Wednesday, November 7, 2018. A very rainy Tuesday in New York with temperatures in the high 50s, low 60s. Election Day all over America.
This past Monday night in the Rose Reading Room of the Stephen M. Schwarzman building of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, they held their annual Library Lions Dinner.
Each year, the New York Public Library honors several distinguished individuals for outstanding achievements in their respective fields of arts, culture, letters and scholarship, naming them Library Lions.
This dinner always draws the crème de la crème of the social/philanthropic and literary crowd. More than 500 men in black tie and women beautifully dressed for it. It’s a very glamorous evening for these times.
The Reading Room is transformed through a theatrical change of lighting and flowers lining the centers of the reading tables. Upon entering, an orchestra was playing to greet the guests.
The evening was honoring Ron Chernow, Francis Ford Coppola, Jessye Norman, Claudia Rankine and Elizabeth Strout. Among the past Library Lions in attendance were Renata Adler, Henry Louis (Skip) Gates, Louis Begley with his wife, author Anka Muhlstein, Annette Gordon-Reed, Nicholas Leman, Zella and Norman Manea, Joyce Carol Oates and Charles Gross, David Remnick, Salman Rushdie, Simon Schama, Lionel Tiger and Calvin Trillin.
Among the guests attending were Angela Yee, Maya and Marcus Samuelson, Sana Sabbagh, Dixon and Arianna Boardman, Abby and Howard Milstein, Gillian and Sylvester Miniter, Kathy Rayner, Joan Hardy Clark, Jane Stanton Hitchcock and James Hoagland; Stephen and Christine Schwarzman, Tory Burch and William Macklowe, Andres and Lauren Santo Domingo; Sophia Coppola, Eleanora Coppola; Pietro Cicognani and Katherine Bryan; Lally Weymouth and Joe Cohen; Dr. Mahnaz and Adam Bartos, Stephen Aronson, Jane and Peter Marino, David and Shelley Wanger Mortimer, Yue Sai Khan, Gigi Mortimer, Kyle and Zibby Owens, Sharon Bush, Crystal McCrary, Ken and Kathy Chenault, Pilar Queen and Andrew Ross Sorkin, Beth Kojima, Sean MacPherson and Rachelle Hruska, Gay and Nan Talese, and now my memories beginning to doze off. Needless to say a great crowd, all of whom seemed to be delighting in the pleasure of this great evening in this extraordinary landmark building and room.
After the cocktail reception and the guests were seated, Evan Chesler, Chairman of the Library opened the evening, introduced Tony Marx, the Library’s President and CEO, who spoke about the Library and its progress with technology putting every book ever written online, as well as the billion dollar plans for expanding the Library’s facilities. After the remarks of Messrs. Chesler and Marx, that was it for the “speeches.”
We were then shown video interviews with each of this year’s honorees. These are interesting despite being brief for it gives everyone a glimpse of the personalities, all of which are uniquely interesting and human sans their public stature.
Then a former honoree, Renee Fleming, went up to the stage along with musicians Christian McBride and Dan Tepfer and with Jessye Norman in duo they sang Bacarolle from “Tales of Hoffman.” The two were in beautiful voice singing to each other across the room. Norman was seated at the head of the table next to ours, so I was no more than six or eight feet from her and the voice and the woman were magic to the eye, larger than life. While up on the stage Fleming matched the beauty and the voice. The two created a special thrill for everyone.
After their duet, the 2018 Lions received their medals. Instead of gathering in a line on stage, this year each honoree received the medal at their place at table while another member of the table assisted in presenting and placing it, all under a spotlight so everyone in the room could see.
Following the presentation, Renee Fleming gave us another song: Cole Porter’s “Down in the Depths (on the Ninetieth Floor) written for Ethel Merman in the 1936 Broadway musical “Red, Hot and Blue.” Fleming ain’t Merman (and vice versa), but she’s beautiful and so’s her voice and she made it her own.
(“With a million neon rainbows burning below me, and a million blazing taxis raising a roar, I’m deserted and depressed in my regal eagle nest, Down in the Depths on the 90th floor…”)
Then came dinner: Smoked Salmon with Tarragon Crème Fraiche, American Caviar, Shaved Radish and Peppercorn Vinaigrette. Then Braised Short Rib with Huckleberry Jus; Sweet potato puree, Chive Spaetzle and kale. Wines: Chateau Vill Bel-Air Graves Blanc, and Francis Ford Coppoloa Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon. (a fabulous red!)
Dinner was followed by dessert and book signing by the authors in the Astor at the first floor Fifth Avenue entrance to the building.
The evening raised $2.7 million which will contribute to the New York Public Library’s mission of providing essential, free services to New Yorkers and the world at large.
This year’s gala co-chairs included Dr. Mahnaz and Adam Bartos, HRH Princess Firyal of Jordan, Sana H. Sabbagh, Mr. and Mrs. Andres Santo Domingo, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Schwarzman, The Honorable Meryl H. Tisch, Mrs. John L. Weinberg, Mrs. Lally Graham Weymouth and Mr. Joseph Cohen and Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Yoseloff.
Also taking place in another part of the city’s canyons that night: Promoting the well being of New Yorkers over age 60, supporters of the Carter Burden Network gathered at the Mandarin Hotel for cocktails, dinner, and a “Beauty At Any Age” fashion show.
Founded by former City Council member Carter Burden in 1971, the Network provides a continuum of services, advocacy, arts and culture and volunteer programs to fight isolation among aging New Yorkers with love and belonging. Susan Burden and William Goldman, Margaret and Ian Smith co-chaired the gala.
The Glick Family/GPG Properties/Mautner-Glick Corporation was the evening’s honoree, and three generations of the Glick family, Alvin, his son Randy, and grandson Jason were cited for the firm’s ongoing support and compassion for the elderly in need. The Network’s original offices and new headquarters are located in GPG buildings.
Tables were set with sewing box centerpieces representing the CBN’s “Clothing Construction” activities, and senior participants modeled ensembles they had made in CBN’s sewing room.
Other activities in the Network’s seven locations include a senior luncheon club, caregiver resource programs, health and wellness programs, elder mistreatment and abuse prevention, and a Chelsea gallery which exhibits work produced by senior artists. — Sharon King Hoge
Photogrpahs by Carl Timpone/BFA.com (NYPL); Hechler Photographers (Burden)