives of these two people exemplify the charter of the Lincoln Institute.

I rarely watch television because of the time element, but a year or so ago I accidentally started watching an American Masters’ documentary on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. My interest was only in passing but I found myself unable to stop watching as they painted and portrayed the life story of this extraordinary character who dominated in life, who faced ridicule, tragedy, possibly rightfully accused of ignominy more than once and, remained undaunted. I liked it so much I made a point of seeing the second installment. The ending was so powerful I found myself sobbing (however briefly) at the recognition of his intense humanity and inner courage. A

h American Masters!
Nothing better than a good cry over the inspiration of a life of a great man, no? Coincidentally, last night when Susan Lacy was accepting her award she talked about the experience of producing more than 120 American Masters stories. She recounted the time she finished the one on Martha Graham and was going to a final screening. She had her two young school-age daughters join her. Neither was interested, too much homework, etc. (Martha Graham ewww, being the bottom line for these young teenagers.) Mother Lacy prevailed and asked them to go with her and to at least stay until the lights are out when they quietly and discreetly exit. So they went. When the screening was over and the lights came up, Mrs. Lacy saw that her two daughters were still in their seats. Silent. With tears streaming down their cheeks, overwhelmed by the power of the story they’d just seen.

But I’m jumping the gun.
The Rainbow Room was filled to capacity with tables leaving no room at all on the dance floor. The entertainment this year (last year it was James Taylor) was The Temptations.

We were served our first course – Scotch smoked salmon – and then the boys came out. There are ten musicians and the  five Temptations.

Forty-six years later, their audience has grown up and older along with them, including this writer. But the rhythm and pleasure is still there. Nevertheless there’s always something slightly odd about watching bald and/or grey haired men who look like your father looked when you were a kid, and they’re bopping around and singing the songs in a way your father never would have. Ever. It’s funny.  Even funnier when you realize you’re one of them.

The crowd loved them. And everyone was singing along even the stodgiest bankers and lawyers. Big hit.

It was a very successful night. Susan Rudin announced that they’d raised $1 million for the Lincoln Institute programs from this evening. At their first fundraising gala they raised $100,000.
Beth DeWoody
Rosalind P. Walter
Susan Lacy
Norma Hess and Diane Coffey
Marlene Hess and Nancy Missett
Dr. Dick and Ellen Levine
Fiona Rudin and Erana Stennett
Susan Rudin and Dr. George Baker
Beth DeWoody, Carlton DeWoody, and Joel Rosenman
Jonathan Cramer and Carlton Dewoody
The Lincoln Institute dinner began to break about 9:45. That part of that city is almost light as day, in hues of oranges and yellows reflecting in its canyons. I walked over to the corner of 50th and Fifth on the corner of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and caught a cab to take me up to the Museum of the City of New York on 102nd and Fifth.

This was the night of their Winter Ball. The Director’s Council produces this soiree annually. It is young and dressy. There’s more than a touch of the preppy, perennial though they may be, in the room. But it’s a glamorous crowd, a goodlooking crowd, a prosperous crowd, slick and polished, cheeks flushed from the slopes, brows browned by the sun over  Palm Beach or St. Barths. Formerly the “junior” set but now including a number of the city’s (particularly the financial community’s) they are a growing force, the movers and shakers. As this has progressed, the Winter Ball has taken on some élan, as you might imagine.

I arrived just as dessert was being served in the candlelit corridors and galleries. Beautiful lighting, beautiful background. The dessert was some kind of several-layer vanilla cake with chocolate icing and other elements of culinary obsession. It was rich looking and served with a richer looking sauce. All very elegantly placed on the plate, with the artist’s touch (versatile serving staff). I couldn’t resist moving through quickly to get some shots of the guests.

It was clearly a big success, although
I don’t know how much they raised. The evening’s chairmen were Cynthia (Mrs. Dan) Lufkin, Mark Gilberston, Rachel (Mrs. Ara) Hovnanian, Calvert (Mrs. George Braniff) Moore, Alison (Mrs. Peter) Rockefeller and Andrew Roosevelt. Graff and Valentino sponsored the dinner dance (with additional support from Hotel Le Bristol, Paris and The Cloister at Sea Island). Could it be any clearer? I don’t think so.
Kate Allen
Alexandra Lebenthal and Christian Leone
Karen Luder and Rachel Hovanian
Debbie Bancroft with Trip Gabriel ...
... and Dennis Basso to the rescue
Carol McFadden
Dana Stubgen
Serena Boardman
Judith Wall Guest, Rachel Hovnanian, and Bruce Addison
Chris Spitzmiller and friends
Wendy Carduner and Roger Webster
Cynthia Lufkin
Liz Finkle and Stephen Sans
Elizabeth Lindemann, Ara Hovnanian, and Todd Meister
Dr. Patrick and Dana Stubgen
Michael Foster and friend