Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A perfect, warm, sunny Autumn day in New York

A Haunted House on 74th Street between Fifth and Madison. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010. A perfect, warm, sunny Autumn day in New York. The foliage turned in the past two or three days, adding to the excitement of the season.

It was also a perfect evening for going out and from the looks of the calendar, there were a lot of New Yorkers on the town.

Such as: The Associates Committee of the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House hosted their annual dinner dance beginning with cocktails at Tiffany’s followed by dinner and dancing at “21.”
Up on Madison Avenue and 75th Street, the Whitney Museum of American Art was holding its annual gala benefit and after party. This is always a big, festive, black tie party with hundreds attending.

While over in Central Park under at tent at Rumsey Playfield (at 72nd Street) , the Central Park Conservancy was holding its annual Green Ball, known to one and all as the Halloween Party. Fantastic costumes or non-traditional black tie was the dress code. More than 400 attended the oostume/dinner dance and they raised $700,000. Costume Contest Prize Winners were: Best Group: The Tea Party, made up of the John Stossel Table; Best Individual: The Concession Lady, Julie Smith, who took a couple of weeks to make her costume. She took pictures of the real things and then modeled her “Stand In” stand after them. It was so real that as she was walking into the party, people asked if they could buy some chips; Best Green Costume: The Tea Bag Couple: Rosalind and Ken Landis. They stapled green tea bags all over his suit and her dress; and Best Couple: Sully and the Wayward Geese: Rick and Ana Blank.

Chairs were Suzanne and Bob Cochran, John and Judy Angelo, Kristy and Jonathan Korngold, John Stossel, Anita and Stuart Subotnick, Patsy and Jeff Tarr, Julie Wurts, Kipton Cronkite, Corrente Schankler and Amy Tarr. Proceeds benefit the Conservancy, which provides 85 percent of Central Park’s annual budget.
Emily Fincke. Dr. Jennifer Haythe and Eli Casdin.
Luis Mora, Kate Hughes, Robert Del Tufo, and Bruce Tilley.
Barbara and Phil Witt. Adam Levin, Heather McDowell, Cheryl Grosso, and Michael McGowan.
The Central Park gang.
Bill Cunningham getting in on the act.
Laurie and Brian Buckelew.
The Tea Bag Couple. Gillian and Sylvester Miniter.
Treasures of Central Park.
Brett and Greg Heyman. Fiona and James Benenson.
DJ Tom Finn.
Whitney Connor and Bill Finneran. Michael and Barbara Lakota.
Meanwhile down at Capitale on the Bowery, The 2010 Somaly Mam Foundation Gala, Hearts and Hands was hosting a benefit dinner to support the Somaly Mam Foundation and to honor Andy Prozes – CEO, LexisNexis Group – for his dedication and contributions to the cause.

Leading human trafficking activist Somaly Mam, herself a victim of it, spoke. There was an on-line auction at, live through November 18th. Somaly Mam Foundation is committed to ending slavery. With the vision and leadership of world renowned Cambodian Activist, Somaly Mam, the foundation focuses on eradicating the root of human trafficking, exemplifying a global vision and dedication that will allow its work in the United States and South East Asia to expand to other countries around the world. It works to give victims and survivors a voice in their lives, to liberate victims, end slavery, and empower survivors as they create a sustain lives in dignity.

Chairs for the evening were: Roland Berger, Lauren Bush, John Kluge, David Lauren, Petra Nemcova, Laura Heery Prozes, Robert Rigby-Hall, Susan Sarandon, Joan F. Tobin. The New York City Gala Committee included: Patrick Alcindor, Maria Bello, Peter Davis, Sally Field, Bryce Gruber, Francesca Hammerstein, Josie Hines, Henry Z. Horbaczewski, Alice Kandell, Michael Martin, Moises de la Renta, Jane Seymour, Ally Sheedy, Tia Walker, Alexa Winner, Arden Wohl, and Ulla Van Zeller.

Lexington Avenue and 50th Street looking north into the mist at 10:15 pm.
And not far from there at the Angel Orensanz Foundation at 172 Norfolk Street, The Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Rome, William B. Hart, Chairman Adele Chatfield-Taylor, President Laurie Anderson, Cabaret Curator Laurie Simmons, Video Curator, hosted the Academy’s 2nd annual Cabaret 2010. There were performances by: Laurie Anderson, Lisa Bielawa, Don Byron, Molissa Fenley, John Kelly, Nico Muhly, David Sanford, and the Pittsburgh Collective, Rosanna Warren. The do was catered by Katz’s Delicatessen, keeping things local.

Meanwhile, the doctors were out with their causes too: The Orthopaedic Foundation for Active Lifestyles held its 6th annual Gala fundraiser at Espace on 635 West 42nd Street. They honored George K. Kollitides, II, Managing Director, Cerberus Capital Management LP and James R. Andrews, MD, one of today's leading orthopaedic surgeons. Dinner was prepared by Celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse and the evening featured a special performance by John Oates of the famous duo Hall & Oates. The gala will benefit the Foundation's research and education in the field of musculoskeletal diseases and the fellowship program.

The Orthopaedic Foundation for Active Lifestyles, developed by Kevin Plancher, MD, is a not-for-profit whose principal mission is to promote, support, develop and encourage research and education concerning orthopaedic care and advancements in technologies ad treatment of arthritis, orthopaedic injuries and musculoskeletal diseases.

I started out the evening stopping off at Cartier which was hosting the French Heritage Society’s annual Gala Kick-off Party with a cocktail reception. There was a big crowd when I arrived at a little after seven, including Cartier vice-president, Anthony Ledru; its Assistant vice-president Mercedes Abramo, Elizabeth Stribling, Chairman of the Board, French Heritage Society, and the three co-chairs of the upcoming 3rd annual Gala, CeCe Black, Margo Langenberg and Jean Shafiroff.

This year their honoree will be Chef Ariane Daguin, inspired by the culinary and cultural wonders of her native Gascony in France, and proprietor of D’Artagnan restaurant here in New York.

Elizabeth Stribling and Anthony Ledru.
I was at Cartier long enough to get a picture of Libba Stribling and Mr. Ledru. The Gala’s Gascon flavor comes in anticipation of FHS’ 30th Anniversary, which will include a cultural trip through Gascony culminating with a spectacular Gala Dinner and Ball and with a fireworks finale at the Château de Fontainebleau on October 13, 2012.

French Heritage Society is dedicated to protecting French architectural legacy in France and the United States, with emphasis on preservation and education, the Society fosters long-established French-American relationships through cultural exchanges. It has contributed to over 460 restoration grants and provided more than $18 million dollars, to projects in virtually every department in France and to properties in the United States which reflect France’s historic influence.

I left Cartier at nearly 7:30 and walked the two blocks east and south over to the Waldorf for the 2010 Alzheimer’s Rita Hayworth Gala. The streets and avenue were jammed and there was a big crowd in front of the Waldorf – evidently guests of the hotel going out for the evening. The air was almost misty. Traffic was very heavy.

I love the Waldorf. Every time I walk through its lobby I’m reminded of the first time I stayed there, still in college, in town with a fraternity brother around the holiday time for the coming out party of a girl who later became a friend and provided an early introduction to the New York I have been chronicling for these past 17 years. There is something substantial, something old-New York, and something new-New York about the Waldorf and time and interior designers have not erased it.
Michele Herbert, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, Naeem Khan, Marlyne Sexton, Ranjana Khan, and Chele Chiavacci.
Approaching the special elevator to the Grand Ballroom, I ran into Debbie Bancroft and Dana Hammond Stubgen who were in long dresses but heading up to the Whitney after attending the Rita Hayworth’s cocktail hour.

This is the 27th year of the gala, started all those years ago by Rita Hayworth and Prince Aly Khan’s daughter Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. Each year Yasi (Yazzy), as she is known to her legions of dedicated friends, continues to inspire a large group of New York women to stage this event. It’s always a fashion parade, always a festive dinner dance and it’s never lost its lustre. In that time the Gala (which is also staged in others cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles) has raised $54 million for the cause ($30 million from the New York gala).
The Starlight Orchestra entertaining as guests entered the Grand Ballroom.
The special chandelier for last night's gala.
DPC's place at the table.
Each year the new chair, or co-chairs, seem to bring a fresh note of enthusiasm to the purpose. Michele Herbert was this year’s chair, along with Chele (pronounced shel) Upton Chiavacci. Michele, who is always ready for fun and a good party, always fashionable and who loves to dance, took the podium after Roseanne Cash performed a song for us, and talked about WHY we were really there, and the urgency of the matter.

It’s not a happy story, or festive, or a party or a dinner dance. The theme of the evening was “Experience the Mystery.” On the screen above Michele flashed the faces of dozens of famous people – household names – who were taken from us by this dread disease.

Michele added to the sobriety of the moment by citing the stats that we are all looking at whether we want to or not: a large percentage of men and larger percentage of women are facing the slow, mind-grinding onslaught of this mysterious disease. She reminded everyone that according to these new statistics not a table in the ballroom would be exempt from its visit. Furthermore it’s occurring earlier. They have a name for it. Early Onset Alzheimers. And it is occurring with people who are in the prime of their lives.
Somers Farkas and Nazee Moinian. Muffie Potter Aston with an amusing word to share.
Dennis Basso, Bettina Zilkha, and friends. Denise Rich.
Actually although I never read references to it, Rita Hayworth began demonstrating symptoms when she was in her late 30s. Her lifelong friend Hermes Pan, who was also a friend of mine, told me that when she was making “Pal Joey” with Frank Sinatra in 1957 (she was 39), she was having such a difficult time remembering her lines that Hermes choreographed her every move on camera, and they planted her lines in certain places on the set so that she could see them and remember. It was a long, long tragic road for Rita whom everyone first thought had a drinking problem. It was a great sadness for her famiy and for her many friends who loved her for her gentle sweetness that often disappeared as the disease set in.

Michele Herbert last night reminded everyone in the room, many of whom have attended many fundraising galas and dinners over the years, that great strides have been made in dealing, even conquering, diseases that plague us, but that the strides were made with funding for research. Alzheimer’s research is still greatly underfunded. And its potential under current circumstances is a timebomb for all of us, and for the nation as well.
Patty Raynes and friend. Colin Cowie coming up behind the unaware Hilary Gumbel.
Felicia Taylor laughing, Somers Farkas' backside. Model in a Naeem Khan getting the fashion once over from designer Kim Hicks and friend.
Alexandra Lebenthal, who chaired last year’s gala, took the podium and talked about her own experience with the dread illness: her mother, who died this past year at 79 after ten years of deteriorating and disappearing from her self and her loved ones. Alexandra again reminded us of what lay ahead for many of us under the present circumstances, reaffirming Michele Herbert’s request that we all contribute to funding research. She suggested that even $10 from each and everyone of us might move the mountain between the present and the future in treating this horrendous disease. (Michele and Larry Herbert pledged $50,000 in an effort to encourage others present to do something similar or comparable).

So. Chele Chiavacci, the gala co-chair told the audience that they’d raised $1.2 million so far last night.
Muffie Potter Aston and friend. Della Rounick and friend.
Ghislaine Maxwell making her way across the dance floor Dennis Basso and Michael Cominotto.
Andrea Stark with a friend. Lucia Hwong Gordon and Tom Gates.
Averil Meyer, my Facebook friend. Judy Gordon Cox.
That was the Gala’s message. A harsh one, set in this most marvelous evening of music (Valerie Romanoff’s Starlight Orchesta) and food and women dressed for a Rita Hayworth movie. They honored Naeem and Ranjana Khan and Marlyne Sexton. Naeem Khan is a very successful women’s dress designer and his work was modeled throughout the ballroom on many of the committee members. Mrs. Sexton is a very successful real estate developer from Indianapolis who is also well known in philanthropic circles for her generosity and compassion. She was visibly moved in accepting her award, reminding us that she had lost her aunt to the disease only three months ago.

After the speeches, the Starlight Orchestra returned with the music, the dance floor filled (and stayed filled) and the place rocked. That’s New York; always New York.
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Photographs by DPC (Alzheimer's) and Ann Watt (CPC)
Comments? Contact DPC here.