A Better World

Where there’s art, there’s a better child, a better nation, a better world. Where there’s art, there’s also the American for the Arts National Arts Awards. Exactly 50% of all living New York City mayors attended: Mr. Dinkins had traded his habitual tennis garb for a tux, and Mr. Bloomberg delivered a poignant homily, playfully hopscotching in substance from Fantasia, a 17ft Burmese python currently on display at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, to a wonderful chicken dish he’d enjoyed during his last visit to L.A., to various art-related comments.

While the missing Mayor Rudy was accounted for as being on the road job- and white-house-hunting, the absence of living New York City hizzoner number four seemed a mite puzzling. Mayor Koch’s conspicuous awayness in conjunction with the cryptic reference in Mr. Bloomberg’s speech to python Fantasia understandably occasioned a few alert attendees to do the math. (The presumptive repast has since resurfaced unscathed. The pall of suspicion over Fantasia the Serpent has been lifted.)

The palpable mayor-centricism of this year’s ceremony at Cipriani 42nd Street was underscored by the presentation of a Special Recognition Award to The United States Conference of Mayors in honor of its 75th anniversary and for its longstanding support of funding for the arts in the cities.

A contingent of non-mayors figured prominently as well: minimalist painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly received the Lifetime Achievement Award; Wallis Annenberg of the Annenberg Foundation and actress Anna Deavere Smith were honored for Philanthropy in and Outstanding Contributions to the Arts respectively; and Music Industry and NAMM collected the Corporate Citizenship in the Arts Award. R&B singer-songsmith John Legend waltzed off with the Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence.

The lineup of presenters featured Ronald S. Lauder, C. Terry Lewis, Grammy-winning soprano Jessye Norman, the aforementioned Mayor Dinkins, and whiz-bang economist Jeffrey Sachs. Yoko Ono neither received nor presented anything but contributed to the arts by rocking a spiffy silver top hat.

A Bigger Apple

While many regard Capitol Hill as the greatest circus in the country, others prefer the more traditional kind with real clowns. It was mid-1977, the infamous Summer of Sam, when Paul Binder and Michael Christenson debuted the Big Apple Circus in New York City, now in its 30th year of enthralling audiences of all ages with spellbinding acrobatics, riveting animal stunts, and sidesplitting clowneries.

The Big Apple Circus Gala at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park under the Big Top Tent raised $1.2 million for programs like Clown Care, which trains professional “clown doctors” to buck up kids’ spirits in hospitals, and Circus for All, which provides discounted tickets for children in economic straits.

Big Apple’s 30th Anniversary Show Celebrate! features the beloved “Grandma the Clown” Barry Lubin, British ringmistress Carrie Harvey, an original musical score by Broadway’s Michael Valenti, plus the whole nine circus yards from high-wire jinks and juggling to canine antics, cavorting cats, prancing horses, and Russian hula-hoop wizardry.

A Diamond Named Sedaka

The royalties check came in the mail. Twenty-three hundred dollars. Wow. The 19-year-old show biz tenderfoot proudly dashed upstairs to break the happy news to his parents. Upon casting a skeptical glance at the physical evidence, mom quickly noticed her gloating progeny’s poor number comprehension skills: the check actually read twenty-three thousand dollars. A few moments of stunned silence later, Neil Sedaka decided that songwriting was definitely the way to go, and, effective immediately, his parental units suspended their efforts to talk him out of it.

A motley bunch of bards and minstrels gathered at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall to celebrate the prolific tunesmith with the mellifluent tenor voice for his Fifty Years of Hits: the perpetual bobbysoxer Connie Francis hiccupped her Stupid Cupid before revealing Where the Boys Are, American sort-of-Idol Clay Aiken excited quite a rush of Clay-mania among female spectators with his impassioned rendition of Solitaire, and Natalie Cole, Dion (The Wanderer), The Captain and Tennille, and the lovely Renee Olstead performed other selections from Mr. Sedaka’s extensive musical canon. David Foster, the “man with the golden touch,” emceed part of the show, Cousin Brucie also had a few words to say, and somebody must have left the Ed Sullivan Theater unlocked, for Paul Shaffer had escaped to join the merry sha-la-la-lala-lalala.

Finally, the Brill Building legend himself alighted at his Kiwai and skillfully demonstrated, once again, the audible why behind his enduring success. Human nature simply seems to be hardwired to enjoy the sound of Sedaka, just as we are all genetically biased in favor of vanilla ice cream.

Never short on confidence, in his teens the native Brooklynite had developed a bizarre habit of buying little 45 rpm’s, scratching out the names of singer and songwriter, and replacing them with his own “to see how it looked.” Most psychologists would have characterized such behavior a bit differently, but Neil Sedaka firmly insists that he had always been a “positive thinker.” Norman Vincent Peale may have had a point after all.

And the hits just keep on coming.

A Girl's Best Friend

Irrespective of what many men may claim, the fact remains that diamonds are the hardest things in nature. They form in the earth’s lithospheric mantle at a depth of 90-120 miles before being thrust upwards to within mining range via deep-origin volcanic eruptions. The bad news is that due to a dearth of volcanic activity in many parts of the world, the better part of global diamond reserves will always remain untapped. The good news is that after London and Moscow, “diamonaire extraordinaire” Lev Leviev has just launched his first U.S. retail outlet at 700 Madison Avenue.

Besides a state-of-the-art alarm system, the luxuriant boutique features more than 5,000 carats of diamondiferous merchandise alluringly displayed among its sumptuous silk, leather, and crystal décor. At the sparkly store opening, Heather Mnuchin, Gillian Hearst Simonds, and Denise Rich modeled 8.44, 25.13, and 29.6 carats of diamond jewelry respectively. Susan Sarandon arrived all spangled up with 50.6 carats, socialite (“I hate that word”) Nina Griscom wore 87.41 carats, and Isabella Rossellini had donned a hefty 149.57 weight units of the hard stuff. The exact caratage of Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti, Cynthia Lufkin, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer could not be ascertained with accuracy.

Leviev, the largest privately held cutter and polisher of diamonds, controls some of the most profitable private diamond mines in the world and also supports numerous charities.

Diamonds are forever, but they will melt at 6420°F—betcha didn’t know!

A Magical Evening

“It just so happened after I woke up, after 36 days in my coma, I looked up at the TV and saw that Dana had passed away … I couldn’t stop crying,” ABC reporter and shrapnel survivor Bob Woodruff said as he and his wife, Lee, accepted the Christopher Reeve Spirit of Courage Award at The Marriott Marquis in Manhattan. Aptly styled A Magical Evening, the gala raised close to $2.5 million for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Partaking of the magic, among many others, were Anne Hathaway, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, David Blaine, Richard Belzer, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Asked what magical powers he would like to possess, Robin Williams revealed that he would boost everyone’s IQ by 30 points. “We’re only one species, and we don’t want to bottom out,” he explained. On the other hand, increased intelligence may bump up our frustration levels, for no matter how much brainpower we may possess, chances are we’d still be at a loss to comprehend the vagaries of life, as so poignantly exemplified by the fates of Dana and Christopher Reeve.

Meryl Streep received the Dana Reeve Hope Award, “I feel like I’m standing in light that they cast.” The Visionary Leadership Award went to Henry G. Stifel, founding member of the American Paralysis Association, which later became the Christopher Reeve Foundation, before Dana’s name was added. Not only is the foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for the paralyzed, but also, ultimately, to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.

“We will make progress and maybe not even have to have this event because we’ve made so much progress,” 16-year-old Will Reeve declared, seconded by his siblings Alexandra and Mathew. Luckily, there is no shortage of Reeves to carry on the good fight.

Alles Walzer

Eins-zwei-drei—eins-zwei-drei—eins-zwei-drei. Life in Vienna is lived in triple time. The folks there don’t walk down the streets. They waltz. Ask a native Viennese to count to four, and he’ll panic. It’s true. Using psycho-analysis, Sigmund Freud, in his day, attempted to remedy this affliction among his compatriots, yet to no avail. As sure as halftime follows kickoff and Leno is followed by Conan, in the collective Austrian psyche the number three is invariably followed by one. Eins-zwei-drei-eins-zwei-drei.

Although, to date, no Macy’s Parade exists in Vienna, a cloned version of the legendary Vienna Opera Ball has been held in New York City since 1956. Under the aegis of the U.S.-Austrian Chamber of Commerce, the 53rd incarnation of the Viennese Opera Ball in New York was co-hosted by born-again Stephen Baldwin, the dazzling albeit born-only-once supermodel Carol Alt, and NBC’s Chuck Scarborough. Mr. Scarborough’s singing dog Oliver, however, had to stay home, because Oliver may have frightened the Pferd—indeed, a gig drawn by a live horse suddenly traversed the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf=Astoria!!!

Miss Teen USA Hillary Cruz (not to be confused with Miss South Carolina Teen USA Caitlin Upton of map question fame) and Riyo Mori, the reigning Miss Universe, plus their respective male West Point Cadet escorts joined the swirling debutantes, and that especially youthful-looking lady cavorting spryly about on the dance floor was none other than MGM legend Marge Champion. (I’ll have what she’s having!)

The white-tie waltzfest had drawn an international pallet-load of diplomats, among them Austria's US Ambassador Eva Nowotny, Austrian UN Ambassador Gerhard Pfanzelter, and Jordan's His Royal Ambassadorness Prince Zeid Ra. Peter Duchin and his Orchestra provided the requisite blanket of Strauss, and the ball’s proceeds went to CARE, a global humanitarian outfit.

Autumn Leaves

The falling leaves drift by the window … the autumn leaves of red and gold … September rain, the Autumn Dinner … then Halloween, and then the cold.

Somebody seems to have monkeyed around with Johnny Mercer’s scenic poetry to reflect the fact that The Frick Collection’s annual Autumn Dinner at the swanky Frick mansion has waxed a staple in New York City’s fall calendar. This year, the tony do hoovered in a record-breaking 1.4 million dollars for the Frick, virtually doubling the wonted tally.

A who’s who in philanthropy for the arts feasted on Baby Lobster and Caviar trailed by Scallops of Veal with Morels, Bouquetière de Legumés, and Galette de Pommes de Terre Trufflé. The French-savvy clearly had a leg up as far as knowing exactly what they were ingesting, but all agreed it was very délicieux. The nouritture was washed down in style with a 2003 Château Olivier Grand Cru Class de Graves, then topped off with a mound of toothsome Baked Alaska. (Only trained physicists can explain why ice cream doesn’t always melt at 450º F—something about the molecular structure of the enveloping meringue shielding the center from the heat.)

Calorie-conscious diners noted the waistline-friendly nature of the evening, for the meal’s immediate aftermath entailed a hefty dose of legwork as Frick Director Anne Poulet and Board President Margot Bogert delivered consecutive orations at opposite ends of the expansive museum—no indoor limousines stood by to ferry the masses hither and yon.

Following the workout, a commemorative Tiffany tray was presented to Sotheby’s crack auctioneer John Marion and to his wife Anne for their prodigious contributions to the world of art.

Ballet Lunch

Everything is beautiful at the ballet. And everything was extra-beautiful at the New York City Ballet Annual Luncheon, assuming one had a predilection for watching supple chaps in tights sashay their stuff sans distraction by a bunch of pesky ballerinas. After all, Ballet is Man–Too! (thus the headline of the afternoon), yet a masculine form of the word ballerina doesn’t even exist. Gynophobic balletomanes have long bemoaned the tutu set’s overall propensity for hogging the limelight. Alas, true gender parity is a long way off, even in the 21st century.

In order to redress this blistering inequality at least for a day, the female-heavy audience at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center—including Sex and the City inventress Candace Bushnell and 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl—were treated to a delectable lineup of male-only performances culled from George Baldachine’s timeless choreographies, followed by a panel discussion with NYCB Master in Chief Peter Martins and a few of his hung … oops … male ballerinas (for lack of a better term), followed by a tasty luncheon at the Theater’s Promenade.

Yes, real food was served as well.

Beach Ball

The 51st International Red Cross Ball at Mar-A-Lago featured more chairs than a furniture store:

Bill and Nancy Ellison Rollnick were the head chairs; Susan and James Keenan served as national chairmen; Sarah, Dutchess of York, as international chairwoman in absentia; Susan Telesco as committee chairwoman; Michelle Kessler as vice chairwoman; Anka Palitz, Sandy Krakoff, and Nancy Raquet as chairwomen at large; Mr. and Mrs. Leo Vecellios as honorary chairmen; Susan and Dominick Telesco as Ball Committee chairmen; Nancy G. Brinker as Honorary Chairwoman of Goodwill; Ivanka Trump chaired the Young Friends Gala dance bash held concurrently by the pool and vice-chaired by Elizabeth Meigher; and finally, the Mar-A-Lord of the Manor The Donald Himself officiated as Chairman of Ambassadorial Arrangements, which mainly entailed shaking various ambassadors’ hands and telling them they’re fired. Oops, wrong show.

Speaking of ambassadorial arrangements, following a 30-year run as Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Marion Smoak had passed the torch to former Ambassador to Denmark Stuart A. Bernstein, who rendered a flawless chief-of-protocoling debut. No breaches of protocol were reported.

Mr. Trump’s mother Mary attended in spirit via her fabled meat loaf atop truffled mashed potatoes, while blackened sea bass was offered as an alternative for the cholesterol-conscious among the tiaraed, gowned, and cummerbunded congregation. Peter Duchin and his Orchestra supplied a motley menu for the eardrums, and the calories consumed at dinner were soon converted into kinetic energy on the dance floor.

The International Red Cross Ball was launched in 1957 by Marjorie Merriweather Post, in whose honor two awards were presented to aforementioned Ambassador Marion Smoak as well as to Grand Benefactors Emeriti Lawrence and Florence De George.

The Prince and Princess of Hungary, somewhat confusingly named Archduke and Archduchess George of Austria; U.S. Senator and Mrs. Bill Nelson; Countess Henrietta De Hoernle; and some 400 additional individuals of distinction, including a fully uniformed detail of the 4th Anglico Marine Corps, supported the International Red Cross by way of their presence at this queen of white-tie-and-tails extravaganzas.

Blunder Bash

We all make mistakes. Ideally, we learn from our blunders rather than merely getting better at making them. After all, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. Or, as Charles Grodin so aptly put it, "If you don't get wiser as you get older, then you just get older." In this vein, Mr. Grumpy proceeded to compile a passel of confessions by celebrities of their memorable bloopers and featuring highly edifying oops-imonials by Carol Burnett, Goldie Hawn, Peter Falk, Shirley MacLaine, Gene Wilder, Peggy Siegal, Phil Mushnick, Rosie O’Donnell, Pete Hamill, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Robert Redford, and scores of other seasoned flubsmiths.

Benefitting Help USA, a national not-for-profit organization geared towards fostering empowerment and self-reliance of the needy, Maria Cuomo Cole joined author Grodin in hosting his book release party for “If I only Knew Then … Learning from Our Mistakes” at Le Cirque Restaurant. Since showing up clearly was no mistake, the potential to learn from the event was naturally limited, but among those who had a great time were Alan Alda, Richard Belzer, Gayle King, Joy and Regis Philbin, Elke and Ben Gazzara, Governor Cuomo, and Kenneth Cole.

Of course, the intriguing paradox arises whether one could learn more from buying the book or from making the mistake of not buying it. What say you, Charles Grodin?

Buffing the Apple

Start spreading the news: at the New Yorker for New York City Gala at the Waldorf=Astoria, the Citizens Committee for New York City raised $1.3 million for community improvement in the city that never sleeps. Mayor David Dinkins, Betsy Gotbaum, Charlie Rose, and Renee Fleming presented awards to several passionate champions of the city’s neighborhoods: Amanda M. Burden, Peter Gelb, Karen Cohen, Jack O’Kelley III, Bill Cunningham, and Karen Washington walked away with various trophies to signify their contributions in areas like public service, philanthropy, city planning, fashion photography, and running the Metropolitan Opera.

Founding chair Osborn Elliott, turning Adam Smith’s invisible hand on its ear, reminded the distinguished congregation of the power of the individual to effect positive change by putting the public good above personal interest. Mayor Bloomberg attended and applauded, but left the driving to others.

For over 30 years, the Citizens Committee for New York City has been in the trenches of boosting the quality of life in the greatest city in the world. It’s up to us, New York, New York!

Cada Año en Manhattan

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme ... in addition to sheltering original copies of Cervantes’ immortal magnum opus, The Hispanic Society of America holds close to a million fantabulous thingamajigs related to the Iberian Penisula, from paintings to sculpture to numerous archeological artifacts, as well as a comprehensive research library for the avid Hispanophile. Founded by one Archer M. Huntington in 1904, the Washington Heights museum constitutes a magnificent window into all aspects of Spanish, Portugese, and Latin American history.

At the palatial 583 Park Avenue (de cuyo nombre quiero pero no consigo acordarme ... quizás porque el local no tiene nombre!), a total of 900 glittery goblets and 2,100 units of cutlery neatly arrayed on generously bouqueted and becandled cinnamon-colored tablecloths awaited roughly 300 dignitaries from Spain and the Americas on the occasion of presenting the Hispanic Society of America Sorolla Award to selected individuals for their exemplary furtherance of Hispanic culture worldwide.

And the Sorolla went to: acclaimed Spanish artist Miquel Barceló, known for occasionally compounding his paints with seaweed and Vesuvio’s ashes; construction tycoon Rafael del Pino y Calvo-Sotelo; and Eugenio López Alonso, President of La Colección Jumex in Mexico City, the largest Modern Art collection in the Americas.

Chairman George Moore had brought his wife Kathie, and ivory tickler Bob Hardwick had brought his splendiferous Sound to ensure una larga y muy exitante fiesta de gala.

Claudia's Babies

“I was in the ladies’ room and I asked this woman if I can borrow some mascara she had, and the bitch wouldn’t lend it to me … you know who you are out there!” Forced by a broken drum pedal to take five from letting rip with her band Scandal, lead songstress Patty Smyth didn’t miss a beat and smoothly segued into a raunchy off-the-cuff standup routine during the 2007 Alzheimer’s Association Rita Hayworth Gala in Manhattan.

An apparent attempt by a tuxedoed John McEnroe to becalm his abruptly comedienne-turned better half was swiftly countered with a cryptic “Don’t worry honey, you’ll get some later.” Alas, the tennis champ had to wait. No dice wangling a matrimonial racket spanking at the Waldorf.

Not everyone, though, had to tarry for their deserts. Nurit Kahane Haase promptly received the 2007 Rita Hayworth Award, and Corporate Honors were conferred upon John K. Castle.

The attending glitterati set comprised, among others, Carolina Herrera, Joy and Regis Philbin, celebrity coiffeur Rudolfo Valentin, Donna Dixon with hubby Dan Aykroyd, and Samantha Perelman with billionaire daddy Ron. (Leaving distracting minutia like age, hair, gender, and attire out of account, the latter two individuals looked virtually indistinguishable – genes?)

Besides commemorating the eponymous Ms. Hayworth, whose daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, chaired the function, this year’s gala was dedicated to the memory of Claudia Cohen. “It was her baby aside from me,” Claudia’s “other” baby Samantha touchingly summarized her mom’s longstanding devotion to this charity, and a clip of the recently deceased columnist speaking at a previous event sent many a trail of embattled mascara down many a cheek.

Since 1985, roughly 50 million dollars have been raised by the annual Rita Hayworth Galas. Would it be asking for the moon to finance a new drum pedal for Patty Smyth?

Costly Cobwebs

For inveterate Manhattanites averse to voyaging out of town to the nearest IKEA, the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show, held annually at the Park Avenue Armory, presents a handy alternative for satisfying their home furnishing needs. Sure, a snappy sauceboat or a stylish little cocktail table may set one back a five-digit figure, but convenience always comes at a price.

Arguably the finest Antiques Fair in the country kicked off with The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s 19th Annual Preview Party For The Haughton International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show— arguably the wordiest event appellation in the world. Over 700 trendoids meandered among more than 300 million dollars worth of sumptuous sundries, smoothly rolling up at least one million for cancer care and research.

Mingling with the furniture were homemaking magnate Martha Stewart; trailblazing supermodel Beverly Johnson; Sir David’s granddaughter Eugenie Niven; presidential granddaughter Anne Eisenhower Flöttl; presidential ex-sister-in-law Sharon Bush; actress Annie Churchill, of indeterminate relation to her storied namesake; Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss, designer for the prodigiously bazoomed (“There are 36 pieces in a bra—did you know that?”); and Calvin Klein, designer for the hoi polloi. StarCaps Queen Nikki Haskel was spotted near one of the lavish buffet tables, presumably chatting up potential clients for her supersonic weight loss pills.

Liquor and veggies were available aplenty, the latter to offset the carcinogenic effects of the former. They don’t call it a balanced diet for nothing.

Cruise Control

Perhaps he can’t handle the truth (remember Colonel Jessep flipping his lid at the navy counselor in A Few Good Men?) but Tom Cruise could handle the Museum of the Moving Image’s salute ceremony just fine. Far from reprising his infamous Oprah-crobatics, the springy thespian met the bestowal of movie honors upon him with exceptional aplomb. Of course, as a precaution, all couches and similar furnishings had been removed from the dais at Cipriani 42nd Street. Besides, United Artists CEO Paula Wagner was there to keep a watchful eye on her moonstruck business partner. Last year, the two entered the UA wheelhouse together after Paramount’s Sumner Redstone had somewhat inexplicably cashiered the box-office wunderkind. As it turned out, getting fired wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Although Tom Cruise’s tenure as one of the world’s preeminent leading men has spanned a whopping quarter of a century to date, a (hypothetical) remake of Top Gun could easily feature the boyish 45-year-old all over again without causing the makeup crew to break much of a sweat. Say what you will about Scientology, it does wonders for the skin.

Most likely, his wife Katie exerts some rejuvenating effect on her man as well, but she hasn’t been around that long – just a wee bit longer, it seems, than the five hours it had taken her to finish the New York City Marathon two days earlier. Her striking transformation from sweaty chick in jogging slacks to glamour sylph in a dashing blue velvet gown commanded a good deal of attention in her own right. That big smile on the honored hubby’s face clearly conveyed that he didn’t mind sharing the spotlight in the least.

Needless to say, celebrities had rolled out in droves to salute their vaunted colleague: Ron Howard, Kenneth Branagh, Brian Grazer, Oliver Stone, Michael Pena, Barry Levinson, Barbara Walters, Julianne Moore, Ellen Barkin, Tim Robbins, Jerry Bruckheimer, and many others took turns unloading a piñata of Tom Cruise anecdotes and encomia upon the black-tie congregation, interspersed with clips from Cruise’s extensive cinematic oeuvre: Born on the Fourth of July, Collateral, The Color of Money, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, Magnolia, War of the Worlds, Top Gun, and, of course, the classic underwear dance sequence from Risky Business (Tom Cruise bouncing around on a couch in 1983!)

Finally, the honoree himself ascended the rostrum to deliver––from memory as much as from the heart––a fairly comprehensive acceptance address, and one could hear the proverbial pin drop as he recounted the hardships of his childhood, talked about his mom’s struggle to raise him and his three sisters after she divorced his abusive father, his first job as a paper boy, his brush with priesthood, and the power of hope to which he ascribes his ultimate success. Among the rapt listeners, and not only of kindred genetic material but also sporting a similar haircut, was said mom, Mary Lee Mapother. He concluded his speech with an emphatic, “I love you, Katie.” She completes him, as Jerry Maguire would have put it.

During the evening, Tom Cruise may well have shaken more hands and had more photos taken than most people have in a lifetime. Dispatching illimitable amounts of warmth and graciousness in all directions, he was visibly smitten with this publisher’s Armani black velvet and white fox balls cape. Indeed, amidst all the bustle around him, he still took the time to notice and comment upon a woman’s wardrobe. The man is a veritable one-man charm factory.

Bottom line, the charismatic superstar comes across as so utterly down-to-earth, it beggars belief that he actually holds a pilot’s license and loves to hang among the clouds.

Daniel Bernard Roumain

DBR International Airport? An unlikely prospect. In spite of having been endowed by his creators with a fairly presidential-sounding set of initials reminiscent of FDR and JFK, and although he professes to be an avid follower of politics and current affairs, Daniel Bernard Roumain’s political ambitions do not rise beyond a lifelong ambassadorship of music. Politics, for him, is food for thought, and thought is the primary food for his craft.

Unlike other composers, who first hear the music in their heads and then set about extracting its message, DBR generally starts out with an intellectual concept and subsequently proceeds to convert it into audible emotion using his expansive skill kit, which not only includes a doctorate in musical composition and a facility with some 25 instruments on top of his spellbinding command of the violin, but also a knack for 21st century technology and a refreshing disregard for artistic conventions. He’ll toss a scratching and beat-juggling techno DJ into a classical chamber ensemble with the insouciance of a school girl pouring milk over her Cheerios.

The title of his 2007 debut CD etudes4violin&electronix ingeniously encapsulates the genre-busting proclivities of its bow-wielding mastermind. Indeed, given his predilection for amplification, effect pedals, and intermittent percussive slapping of his instrument, the dreadlocked 37-year-old “hip-hop violinist” has rightfully been accused of doing for violin what Jimi Hendrix had done for electric guitar, although—other than figuratively via his impassioned style of play—he always stops short of literally setting it on fire. After all, DBR harbors no aggression whatsoever towards his trusty wooden companion, for aside from his immediate family, playing the violin has been “the only thing in my life that I’ve known since I was five years old.”

In fact, born in Chicago and being of Haitian descent, the eloquent and soft-spoken musician credits music with saving his life. Although very proud to be an American, he points out that his success was not a foregone conclusion and that without the stabilizing influence of his violin, he may have chosen a less wholesome path in a country where equal opportunity for all remains a work in progress. Thus, the notion of freedom has always loomed large in his mind, having found musical expression in his latest orchestral epic Darwin’s Meditation for The People of Lincoln.

The nexus between the famed English naturalist and the 16th U.S. President may not be apparent at first blush, but while researching the writings of Abraham Lincoln for the purpose of setting some of his words to music for the upcoming bicentennial of his birth, DBR had come across the curious fact that Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the very same day in 1809. From the serendipitous convergence of these two giants of history emerged an imagined conversation between the men, who not only shared a birthday and an unremitting aversion to slavery as viewed from either side of the Atlantic, but also, as it turns out, quite a few additional biographical similarities. Laced with musical impressions of Haiti to invoke its own struggle for liberty and punctuated by words compiled and recited by Obie Award winning playwright and actor Daniel Beaty, DBR has seamlessly merged two historical figures who never met plus an island where neither had ever been into one homogenous sonic vision of freedom.

Presently, among a slew of other projects, DBR is working on the score for Makandal, an opera about the eponymous Haitian freedom fighter. In addition, he conducts frequent workshops for kids in various communities, honoring his principle of “recycling of compassion” and giving back to society. He has also actively albeit perhaps inadvertently been supporting the shampoo industry for many years, as lathering up his waist-long tresses requires him to polish off an entire bottle per session. No word on what brand he uses, but the company which produces it won’t go belly-up anytime soon, recession or no recession.

On 12 February 2009, Lincoln’s and Darwin’s 200th birthday, a special bicentennial performance of Darwin's Meditation for The People of Lincoln will be held at the Jorgenson Center of the Performing Arts at the University of Connecticut.

For updates and more information on this extraordinary artist, visit www.dbrmusic.com.

Face Time

Although these days one might consider the BlackBerry to be the primary conduit for human communication, it is still the face. Besides reading facial expressions, our brains—having evolved over millennia in a world in which the biggest threat to safety were members of other tribes—are hardwired to gauge the familiarity of facial features: the more different from our own, the more potentially worrisome. Exposure to what we perceive as strange or “mismatched” facial features, in fact, triggers a full-fledged neurological alarm response.

The Little Baby Face Foundation provides reconstructive surgery pro bono for children born with facial deformities, thus facilitating their acceptance into society by minimizing—or eliminating altogether—said alarm response in others. Reconstructive ear specialist Dr. Thomas Romo, having traveled the globe and helped countless children under often less-than-ideal conditions, hatched the idea to have the little patients and their parents flown to New York City to receive top-quality care, all expenses paid.

The Fifth Annual Little Baby Face Foundation Fall Benefit and Auction, headlined “Believe in Miracles”, at Cipriani on Fifth Avenue drew celebs Martha Stewart; Michael Bolton; choreographer Judith Jamison; actors Donna Murphy, Jaid Barrymore, Dylan Baker, and Federico “Furio” Castelluccio; NBC correspondents Dan Abrams (legal) and Dr. Max Gomez (medical); CBS’s Magee Hickey; all-star hairstylist Rudolfo Valentin; plus the aforementioned founding father Dr. Romo with wife Diane.

God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another. Prince Hamlet’s criticism of tampering with God’s handiwork pertained to women’s addiction to makeup. Shakespeare never wrote about the Little Baby Face Foundation. If he had, no doubt it would have been a sonnet of praise.

Fiesta Para Maria

"Dear Miss Van Horne. You bitch. Sincerely, Ed Sullivan."

Besides an obvious knack for composing pithy missives to his critics, Mr. Sunday Night also possessed a keen affinity for ethnic minorities, blacks in particular, whom he regularly invited to perform on his show, the pre-egalitarian grumblings of various sponsors notwithstanding. Clearly, the civil rights gene ran in his family, for in 1934 two members of his kinfolk, Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, founded Casita Maria, the first charitable organization in the "settlement house" tradition to serve Hispanics in New York City.

At the annual Fiesta fund-raiser at the über-posh Mandarin Oriental, the Casita Maria Gold Medal of Honor was presented to renowned philanthropist Emilia Fanjul, erstwhile Rio de Janeiro burgomaster Israel Klabin, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, and Carmen Sánchez Pérez, publisher of Hola! Magazine.

Although, strictly speaking, not a member of the Hispanic community, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia co-chaired the event along with Jacqueline Weld Drake, Carolina Herrera, and Aileen Mehle. Has His Royal Highness been apprised that his country dissolved in 2003? An adjustment of title may be in order. (Rumors that the King of Mesopotamia will officiate at next year’s Fiesta have been royally disconfirmed.)

Mario Buatta emceed as Somers and Jonathan Farkas, producer Marty Bregman with wife Cornelia, George Kaufman, and numerous other notables dined and danced the night away. For the convenience of those who had inadvertently schlepped along too much cash, Maria “Mati” Bonetti Buccini headed a silent luxury auction. As a legendary TV host would have remarked, it was a reeeely big show!

Glow

Two score and seven years before the fictitious spinsters Abby and Martha Brewster took to offing solitary graybeards with home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine, and just a pinch of cyanide on Broadway, a real-life Brewster named Mary joined one Lillian Wald in setting up the Henry Street Settlement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Rather than attempting to allay human suffering via administration of poisonous libations, nurses Mary and Lillian applied somewhat more conventional methods towards improving the dire lot of the sick and the poor in this “vast crowded area, a foreign city within our own.”

The Henry Street Settlement’s commitment to providing health and social services has continued unabated ever since. Styled Glow, its annual dinner and dance blowout at 583 Park Avenue honored Glenn Dubin, Co-Founder of Highbridge Capital Management, and Sol Kerzner of Kerzner International for their philanthrophic munificence. On the heels of a stately dinner, Christie’s Lydia Fenet conducted a live auction, whereupon DJ Allstar Frank Delour pumped a sizeable load of decibels into the pulsing cochlea of Eva Jeanbart-Lorenzotti, Angela Mariani, Carol Mack, Temple St. Clair, Whitney Fairchild, Christine Schwartzman, Monica Noel, and the rest of the venerable congregation.

George and Grace

Turned down by the U.S. Air Force on account of an impressive string of speeding tickets, George Lucas took to the cosmos to abreact his predilection for superluminal velocity. Thirty plus years later, our rejected fighter pilot has long blossomed into one of the heaviest hitters in Hollywood history. His goodly arsenal of accolades has of late been expanded by a Prince Rainier III Award for outstanding contributions to the arts. No other than Mr. Darth Vader-Verizon, a.k.a. James Earl Jones, dropped by the 25th Anniversary Princess Grace Awards Gala at Sotheby’s New York to present the vaunted trophy to the accomplished producer.

Designers Ralph Rucci and Tommy Hilfiger; Town & Country’s Pamela Fiori; The Devil Wears Prada star Anne Hathaway; High Society co-star Celeste Holm; Anne Randolph Hearst and daughter Amanda; John F. Lehman, former Secretary of Navy and first cousin once removed of Princess Grace; and Star Jones Reynolds mingled about, while Soprano Reneé Fleming, choreographer Susan Stroman, actor Anthony Rapp, and a chap named Moore – Roger Moore – took turns dispensing 22 Princess Grace Awards to a selected fry of budding artists in theater, film, and dance. Past Princess Grace Awards winners Robert Battle and Michael John Garcés received Princess Grace Statues for their achievments in dance and theater respectively; and even though the party went down on the wrong side of town, Donna Lynne Champlin performed a medley from West Side Story.

His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, His Royal Highness Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover, and the wedded wife of the latter as well as sister of the former, His Royal (formerly Serene) Highness Princess Carolina of Hanover (formerly of Monaco), added a mildly bewildering dash of aristocracy to the proceedings and also kindly furnished a few hand-me-downs for sale: for a combined price tag of $ 355,000, two original outfits worn by Princess Grace passed from Monacan royalty into the affluent albeit baseborn hands of William Doyle of Newbridge Silverware.

Shockingly, one of the glamorous getups had been donned twice by the quondam actress. A remarkable woman indeed.

Great Dame

Her late husband changed American life forever by inventing—among other things—the shut-off valve and the milk carton; then the august appellation “Dame Of A Most Venerable Order” was bestowed upon her by Her Majesty The Queen of England; and now yet another most venerable chapter has been added to her biography: for the first time in history, the Dame Celia Lipton Farris Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to, well, Dame Celia Lipton Farris. Henceforth and in perpetuity, each year said trophy will go to one select individual whose contributions to the American Cancer Society approximate the eponymous dame’s three decades of unremitting dedication to this organization.

The award ceremony occurred in the context of the American Cancer Society’s “Golden Anniversary Gala” at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, marking 50 years on the frontlines of the war on cancer. The evening kicked off with the mellifluous serenading of violins at a poolside champagne and caviar reception, whereupon the more than 550 guests were herded into the Grand Ballroom for dinner and dancing, punctuated with the aforementioned presenting of the brand-new Celia Award (crafted and donated by Tiffany&Co), the auctioning-off of a sparkly bijou by jewelry sponsor Chopard, and a supersonic morsel of showmanship by Mr. Wayne Newton. Happily, the change in humidity levels between Las Vegas and Florida had affected neither his voice nor his hair.

Hamptons Film Fest

Starfish are radially symmetrical marine invertebrates of the class Asteroidea of which there exist roughly 1,800 known types. Although the majority of them while away their earthly existence combing for mollusks on various ocean floors, a few synthetic varieties make for nifty awards. Golden Starfish Awards, for instance, are regularly given out by The Golden Retriever Club of America for outstanding contributions to salvaged canines, as well as by The Annual Hamptons International Film Festival for masterstrokes on the silver screen.

Upon learning that a project featuring PETA helmswoman Ingrid Newkirk captured a Golden Starfish, who would have guessed it had issued from the Film Festival and not the Retriever Club? Indeed, I Am an Animal, an unvarnished examination of Ms. Newkirk and her controversial organization, nailed the 2007 Golden Starfish Documentary Feature Film Award, while the jackpot for Best Narrative Feature, prized at over $185,000, went to a German production titled Valeria.

Hosted by Fox 5’s Jodi Applegate and Ron Corning, the Golden Starfish Award ceremony at the UA Cinema in East Hampton drew luminaries galore: the female cadre included Lisa Kudrow, Amanda Peet, Keri Russel, the timeless Lauren Bacall, Gretchen Mol, Blake Lively (The Sisterhood and the Traveling Pants), and Dirty Harry’s actress-playmate spawn Alison Eastwood; countervailing masculinity was furnished by the likes of Alec Baldwin, John Cusack, Harvey Keitel, director-producer Alex Gibney, Jeff Nichols, talk-show pioneer Phil Donahue—who bagged the Audience Award for Best Documentary for his Body of War—and directing legend Sidney Lumet.

Vanessa Redgrave scored this year’s Golden Starfish Career Achievement in Acting Award, yet in the spirit of her arresting portrayal of dubious British arms dealer Max in Mission Impossible, she may well have fashioned her Starfish into a ninja star and dumped it on the black market by now.

Following the awards conferment, New Line Cinema co-charioteers Michael Lynne and Bob Shaye hosted an exclusive invite-only dinner at Nick & Toni’s. Animal flesh was served. PETA has a long way to go.

Happy Paws

Should you ever find yourself stranded in the vicinity of Madison and 63rd without earrings or a watch, you’re in luck: Chopard, world-renowned creator of luxurious personal ornamentation, has recently opened its 100th and largest store at 709 Madison Avenue to meet all your jewelry and horology needs. (No “w”—the latter term strictly connotes the science of measuring time; although, in a wider sense, a reliable timepiece certainly facilitates the accurate billing of all manner of services rendered.)

Behind eighteen-foot high windows composed of special UV filtering glass, which is environmentally friendly by keeping the boutique cooler and thus reducing toxic emissions from air conditioners, Chopard celebrated not only its brand-new location, but also its partnership with ASPCA, the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Chopard CEO Marc Hruschka and Co-President Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele enjoyed cocktails and Hors D’ouvres with Ellen and Chuck Scarborough, Hana Soupkova, Somers and Jonathan Farkas, Cornelia and Marty Bregman, as well as some of their guests’ four-legged escorts, who were served water and species-appropriate designer biscuits.

Especially for the opening, Chopard whipped up a “Happy Paw” collection with 5% of the proceeds donated to the ASPCA. Of course, the items in this collection were meant to be worn by humans, as blinging up Fido would be cruel and therefore in blatant contravention to the ASPCA’s mission.

It's a Wrap

A humongous hammer hovered menacingly over the cocktail area, and although fashioned entirely out of bubble wrap, it must have weighed close to a ton. Had it come crashing down, it could easily have flattened a hapless baby elephant. In addition, so many cardboard boxes had been crammed into Manhattan’s Pier Sixty at 23rd Street, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported a serious shortage of packaging materials for the remaining Tri-State Area that night.

Not really. But the place did have a distinct Office Depot warehouse feel to it. Designer David Stark had chosen the cardboard-box-bubble-wrap-and-twine motif for the Museum of Arts & Design’s (MAD) 14th Annual Visionaries! Awards Gala in order to signify the museum’s impending relocation to 2 Columbus Circle.

Hobnobbing amidst artfully mounted packing peanuts and reams of wrapping paper were MAD director Holly Hocher, MAD Board of Trustees chairman Barbara Tober with sugarhubby Donald, MAD chairman Jerome A. Chazen, MAD trustee Ted Hathaway of Oldcastle Glass, Bloomingdale’s CEO Michael Gould, fur designer Adrienne Landau, Edward and Patricia Farber, Barbara Lee Diamonstein, and Carl Spielvogel.

Four individuals received honors for exemplary vision, innovation, and entrepreneurship in their respective fields: Nadja Swarovski of Swarovski Crystal, philanthropist Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, Bloomingdale’s Frank Doroff, and Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. Various works of art, travel and dining packages, and luxury items were up for grabs at the silent and live auctions, including a shopping spree with Liz Claiborne CCO Tim Gunn.

In all, the evening raised $ 1.7 million for MAD, the country’s leading cultural institution dedicated to the collection and exhibition of contemporary objects. Those among the 750 attendees that wanted their dessert to go found plenty of containers within convenient reach. The fire hazard posed by hundreds of table candles in perilous proximity to all that cardboard was ingeniously offset by the Pier’s proximity to the water.

Let's Polo

Marco Polo had nothing to do with it. The game was invented in Persia in the sixth century B.C. and is generally considered the oldest team sport on record. It looks a little like baseball on horseback with mallets instead of bats, or like an equestrian form of golf without the holes in the lawn. Although full-sized horses are used, for alliterative effect these hoofed conveyances are referred to as polo ponies. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assam, India, in 1834, and the first polo match in the United States took place at Dickel's Riding Academy at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue in 1876.

Fast-forward to the 21st century A.D., where the American Red Cross Greater Plam Beach Area Chapter celebrated its 18th Annual Polo Luncheon & Auction at the Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington. Headlined Charity meets Chukkers, oodles of tasty hors d’oeuvres were washed down with Champagne and Brazilian Caipirinhas, followed by a silent auction, followed by a lavish lunch whipped up by IPC’s new cuisinier Aaron Menitoff and served against the musical backdrop of The Tito Puente, Jr. Orchestra, followed by coffee, beignets, and hand-rolled cigars for everyone’s continued oral gratification while watching the 26-goal Piaget Gold Cup Match. (Indeed, it was a live polo game. Mallets and horses and all.)

Polo afficionados on hand included Boehm Porcelain founder Damd Helen Boehm, international polo ace Carlos Gracida, Palm Beach Polo & country Club founder Bill Ylvisaker, plus chairmen Deborah Landon O’Kain, David Miller, Gale Brophy, Leslie Ginn, Mary Frances Turner, and many more. All proceeds went to the American Red Cross.

Media Mavens

There were goddesses before there were gods. The converse is true in media, where women have been encroaching steadily upon a market historically cornered by men. If the trend continues … well, let’s not frighten the living bejesus out of the bearded ilk.

Anyhow, a few years ago, former Showtime and Lifetime queenpin, media pioneer, and crack tango terpsichorean Loreen Arbus, daughter of ABC-TV progenitor Leonard Goldenson and the first woman ever in the United States to spearhead programming for a national network (let alone two national networks!), teamed up with USA Networks founder Kay Koplovitz to co-birth She Made It: Women Creating Television and Radio in recognition – and celebration – of the relentless female incursion into traditionally male bastions, from producing to directing to writing to, yes, sportscasting. Oh boy.

Under the aegis of the Paley Center for Media, previously known as the Museum of Television & Radio, a brand-new platoon of fifty goal-getting amazons were inducted into the official pantheon of female media magnates, among them Salma Hayek, Candice Bergen, Andrea Mitchell, Martha Stewart, Rosie O’Donnell, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Amy Goodman, and Paula Zahn. On account of her dynamic support of the achievements of women, minorities, and the disabled, Paley Center Trustee and She Made It originator Loreen Arbus had been initiated into the hall of fame of her own creation last year.

Of course, it's still a man’s world. Sort of.

Mission Possible

Somewhat paradoxically, the chief objective of certain types of companies is to go out of business, and the speed with which they go belly-up is directly proportional to their success. Cancer research facilities, of course, are the foremost example, for the faster a cure materializes, the sooner these facilities will, hopefully, become redundant.

Founded in 1947, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston has long been at the vanguard of the nation’s cancer centers. Every year, the Dana-Farber Discovery Ball raises funds towards demoting the Big C from mortal menace to minor nuisance. One month prior to the Big B (yes, ball), a kick-off evening was held at Michele and Howard Kessler’s home in Palm Beach.

Chaired by Dame Celia Lipton Farris, Elaine Shuster, and Tom Quick, this opening event featured a runway presentation of Armani’s 2008 spring and summer collection with maestro Giorgio not only in attendance, but also underwriting the function.

Among those kicking off the upcoming do were Bob Meister and Lisa Schad, Jean Pearlstein, Judie and Larry Schlager, and Thomas Mayes. Upon watching a covey of underfed supermodels traipsing around on the catwalk, the merry congregation segued seamlessly into polishing off a lavish buffet.

Nose Job

Folks concerned about border security can put their minds at ease: Rolo, Banjo, and Brodie are in the trenches to keep us safe. The three detector beagles, trained members of the Department of Homeland Security’s Beagle Brigade, are tasked with sniffing luggage at airports, thereby protecting our nation from the unauthorized import of potentially hazardous agricultural products. The canine U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were granted a furlough from airport duty at JFK to attend the Animal Medical Center’s Top Dog gala at The Rainbow Room. All other guests walked upright and were endowed with opposable thumbs.

This year’s fundraiser honored Elaine and Kenneth Langone for their commitment to the Animal Medical Center and for bankrolling the expansion of the Emergency Medicine and Critical Care Unit of New York’s premier non-profit veterinary hospital, which serves more than 50,000 furry, feathered, shelled, or slithering patients annually. In her speech, Elaine Langone paid tribute to animal lover, racehorse breeder, and event co-chair Cynthia Phipps, who had tragically perished less than a month earlier in a Manhattan fire. Donna Acquavella, Barbara Liberman, Elizabeth Monaco McCarthy, and Annette de la Renta formed the remaining cadre of co-chairs.

Eliza and Alexander Bolen hosted the candlelight dinner, which featured a special demonstration by beagle agent Brodie of how to execute an effective luggage inspection using the nose in lieu of fancy radiological gadgetry. The simple isn’t always the best, but the best is always simple.

Paint the Park Red

To the eternal discomfiture of hardcore androphobics (i.e., “those who fear balls”), there were truckloads of balls at the ball. Crystal balls, that is. Themed “Visions,” Central Park Conservancy’s 12th Annual Halloween Ball featured soothsaying paraphernalia galore amidst roughly 550 bipeds attired as everything from witches to butterflies to Tarot cards to plain old humanoids in gowns and tuxedos. In a capacious canvas pitched on Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield, the frolicsome convention fueled up on high-octane Grey Goose Peartinis before succumbing to Death by Chocolate, with some pumpkin soup and short ribs devoured in between.

Possible party guests included Eleanore Kennedy, Kristian Laliberte, Annabel Vartanian, Renáta Somossy, Renate Christ, Heather Dinneen, Jennifer Higgs, and Ian Smith, but what with all that elaborate masquerading, reliable identification of individuals proved laborious to impracticable. Little doubt exists, however, that all the aforesaid mortals were in attendance unless they were spending the evening elsewhere—the perfect alibi indeed, at least according to one Chief Inspector Clouseau (who may or may not have attended as well).

All pertinent conjecture notwithstanding, there is an almost 95% chance it was WABC’s Accu-Weather prophesier Lee Goldberg who emceed the yearly costume contest, and after thoughtful deliberation, a jury composed of, perhaps, L.A. fashion stylist Phillip Bloch, Food Network’s semi-homemade Sandra Lee, and event chairs Suzanne and Bob Cochran, adjudged an astro-nut, a chick magnet, a Bugsy Siegel with his dame, and a deck of aforementioned Tarot cards to be one sartorial cut above the competition.

On balance, the ball of balls netted up $900,000 for the upkeep of Central Park, whose 26,000 trees, 10,000 benches, 250 acres of lawn, 54 monuments, 37 bridges, 8 manmade waterfalls (fashioned from NYC water pipes that can be individually turned on and off like faucets!), and 5 water bodies sop up over $2 million in monthly operating expenses. And that doesn’t even include nut money for the squirrels.

Palate of Power

Once upon a time, in a small town named Seneca Falls … alright, let’s fast-forward to the 21st Annual Power Lunch for Women at the Rainbow Room in New York City, where Y-chromosome carriers had to plunk down $10,000 for the privilege to mingle with hundreds of female business magnates, government heavy hitters, and media power brokers.

Showcasing female preeminence, however, took a back seat the real purpose of the occasion, namely to raise funds for Citymeals-on-Wheels, a nonprofit organization that hand-delivers hundreds of thousands of meals per year to homebound elderly. Founded by “insatiable” food critic Gael Green (“I don’t worry about not finishing the food on my plate anymore, because I know people are getting their meal”) and James Beard in 1981, it has plied 18,000 hungry and lonely New Yorkers with a total of three million meals to date. Co-founder Robert “Bob” Tisch, Loews Chairman and Giants owner on his days off, served as President of the Board of Directors for many years.

“If you’ve ever had a chance to deliver meals to Citymeals seniors, you have observed something beautiful,” said former NYC first lady Donna Hanover. And Kathleen Turner introduced Muriel Fleit, a senior whom the actress had befriended through the Citymeals-on-Wheels’ Friendly Visiting Program.

Edie Falco, Geraldine Ferraro, Linda Fiorentino, Mary Higgins Clark, Polly Bergen, Liz Smith, Diane von Fürstenberg, Elaine Stritch, Adrienne Landau, Rikki Klieman, Margo MacNabb, Dr. Cheryl Karcher, Catherine Saxton, and many more comprised the attending set of power maidens; Michael Lynne, Jimmy Nicholas, Joseph M. Cohen, John Shapiro, and Shelly Fireman were some of the gentlemen who had forked over the ten grand to get in.

Deborah Roberts (20/20) emceed, and three individuals were honored for their stalwart commitment to Citymeals: Western Union CEO Christina Gold; Morgan Stanley’s Mary Meeker; and Citymeal board member Lillian Vernon, founder of the Lillian Vernon Corporation.

Initially, the luncheon brought in almost a million dollars. “The Citymeals-on-Wheels Power Lunch for Women reminds us, once again, that power and compassion go hand-in-hand,” proclaimed Marcia Stein, Executive Director of Citymeals. They do indeed, for upon learning that this year’s total had registered a tad short of last year’s record-setting $1.1 million, Anna Cohen, Lillian Vernon, and chef Andrew Borrak took immediate corrective action and ponied up the balance to turn this one into the queen of power lunches.

Pet Heroes

Unless they’re on the menu, non-human vertebrates are generally banned from food-serving establishments. However, a few four-legged critters not meant for consumption were given special dispensation to attend the ASPCA Humane Awards Luncheon at the Rainbow Room, for it would be unthinkable to conduct an award ceremony and exclude the recipents solely on account of their taxonomic classification. Health code or no health code.

Every year, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recognizes selected individuals for outstanding behavior. Thus, Toby the Golden Retriever was honored for having saved his owner from choking on an apple by methodically bouncing up and down her chest, thereby dislodging the offending piece of fruit from her windpipe; and Winnie the cat for having rescued an entire family by rousing them from their potentially fatal slumber in a house rapidly filling up with lethal carbon monoxide fumes. Conversely, a number of humans received awards for outstanding efforts in furtherance of animal welfare.

NBC’s Chuck Scarborough emceed the event and introduced Oliver, his singing dog, who delivered a stirring rendition of presumably original material. Never having saved anyone, Oliver must wait for the Grammys to get an award. “An animal’s life is as important as our own,” Mr. Scarborough opined in an appearant call for universal vegetarianism. The veteran news anchor and his wife had adopted Oliver along with kitty Stanley from the ASPCA within a breath of impending euthanasia. While canine Oliver seems to be coping well by creatively channenling his traumatic past into his singing, feline Stanley’s psychological wounds, somewhat disturbingly, translate into chronic sexual attraction to dogs.

In the animal loving auditorium: Charlene Nederlander, Ellen Scarborough, Margo MacNabb, Margo Langenberg, Somers Farkas, Geoffrey Bradfield, and Cynthia Lufkin. Isaac Mizrahi was also there, perhaps drawing inspiration for his upcoming spring collection for pets.

Potluck Nation

Take one world-renowned cancer hospital, one New York Times food & wine scribe, a little over 100 zestful recipes, mix well, add about 70 mouth-watering photographs, sprinkle generously with witty anecdotes and clever party pointers, edit, print, and release. Serves all bookstores.

Voted one of the 25 Most Notable Cookbooks of 2007, “Park Avenue Potluck” has been giving the likes of Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray a solid run for their money. Potluck-mania is sweeping the country!!!

Now in its umpteenth printing, the brainchild of former Sloan-Kettering president Coco Kopelman was midwifed by New York Times’ Florence Fabricant in concert with the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The glossy tome features a delightful array of tasty yet reasonably failsafe recipes supplied by Muffie Potter Aston, Jamee Gregory, Katie Colgate, Daisy Soros, and many other Society board members and associates. A portion of the proceeds go to cancer research and patient care.

A Park Avenue Potluck dinner was served at Doubles inside the Sherry Netherland Hotel. Hosted by Doubles chairwoman Wendy Carduner, Executive Chef Steven Mellina cooked up a piñata of dishes from the book for a salivating crowd that included Society President Leslie Jones, Society VP Leslie Perkin, as well as board members Kelly Forsberg, Barbara Tolllis, and Catherine Carey.

Says Ms. Kopelman, “I believe food is love.” Combined with the old adage that all you need is love, there’s your perfect recipe for the average American waistline.

Prae Omnia Fraternitas

It was high noon, and they had all come to whack Cooper. Pat Cooper, that is. At the Friars Roast luncheon at the Hilton, the barb-tongued comedian—usually the prime dispenser of insults at the annual filet-fest—found himself at the receiving end of the potshot launcher for a change. A platoon of his fellow friars relished the chance to turn the tables on the old man. Lisa Lampanelli, a “cross between Don Rickles, Archie Bunker, and a vial of estrogen,” officiated as this year’s Roastmaster and insisted on being called “master”, not “mistress”, for “this is a job I can do standing up, not lying down.” Stewie Stone charmingly referred to the master as “the antidote to Viagra.”

Jeff Ross recounted Pat Cooper’s auspicious beginnings (“He started on Cruise ships: The Nina, The Pinta, The Santa Maria”) and proceeded to sum up the present (”His career on the rocks … all bitters!”) Prior to unloading his barrage of gibes, Richard Belzer solicitously inquired of Mr. Cooper if he was sure he wasn’t dead yet. Others who added their two cents of roast: Robert Klein, Artie Lange, Norm Crosby, Michele Balan, Jim Norton, Al Roker, Jeff Pirrami, Joy Behar, Opie and Anthony, Tony Roberts, and Danny Aiello. "The only female these guys have been in over the past 10 years is Beth Israel,” Colin Quinn explained, and Jeffrey Ross described the boisterous congregation thus: “Never have there been so many mediocre Italian actors in one place. This is like a casting call for OK-Fellas—not a who’s who, but a who’s left! Joey Bishop was supposed to be here but he took the easy way out!”

Mike Tyson was supposed to be there as well, Roastmaster Lampanelli explained, but he “couldn’t make it because he had a previously scheduled rage.” Then she briefly turned to discussing dietary matters, “Al Roker lost all his weight when he stopped taking Katie Couric’s s--t!” As to the lineup of luminaries in attendance, Ms. Lampanelli reassuringly remarked that “the last time I heard these names I was playing Trivial Pursuit, the who-gives-a-[bleep] edition!”

Due to general printability issues, most of what happens at the Friars Club stays at the Friars Club. Founded in 1904, the fraternal organization is to political correctness what a horde of elephants is to a bed of roses. Nonetheless, it is considered the premier arts organization in the entertainment industry.

Needless to say, they only roast the ones they love.

Raking It In

Initially, it appeared as if the 17th annual Discovery Ball had pulled in a record-breaking $3.25 million in support of Boston’s renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. Before the band stopped playing, however, the projected total had to be adjusted slightly when word came that Ruth and Carl Shapiro had decided to part with some spare change in their pockets and tossed an extra $27 million into the kitty for good measure.

Roughly 650 glamourati in full black-tie plumage packed Palm Beach’s Mar-A-Lago Club for a night of mingling, dining, dancing, and bidding. Mr. Tom Quick was on hand to auction off a 10.10 carat diamond tennis bracelet as well as the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game donated by Red Sox President Larry Lucino.

Michelle and Howard Kessler officiated as chaircouple and Phyllis Krock as honorary chairwoman of the ball. A plethora of grand benefactors had opened their hearts and their wallets, among them Phyllis and Paul Fireman, Nancy and Willima Rollnick, Tiffany Spadafora and George Cloutier; and Calibre, Wachovia’s Family Office, and Giorgio Armani on the corporate side.

Along with rotary telephones and muzzle-loading blunderbusses, the scourge of cancer must be consigned to the dustbin of history once and for all. Courtesy the generosity of all involved, the world has just inched $30 million closer to that goal.

Rich Evening

If DNA molecules were immutable, cancer wouldn’t exist. Neither would we, as it is precisely their capacity to mutate which enabled evolution in the first place. In order to tighten science’s grip on the mother of all double-edged swords, the mother of all big-ticket fund raisers was held at the Marriot Marquis. Hosted by Grammy winner Denise Rich, whose daughter Gabrielle Rich Aouad had lost her battle with leukemia at age 27, the biennial Angel Ball added five million dollars into the coffers of the G&P Foundation for Cancer Research. The Foundation, established at Gabriella’s own behest and currently in its 10th year, has grown into one of the leading non-governmental purveyors of funds for the fight against blood cancers.

Sloan-Kettering Chief Hematologist Dr. Stephen D. Nimer was honored for his untiring commitment to the cause, as were Harper Bazaar’s Glenda Bailey, BET Networks CEO Debra L. Lee, and the late President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, for their support and generosity. Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Joss Stone, John Legend, and Epiphany delivered rollicking musical performances, while Natalie Cole and Neil Sedaka—albeit physically present—had the night off. Sean P. Diddy Combs, flanked by supermodels Bar Rafaeli and May Anderson, sported shades for reasons known only to him (and Him); Kelly Ripa looked outrageously galluptious in her shoulderless gown; and boxing promoter Don King’s hair pointed skywards as always.

Tsunami survivor Petra Němcová, hip-hopper LL Cool J, Roberta Flack, Harvey Weinstein, Beverly Johnson, Ivana Trump, Liz Smith, Jessica Stam, Brenda Braxton, Damon Dash, Star Jones, Natalie Cole, Nick Chavez, Katrina Bowden, Nicole Miller, Andy Hilfiger, Brittny Gastineau, Randy Jackson, Nikki Haskel, Joan Collins, and a hodgepodge of other prominent faces and hairdos were seen among the roughly 450 A-listers in the room. Angel Gabriella was felt.

Shrimp to Nuts

Spies and secret agents on perilous missions typically carry cyanide capsules for personal use in case of capture by the enemy. Some might as well carry peanuts, for if one happens to be sufficiently allergic, ingesting a goober will do the job just as effectively as biting on a standard-issue suicide pill.

For unknown reasons, serious food allergies are on the rise. These days, roughly 6% of American infants are born with mild to potentially lethal adverse reactions to particular proteins found in certain types of food, with peanuts and shellfish leading the league as far as ferocity, followed by tree nuts, seafood, dairy products, wheat, eggs, and soy. (Allergies to brown rice and broccoli are virtually unheard of, which—once again—goes to show that the boring things in life are generally safe, while all the fun stuff is liable to occasion obesity, pregnancy, delinquency, skin rashes, or anaphylactic shock.)

Granted, the wars on terror, drugs, and Aids sop up the lion share of available press coverage, but the war on food allergies is being waged quietly yet with equal zeal by a contingent of dedicated individuals. To help bankroll their invaluable efforts, the Tenth Annual Food Allergy Ball, presented by the Food Allergy Initiative, netted up a record $5 million.

Although many items on the gala menu featured potentially problematic items like salmon, eggs, or flour, all ingredients were punctiliously listed, and the Waldorf=Astoria staff all but performed back flips to accommodate every single special dietary need articulated by any of the over 1000 attendees. (Expect this measure of solicitous accommodation during your next evening of dining out in New York City at your own risk!)

Cerberus Global Investment Advisors LLC President Frank W. Bruno received honors, and the Jaffe Family was awarded a Special Tenth Anniversary Award for their invaluable footwork in the trenches of allergy combat.

Ronald O.Perelman, Sharyn T. Mann, Todd J. Slotkin, Patricia and James Cayne, Mary Richardson Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Julia and David H. Koch served as various types of gala chairs, and Reneé Fleming and Brian Stokes Mitchell performed a sing-along version of I Could Have Danced All Night. (Had Eliza Doolittle been allergic to glass, swallowing that marble could have had disastrous consequences indeed.)

Sumner Time

... but the livin’ hasn’t always been easy. In 1979, for instance, media mogul Sumner Redstone narrowly dodged the Grim Reaper by glomming on to a third-story ledge during a Boston hotel fire. Even more traumatizing, his rival Rupert Murdoch recently beat him to snatching up MySpace. And to put the icing on the frustration cake, the man who insists that he always wants to be number one is ranked a self-esteem-busting number 86 on Forbes’ list of the 100 richest people on earth. In other words, with a paltry $8 billion to his name, if Mr. Redstone were to bankroll the war in Iraq, he’d be filing for chapter 11 in less than a month. It sucks to be poor.

On the bright side, the Viacom and CBS kingpin, whose somewhat exotic first name derives not from an accidental bastardization of the hot season but from the word summoner, was honored by the Paley Center for Media, formerly the Museum of Television & Radio, for his exemplary contributions to the media writ large. Paley Center CEO Pat Mitchell and Chairman of the Board Frank Bennack, Jr., presented the award to Mr. Redstone, and First Gentleman hopeful Bill Clinton extolled the esteemed recipient in a videotaped address.

Kim Cattrall, Andy Rooney, Dina Merrill, and 60-Minutes-man Steve Kroft looked on as Charlie Rose hosted the fete at the Waldorf=Astoria. The timeless Tony Bennett crooned Fly Me to the Moon, and CBS-Anchor and part-time country sensation Bob Schieffer, backed by his band Honky Tony Confidental, brought down the hotel with a self-penned paean about his vaunted superior: “There are good stones and bad stones / the Redstone is a gem / you said bye to Tom Cruise / but you can’t sell CBS News.”

The Actress and the President

The Spanish-American war of 1898 enabled the United States to emerge as a world power by effectively jugulating the Spanish Empire. Presumably in order to assuage potentially lingering animosities and to foster amicable relations between the United States and Hispanic nations as well as to boost the general appreciation of Spanish culture, the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute held its annual Gold Medal Gala at 583 Park Avenue.

In the presence of Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain, roughly 400 guests—Carolina Herrara, Barbara Walters, and Anna Wintour among them—gathered to witness the awarding of gold medals to Spanish movie star Penélope Cruz and to American Ex-Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton.

Chairman Oscar de la Renta rendered unnecessary any further attempts at handicapping the ’08 election by summarily introducing Bill Clinton as “the husband of the next President of the United States” (you read it here first!) before presenting the former leader of the free world with his medal. Although Mr. Clinton seemed a mite hazy as to the precise nature of his alleged contributions to Spanish-American relations, he put forth a plausible hypothesis: "It may be because even though I'm not of Spanish descent, I've seen every one of Penélope Cruz's movies—and I liked them all."

For the record, the movies in question include “Live Flesh”, “Blow”, and “Woman on Top”, and of all the things the actress could have donned for the evening, she had picked a blue dress. Beyond congenial socializing, however, it appears the president did not engage in any cross-cultural bonding with that woman, Ms. Cruz.

The Brain Pack

Precariously elevated environmental estrogen levels briefly registered within several blocks of Fifth Avenue and 61st Street as the 19th Annual Women of the Year Luncheon was under way at The Pierre.

Nightline co-anchor Cynthia McFadden, legal maven Linda Fairstein, Martha Stewart’s Omnimedia CEO Susan Lyne, and The Donald’s charming feme Melania were spotted amongst the well-and-high-heeled assembly, while furloughed CBS-News lady Roz Abrams donated her downtime emceeing chops in homage to accomplished female role models who have attained to preeminence in a given field.

Paris, Britney, and Lindsay had—surprise, surprise!—been passed over for consideration once again In their stead, Margo, Pamela, and Liz made up this year’s triumvirate of honorees:

MCV Advertising Associates president Margo Catsimatidis, for establishing her company as one of New York’s premier printing agencies; Pamela J. Newman, for serving as the Executive Vice President of AON Corporation on top of co-authoring various books and racking up philanthropy awards like Zsa Zsa Gabor racked up husbands in her heyday; and Liz Smith, for having excelled as our nation’s most enduring purveyor of all the news unfit to print on pages one through five and from seven on up.

Chaired by Carmen Anderson, the fundraiser took place under the auspices of The Police Athletic League (PAL), New York City’s largest independent nonprofit youth organization. Its mission is to build character and to provide inspiration and resources for tomorrow’s leaders. Youngsters are encouraged to emulate the yearly honorees.

So should Paris, Britney, and Lindsay ever indeed get the nod at The Pierre, we know we’re in trouble.

The Enemy Within

“The wolf, I’m afraid, is inside tearing up the place.” Thus novelist Flannery O’Connor aptly described her battle with lupus—the Latin word for wolf—a chronic auto-immune disorder that affects nearly 1.5 million Americans. The body, in essence, attacks itself. Stephen King surely would have invented this condition, had nature not beaten him to the scary concept.

At $3.2 million, a national fundraising record for lupus research was set at the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation’s Life Without Lupus gala at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. Sportscaster Bob Costas introduced lupus activist and sufferer Carol Weisman and her husband, Emmy-award winning NBC sports producer Michael Weisman, who were honored for their indefatigable commitment towards finding a cure, as were Dr. Benjamin Schwartz and Aspreva Pharmaceuticals. The war on lupus is on, and its days, it is hoped, are numbered.

Today Show host Hoda Kotb emceed a reflective candlelight dinner, and Broadway’s Patti LuPone delivered a stellar half-hour performance despite flubbing her lyrics in a number of places—“I forgot the words,” she kept saying. Clearly, Ms. LuPone was exhibiting a classic symptom of the wrong disease.

Tonight, Tonight

Leonard Bernstein, a lifelong smoker, was busy lying buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, so he couldn’t make it to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s tribute to him at the Waldorf=Astoria. In the maestro’s stead, his music as well as his daughter, Jamie Bernstein, were present to pay tribute to the musical genius often simply referred to as “Lenny.”

Mr. Bernstein’s collaboration with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra began in 1947 and eventuated in his being named its Laureate Conductor in 1988. Twenty years later, to kick off “Lenny’s” 90th birthday celebrations, the orchestra performed selection’s from his extensive oeuvre, including West Side Story, Candide, and On the Town. Michelle Areyzage, Elizabeth Shammash, Jeffrey Picón, and Hugh Russell provided their singing chops in the soprano, mezzo, tenor, and baritone department respectively.

Finally, our good friend Tony Bennett took to the microphone and crooned a little Bernstein for the road. Lenny would have enjoyed it.

Winter Antiques

For the average 21st century teenager, the term antique invokes images of old-fashioned floppy disks and VCRs. Chances are it won’t be long before the first crop of vintage iPods will be on view at the annual Winter Antiques Show, generally considered the most prestigious such event in the country.

During the show’s 54th incarnation, the Park Avenue Armory was, once again, jammed to the gunwales with grizzled sundries from 75 exhibitors, and crowds of visitors milled among all manner of antediluvian furniture, chandeliers, candlesticks, andirons, cast iron urns, polychromed prancing horses, ancient Egyptian bronze mummy masks for cats, and other curious bric-a-brac the acquisition of which would instantly bankrupt all but the flushest among us.

In their 19th century heyday, the Shakers, a Protestant denomination in upstate New York, numbered roughly 6,000 members. Strictly celibate by virtue of their faith, they had some extra time—and energy—on their hands, which they applied rather skillfully towards quality cabinetmaking. Titled An Eye Toward Perfection: The Shaker Museum and Library, over 100 samples of their work were displayed as this year’s loan exhibition during the Winter Antiques Show.