Last night the annual fundraiser for the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center transformed the Park Avenue Armory into a cabaret.
From the ceiling hung custom-designed three-tiered chandeliers. For the striped curtains, 10 people with rollers had painted material laid out on the floor of a New Jersey warehouse.
The amount raised was a record $3.4 million, including nine gifts of $100,000 each, said gala co-chairman and New York-Presbyterian Hospital trustee, Charlotte Ford.
The honorees were Dr. Herbert Pardes, who recently retired as president and chief executive of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and is now executive vice chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees; and Dr. Antonio Gotto, who is soon retiring from his post as dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. Students at the college train at the hospital.
John Mack, chairman of Morgan Stanley and of New York-Presbyterian, recalled how he joined the board. He’d said no a couple of times, when a Morgan Stanley colleague put it to him this way: “How would you feel if one of your employees really needed health care?”
“I said, ‘You’re right.’ I joined the board in 1983,” Mack said.
Since then Mack has forged a companywide philanthropic relationship with the hospital. “We got our employees to raise the money to build a new children’s hospital,” Mack said. “I’ll give you a tour.”
It was time for dinner. Not surprisingly, the menu for the 1,000 guests, many digestive specialists among them, was health-conscious: wild mushroom soup and herb-roasted chicken with kale, catered by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.
It was the kind of meal Sandy Weill, former chairman of Citigroup Inc. and chairman of Weill Cornell Medical College, could appreciate: He was wearing his smaller tuxedo and it was a “little tight,” he said.
Teresa Teague, a partner at Goldman Sachs, wore a navy lace dress by The Row, purchased from the website Net-a-Porter.
“It got here this afternoon,” the unabashed last-minute shopper said before taking her seat at the Gotto table (honoree Gotto is her father).
Kelli O’Hara, the Broadway star known for her turn in “South Pacific,” walked on stage in a shimmering black gown, singing Stephen Sondheim’s “What More Do I Need?”
“It’s about the joys of living in New York,” O’Hara said.
The blonde soprano stirred the crowd’s romantic impulses with “A Wonderful Guy” from “South Pacific” and Irving Berlin’s “Always,” a song that was sung at her grandparents’ wedding, she said.
Then came “The Sun Went Out,” from her first solo CD, “Wonder in the World.”
“It’s by my favorite songwriter, my husband, Greg Naughton,” she said. “He writes around the subject of being in love.”
Banter, a staple of cabaret around town, was minimal.
“I perform at a lot of charity events and this one may mean the most to me,” O’Hara said. “When my mother was sick, I brought her here from Oklahoma. She got a second chance at New York-Presbyterian.”
O’Hara sent off guests with “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady.”
“We’ll dance all the way home,” said Anita Gotto, the dean’s wife.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)