On The Avenue

A Hulava Good Time at Bette’s Halloween Bash

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Presley Ann/PMC
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Nature came to life on Monday night, as Bette Midler threw her annual Hulaween event to benefit her New York Restoration Project, which brings more green space to underserved communities in New York.

Fittingly, the theme of the evening was “Garden of Earthly Delights.” The event has become an annual fundraiser for NYRP, which Midler founded in 1995 and remains actively involved.

“[NYRP] has not only beautified our city, it has given hope to underprivileged communities,” Hulaween host Judy Gold said about her commitment to the organization, and the event. “Now kids are learning about how food is grown, and what’s good to eat. Crime is down in those areas. Kids are spending time outside. It’s really bringing them back to nature in their communities.” One of the earliest success stories was of Sherman Creek Park in Inwood, which was transformed from an illegal dumping ground into a five-acre waterfront oasis. NYRP seeks to engage the local community in every park or garden it refurbishes, creating spaces that best serve the people in the surrounding areas.   

“We manage about 100 acres of open space in the city,” said Deborah Martin, NYRP executive director—a figure that includes parkland and community gardens. Among NYRP’s current projects are creating the first waterfront park in the South Bronx, restoring wetlands on the Harlem River, and working with the New York City Housing Authority (NYHA) to create green space. “Over time, we’re going to build 55 community gardens on NYHA properties,” she said.

The evening featured a costume contest judged by Michael Kors, who came dressed as the Garden of Eden, with a snake wrapped around his apple-patterned suit. Top prize was awarded to two men dressed as flowers, complete with elaborate head pieces.

Gold commented that in the half-dozen or so times she has hosted the event, Kors’ table consistently brings its A-game. She came dressed as tennis great Bobby Riggs. Her partner Elysa Halpern was dressed at Billie Jean King.

“We played with Billie Jean this summer,” she said, whose costume choice was admittedly timely, if not planned that way. “The fact that [men] got away with what they got away with saying [during the time of Battle of the Sexes], and no one put up a fight—it’s interesting how [women] have not come far at all.” As the night’s MC, Gold peppered in political jokes throughout the evening.

The spectacle was held in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, a working Catholic Church that also doubles as an event space. Ronald Miller, the Chief Development Officer at the New York Restoration Project, helped scout the venue after Hulaween’s former home, the Waldorf Astoria, closed in March. The perhaps-unconventional space was chosen as its Gothic vibes were fitting for a Halloween-themed event.

This year’s honorees were Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman – Alphabet, Inc., and David Evans Shaw, Managing Partner, Black Point Group for their environmental stewardship and ability affect innovative change.

Guests were greeted by an organ player during cocktail hour, before transitioning to a concert by Jon Bon Jovi after dinner. Dressed as a prisoner, perhaps “wanted dead or alive,” Bon Jovi played hits like “Living on a Prayer” and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” as well as the festive “Monster Mash” and Hocus Pocus favorite, “I’ll Put a Spell on You.”

Midler, a Hawaiian native and Halloween aficionado, is of course known for her role in the cult-classic film, which is set for a TV remake. “Cheap,” is how Midler told People she assumed the film would turn out. As the evening’s host, she channeled the big hair of her character Winifred Sanderson, though this time as a sky-high blonde with a crown of flowers. She kicked off the evening’s festivities with a parody of “Hello, Dolly,” singing “Hello Dollars” with an all-male chorus line as a way to both encourage and thank people who donate. She enthusiastically noted that this was the first time that the event, which raised $2 million for NYRP this year, had sold out. 

The festivities lasted well into the bewitching hours, ending with a bloody good DJ dance party.

As for what Midler will dress as today, Halloween night? “I’m going to a spa!”


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