On The Avenue

An Off the Leash Evening for ASPCA

by Michael Gross Photographed by Jamie McCarthy and Nicholas Hunt/Getty Image
Friday, April 20, 2018

In the video preceding the presentation of the ASPCA’s Compassion Awards at the 21st annual Bergh Ball for the animal advocacy group on Thursday night, the suggestion was made that “a little lick” is a wonderful reward.  Anyone who would argue with that would likely not have enjoyed the party.

But animal lovers, pet rescuers, and anyone who has ever used the phrase “fur person” would surely agree with one of the award recipients, ASPCA volunteer Laura Zambelli Barket, who said, accepting her award, “We are living in an unstable world…It can make even most optimistic person cynical. But I believe we can all choose the path away from darkness.  The ASPCA is one such light.”

Mindy Fortin, the evening’s second Compassion Award winner, admitted that she was nervous as she stepped to the podium in the ballroom of The Plaza.  “My husband is nervous, too,” she added, “because he doesn’t know how much I’m going to donate.”

Only then did the professional comedians–ASPCA Voice for Animals award winner Cecily Strong, and the evening’s MC, the jack-of-many trades Isaac Mizrahi, take over the proceedings.  Despite her years of practice playing characters like Melania Trump on Saturday Night Live, Strong had admitted to her tablemates she was nervous, but then began humorously and went on to speak eloquently about her love and advocacy for animals. “I promised to keep this long,” she began.  “I do a dolphin impression. I’ll do it later.”  Animals, she continued, do everything.  “They’ve been astronauts, chefs…ratatouille…there was a pot bellied pig that ran into traffic when its owner was having a heart attack…And if nothing else they offered us unparalleled love and companionship, so it’s so great to be hear you celebrate those who do so much for us.”  Finally, she told the crowd about her rescue dog.  “I saved her but she saved me too,” Strong concluded.

A brief auction followed.  “All you have to do is open your wallet and we will be there to take your money,” said Mizrahi, introducing the evening’s auctioneer,  Jamie Niven. “I’m sure there are people here who in last six mostly have behaved in a miserable fashion,” he said.  “This is your chance to make good.”  The first lot, a vintage south sea pearl necklace donated by Delgatto and its namesake, Chris Delgatto who attended with his wife Veronica Webb, sold for a bargain $10,000 (it was valued at $35,000), but bidding heated up for the succeeding lots. When a commissioned underwater pet portrait by photographer Seth Castell inspired heated bidding, Niven cleverly offered the high bidder–at $24,000–a $1,000 discount, if the underbidder would also part with $23,000, an offer that was promptly accepted.  And a VIP package to sit in the front row of one of Billy Joel’s epic concerts at Madison Square Garden, meet the singer-songwriter and come away with a signed framed copy of his masterwork, The Stranger–“this is one of those things you don’t get to sell very often,” Niven observed–brought $29,000. When Dixon Boardman ponied up $4,000 towards a mobile pet adoption van, Niven even gave him precious pet status, calling him,”Dixi-poo.”  

Guests included, Nina Agdal, Arriana Boardman, Mark Gilbertson, Wes Gordon, Jessica Hart, Gillian Hearst, Carolina Herrera, Orfeh, Andy Karl, Ben and Linda Lloyd Lambert, Mark Badgley, James Mischka, Chuck & Ellen Scarborough, Jessica Shyba, Brad Walsh, Nancy Silverman, Robrt Zimmerman, Laura and Fred Tanne, Mary Snow, Jennifer Creel, Rob Wiesenthal and Jeffrey A. Pfeifle.




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