In The Magazine

Three Cheers

Friday, May 26, 2017

Awarm puppy, décor that does good and a fierce, free pen: these record-breaking events for noble causes proved philanthropy is not just alive and well, it’s been reinvigorated as well.

Forty years ago, two events converged at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House: John Manice began volunteering at the organization, and Geoffrey Bradfield landed on our shores from South Africa. John’s first task was to serve wine to the elderly ladies. He was so good, they would ask him to dance after imbibing. Now, he’s on the board, encouraging others to pour wine. Geoffrey organized designer Christmas stockings, which later morphed into creating table centerpieces for the Spring Gala. Roric Tobin designed Geoffrey’s ode to the red rose; Andy Stark floated a white top hat over her table; David Kleinberg shot Lucite bolts from his; and interior design firm McMillen hung planet-motif décor over an orgy of flowers.

Since 1894, the house has helped those in need who live, work or attend school on the Upper East Side. They serve 1,400 healthy meals daily and created teaching kitchens that have been modeled at other institutions. We had our own yum dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street. Diana Quasha chaired and said it was “the best-looking party in town.”

The PEN America Literary Awards channeled the appreciation for free speech, raising  $2 million that evening. President Andrew Solomon noted, “There is no worldview more dangerous than the view of those who have not viewed the world.” Meryl Streep presented the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award to Stephen Sondheim. “Forty years ago, at Yale Repertory Theater, we performed Sondheim’s The Frogs, set in and out of the gym’s pool, and in and out of tune, because of the acoustics and the effect the chlorine had on our sinuses,” said Streep. “Forty years later, he cast me in Into the Woods, giving me my inner bitch—I mean witch—and wrote a song called ‘She’ll Be Back’ for me. After hearing his piano performance, I boldly asked for the sheet music, signed. Afterward, director Rob Marshall and I opened the envelope, which read ‘Don’t f*#*k it up!’ ” Sondheim graciously accepted the award and said if “Cole Porter 101 is taught in schools and Dylan can win the Nobel Peace Prize, why not?” Audra McDonald stopped the show with Sondheim’s “The Glamorous Life.” Macmillan CEO and publisher honoree John Sargent mentioned, “Stand for what is right, not easy.”

James and Toni Goodale presented their Freedom of Expression Award to Bob Bland, the lady who founded the revolutionary Women’s March. The PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award honored imprisoned writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, presented by PEN’s executive director, Suzanne Nossel, to his cousin, Natalya Kaplan.

At the ASPCA Bergh Ball, Linda Lloyd Lambert (who conceived the event 20 years ago, and has raised more than $20 million since) was honored with the ASPCA Henry Bergh Award. A video tribute featured Candice Bergen. “Linda is well-connected and has no agenda. That’s rare in New York,” she said. The handsome Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO, reminded us that Linda spearheaded their collaboration with the NYPD and their lifesaving relocation service. Samantha Ronson deejayed, and Sotheby’s Hugh Hildesley ran the auction.

Filling the Plaza were décor chair Robin Bell and Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale, who beckoned the young crowd to a raging disco below. And the gentle creatures of the earth slept a little better that night.


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