- City Parks Foundation party funds shows, sports in local parks
- Ron Delsener feted for his legendary Elton, Streisand concerts
Muffie Potter Aston knew all the words and sang along as Jon Bon Jovi crooned “Who Says You Can’t Go Home." And just about everybody -- including Barry Rosenstein, Alan and Susan Patricof, Mort and Linda Janklow and Peter and Rebecca Shapiro -- joined Peter Yarrow on "Blowin’ in the Wind."
Had they not been supping by candlelight, but squished together with minimal provisions, they might have been attending one of the legendary concerts Ron Delsener brought to Central Park starting in the ’60s, when seats were $1 thanks to sponsor Rheingold Beer. They were instead having the next-best experience, attending a benefit Monday night in Central Park honoring the music promoter and raising $1.1 million for the City Parks Foundation. Tickets were $1,500 and up.
"They threw me out of Central Park 35 years ago; I’m back tonight," Delsener said, accepting his award. He then recalled a backstage conversation with Ray Charles, encountering a guy dressed in plastic on Madison Avenue, and a hot-dog vendor who made off with most of the hot dogs. In a video, he walked around the park and reminisced about the night George Harrison showed up when Tina Turner was playing, the low fee Led Zeppelin accepted to perform, the masses that came out for Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John’s costume changes, and building a stage on Sheep Meadow for Barbra Streisand in 1967.
"Of course we destroyed the grass; however, we put sod down," Delsener said. "We had to put that in the budget. I was a people’s promoter. I didn’t care about making a lot of money."
Proceeds from the gala (and other benefit concerts held at Central Park’s SummerStage in the next few months) support free concerts in city parks in all five boroughs. Tonight, Public Enemy plays Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said he’ll be there.
Silver has led an effort to take down fences at city parks, opening them up to the streets by creating sight lines that foster safety and encourage more use by the community.
While New York’s parks department takes care of physical maintenance, the City Parks Foundation focuses on programming. In addition to concerts, the charity brings the parks recreational programs like tennis or track and field.
"The parks thrive when people use the green spaces in meaningful and productive ways," said John Troubh, chairman of the foundation and president of JBT Capital Inc. "We’re focused on the parks that don’t have their own conservancies to support them."
The live auction featured two mega-ticket packages, one for music and one for sports. As the bidding climbed past $20,000, David Moore, the chief executive officer of Moore Holdings moonlighting as the auctioneer, asked for more. "The Barbra Streisand suite alone is worth that," he said. Both packages brought in $38,000 each.
Delsener himself assembled the line-up for a concert that followed the family-style dinner set up on the grounds of SummerStage. Paul Shaffer was the band leader, saxophonist David Sanborn joined for two tunes, and Idina Menzel sang Radiohead’s "Creep" after telling the crowd how Delsener discovered her, and made a "Long Island Jewish girl’s dreams come true."
Father Guido Sarducci, an ’80s fixture of "Saturday Night Live," provided a comic interlude by introducing his invention -- small food plates designed to rest on one’s shoulder, which he demonstrated over his robes. One possible use at a party, he said: a place to rest the appetizer you took a bite of and didn’t like, warning others not to try it.
The City Parks Foundation had its own innovation in use during the event: Every guest was given a lanyard designating them a "VIP."