Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In Kind

Looking north from Union Square West. 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016.  Rain in the morning and sunshine in the afternoon, temp in the high 50s, yesterday in New York.

This was a very energetic day, filled with energetic people. There were two book signings last night. Over at the Racquet and Tennis, there was a cocktail celebration in honor of Chuck Pfeifer and his new “combat” autobiography “DAIWI.” 

At the same hour, several blocks away on East 57th Street, Connie and Randy Jones were hosting a book signing and dinner for their friend Marc Rosen and his memoir “Rubbing Shoulders; My Life with Popes, Princes, Moguls and Movie Stars.” 

Meanwhile at Cipriani 42nd Street, City Harvest was hosting its annual “Evening of Practical Magic.” While down at the Waldorf in the Grand Ballroom The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was hosting its annual “Hot Pink Party” with  Elizabeth Hurley as emcee.
The main gallery outside the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria last night for the Breast Cancer Research gala. The lady in pink is Susan Burke with her husband Coleman talking to Bill Cunningham of the Times.
Earlier in the day, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children hosted its Spring Luncheon at the Pierre, while just a block away, at the Metropolitan Club, God’s Love We Deliver was hosting its annual “Authors in Kind” literary luncheon honoring three authors: Lesley Stahl, Lisa Scottoline, and Amanda Freitag, with another author, Linda Fairstein emceeing the event.

I was invited to all of them (for the obvious reasons). And frankly I would have liked to go to all of them for reasons of friendship as well as for the tasks of life that each of them represents. Last night I chose the BCRF “Hot Pink Party” because they’d asked me well in advance, but mainly I wanted to go as a way of paying homage to its founder, the late Evelyn Lauder.
The tables. The spiked blossoms in the centerpiece are Protea, also called Sugarbushes. The pink leaves are Ginger.
Evelyn was one of those women who made a difference in the lives of many women, men and children. She died five years ago in November and every year afterwards I’ve wished she could be here to see what she’d done for so many – which was her intention – for she was a natural beacon of hope. No doubt it was her very own for although she lost her ultimate battle, she changed the game for everyone before she left.

Last night’s party had the theme “Goes Wild.”  Like in a jungle. Which one, I can’t tell you but it was mainly upbeat – with actual bongos on stage and Caribbean dancers (I think they were Caribbean in intent). But I’ll tell you more about it when I’ve got more time.
The dancers performing with the bongos and drums on stage of the Grand Ballroom as guests entered for dinner.
Leonard Lauder opens the evening.
And introduces our emcee, Elizabeth Hurley.
Elton closed the evening. He has been donating his time to this benefit for many years. He told the guests before he sat down to play that he lost his closest friend to breast cancer last year. It was a sober moment and set the tone for his first song, "Tiny Dancer ... now she's in me, always with me, Tiny Dancer ..."
The God’s Love Authors luncheon had a big crowd. The authors being honored were all women, well known and accomplished. Linda Fairstein is another one of those women. She’s publishing her 18th Alex Cooper detective novel this July. That’s one a year. Besides the new one, she’s got a new series with a female character of a much younger age, playing detective, a la Nancy Drew, the famous children’s series that Linda read when she was one of those little girls. It could be said that that simple example is what directed the lady’s life. Watching her yesterday on the podium, I think she should host the Academy Awards. Put some sauce, grit and wit into the grim shimmering lumbering show that it is today. She’s not Bob Hope, but she’s funny, and she’s on point – something everyone’s hungry for these days.
After we settled down at table, she started telling the story of the 30-year journey of God’s Love We Deliver and how it all began. Her words for it are better than mine, so I borrow. She explained referring to the creation and development of this great human venture that they delivered 1.5 million meals last year to more than 6000 New Yorkers of all ages with all categories of need:

“(It was) ... A stunning journey that can actually be traced to its source – a single human being – a woman named Ganga Stone, not able to be with us today, but a true visionary who understood the power of food as love, of food as medicine. Gaga was a hospice volunteer at the very height of the AIDS epidemic in New York. Her friend Richard Sales was terminally ill, and Ganga made it her practice to visit Richard, riding her bicycle to his home, bringing him groceries to nourish him.

“But when she returned days later and found the food untouched, Ganga realized that Richard didn’t have even the strength to prepare the food she brought to him.  So Ganga was inspired to return with a cooked meal instead, and her regular visits were noticed in the neighborhood.  One day a minister stopped to ask what she was doing there every day. 'Delivering meals to sick friends ...' was Ganga’s response. To which the minister responded, 'You’re not delivering meals, you’re delivering God’s Love ...'”

And that is how the organization got its name.
Linda Fairstein, Lisa Scottoline, Amanda Freitag, and Lesley Stahl.
Linda continued: “That is what this organization does so brilliantly into its 31st year: they cook food – individually designed for the nutritional needs of each client, no matter what the illness or the age. And they personally deliver the meals to their clients, to their friends. They serve men and women with more than 200 individual diagnoses. They nourish them, as we do our children, as we do their caregivers.

“In the year since the last luncheon, God’s Love has delivered 1.5 million meals to 6200 people – both all-time records. When they held their first “Authors Luncheon” in 2003, they were feeding less than one-third that number of people.

“They have an extraordinary staff and volunteers. Last year they acknowledged 8000 volunteers. This year they will number 10,000. Many of these angels arrive at their spanking brand new Michael Kors kitchen at 6:15 am to start chopping and prepping ingredients for the chefs. These are people who do this before they go to work in the morning. More shifts roll in at 9 am and then at 1 pm and 4 pm and 6 pm, Sunday through Friday."
Cocktails in the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Club.
“They prep and pack the boxes of food, or they ride on the delivery trucks so that they see and talk with the clients. On Thanksgiving Day, on Christmas, on daily trips, even delivering the personalized birthday cakes to each person they serve throughout the year.  In the tradition of one woman on a bicycle, feeding one friend who was dying of AIDS.”

Linda couldn’t help riffing abouit mystery writers, she remarked how “the clubhouse we are sitting in was designed by Stanford White – I could find no murder on premises here – as we have had at some of our earlier hotel and dining venues for this lunch. There has been no murder to interest Cyrus Vance and his Cold Case and Special Victims Squad, who come every year – although Stanford White was shot to death at the old Madison Square Garden – of course, a famous New York story, by his lover’s husband – just as the band was performing a song called “I Could Love A Million Girls.”  So you’ve come to the right place for a safe haven.”
Jeff Pfeifle, Mark Brashear, Karen Pearl, David Ludwigson, Jon Gilman, LaMont Craig, Blaine Trump, David Terveen, and Mike Moran.
She remarked about the history of the club, “I bet those rich old gents – who were not very welcoming to ladies in those days – would be thrilled by all the blondes, all-babe trio of authors who grace the podium today.” (Freitag, Stahl and Scottoline.)

Although it definitely was not a ladies lunch, the room was full of prominent New York women including within my purview: Mary Higgins Clark, Louise Grunwald, Faye Wattleton, Lynn Sher, Blaine Trump, Diane Sawyer, Lesley Stahl, Cynthia McFadden, Marie Brenner, Peggy Noonan, Peggy Vance and her husband District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Karen Pearl with Michael Goldberg.
Chuck "The Baker" Piekarski and Blaine Trump.
Linda then introduced the honorees, authors in kind, beginning with Lisa Scottoline: (again, Linda) “I admired her from afar long before we met, and I fell completely under her spell in 1994 when her first novel, “Everywhere That Mary Went” was published. How could you not love a woman who created, back then, an all-ladies law firm – Rosata and DiNunzio? How I wanted to practice with them.

“Lisa is an Honors Graduate of Penn ... and she may have disliked the practice of law as much as I love it. So Lisa broke away to write novels. Going from Law to Literature (as some of us do call genre fiction), she has won just about every award in the business for one or another of her 26 Twenty six!  Novels. She writes non-fiction too – usually based on a column Lisa does for the Philly Inquirer -- often written with her daughter and referred to as Chick Wit.
Lisa Scottoline ("Most Wanted").
Linda Fairstein ("Killer Look").
Amanda Freitag ("The Chef Next Door").
Lesley Stahl ("Becoming Grandma").
Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella.
“She also teaches a course at Penn Law called Justice and Fiction. She loves animals, and has pets of all shapes and sizes which helps explain why my favorite title among her essages – having something to do with her two divorces is: ‘Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog.’

“Lisa loves the color pink and she loves Chanel. She is brilliant and hot and funny and stylish and loyal to her pals. Her book ‘Most Wanted’ is on sale for the firs time today! Today!! So you don’t get “hotter off the press” than that ... with a spectacular review in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune and more to come ...”

Then we were introduced to Lisa’s daughter who introduced her mother who is, as they used to say with awe and affection, “Hot as a pistol.” Straight talking at a fast clips, she led us into a consideration of truth as fiction as truth.
Lunch in the West Lounge.
Following Lisa Scottoline, we were additionally amused by Lesley Stahl talking about the nature of being a grandmother and how amazed she is about how much she is in the thrall of her grandchildren. As is her husband. And then came Amanda Freitag, a professional chef who also serves at God’s Love and has written a book on recipes that you can make at home and not go wrong (The Chef Next Door). "Food is love," Ms. Freitag observed with wonder. That’s what God’s Love We Deliver is all about – delivering love to our fellow humans.

Coincidentally, it was cold and raining when we went into the Metropolitan Club for the luncheon, and the Sun was out and shining when we departed.

Photographs by Nicola Bailey (GLWD)

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