Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A busy New York night

The Statue of Liberty from the back. 2:30 PM.
There was much going on in New York last night. Here is just a sample:

At the New York Public Library, in the Celeste Bartos Forum, they were holding the 2008 Young Lions Fiction Award. This was the 8th year of the competition to win the NYPL’s prestigious award. Finalists were Ron Currie, Jr., God Is Dead; Ellen Litman, The Last Chicken in America; Peter Nathaniel Malae, Teach the Free Man; Dinaw Mengestu, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears; and Emily Mitchell, The Last Summer of the World.

The winning writer received a $10,000 prize at a ceremony hosted by Young Lions co-founder and actor Ethan Hawke. The Award was spearheaded by Young Lions Committee members Ethan Hawke, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Rick Moody, and Hannah McFarland. The Library's Young Lions Program is a membership group for people in their 20s and 30s who are committed to supporting the organization and to celebrating young writers and artists who are making an impact on this city's cultural life.

Howard Socol and Diane von Furstenberg
Over at the Hearst Tower, New York’s first “green” building, the Nature Conservancy was hold its annual Spring Gala: Greening the World: A Celebration of Conservation and Sustainable Development. The Co-Chairs include Katherine Farley and Jerry I. Speyer; Christy and John J. Mack; Patricia and Victor E. Ganzi; Haydee and Alain Belda; Dr. Mary Lake Polan and Frank A. Bennack Jr. Vice-chairs included Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and hs wife Wendy Paulson, and Isabella Rossellini.

Over at the Grand Hyatt, they celebrated the 60th annual Parsons Benefit and Fashion Show and honored Diane von Furstenberg and Howard Socol, chairman and CEO of Barneys New York.

This annual runway show has helped launch the careers of some of Parsons’ most talented alumni, including 2004 honoree Marc Jacobs; Jack McCollough ’02 and Lazaro Hernandez ’02 of Proenza Schouler, winner of the CFDA 2007 Womenswear Designer of the Year; and Doo-Ri Chung ’95, winner of the 2006 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and the CFDA 2006 Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Emerging Talent. As in the past several years running, Saks Fifth Avenue will once again present selections from the award-winning collections in the windows of its flagship store, starting May 14.

At Carnegie Hall, the New York Pops celebrated its 25th birthday with a gala “Play to Win,” honoring the New York Yankees, James M. Nederlander and James L. Nederlander. The NY Pops was founded in 1983 by the late great Skitch Henderson to give New York a permanent professional symphonic pops orchestra. Today it is the largest independent symphonic pops orchestra in the United States and the only one in New York City specializing in popular American music.

From the Ballet Hispanico's Black Slipper Ball Gala.
A couple of blocks north and west on Columbus Circle at the Mandarin Oriental, ArtsConnection 2008 held their benefit celebration honoring New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and prominent New York artist George Condo. Co-chaired by Susanna Aaron and Gary Ginsberg, Andrea and Marc Glimcher, and Lisa and Richard Plepler. ArtsConnection brings arts programming to over 120 New York City public schools, enhancing the lives of more than 30,000 New York City public school students annually. The gala’s special guest was Tony Award winning playwright, actor and poet Sarah Jones.

A few blocks north up at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater Lincoln Center, the the Juilliard School presented "Leading Ladies," a gala concert and dinner dance with performances by Barbara Cook and Juilliard alumna Audra McDonald. Actress Laura Linney was honorary alumni chair for the evening whose co-chairs included Karen M. Levy and Saundra Whitney. After the concert there was a black tie dinner in the Tent at Lincoln Center Damrosch Park.

Then, over at the New World Stages on 340 West 50th Street, they were holding the Singers Forum’s 12th Annual Andy Anselmo Achievement Awards Gala with Awards presented to Regis Philbin, Caroline Jones and Singers’ Forum Senior Outreach Program performances Joseph Brady, Madeline Kerns, Ralph Lane, Patrizia Scascitelli and Clark Warren.

At the Plaza, the Ballet Hispanico was holding its Black Slipper Ball Gala featuring performances by the Ballet Hispanico Company and Arturo O’Farrill with the Afro-Latin Orchestra. They honored Kevin Havelock, President of Unilever United States; and Graciela Daniele and Sergio Trujillo.

I was up at the American Museum of Natural History
 where the PEN American Center was holding its annual PEN Literary Gala. This is a highly attended benefit, a glamorous one as literary events go, drawing scores of famous authors and media names, at least one of which grace each table. Our table’s famous writer was Dominick Dunne who was unable to attend last minute.

Mike Roberts and Margo Jefferson
Considering what and how much was going on last night, it’s amazing that several hundred turned out. After the cocktail hour in the museum’s entrance gallery, we all adjourned to the Milstein Hall which is where the great whale hangs suspended above the room.

Authors authors everywhere. Michael Roberts, Executive Director of PEN American Center greeted the guests who were barely paying attention (the larger the room and attendance, the more inattentive people are). Tina Brown who was gala co-chair, followed with an official greeting and got more attention. She introduced a brief film salute to Norman Mailer who was involved with PEN for more than a half century. Norman’s wife Norris Church Mailer and their son John Buffalo Mailer were in attendance.

This was followed by Christiane Amamnpour, who was emcee. She introduced Toni Morrison who was given the PEN/Borders Literary Service Award, presented by George Jones, President of Borders. Laura Berg received the PEN/Katherine Anne Porter First Amendment Award. The Jeri Laber Freedom to Publish Award went to Kho Taranith and the Nou Hach Literary Project.

Then the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award went to Yang Tongyan. Mr Yang is in jail in China. His crime: writing what he thinks of the political regime who will put you in jail for expressing anything in writing contrary to their rules and will. For all the world’s infatuation with the “new” China, their leadership still does not tolerate written disagreement just as harshly as the regime that came before them (General Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Madame Chiang) didn’t tolerate the present regime’s disagreement. Why do people never learn? Why do they struggle to defeat dictatorship only to replace it with their own? Because they are fools? Probably.

Tina Brown  
Mr. Yang’s award was accepted by Li Janqiang who read his speech in Chinese and was translated by a woman interpreter. Mr. Yang’s predicament is further aggravated by the fact that no one in his family is able to visit him and so no one knows his condition. The PEN Center approach is to make these issues more public so that you, the public, can protest to the Chinese government and urge them to free the author, hoping of course, that the man survives the cruel and brutal incarceration. Jailed for expressing himself.

This award was followed by Francine Prose, President PEN American Center introducing Iraqi journalist Ahmed Ali who was being persecuted in his country for being a journalist. Period. End of Story Mr. Ali is now living in Atlanta and enjoying his new found freedom.

The work of PEN in assisting writers whose
freedoms are threatened by incarceration and death is a long and slow process, but it is often effective in the end. Those who work in the organization are heroes, unsung, often unnoticed but nevertheless heroes (and heroines). Over the years they have succeeded in obtaining freedom for a number of jailed writers, and saved lives.
Barbara Goldmsith, Li Janquiang, and his interpreter
Norris Mailer
Last night’s co-chairs were Tina Brown, Joan Jakobson and Laurence Kirshbaum. Toni Goodale was honorary chair. Vice chairs were Annette Tapert and John Troubh, and Benefactor Chair was Christine Schwarzman.

Among the guest writers attending last night (and this is just a sample as there were dozens of prominent authors in the room) were: Andre Aciman, Ken Auletta, John Berendt, Carl Bernstein, Robert Caro, Kiran Desia, Adam Gopnik, Frank McCourt, Honor Moore, Rick Moody, Salman Reushdie, Gay Talese, Calvin Trillin, David Remnick, Hannah Pakula, Barbara Goldsmith, Norris Mailer.

Also among those attending: Warren and Olivia Hoge, Marlene Hess and Jim Zirin, Doug Cramer and Hugh Bush, James Goodale, Steve Kroft and Jenny Conant, Katherine Bryan, Carolyne Roehm and Simon Pinninger, Alex Kuczynski and Charles Stevenson, Dr. Mitch and Sarah Rosenthal, Joe Allen and Annette Tapert, Karenna and Drew Schiff, Rose Styron, Richard Meier, Lynn Nesbit, Ed Victor, Tina Brown and Harry Evans, Jeffrey Leeds, Lewis Lapham, Ina Caro, Shirley Lord Rosenthal.
Robert Couturier and Warren Hoge
Ina Caro and Shirley Lord Rosenthal
Debbie Bancroft
Steve Kroft and Ina Caro
Dave Zinczenko, Stacy and Terry McDonell, and Peggy Siegal
Richard Meier and Ed Victor
Jurate Kazickas and Christy Ferer
Lloyd Grove
Doug Cramer with Marlene Hess and Jim Zirin
Michael Gross
Wendy Vanderbilt Lehman
Robert Caro, Jenny Conant, and Andrew Cockburn
Jeff Fager and Leslie Cockburn
Hugh Bush
Ashley Krissel Goodale and Toni Goodale
Milly de Cabrol
Francine Prose and Ahmed Ali
Peggy Siegal, Ernie Pomerantz, and Marie Brenner
Honor Moore
Laura Berg
Joan Jakobson
Charles Stevenson and Catherine Bryan
Alex Kucynski, Simon Pinninger, and Nini Ferguson
Jon Marder and Michael Vollbracht
Toni Goodale and Lewis Lapham
Olivia Hoge and James Goodale

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