Scene Last Night met a lot of people at a lot of parties in 2011. Here are some of the personalities that entertained, intrigued and taught us something about giving back.
She kicked off the New York social season at the Winter Antiques Show opening night, sponsored by U.S. Trust, a unit she oversaw at Bank of America. Not that she had time to look at antiques: She spent most of the evening greeting guests, standing near a display of furniture from her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.
By autumn, she had left Bank of America and was going out with her husband to the opening nights of the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall, where she serves on the board. At the Philharmonic, the program of Wagner and Strauss was “uplifting,” she said.
“Where’s Wagner when we need him,” quipped another guest, J. Christopher Flowers, founder of J.C. Flowers & Co. “He’d get the euro zone whipped into shape.”
The founder of hedge fund Paulson & Co. lost plenty of money this year. His party portfolio, on the other hand, expanded.
Among the black-tie benefits he attended were the Foreign Policy Association’s annual Financial Services Dinner, a fete for Blenheim Palace in the company of its occupants and caretakers, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, and the Whitney Museum of American Art spring gala, which took place in a former bus depot.
Paulson and his wife, Jenny, seemed happiest at the autumn and spring galas for New York City Ballet, where the music of Katy Perry played as they shared the dance floor with Paul McCartney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ed Norton and Steve Buscemi.
Morgan Stanley’s retiring chairman knows a gala doesn’t tell a nonprofit’s full story. So one morning he gave a tour of the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, which the firm’s employees helped build.
We visited infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, spent a moment with a permanent resident, a Big Bird doll, and scanned walls of donor names. Why were Steven and Alexandra Cohen’s printed larger?
“They gave more,” Mack said. To be precise, he coaxed $50 million from the hedge-fund manager and his wife to create the Pediatric Emergency Department, which opened in the spring.
“One of the great things here are the iPads the kids can play on,” Mack said, tentatively scribbling on one.
The chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co. cut a handsome figure at the Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden but looked like a wallflower at the party his wife, Judy, threw for women’s fashion designer Wes Gordon, filling their Upper East Side home with racks of clothes, models, a harpist and hors d’oeuvres by Olivier Cheng.
In fact Dimon kept a low profile on the party circuit, leaving his bank unit to make the splash: Chase sponsored the Black Eyed Peas concert in Central Park, which raised $4 million for the Robin Hood Foundation. And at the American Giving Awards, Chase Community Giving presented $2 million to five nonprofits, with Miley Cyrus and Colin Farrell on hand.
Lauder, who passed away in November, provided a charming moment at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation Hot Pink Party. Asked to fill a gap in the program, the nonprofit’s founder and chairman went on stage and told a few jokes (including one about soliciting bids to get her to stop).
Not exactly a stand-up comedian, she was warm, passionate and effective as ever. In 18 years BCRF has given $360 million to 186 researchers in 13 countries.
Her experience building the Estee Lauder cosmetics empire came in handy: The sale of pink products ranging from diamonds to paper towels brought in $21 million last year. The next Hot Pink Party, on April 30, will be a tribute to Lauder, with help from Elton John and her husband, Leonard, now acting BCRF chairman.
Paul Tudor Jones
When this hedge-fund manager is at the party, you’re going to have a good time doing good, most likely with some live music.
Lady Gaga came out in a luminescent egg-shaped chariot for a long set at the Robin Hood Foundation gala -- after Kid Rock had performed a new song in tribute to American veterans.
In Palm Beach, the dress code was jeans and cowboy hats for Kenny Chesney’s gig at the Everglades Foundation gala. (Dave Matthews has that job in 2012, on Feb. 17, once again at the Breakers.)
As for which 2011 gala musician was his favorite? Jones seemed most enthusiastic when his daughter Caroline played at the inaugural benefit for the Dubin Breast Center. Dad was dancing in front of the stage, with mom, Sonia Jones, recording the performance on her white mobile phone.
You can count on the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for a good yarn. At the gala for the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases, Cohn described an operation he had on his thumb. His doctor, Keith Raskin, explained that the injury was skier’s thumb, a ligament tear from holding the ski pole when you fall.
“He’s an expert skier,” clarified his wife, Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn, a painter and jewelry designer. “Someone skied into him.”
In any case, serving on the board of the New York University Langone Medical Center means good care for the Cohn family.
“I get calls from Vail,” Raskin said.
The chef has fashioned a fundraising mecca in the lower level of his Red Rooster. President Barack Obama was there for braised short ribs to support the Democratic National Committee. Halle Berry and Ron Perelman stopped by to raise money for the New York City Family Justice Center.
The dinner for Copland House, which owns the Westchester home where composer Aaron Copland lived and worked, featured those Obama short ribs, smoked Arctic char, and curried lobster, paired with music by Ellington, Gershwin, Fats Waller and others. When baritone James Martin, a magnetic Juilliard graduate, sang a Black spiritual, Samuelsson was one step closer to realizing his vision of a new Harlem Renaissance.
That made dessert -- caramelized white chocolate cake -- all the sweeter.
At the Bent on Learning benefit, Lydia Fenet of Christie’s auctioned off a 21-day deep cleanse, a package with celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson and a vegan dinner with artist Francesco Clemente. Honoree Gwyneth Paltrow also got in the game, offering two tickets to a performance of “Glee Live! In Concert!”
“Bring your kid, I’ll send a car, and we’ll go backstage,” Paltrow said, helping sell the package for $10,000.
The actress, dressed in Alexander Wang, ended the evening giving hugs and autographs to Bent on Learning students, who learn yoga at their schools.
The supermodel ascended the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit gala behind SAC Capital Advisors LP’s Steve Cohen. Bundchen also mingled with financiers at the Robin Hood gala, where the company included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president and COO Gary Cohn, one of the few present who matched her height.
At the Harvard Club, she picked up a Global Environmental Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment.
The busy face of Givenchy is a United Nations Environmental Ambassador, has an “eco-friendly” line of flip-flops and started a clean-water project in her hometown in Brazil.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)