New York got its Oscar party early as a star-filled Hollywood supper club took over Alice Tully Hall last night, with prime spots occupied by Madonna, Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai and Bank of America investment banking vice chairman Cary Thompson.
The magnet was Bryan Lourd, chairman and managing partner of Creative Artists Agency. The occasion: the Lincoln Center American Songbook gala that honored him.
Clearly Lourd, a board member of the performing-arts center, has a lot of friends. The gala raised $2.75 million, twice as much as last year, and had twice as many guests, said Katherine Farley, the chairman of Lincoln Center.
“I do consider myself the best friend of a lot of people. I feel it and I mean it,” Lourd said at the end of the program.
Gala chairman Adrienne Arsht made sure those friends were treated well, with a buffet dinner of wild mushroom macaroni and cheese and shrimp and grits. Guests relaxed in all-white banquettes, lounges and tables filling every corner of the hall and a tent.
Built around one personality, the party felt big and small at the same time, not unlike the Costume Institute Ball, which has Anna Wintour as its muse. She was present last night with her daughter Bee Shafer, in a tight circle with Ryan Murphy from “Glee.”
When Lloyd Blankfein returns from his trip to Asia, he’ll be sorry to hear from his wife Laura that he missed the evening, which was attended by many Wall Street and business titans.
Henry Kravis said hello to Gwyneth Paltrow. John Mack brushed by Jimmy Fallon and Darren Aronofsky on his way out of the theater, and David Coulter of Warburg Pincus and his wife got a good look at Reese Witherspoon and Daniel Craig. “He looks like Putin!” said Susan Coulter, founder of Global Film Initiative. Barry Diller, Steve Ross, William Mack, and Leonard Lauder were also guests.
It was good timing for the often sleepy Lincoln Center gala to get a boost: new president Jed Bernstein is in his second week on the job.
The program was set in what was touted as a David Rockwell-designed re-creation of Lourd’s living room in his West Village penthouse. There Alan Cumming, Patricia Clarkson and others sat together in 1930s-era couches and chairs, in front of a grand window offering a view of the Empire State Building.
At the mic, each one said his or her name (“I’m Annie Hathaway,” for example), gave a tribute or sang, then sat down to find a bartender awaiting with a drink.
Marisa Tomei introduced herself as both a client and a neighbor in Lourd’s building. “I love you, and I know the co-op board loves you,” Tomei said. “Can I get a ride home, by the way?”
Revival Broadway was represented with Matthew James Thomas singing “Corner of the Sky” from “Pippin” and Allison Williams on “Some Enchanted Evening.” New Broadway had a turn with Norbert Leo Butz performing “Fight the Dragons” from “Big Fish.”
Lourd grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana, home of a Tabasco-sauce factory. As a boy, he was already “an old soul,” according to his mom. When he was 17, he traveled to New York with his family. They saw six shows in five days.
“Two of the people I was looking for were, one, Madonna -- I found her later -- and two, my tribe,” Lourd said on stage. The trip sparked a romance that set him on his career. “It’s amazing to build something next to people you love and respect,” he said.
Visitors from Lourd’s other base in Hollywood included Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and vets David Geffen, Ron Meyer, Brad Grey and Sandy Gallin. Yet it was a New York night, summed up by Sarah Jessica Parker singing a stripped down version of “N.Y.C.” from “Annie,” her first Broadway musical.
A more contemporary, gritty New York came through in LCD Soundsystem’s “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” performed by Anne Hathaway with an air guitar riff and loud, gravelly voice for the rock finale. If anyone can bring her to Broadway to sing this song, with Mayor de Blasio in the audience, Lourd can and I hope he does. The number was last night’s showstopper.
There was a debut too -- one that Lourd himself noted he hadn’t signed yet: Billie Lourd, his daughter (with Carrie Fisher), who performed Neil Young’s “Old Man” as a duet with Matt Bomer from “White Collar.”
“We couldn’t find a song called Middle-Aged Man,” Billie said.
The best laugh line of the night came from director of screen and stage Mike Nichols, who, unable to attend, wrote remarks that were read by Daniel Craig.
“If this were a novel, it would be no accident that he has the last name of Lourd,” Nichols wrote, going on to describe the talent agent as “the godfather -- he asks for nothing and he looks after us.”