On The Avenue

Lauders Laud and are Lauded

by Michael Gross Photographed by Ptrick McMullan and Sean Zanni/PMC
Thursday, May 11, 2017

Even the goodie bags filled with fine wine, Champagne, chocolates and Estee Lauder beauty products were impossibly glamorous at the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s (ADDF) Eleventh Annual Connoisseur’s Dinner at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night. The group was founded by Leonard A. Lauder and Ronald S. Lauder, who attended with their wives and many family members.

The elegant evening began with cocktails and a special viewing of Sotheby’s Spring Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art Sale. Dinner featured wine pairings selected by Sotheby’s Wine. Despite the benefit’s serious purpose, and touching comments by speakers like M.C., television journalist and ADDF Board member Paula Zahn whose lives have been directly touched by Alzheimer’s, the tone was positive and celebratory. As a Chassagne-Montrachet was poured, Jamie Ritchie, head of Sotheby’s wine business, extolled its “gunpowder nose and a little minerality” and added, “AADF assures me wine is good for your brain.” As if to prove his point, a Gevrey-Chambertin followed.

A dynamic “Fund a Scientist” auction led by Andrea Fiuczynski, Executive Vice President and Chairman, Sotheby’s Americas, raised funds for clinical trials of promising Alzheimer’s treatments, and bids as high as $100,000 quickly poured in, raising $400,000 in mere minutes. After the energetic auctioneer announced that guests could also put down their bidding paddles, raise their cell phones, and text smaller pledges, the on-site donations shot up to almost $600,00.

“Let me first tell you what we’re doing here,” Leonard Lauder said as he and his younger brother took the stage. “We’re trying to cure Alzheimer’s in your lifetime. If it doesn’t work, call me. Or call Ronald.” Explaining why they’d invented the Connoisseur’s dinner, Lauder reiterated the virtues of wine. “You cannot leave this evening without drinking a lot of it.” Ronald Lauder added, “When memory is lost, we’re lost,” and drew laughs when he joked that Alzheimer’s is an “equally opportunity disease” affecting “Democrats, independents–and even Republicans….It’s our hope that memories will fail and we will never remember this disease.”

Tad Smith, President and CEO of Sotheby’s, accepted the Chairman’s Award as the evening’s honoree, describing the Lauders as family. But after a cat-call from one of the Lauder tables, he added, “Oh, you’re also very good clients.” The venerable auction house has been the event’s partner and host since its inception.

Underwritten by the auction house and the Lauder family, the event raised a total of nearly $2.5 million to support Alzheimer’s treatments. ADDF has always given 100 percent of the dinner’s proceeds and every penny of every donation made to ADDF to Alzheimer’s research and since 1998, the group has raised more than $100 million for scientists “taking risks on new ideas,” said Dr. Howard Fillit, its Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer. He said that currently, ADDF is funding a quarter of the 100 ongoing clinical trials in the field.

Guests included Alina Cho, Nancy Corzine, Domenico De Sole, John Demsey, Maurice Sonnenberg, Caroline Fitzgibbons, Julie and Phil Geier, Nancy Goodes, Eleanora Kennedy, Gary Lauder, Jo Carole Lauder, Judy Glickman Lauder, William Lauder and Lori Tritsch, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, Donald E. Newhouse, Olivier and Yosun Reza, Sheila Johnson Robbins, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, Ann and Andrew Tisch, Barbara and Donald Tober, and Tom and Heidi McWilliams.


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