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Elmo, Stahl, Sawyer Serenade Blackstone’s Pete Peterson

Municipal Art Society
Muppets Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster, performed by Kevin Clash, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, and David Rudman. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby, along with Diane Sawyer and Lesley Stahl, sang “As Time Goes By” to Pete Peterson and his wife, Joan Ganz Cooney last night.

The group Sawyer dubbed “Muppets and Harlots” was on hand as the couple received the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal of the Municipal Art Society of New York.

Peterson, 85, founded Blackstone Group LP with Stephen Schwarzman in 1985, after heading the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Lehman Brothers. Cooney created “Sesame Street” and Children’s Television Workshop.

Peterson used to “take credit for being the inspiration for Oscar the Grouch, but I was dismayed people actually believed it,” he said during dinner at the New York Public Library.

Blackstone’s Jonathan Gray, of the real-estate group, posed for a photo with Cookie Monster and his performer David Rudman.

The firm’s A. J. Agarwal and Raffiq Nathoo were also present, as were Blackstone alumni Sam Katz, managing partner of TZP Group LLC, and Doug Korn, senior managing director at Irving Place Capital Partners I LP.

Timothy Coleman and Steven Zelin, of Blackstone’s restructuring and reorganization group, sat with Lisa Donahue, co-head of turnaround and restructuring at AlixPartners LLP, and Jeffrey Aronson, co-founder of Centerbridge Partners LP.

During the meal of lobster, lamb and creme brulee, Kenneth Chenault, chairman and chief executive of American Express Co., talked to Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, and Susan Freedman, president of the Public Art Fund.

Secretary Switch

Michael Hoffman, partner at Riverstone Holdings LLC, where he invests in renewable energy, and an event chairman, said he and Peterson switched secretaries when they worked at Blackstone.

Hoffman still has the same secretary and sees Peterson regularly: Their offices are two floors apart in a Fifth Avenue building.

Post-Blackstone, Peterson has been “sharply focused on one mission,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday: “Doing something about this country’s long-term and, I think, undeniable and unsustainable debts.”

To that end, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation is sponsoring its third annual Fiscal Summit on May 15 in Washington.

Confirmed participants include former President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Congressman Paul Ryan and Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

“Because the politics are so difficult we are focusing on how do we get something done before it’s too late to avoid a crisis, European-style.” Peterson said.

‘He’s a Marketer’

Blackstone Vice Chairman James Tomilson Hill said he plans to attend the summit.

“If there’s any solution about the debt problem, Pete will figure it out,” Hill said. “Above all he’s a marketer, with the ability to get the idea into digestible form so people will figure it out.”

On the subject of philanthropy, Peterson offered advice for the Blackstone associate receiving his first bonus check.

“Do what gives you long-term -- emphasize long-term -- gratification,” Peterson said. “Find a cause you’re passionate about, get involved in it, and then as you make money and can afford it, make a financial contribution to that cause. Get engaged not only financially but personally.”

He’s pleased his son David recently became chairman of the Harlem Academy.

“I just had lunch with him, and he talked very, very excitedly about the progress they’ve made at the school,” Peterson said. “In the old days when we were having lunch, all we’d talk about was one financial deal or another. Today most of the conversation was about the school.”

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Today’s Muse highlights include a New York Weekend Guide and a review of “Clybourne Park.”

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