Monday, May 7, 2018

Feeling the music and finding a cure

Setting up for tonight's Met Gala. Sunday, 7:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, May 7, 2018. We had a beautiful weekend in New York, although mainly overcast. Friday’s temps ran up into the record 80s, to the point where many who  had complained about the colder weather a few days before were now complaining about the hot weather visiting us. By Saturday and into Sunday with a possible threat of rain, the temps fell into the mid-60s and were welcomed.
The social calendar last week was brimming. Here are a couple of the highlights (with more tomorrow). On Tuesday evening over at the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic held its annual Spring Gala with An Evening with Audra McDonald and a salute to Daisy Soros, Crazy for Daisy!  The evening’s gala co-chairs were Diane and Paul Guenther, Ann and Charles Johnson, and Sana Sabbagh. The evening’s underwriters were the Johnsons, Ms. Sabbagh, and Didi and Oscar Shafer.

Daisy has been actively involved with the Philharmonic for more than 30 years. Besides being on the board, she is a longstanding member of the Volunteer Council. She and her late husband Paul Soros set up a special Conductors Fund a number of years ago so that the Philharmonic could engage the world’s most distinguished guest conductors.
Daisy has also long been a very active philanthropist in New York for many years, along with her husband. She has worked with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; International House; Weill Cornell Medical College; Venetian Heritage; Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Friends of the Budapest Festival Orchestra; American Austrian Foundation; The Metropolitan Opera; the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Rockefeller University, Foreign Policy Association. With Mr. Soros, she co-produced The Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, which supports 30 new Americans, immigrants or children of immigrants who are pursuing graduate school in the U.S. each year.

The evening began with a champagne reception at the David Geffen followed by Audra McDonald’s  performance with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Andy Einhorn. McDonald who gave a rich, full 90-minute concert of  American songs which included many standards by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Jerry Herman, Stephen Sondheim, Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane, among others.  The concert was followed by a dinner on the hall’s Promenade.

Daisy Soros with Maestro Marios Papadopoulos MBE.
That was Tuesday, and then ... on Thursday the indefatigable Daisy, or should I say mostest-hostess honored at the New York Phil, had a reception in honor of Maestro Marios Papadopoulos MBE, the Music Director of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he is also the founder. The Oxford is the Orchestra in residence at the University of Oxford.

Maestro Papadopoulos started the Orchestra in 1998.  It has won many international awards and hosted and collaborated with many of the world’s leading soloists. He is also a concert pianist. After his debut recital in 1975, the Times of London described him “as having all the attributes of one of the world’s greatest players.”

When I arrived at the Soros apartment I could see the grand piano on the other side of the living room in a space looking as if it were awaiting its conductor. I had another commitment so I could not stay long enough to experience the maestro’s performance.

I was on my way over to Sotheby’s for the annual Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation benefit dinner hosted by its founders, the Brothers Lauder, Leonard and Ronald.  This evening marked its 20th anniversary. I think I’ve attended most if not all of them. It is an event not uncommon in the New York social as well as philanthropic life. It’s a dinner, preceded by a cocktail hour, and in the Sotheby's galleries displaying their upcoming art in auction. The men wear black tie. But there is a serenity about this particular evening. It takes place in an environment that puts everyone at ease, while the subject at hand contradicts. And its founders project that with an optimism whiich is often hard to come by with this disease.

The goal is deadly serious. A cure. Leonard Lauder told us when he opened the evening, “At our first gala, I said my promise was that we will cure this disease. And thanks to all of you, we will do it!” 20 years on, the ADDF has funded more than $100 million for research. All of the funds raised go directly into research grants. The Lauders fund entirely the expenses of running the organization. This year they raised $2.6 million for Alzheimer’s research.
Ronald Lauder, who I believe originally had the idea which he took to his brother to collaborate on, took the podium after Leonard and noted that “the bold choices we made 20 years ago have changed the face of Alzheimer’s research.” There are now more potential treatments in clinical trials than ever before. Nearly a quarter of those treatments have made it through funding from the ADDF.

It is the only philanthropy solely focused on accelerating the development of drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. It is a disease that affects far more people than we read or hear about, and its numbers are, like the population, on the rise. Paula Zahn was the “emcee.” Paula has Alzheimer’s in her family. Like some other neurological diseases – such as Parkinson’s – it robs both the victim and the victim’s family of precious years of living.
Aerin Lauder, Robert S. Lauder, and Jane Lauder
Paul Fribourg, Judy Glickman Lauder, Paula Zahn, Mary-Ann Freda, Fabrizio Freda, and Leonard A. Lauder
Dr. Howard Fillit, who has been executive director of the ADDF since its inception, talked about the progress as a result of this. He explained how they have found something in gene therapy that is looking closer and closer to controlling the spreading of the disease. This is very scientific and I am not one to grasp these things quickly. But  it was clear that they are on to something very important. This is the explanation from the ADDF:

Researchers are working on gene therapy targeting APOE, the most significant genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's. There are three types of APOE: APOE2, APOE3, and APOE4. APOE2 is the rarest form and carrying even one copy appears to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's by up to 40%. APOE3 is the most common and doesn't seem to influence risk. The APOE4 allele, present in approximately 10-15% of people, increases the risk for Alzheimer's and lowers the age of onset. Having one copy of E4 can increase your risk by 2 to 3 times while two copies can increase the risk by 12 to 15 times. Gene therapy will aim to replace the APOE4 in cells with the protective APOE2 form. 
Dr. Howard Fillit
This information is, in a way, what I’ve come to expect from the Lauders’ philanthropic enterprises. Realistic hope. Their optimism, assisted by their natural can-do attitudes, infuses confidence. I went to that dinner because I’ve come to expect that movement toward  “a cure.” It is the kind of optimism that is rare in these hard times. When I listen to their reports of progress, I’m always reminded of the possibilities we always possess. Ronald and Leonard Lauder are demonstrating them for us.

There was an honoree for the occasion, and that was Fabrizio Freda, President and CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies. Mr. Freda in his acceptance told the guests: “Our company’s support of the ADDF reflects our family values – and our believe that corporations can’t just stand aside and depend on others to change things. With a billion of the world’s people now at risk of Alzheimer’s we have chosen to act, inspired by the vision and commitment of Ronald and Leonard Lauder.”
Fabrizio Freda and Leonard A. Lauder
Among those attending were Board members Carol Seabrook Boulanger, Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, Charles Cangro, Nancy Corzine, Nancy Goodes, Dr. Allan Green, Christopher Johnson, Bonnie Lautenberg, Larry Leeds, Tom McWilliams, Julie Medler, Dr. Pamela Newman, Phebe Farrow Port, Sharon Sager, Sally Susman, and Stephen Toma. Additional guests included Rosemarie Bravo and William Jackey, Alina Cho, Michael Clinton, John Demsey, Paul Fribourg, Ellery and Marjorie Reed Gordon, Marlene Hess and James Zirin, Jane Hertzmark Hudis, Eleanora Kennedy, Aerin Lauder, Jane Lauder, Jo Carole Lauder, Judy Glickman Lauder, William Lauder and Lori Tritsch, Donald E. Newhouse, Barry Sternlicht, Joan and George Schiele, Ann and Andrew Tisch, and George Vradenburg.
Andrew and Ann Tisch
Sharon Sager and Nancy Goodes Steven Leber and Bonnie Engelbardt Lautenberg
Bob and Susan Dickenson
Noa and Michal Grayevsky Jim Zirin and Marlene Hess
Chris and Vicki Kellogg with Jerry Klein
Katherine Mele and Donald E. Newhouse Judith Churchill and Carol Seabrook Boulanger
Alina Cho, John Demsey, and Nancy Corzine
Eleanora Kennedy and Aerin Lauder
Tom Savage and Julie Medler Larry Leeds
Joan and George Schiele
Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, Mark Roithmayr and Nancy Goodes Chris and Kiera Johnson
Laura and Stephen Toma
Michael Clinton and Paula Zahn
Cobey Rapaport and Mark Roithmayr Dr. Clifford Hudis and Jane Hertzmark Hudis
Patrick and Brooke Trousdale
Greg Kelly and Judith Grey Tom and Heidi McWilliams
Paula Zahn, William Lauder, and Marjorie and Ellery Gordon
Sheila Johnson Robbins and George Schwab
George Vradenburg and Lola Thomas

Photographs by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan (ADDF)

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