Monday, May 11, 2015

Right at the peak

A field of daffodils in Theodore Roosevelt Park with the 79th St Greenmarket on Columbus Avenue in the background. 11:00 AM. Photo: JH.
Monday, May 11, 2015. A beautiful weekend in New York. Sunny and warm, like perfect summer days and evenings.

We are right at the peak of the Spring social season in New York with fund-raising galas and award evenings going on nightly.  There are so many that we are way behind in our coverage. The good news is that these events are raising literally tens of millions for their causes.

For example, on Thursday, April 30, more than $10 million was raised just between two black tie galas --  the City Harvest annual “Evening of Practical Magic” at Cipriani 42nd Street where they raised a record $3.2 million, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s annual Hot Pink Party: The Pink Standard at The Waldorf where they raised a record-breaking sum of nearly $7 million.
The Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria at full capacity at Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s annual Hot Pink Party: The Pink Standard
At the BCRF, they  honored Leonard Lauder with the 2015 Roslyn and Leslie Goldstein “Sung” Hero Award. The room was designed in pink and gold to reflect the grandeur of Mr. Lauder’s incredible achievements, including his irreplaceable guidance in growing BCRF to become one of the largest private funders of breast cancer research in the world.

Elizabeth Hurley, a longstanding advocate and Global Ambassador for The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, hosted the evening with the annual appearance by Sir Elton John, the event featured a moving performance by eighteen-time Grammy Award winner Tony Bennett.
Elizabeth Hurley
Myra Biblowit
Eliana Lauder, Danielle Lauder, and Rachel Lauder
Dr. Larry Norton
Dr. Clifford Hudis
Roz Goldstein
Sir Elton John and Tony Bennett
Danielle Lauder, Eliana Lauder, Myra Biblowit, Tony Bennett, Elizabeth Hurley, Sir Elton John, and Rachel Lauder
Leonard Lauder
Noteworthy guests included Judy Glickman Lauder, William Lauder, Laura and Gary Lauder, Aerin Lauder, Jane Lauder, Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder, Sir Elton John, Elizabeth Hurley, Tony Bennett, Neil Patrick Harris, Tory Burch, Donna Karan, Zac Posen, Vera Wang, Amy Robach and Andrew Shue, Kinga and Edward Lampert, Alexandra Richards, Jamie Tisch, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, Alison Wright, Miss USA Nia Sanchez, Victor Cruz and Elaina Watley, Denise Bidot, Carmen Marc Valvo, Tom Arnold, Eric Decker and Jessie James Decker, and Caroline and Sidney Kimmel.

With Mr. Lauder’s guidance, BCRF is the highest rated breast cancer organization in the U.S., funding 230 leading cancer researchers across six continents. The results are clear: since its founding by Evelyn H. Lauder in 1993, BCRF has been deeply involved in every major breakthrough in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.
Leonard Lauder, Judith Glickman Lauder, Sir Elton John, Susan Benedetto, Tony Bennett, and Elizabeth Hurley
Anthony von Mandl, Sir Elton John, Myra Biblowit, Tony Bennett, and Elizabeth Hurley
Donna Karan
Rachel Lauder, Sir Elton John, and Danielle Lauder
Alison Wright
Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley
Alexandra Richards
William Lauder and Lori Kanter Tritsch
Aerin Lauder and Jane Lauder
To date, the BCRF has raised more than $550 million to advance the world’s most promising breast cancer research. “When Evelyn founded BCRF,” Mr. Lauder told the evening’s guests, “she had a vision that we would one day cure breast cancer. I have been so proud to lead BCRF in striving to reach that goal. Today, breast cancer survival rates and treatment options have dramatically improved—we did that through science. The advances we’ve made through BCRF are incredible and I am deeply grateful to all of our supporters.”

Event co-chairs included Tory Burch, Cindy and Rob Citrone, Marjorie Reed Gordon, Mindy and Jon Gray, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Kinga Lampert, Aerin Lauder, Laura and Gary Lauder, Jane Lauder, Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder, Judy Glickman Lauder, William P. Lauder, Pat and John Rosenwald, Daryl and Steven Roth, Jeanne and Herbert Siegel, Ingrid Sischy and Sandra Brant, Jamie Tisch, Lizzie and Jon Tisch, Vera Wang, Lois Robbins Zaro and Andrew Zaro.
Jon and Lizzie Tisch
Dr. Clifford Hudis, Ingrid Sischy, and Sir Elton John
Victor Cruz and Elaina Watley Cruz
Eric Decker and Jessie James Decker
Susan Benedetto, Tony Bennett, Hadley Spanier, and Danny Bennett
Miss New York Nicole Kulovany
Denise Bidot
MIss USA Nia Sanchez
Maria Baum, Stacy Pollock, and Christina Steinbrenner
Mary-Ann Freda and Alessandra Freda
Vanessa Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
Jane and Joe Pontarelli
Dr. Larry Norton, Myra Biblowit, Kinga Lampert, and Mary Dillion
The event’s underwriters included Rafanelli Events, Winston Flowers, ANN, INC., Rob and Cindy Citrone, von Mandl Family Foundation, Kinga Lampert, Brighton Collectibles, Condé Nast, Firmenich, Roslyn and Leslie Goldstein, Hearst Corporation, Caroline and Sidney Kimmel, Leonard Lauder and Nancy and Howard Marks.
Leonard Lauder, Laura Lauder, and Gary Lauder
Neil Patrick Harris and Lizzie Tisch
Renee Rockefeller, Jeff Zucker, and Jamie Tisch
Andrew Zaro and Lois Robbins
Tony Spring, Anne Keating, Zac Posen, and Cindy Bruna
Tory Burch and friends
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka
Gigi Mortimer and Avis Richards
Jessica Joffe and John Demsey
Edgar Bronfman and friends
Clarissa Bronfman and friends
Jamie Tisch and Tom Arnold
More catching up. Last Monday night at the Hudson Theater, more than 200 guests were attending the American Cancer Society’s benefit A Spring Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch featuring the music of “Sweet Smell of Success”.  The evening raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the critical cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services supported by the American Cancer Society.

Lily Safra, the billionaire widow of late banker Edmond Safra, was the honoree for the tireless support she has given to medical research. Michael Douglas, last year’s honoree and a Bedford neighbor of the evening’s Chairman Terre Blair Hamlisch (widow of the late composer Marvin Hamlisch), gave a special speech thanking the American Cancer Society for their work and for his award from 2014. 
Michael Douglas
Diana Feldman
The performance at A Spring Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch featuring the music of “Sweet Smell of Success."
Discovery Communications, Inc.’s Joseph Abruzzese and his wife Sherri Abruzzese were the Co-Chairs for the evening. 

Among the guests attending were Susan Lucci and Helmut Huber, CeCe Cord and Virgil Price, Charlotte Ford, Topsy Taylor, Patricia Kluge, Susan Gutfreund, Ann Nitze, Lynn Wyatt, Lauren and John Veronis, Ambassador Brenda Johnson and J. Howard Johnson, Ambassador Charles Gargano, The Honorable Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Jeanne Lawrence, Lauren Lawrence, Christie’s Francois Curiel, Adrien Meyer, Ada Zambetti, John Terwilliger, Laura Codman, Barbara Cates, Fern Tailer, Ted Hartley and Jim Mitchell.
Lauren and John Veronis
Steven Levy, Linda Levy, Deborah Krulewitch, and Peter Krulewitch
Ashley Kadakia and Marc Porter
Lily Safra and Lynn Wyatt
Joseph Abruzzese, Sherri Abruzzese, Gail Muszynski, and John Muszynski
Tyce Diorio, John Simpkins, Matt Schmeidel, and Chris Dallos
Firooz Zahedi and Beth Rudin DeWoody
Jeanne Lawrence, Patricia Kluge, and Lauren Lawrence
Lily Safra and Terre Blair Hamlisch
Both of these charitable organizations are also blessed with longtime loyal supporters. This is not unusual in this city where many organizations have succeeded spectacularly because of the devotion of its volunteers and organizers. Leonard Lauder has been behind the BCRF from the beginning. Yes, it was his wife’s creation, but his efforts more than doubled its effectiveness, and since Evelyn Lauder’s death four years ago, Leonard Lauder has only increased his commitment to the organization.  

Diana Feldman, “volunteer” Chairman of Special Events, as she refers to herself modestly, helped put together a brilliant evening at the Hudson Theater.  Diana was and has long been a major force putting together the American Cancer Society evening as well as their other public events. She has raised millions of dollars for the fight against cancer. 

This kind of commitment of Mr. Lauder and Mrs. Feldman is philanthropy at its purest. Theirs is compassionate and almost religious in nature.
Charlotte Ford, Diana Feldman, and Topsy Taylor
Adam Jacobs, Marc Kudisch, and Jeremy Jordan
Charles Gargano, Terre Blair Hamlisch, and Marc Kudisch
Tamar and Ranan Lurie
Virgil M. Price II, CeCe Cord, and Ambassador Brenda Johnson
Ann Nitze
Helmut Huber and Susan Lucci
Fern Tailer, John Terwilliger, and Susan Gutfreund
Rahul Kadakia and Kris Kim
Adrien Meyer and Emma Kronman
Marion Meyer and Gregory Molin
Craig Waller, Wendy Strong, The Honorable Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, and Tweed McElveen Bogache
I don’t get the Wall Street Journal because I’m a long time Financial Times subscriber and that along with the Times and the Post  as well as the British papers online, is enough for one day’s reading. But a friend sent me an article last week that ran in the WSJ about the social life of our Mayor. Or rather the alleged un-social life of our Mayor de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray.

According to the piece whose most quoted source is Peggy Siegal, the film publicist whose main work is promoting films and social events around them, the de Blasios do not go out to many social events – such as those at the beginning of this Diary.

Mayor de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray.
The de Blasios and their aides took exception to the matter but the WSJ’s article – while acknowledging the de Blasios’ explanation – focused on Peggy’s opinion which was basically that the Mayor has (to quote her):

“disdain for the striving, successful New Yorkers and I have been told by insiders that he always listens to his wife, who also has disdain for the accomplished.”

“They obviously do not relate to New Yorkers who socially network to support charities ... They have made themselves socially irrelevant. It is a major shortcoming not to mingle with all classes.”

Two things about this article struck me. The first is that the Mayor of the City of New York is a multi-faceted assignment and a 24/7 job. It has never been a job where a mayor attended a lot of social/philanthropic functions which requires social networking.

In the history of the city, I can think of only three mayors who apparently liked any kind social life (in different circumstances) who were out and about at social events. One was Philip Hone, who was briefly mayor in 1825-1826 and after that kept a famous diary of his life in the city in the first half of the 19th century. The second was Jimmy Walker, the legendary mayor from 1926 to 1932, who loved the nightlife back in the days when philanthropic social events rarely ever occurred and when they did rarely if ever was the Mayor invited.

Philip Hone, Mayor of New York City from 1826–1827.
Jimmy Walker served as mayor from 1926 to 1932.
Our previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
Gentleman Jimmy as he was popularly known was arguably the most popular mayor in the history of the city. His nightlife was considered scandalous by many – out with chorus girls at speakeasies until 5 am (with a wife at home and presumably in bed) – but the people loved him for doing what he liked to do.

And the third “social” mayor on my list was our last mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Mr. Bloomberg is also one of the most active and generouis philanthropists in the city’s history and in the country; and for many years before he became mayor, he frequently attended many major black tie galas and awards dinners that could be deemed “social.”

After he became mayor, he refrained from most of these unless he was speaking, and even then he most often appeared in a business suit and immediately after his speech left the room, although many of the attendees were very often friends and acquaintances of his. I always had the impression, true or false, that he was off to another mayoral responsibility.  He also noticeably left his black tie at home.

I have lived in New York since the Mayoralty of Robert F. Wagner Jr. through John Lindsay, Abraham Beame, Ed Koch, David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani. All of these men made frequent public appearances for the city. Not one of them gave much time to social events other than personal engagements. I don’t know why so many eschewed the “social” life, other than the obvious: they had a lot of work to do in their office. The Mayor of the City of New York is possibly the most demanding elected public service job after the Presidency.

The second matter that comes to mind about this article was when Peggy Siegal referred to Mr. and Mrs. de Blasio not “mingling with the classes,” she obviously meant the wealthier ones whose company she cultivates solely and aggressively. She is very successful in film and film industry promotion. She has been at it for a long time, and has the personality to deal with many egos and temperaments especially those in the film and television industry.

As far as classes go, however, Peggy is famous for her pronounced lack of interest in anybody who is not to her “class” liking. The “classes” she aggressively likes to mingle with are the rich and the celebrated. Her behavior toward other “classes” is less alluring, to put it kindly, or respectfully. In fact, she’s often careless in her remarks about and behavior toward those she clearly has no interest in or use for.

I don’t know the de Blasios. I’ve never met either the Mayor or his wife. I heard him speak last year at a Wildlife Conservancy dinner in Central Park where Hillary Clinton was honored. He seemed genial, articulate and intelligent. His speech was appropriate since he had once worked under Mrs. Clinton.

The mayor and his wife have been remarkably unpopular with many members of the moneyed classes almost since the first day in office. Many claim that he is only mayor because so many did not vote. They forget that Mr. Bloomberg’s second re-election was not by any means a landslide. Much of the problem in today’s politics is the extreme apathy the public has for its political candidates and leaders. For good reasons. That is the conundrum facing us today, not mayors' social lives.