Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sunny and cold

The show curtain of Il Trovatore last night at the Metropolitan Opera. 9:20 PM. Photo: JH.
February 25, 2009. Sunny and cold yesterday in New York.

I went down to the Plaza at noontime for the American Cancer Society’s Youth Against Cancer: Mothers of the Year Award 2009 luncheon. This is one of the great charity luncheons of the year for a couple of reasons. First of all, besides supporting the ACS’ research programs with the funds they raise, they also support the lodging here in the city for parents and family members of child cancer patients getting treatment here. Secondly, it’s one of those luncheons where there is always laughter and always a sense of hope to take home with you.

This year they honored as Mothers of the Year: Ann Curry of the Today Show and Dr. Alexandra Herdt, an associate attending surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering where she specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of all forms of breast cancer.

The Today roster was all in attendance, from Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera, Hoda, Al Roker and Kathie Lee Gifford who was also a very amusing Mistress of Ceremonies.

The American Cancer Society’s Mothers of the Year Award 2009 luncheon at the Plaza.
Kathie Lee had the crowd laughing over references of her ribbing Meredith Viera. I can’t relate it because I don’t know what the asides were about, although Viera was responsive in a faux mortified sort of way. Either it was a matter that the Today audience and/or the show’s principals are aware of or it was a private joke between the two women. But it was funny.

I go to this lunch every year because it supports a great cause, because it is interesting to see the honorees and what they have to share; and because of my friend Diana Feldman who has been a force in American Cancer Society – New York fundraising for as long as I have known her and long before that.

Diana is one of those women with a naturally cheerful personality -- easy to smile, to laugh, to laugh at herself - - and very friendly and very reliable.

Diana told us yesterday that she was brought into the volunteer program of ACS 32 years ago by Mrs. Henri Bendel who was a friend of her mother and father’s, a year after Diana lost her mother to cancer. In subsequent years Diana has lost a niece and more recently both of her older sisters to cancer. The most she can do to help others avoid and survive those kinds of personal losses is what she does in her volunteering for the ACS.

Ann Curry was returning from a trip and because of traffic and logistics was in transit when the luncheon began, and unfortunately still in transit when the luncheon was ending. Her husband provided the introductory remarks, talking about her global reporting assignments to investigate under-reported stories of crises as well as wars. You got the feeling that Ms. Curry was lucky to have partner to cover the mothering aspect when her work took her away from her family.

Dr. Heerdt had many patients and friends in the audience. Her husband, also Dr. Heerdt spoke about his wife. Again you got the feeling that the husband played a major role in parenting. Then her 11-year-old daughter Emma spoke about her mother. (There are also two teen-age sons, William and Peter who were present yesterday, along with her mother.)
Dr. Alexandra Heerdt (far right) and family.
Emma had to be placed on a box to reach the mike. Her speech about her mother was both witty and clever; revealing, affectionate and brilliant. She told us much about her mother including her professional stature and integrity, and she told us what it was like to live with a mother with that kind of stature and smarts and talent. Her mom-ness. Emma Heerdt turned out to be what they used to call “a chip off the old block.”
The Emma speech was what is always the highlight of this particular luncheon. Something very human, personal, touching, often dramatic or comedic and enlightening. And thought provoking.

These women being honored were not just Mothers, they were Working Mothers. Working Mothers are so commonplace in today’s society that it is often forgotten how it is perceived and how it conditions the child.

I had a mother who worked, in an era when mothers very often were housewives. She worked to feed, shelter, clothe and educate us. It was never the pursuit of a professional career for her -- rare in her lifetime anyway, and never an option -- but basic labor to earn a living. She took care of all the maternal obligations as well, including the domestic stuff and the making a home life for her children. In retrospect it amazes me how much she accomplished in a day.
Matt Lauer, Chuck Scarborough, Hoda Kotb, and Kathie Lee Gifford
At a very young age I was well aware of the necessity of her going out to work. I was well looked after nevertheless – my sisters saw to that -- but as a small boy I always wished my mother were there when I got home from school, or on those summer days when school was out. Mother, to me the kid, warmed up the place, and therefore the life, with her presence -- a most reassuring conditioning for a child.

A full generation, almost two generations later, many women go out to work, family and all, dual or single breadwinners; many for the same reason as my mother and many also in pursuit of a professional career. Pulling off motherhood, under these circumstances, is a challenging task. These two women yesterday, women of great achievement – my mother would have been in awe – seemed to be able to pull it off too.

This year’s benefit co-chairs brought out a bigger crowd then ever. This isn’t happening everywhere around town on the charity circuit at the moment. But was happening yesterday at the Plaza, and I would guess that’s the result of these co-chairs: Cricket Burns, Roni Cowan, Caroline Cronson, Kathie Lee, Cynthia Lufkin (who was last year’s honoree), Marisa Marchetto, Eva Mohr, Jacqueline Togut.
Susan Wohlforth, Dr. Alexandra Heerdt, Marilyn Vecchiotti, and Cricket Burns Dan Lufkin and Evelyn Lauder
Barbara Taylor Bradford and friends Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford
DPC and Evelyn Lauder Roger Webster and Eleanora Kennedy Patricia Shaw and Fe Fendi
Don Distasio, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Hoda Kotb  
Al Roker Muffie Potter Aston, Elyse Newhouse, Gillian Miniter, and Martha Kramer
Meredith Viera and Al Roker Topsy Taylor, Charlotte Ford, and Brenda Johnson
Miss USA Crystle Stewart and Matt Rich Richard Burns, his sister, K.K. Lowther, and Cricket Burns Mary Beth Stevenson
Laura Slatkin with Diana and Richard Feldman Jeanne Sorensen-Siegel and Hilary Califano
Last night in New York, there was all kinds of stuff going on. Over at Cipriani 42nds Street, the Paley Center for Media held its annual gala honoring Ken Lowe, Scripps Networks Interactive Chairman, President and CEO, and Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP’s chief executive.
Bonnie Tandy Leblang and Robin Miller Bobby Flay Becky Quick
Sandra Lee Jennifer Juzaitis Crystal Washington Tony Stewart
Chuck Ross, Brad Siegel, Edward Bleier, and Pat Mitchell Scott Seydel and Adrian Cleere
Gerry Fabricant and Ernie Pomerantz Rufus Wainwright
Ina Garten and Bob Tushman Pat-Mitchell, Ken Lowe, and Alan Patricof
Frank Nagy and Nadine Shubailat Burt Manning, Kathleen McCormack, Al Angrisani, Pat Mitchell, and Sir Martin Sorrell
Mary Lake Bennack, Frank Bennack, Philippe Dauman, and Sir Martin Sorrell Christy Carpenter
Sir Martin Sorrell and Cristiana Sorrell Liz Smith, Peter Rogers, and Cynthia McFadden
Over at the Waldorf, the Citizens Committee for New York City was hosting its annual New Yorker for New York Awards gala with a special tribute to its late great co-founder Osborn Elliott who died last September 28th. They honored Philippe de Mongtebello, Judith Jamison, Richard Kahan, Yonnette Fleming.

I went over to the Met for the opening of new exhibition
Cast In Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution. Iris Cantor and the Met’s director Thomas P. Campbell were hosting a cocktail reception in the Special Exhibition Galleries amongst the bronzes.
John Desiderio, Iris Cantor, and Raul Suarez Marife Hernandez and Kersten Larsen, Director of Development for the Met
Iris and her late husband, Bernard Cantor, were the world’s greatest collectors of Rodin (Mr. Cantor created the collection and Iris shared his passion and has since carried out the sharing with the rest of the world). I went to see Iris who is one of my favorite New Yorkers (although it seems she is rarely here dividing her time with Los Angeles and Palm Beach). However, this new exhibition which was organized by the Met, the Louvre and the Getty and supported by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantors’ Foundation. It is fantastic.

The bronzes are amazing. Louis XIV at five. Louis at teenage, already king. A head of Voltaire who practically comes to life with his countenance ready to laugh at the slightest provocation. A frieze of the visit of the Siamese royals to Louis XIV at Versailles with his mistress Madame de Montespan among the characters. It’s a huge exhibition and one that can sweep you right back into the 16th, 17th, and 18th century France.

From the Met I went down the avenue to Sixty-third Street
and the residence of Emily and Len Blavatnik for a dinner being hosted by The Atlantic magazine and Celerie Kemble and Boykin Curry “on the evening of the President’s Joint Address” to Congress.
Richard Meier, Eva Moskowitz and Philip Howard Connie Roosevelt
The Atlantic and the Currys have been hosting this dinner for a few years now. It is a cocktail followed by a pre-speech discussion led by some journalists or political writers. A couple of large flat screen TVs are set up for all to see. The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg and a contributing editor, Ta-Nehisi Coates led with some discussion and commentary. It is very relaxed in almost a collegiate way, but sharp in terms of political interest and guests. Dinner is served at just about the time the President comes out to speak. Afterwards there is more discussion and comment on the speech, the man and the time. It’s a great way to take in the President’s speech and it serves to stimulate all attending.

Aside from the President’s address, the crowd were most affected by the rising and applauding of the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who seemed to jump up to quickly and frequently that it became fodder for derision, if you catch my drift. And funny. Hmm ...

Among the guests: Ellen Abrams, John Stossel, Nicole Alger Guest and Zachary Karabell, David Appelson, Andre Balazs, Jeff Bercovici, Alex Blavatnik, Leonard and Emily Blavatnik, Janet Cerrutti, Ravenel and Beth Curry, Sean Dooley, Marc Ecko, Allison Ecko, Frederick Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen, Jeff Goldberg, Eric Grannis, Eva Moscowitz, Zachary Karabell, Gayle King, Rick Lazlo, Joel Klein, Chancellor New York City Department of Education; Jay Lauf, Publisher The Atlantic, Julie Macklowe and Billy Macklowe  Leslie Marshall and Bill Weld, Felicia Taylor, Peggy Siegal, Connie and Ted Roosevelt 4th, Kati Marton, Philip Howard, Steve Schwarzman, Frank McWhorter, Richard Meier, Sherman Meloni, Chris Meloni, Eric Mindich, Moby, Deborah Needleman, Jacob Weisberg, Susan and Alan Patricof, Michael Douglas E. Schoen, Ph.D., Dan Senor, Marcy Simon, Justin Smith, President of The Atlantic, Eliot Spitzer, Tom Stewart Julia Stiles, Peter Thoren, Jada Yuan.

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Photographs by Ann Watt (ACS & Paley)
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