Nine hundred guests dined last night at Pier 57, a former bus depot, festooned with photographs of the High Line hanging from clotheslines.
Tables were covered with postcard-sized snaps: a child making paper ice pops, a spray of wildflowers, Diane von Furstenberg and Edward Norton posing in sunglasses.
“It makes people feel like they’re part of a family album, there’s a sense of history and pride here,” said interior decorator Celerie Kemble of the atmosphere created by Van Wyck & Van Wyck.
The photographs tell the story of the park’s transformation from abandoned track to a vibrant place.
Guests -- who raised $3.2 million for Friends of the High Line -- focused on Robert Hammond, who is departing as executive director at the end of the year.
“When I suggested to Robert that the High Line start an art program, he convinced me to pay for it all,” said Donald Mullen, chairman and chief executive officer of Fundamental REO LLC. “It shows you how charming and how much of a leader he is. He’s like the pied piper.”
John Blondel, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., recalled Hammond taking him through a warehouse for soap-opera sets (including “Edge of Night”) to get to the High Line.
“I felt like a kid in a tree house,” said Blondel, a long-serving board member. “I still do, I go running there every morning.”
The food at the party was served family-style, so guests such as Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky of Eaglevale Partners LP could swap stories as they passed lobster casseroles and bowls of shaved black kale.
At the end of the evening, honoree Ethan Hawke hailed a car to take friends back to Brooklyn. In the pack: actor Alessandro Nivola who said he’s been in Boston filming “American Hustle” with director David O. Russell.
Storytelling at benefits seems to be a high priority these days. Ostentation is out, ingenuity is in.
Event designer David Stark, for instance, created a starry sky for the Robin Hood Foundation’s benefit at the Javits Center by suspending 5,000 bulbs.
“It’s the brightest lights, the brightest minds, getting together to solve New York’s biggest problems,” Stark said. “It’s not about stuff, it’s about a feeling.”
Great stories told at the lectern do their part. Paul Tudor Jones at Robin Hood spoke of a woman named Stella who crochets blankets to give to New York’s homeless, as well as a prisoner who made a donation to the Sandy Relief Fund from his prison checking account.
Literacy Partners on May 1 also featured a wonderful story, that of 63-year-old Yvonne Hoyt, who learned to read four years ago with the help of the organization.
Scenarios USA uses film to help teenagers tell their stories. In the spotlight at its April 24 gala: Roxanne Lasker-Hall and Luis Hernandez, students who won a contest allowing them to film their screenplays with the help of professionals, including Moises Velez of NBC. (Click here for a video of Lasker-Hall talking about her film.)
At the benefit, Everest Entertainment executive Tom Heller said the company will donate a portion of the profits from its film “Mud” to Scenarios USA.
Everest founder Lisa Maria Falcone was drawn to the organization because it helps “children that come from backgrounds where parents or institutions have not been able to be supportive,” she said. “Scenarios gives them the ability to voice their experiences, to write about them, to overcome their issues and share them with other kids. It just seemed right.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include James S. Russell on architecture, James Shribman on books.