Scene Last Night: Citigroup’s Corbat, Schwarzman, Streep

American Museum of Natural History
Mike Corbat, CEO of Citigroup Inc., right, and Douglas Brinkley, a historian and authority on Theodore Roosevelt. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

June 12 (Bloomberg) -- “The lack of power to take joy in outdoor nature is as real a misfortune as the lack of power to take joy in books,” Theodore Roosevelt said in the Outlook, a weekly magazine of his day.

Mike Corbat, the chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc., couldn’t agree more.

“In winter it’s skiing, the rest of the year it’s mountain biking, freshwater fishing, hiking, climbing -- just put me outside and I’ll figure out what to do,” Corbat said last night standing in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda of the American Museum of Natural History.

“I think when you do those things, it takes you to a different place,” Corbat added. “When you come back, you’ve cleared out the cobwebs and you can refocus again on the things you need to do.”

Corbat was at the museum for its 21st annual corporate dinner, which honored Citigroup Inc.’s philanthropic support, including a $250,000 Citi Foundation grant Corbat announced last night for the museum’s education programs.

The foundation has supported the museum since 1989, said Ellen Futter, the museum’s president.

“Both of our institutions live at the threshold of discovery,” Futter said. “Citi does this as a global leader in finance, while the museum does it through cutting-edge scientific research.”

Corbat took his daughter, Alli, to the museum when she was a child. She’s now a student at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and has a summer internship in London at Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

Rainy Day

“We lived just a few blocks from here, and when we had some free time, a rainy day, we could walk up the street, come in and get lost for a couple of hours,” he said. “What I enjoyed is seeing things through her eyes. That’s as fun as seeing things myself.”

In remarks at the lectern to 260 guests, including Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group, and Roger Altman, chairman of Evercore Partners Inc., Corbat said he’s drawn to the museum’s dinosaurs. “I love thinking back to what the world was like a couple million years ago -- a time when banks were liked.”

Corbat’s personal philanthropy focuses on freshwater-fishing organizations, such as the Wild Salmon Center and Trout Unlimited. The biggest freshwater fish he ever caught and released was a 30-inch rainbow trout. In saltwater, he’s caught shark, barracuda and tuna.

“I’ve caught all kinds of big fish. They wind up winning a lot more than I do,” he said.

Public Pirates

At the Public Theater’s 2013 gala at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park last night, Sting, Steve Martin and Meryl Streep had prime seats for a one-night-only performance of “The Pirates of Penzance,” starring Kevin Kline as the Pirate King and Martin Short as Major-General Stanley, a sure recipe for hilarity.

Streep took the stage before the performance to say a few words about her friend Nora Ephron, the writer and director who died last year and was a big supporter of the Public, particularly its free theater in Central Park.

Streep recalled a dinner with Ephron. “I bubbled to our tablemates, ’Bon Appetit,’” Streep said, doing a perfect imitation of Julia Child. “And she gave me a sideways look and said, ’I have a thought.’”

Making Magic

That turned into the movie “Julia and Julia,” in which Streep played Child. “Nora knew how to extend a thought to make it magic, to make it a thing,” Streep said.

Ephron was a board member of the Public Theater for more than eight years.

“She was a great board member,” said Warren Spector, the chairman of the Public Theater’s board. “She spoke her mind, when she liked something she was gung ho, and when she didn’t like something she did not let us continue.”

To honor her memory and her love for Shakespeare in the Park, the board has planted a cherry tree outside the Delacorte theater. The gala raised $2.3 million

(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 Lili Rosboch and Katya Kazakina on art.

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.