“A Funny Affair for Autism” last night featured a live auction of two menorahs and three Christmas trees.
Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi created “the gay menorah,” as it was dubbed by volunteer auctioneer and comedian Susie Essman of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” It was hot pink with a lot of flowers and went to Jim Simons, chairman and founder of Renaissance Technologies LLC, for $10,000
Simons has given millions for autism research.
“I fund the research because I have a child with autism and because it’s extremely interesting,” Simons said in an interview. “Autism is a fascinating neurological condition, and if we understand it better, we can help a lot of people.”
Another guest bid $25,000 for the Adam Sandler Menorah, featuring images of famous Jews mentioned in his “The Chanukah Song,” such as Larry, Curly and Moe.
As for the Christmas trees: Martha Stewart’s sold for $9,000 and featured white sparkly ornaments. Honoree Tommy Hilfiger’s red, white and blue tree went for $10,000. And the “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” tree featured videos from the show, as well as one of Questlove’s hair picks. It went for $9,000.
The event, which benefited Autism Speaks and the New York Center for Autism, raised $1.3 million.
The founders of Autism Speaks are the former head of NBC, Bob Wright, and his wife, Suzanne, so there was a lot of NBC talent on hand, including Seth Meyers and Bill Hader of “Saturday Night Live,” Donny Deutsch, and Peter Alexander, an NBC News correspondent, who emceed.
Essman noted the red tartan tablecloths, the gingerbread centerpieces and the Slatkin & Co. pine-scented candles given as favors to guests. Harry and Laura Slatkin, who founded a charter school for autistic children, were co-chairmen of the event.
“Where is the candle that smells like a latke? Such discrimination!” she said.
Archbishop Finds Money
The matriarch of professional football’s New York Giants, Ann Mara, wasn’t about to forgive New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan for backing the Green Bay Packers Sunday.
“I told him, ‘I hope your collection plate was empty. Serves you right!’” she said last night at the Inner-City Scholarship Fund 35th Annual Award Dinner.
Still, she can’t deny the archbishop’s money-raising prowess on behalf of the fund, which sends underprivileged children to New York City Catholic schools. On the elevator ride to the event at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Dolan secured a $1,000 donation from a Jewish Philadelphian staying at the hotel named Brett Ian Rubinson, who works for Veritable LP.
“I told him, ‘Come sit with me,’” Archbishop Dolan said at the reception in the hotel lobby.
“I can’t join you, but where do I send the check?” Rubinson replied, as guests including hedge-fund manager Richard Brennan, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Michael Millette, Citigroup Inc.’s Samuel Di Piazza, and JPMorgan Chase Co.’s Catherine Keating filed in.
The event honored James Donaghy, chairman of Structure Tone, a construction firm whose projects include the Setai hotel on Fifth Avenue, the renovation of Macy’s and work at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.
“We make these big buildings, and we have to take an interest in the people who live around them,” Donaghy said before his turn at the lectern. “We can change the odds for kids by giving them a safe, secure and values-based environment.”
Many guests cited the statistic in the event program that 95 percent of graduates of New York’s Catholic schools pursue post-secondary education, compared to 67 percent of graduates of New York City public schools.
CBS Sunday Morning contributor Mo Rocca, a board member of the organization, emceed the event, which raised $1.3 million. The president of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund board of trustees is Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg News parent company Bloomberg LP.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)