“Congratulations, a million dollars, that’s terrific,” said Morgan Stanley Chairman John Mack as he made his way into the gala for Ballet Hispanico last night.
Mack, a vice chairman of the event, was addressing Kate Lear, a Ballet Hispanico board member, recipient of the event’s Civic Inspiration Award and daughter of television pioneer Norman Lear. She was credited for the event’s breaking a record by bringing in more than $1 million.
“I’ve known Kate longer than anyone else and she’s still a babe!” Lear said as he introduced his daughter at the podium.
Ballet Hispanico, which performs across the country and conducts workshops in New York public schools, was founded 40 years ago.
Sonia Manzano of “Sesame Street” fame received the Creative Inspiration Award. She noted how much the landscape has changed for Latinos.
“When we started ‘Sesame Street,’ we wanted children to know Latins live in America,” she said. “This morning, I taped a bit with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.”
Kate Lear recalled how a fellow tenant in her Manhattan building, Ballet Hispanico Chairman Jody Arnhold, recruited her.
“Jody cornered me in the elevator and pointed at me and said, ‘You owe it to yourself to learn about Ballet Hispanico.’” Soon after, she became devoted. “It’s the work Ballet Hispanico does with children that keeps me glued.”
Other vice chairmen for the event were: Edward Forst, co-head of investment management at Goldman, Sachs Group Inc.; writer Nora Ephron; and Roland Betts, chief executive officer of Chelsea Piers L.P.
On the Dance Floor
The company and students performed in the Plaza Hotel’s ballroom as the 450 guests were grazing on a green-bean salad. Later the Spanish Harlem Orchestra raised the volume several decibels, and it was the guests’ turn.
“You’ve got to be aggressive, you’ve got to look your partner in the eye, and you’ve got to take a risk,” said Ballet Hispanico’s artistic director, Eduardo Vilaro.
“I think you should watch us and learn,” added Katie Couric as she locked hands with Vilaro.
Kate Lear’s husband, Dr. Jonathan LaPook, a gastroenterologist famous for giving Couric an on-air colonoscopy, took hold of his wife’s arms and busted a few Spanish moves.
“I can fake it,” he’d said earlier. “It’s about sharp angles. Every few moments, I sing ‘cha cha cha.’ Sometimes I break out the moonwalk.” He demonstrated.
Above all, he cautioned: “Avoid that upper-lip bite. Guys who are not cool tend to do that, and it is a bad move.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)