|Yesterday was a grey day but the Sun peeked through about noontime for the 25th annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon in the Central Park Conservatory Garden behind the Vanderbilt gates at 104th Street and Fifth Avenue.
There are a lot of different names for this luncheon – the FLO Awards lunch, the Conservancy luncheon, etc. – but basically it’s become by tradition, the late 20th, early 21st century successor of the Easter Parade in New York, where a great many women dress in their spring colors and in hats. So we call it the Hat Luncheon.
The costume is modern but there is an air of the old-fashioned: people dressed up in what used to be called in America, as “Sunday best.” It is also New York women at their stylish best. And the hats are a big draw. And a kick. They liven up the mood, even under grey skies, and they are a sight to see; in fact the sight to see although we’re surrounded by Nature’s best – the garden in full bloom.
This Women’s Committee was founded in 1983 by Phyllis Cerf Wagner, Norma Dana, Jean Clark and Maggie Purnell. Mrs. Wagner died late last year and her memory was honored yesterday.
The objective of this committee was to raise funds (and friends) for The Central Park Conservancy which maintains and nurtures the Park.
|Twenty-five years ago, the park was in dire need and low on funds. The new Committee made the difference, and to this day has contributed about $30 million toward the fund, besides all the ancilliary activities they’ve created to enhance the Park and its use.
New Yorkers who have been here only in the past 20 years have no memory of the Park when it was in need. Young New Yorkers who’ve been here less than ten years have naturally taken it for granted, and have no idea. But the Park is like anything else in this life: if you don’t attend to it, it begins to falter, and so does the quality of life.
We’ve been granted much of that privilege of a beautiful and highly useful Park by the women and men of the Committee.
|The luncheon hosts were Nancy Paduano, President of the Women’s Committee; Luncheon chairmen Serena Bardman, Betsy Messerschmitt, Hilary Geary Ross, Blaine Trump, Thorunn Wathne; Ira Millstein, A.J.C. Smith (Chairman of the CPC), Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation in New York and b, President and Central Park Administrator of the CPC.
From its inception twenty or so years ago, this luncheon has grown and grown. It’s one of the main tickets in the New York philanthropic spring calendar and it’s sold out even before the invitations go out. Now it’s a big production with help from all kinds of people, too numerous to mention here. But some of the contributors who give it its élan are Brunschwig & Fils, Mario Buatta, the Estee Lauder Companies, Peconic Bay Winery, Rigaud USA, Joan Rivers, Abigail Hirsch, Mary Hilliard, Patrick McMullan, and Wathne, Ltd. (which always supplies the umbrellas that might come in handy when guests are leaving).
JH was there with the Digital and the Vid Digital and I was there with the Digital; and together we got a good look at a milliner’s confection. (And at least one major milliner/designer Eric Javits was there also and at least six women were wearing his hats: Tracy Snyder, Allison Rockefeller, Tara Rockefeller, Gillian Miniter, Somers Farkas, Rachel Hovnanian, and Jocelyn Javits.)
|There were more than 1000 guests and they raised $2.3 million. 85 – 90% of the guests were women and many made the most of it.
It began at 11:15 as people started coming through the gates and descending the steps to the Garden level. Wine, sparkling water, and champagne were served for the thirsty. But lookee-lookee was what it was all about. And sweet amusement.
It should be noted, amidst all this flora and hoopla, that every one of us was lucky to be there under those tents and every one of us and those who visit us are lucky to have this Park, because we’d have no Great City without it, and we’d have no refuge from the rattle of the taxis, the rumble of the subway trains and a cacophony of burdens we place on ourselves living together on this little island, without it.
There were too many hats to resist photographing, and although we barely touched the surface, we got more than 100 images which we’re going to run over the next couple of days, including a couple dozen we’re including including in Reader’s Polls today and tomorrow.
|Last night at “21” there was a book party hosted by Herb Siegel for Joseph Califano and his new book “High Society” about the ramifications of our drug and alcohol culture in America. Mr. Califano had a brilliant career in Washington beginning in his young manhood working for Lyndon B. Johnson as a special White House assistant, and later as Secretary of HEW for Jimmy Carter, and after that as a successful lawyer in New York.
Several years ago, however, Mr. Califano also founded CASA at Columbia University. CASA stands for Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, and he is on a mission. That mission is to cut both dramatically if not eliminating them. It sounds pie-in-the-sky when you look at the numbers and consider how our entire society is involved in the matter. But as we know there are many many people and organizations working along with CASA to remedy what is a national crisis in and of itself.
Meanwhile at “21” there were cocktails for those who wanted them, and the wonderful “21” hors d’oeuvres (quesadillas, pigs-in-a-blanket, spring rolls, roast turkey and baked ham) and many old friends to hail the author.
There were a couple hundred attending. In the crowd: Bill vanden Heuvel, Richard Meier, Chris and Grace Meigher, Ace and Kathy Greenberg, Stan and Sydney Shuman, Jones Yorke and Betsy Barlett, Joy and Jonathan Ingham (Joy is Hilary Califano’s stepsister but they call each other sisters), Virginia and Sandy Vanocur, Pat Patterson, Alyne Massey, Dick Button, Franklin Thomas and Kate Whitney, the Tim Zagats, Elizabeth Drew, John and Polly Espy, Bill Finneran, Katherine Bryan, John Eastman, Steve Forbes, Ellen Futter, Vartan Gregorian, Jay Gunther, Libby Kabler, Jeanne Leff, Ninah and Michael Lynn, Les Moonves and Julie Chen, Jane Gammill, and many others just like ‘em.
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