Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

Empire State Building. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Election Day. Yesterday was sunny and cold. Not freezing, but cold enough for a scarf and overcoat. Last night it went down into the mid-30s.

I will withhold my political opinions because they are irrelevant to anyone other than myself. However, I am as curious as the next guy as to who will “win” in the same way I like to know about the future (which is impossible).  I do not believe either candidate can solve the terrible financial dilemma that the world is now in.

Carter and Amanda Burden.
I have been following politicians and political affairs for most of my adult life. When I was younger I volunteered for several campaigns including Ed Koch when he was running for re-election to Congress and Carter Burden when he ran a councilman campaign here in New York in 1969. Campaigning was basically knocking on doors and telling the neighbor about the candidate. I enjoyed it every time because I like people and you meet a lot of very nice people. You meet some real doozies too. But that’s life.

In this election I don’t know either of the candidates personally, nor have I ever met or even seen either one.  I have been around “important” people long enough and frequently enough to know that they’re not that easy to know anyway. No matter how much time you spend in their presence or what they tell you. On the other side of the issue, running for office, whatever the level or the party, is a very very hard job and not one that most people could tolerate.

Now that you know what I think, here’s last night in New York. More people are getting their electrical and phone power back in the immediate area. Still, many people are in the throes of deep hardship, having lost homes, heat, water, power, cyber-connections. All of those matters are profound. The worst is loss of home.
Another scene from Far Rockaway: New Yorkers never lose their sense of humor.
This is also one of the busiest times of the year in the social world of galas and fundraisers. These “socials” are no small matter because millions are raised, much of which goes to improving the quality of life and health for all of us.

At this time of year, as you’ve read here before, there are often several every week night (Monday through Thursday).  Last night was no exception although there was one cancellation which I noted in yesterday’s Diary: The Library Lions dinner was cancelled. In a letter to supporters yesterday morning, Anthony Marx, the President of the New York Public Library explained that the evening’s meal (for 600) would be donated to the citizens of Staten Island which had been hit catastrophically in some places.

Timeless Design Award Honoree Julian Fellowes.
I planned to start the evening at a cocktail reception Carolyne Roehm was hosting at her apartment for Nathan Turner and his new book “Nathan Turner’s American Style; Classic Style & Effortless Entertaining.”

I didn’t get there. All best intentions, I figured I’d go from there over to the Metropolitan Club on 60th and Fifth where the Royal Oak Foundation was holding its annual Timeless Design Gala with the Timeless Award going to Julian Fellowes. Mr. Fellowes is the man behind “Downton Abbey.” He wrote it and as you may know, he has a towering talent for keeping us intrigued with his characters. Several years ago, he wrote a novel about contemporary upper class British people called “SNOBS” that was hilarious. You laugh out loud at their personalities and antics and rank superficiality. If you haven’t read it, get it. It will make you feel better about anything.

So my intention was to go over there just to take a picture of Mr. Fellowes to show you who was in New York yesterday. I didn’t get there.

Last night at the Waldorf, a black tie affair, Lenox Hill Hospital held its “Autumn Ball” honoring Elie Wiesel with a performance by Cyndi Lauper.  Big party; didn’t make it. Over at the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton New York, Career Transition for Dancers hosted their 27th Anniversary Jubilee honoring Liza and hosted by her fellow dancer Chita. The evening was called “Jump For Joy” which is what dancers just do.

All interesting stuff, but sometimes I'm only one person.

I did get over to the The Carter Burden Center for the Aging’s 41st Anniversary Gala at the Mandarin Oriental.  As I said, I volunteered in Burden’s first campaign, so there’s a connection to my interest. He was a glamorous figure in those days – rich and married to Amanda Mortimer, Babe Paley’s daughter. At that point in his life he was a media celebrity. He won a hard fought race and he served his constituency well. One indication of that is the Center which benefited last night.

Burden did not have a long political career despite his constructive successes for his people. Someone close to him back then told me after he’d decided to get out of politics that he was very disillusioned by the process. Nevertheless, 41 years later, his sensitive and far-thinking creation is going strong – in many ways stronger and more effective than ever, thanks to his widow Susan Burden (who also has a generous hand in New Yorkers for Children).
Susan Burden, Carter Burden's widow. Jeff Weber, Chairman of the board of the Carter Burden Center for the Aging.
We wrote about the Center a few years ago when we covered one of their daily luncheons for the neighbors in a little church in the East 70s. As was its founder’s original intention, The Carter Burden Center’s work is supporting the efforts of older people to live safely and with dignity, while focusing on changing the face of aging. In other words, to help the neighbors, especially those who are infirm or without family, and to assist in getting people out. It’s wonderful and every community should have one.

Last night they honored Joshua Harris, who is a financier and partner in Apollo Global Management. Mr. Harris also owns with some other investors, the Philadelphia ‘76ers, so the theme of the evening was “The Magic of Sports.”

This was a clever move. I think it’s the first time I’ve been to a major fundraising dinner where the “entertainment” was Sports. I’m not a sports fan per se, but it was really fun. The special guest was “Dr. J,” or Julius Erving, a Hall of Famer and former 76er.  “Dr. J,” as any sports fan knows is a rather distinguished sports star, now grey-haired, tall and stately in his presence, very at ease in public speaking and wearing his great success with a quiet dignity.  In his talk he accepted a few questions about himself and his life in sports. The audience loved it.
Dr. J.
One of the evening’s co-chairs was Jeff Weber, president of York Capital Management and Chairman of the Board of the Carter Burden Center for the Aging, who has known Mr. Harris since college. Harris is one of those energetic fellows who excels in whatever he undertakes. For example at Harvard he became a Rhodes scholar.

Now a longtime success investment manager, father of five, Harris is active in the community serving as Chairman of the Department of Medicine Advisory Board for The Mount Sinai Medical Center and on the Board of Trustees of the Mount Sinai Medical Center. He is also a member of The Federal Reserve Bank of New York Investors Advisory Committee on Financial Markets; a member of The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Undergraduate Executive Board; and is on the Board of Trustees for The Allen-Stevenson School and Harvard Business School.
Alexandra Lebenthal and her father James Lebenthal. Last night's honoree, Joshua Harris.
It may have been Jeff Weber who got Harris involved with the Burden Center. Unlike many of these events, the room was packed with Wall Street people, the majority of whom were men in their mid-forties and under. This is an unusual demographic for a gala, and it was very successful in raising $1.1 million for the Center.

The speeches were not long, although Dr. J could have spoken for an hour, everyone enjoyed his company so much. There was a short film about why so many people like sports with some eyewitness recollections, many of which were highly enjoyable and sometimes hilarious. A simply great evening. Dinner was at 8 (after a 7 PM cocktail reception) and it was over by 9:45. Mission accomplished and for a good cause. www.burdencenter.org.

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