Scene Last Night: Buffett, Anka for Friars Slim, De NiroAmanda Gordon
Warren Buffett’s excuse for missing the Friars Club tribute to Carlos Slim last night?
“Fortune is having its 400 Most Powerful Women, and oooh, we are not going to miss that, Paul,” Buffett said, sitting next to crooner Paul Anka in a pre-taped video played in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria.
“This is what I call a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stick it to Carlos Slim,” Buffett said. “Hey Carlos, here’s the F word for you and that word’s philanthropist.”
The Mexican billionaire then got the treatment Buffett and Anka dished out to writer and Berkshire Hathaway newsletter editor Carol Loomis at the Fortune summit on Monday -- a custom rendition of Anka’s song “My Way.”
“But we’re pissed, what fun we missed,” Buffett sang. “You may be richer Slim, but I got him, and Paul’s singing ’My Way.’”
Slim is the second-richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $80.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Buffett trails him with $67 billion, good enough for third place.
Not that anyone was wowed by such wealth -- not with so many celebrities in the room assembled for Robert De Niro, the other honoree of the Friars Club, an association of comedians and others known for its risque celebrity roasts. (Last night was meant as more of a toast.)
Ben Stiller made a bit out of the imbalance, pausing mid-sentence in his tribute to De Niro to peer out into the audience -- in a pre-taped video, making the ensuing gag even funnier -- and pretend to see Slim.
“This award, this incredible award...Oh my God, is that Carlos Slim? That’s cool,” Stiller said. “What are you, like a Friar? That’s so weird. Oh, are you opening up a hotel or something with Bob?” Stiller said.
In fact, Slim, who controls America Movil, the largest mobile-phone operator in the Americas, did become a Friar last night, inducted by his friend Larry King, who was emcee and serves as the dean of the club. So the telecom tycoon took a stab at acting like one.
“They say that it’s not serious and you need to have some fun and everyone comes for that,” Slim said on stage as he accepted his award. “The only joke that I was thinking of, was to speak in Spanish. But I think it would not be so good.”
He went on, in English, to stress his philanthropic priorities of education and employment. “People need to get educated in different ways,” he said.
The event benefited the Friars Foundation, which entertains wounded U.S. soldiers in military hospitals and gives out college scholarships.
Slim was back in his seat with his award before dinner was served, but De Niro didn’t get on stage until after a post-dessert set by Stevie Wonder, which gives you an idea of how much of the night was dedicated to the actor’s honor.
There were videos from Keith Richards, Barbra Streisand, Ricky Gervais, Don Rickles, Sean Penn and Billy Crystal, who appeared different than usual. “I tried to do something out of respect for Bob. I gained 60 pounds. The first three pounds were easy, the other 57 pounds I ate an Olsen twin.”
The in-person speakers did a fine job too.
Joel McHale, a “Community” cast member and host of “The Soup” on E! Entertainment Television, riffed on the actor’s readiness to work. “There was an awkward moment earlier when Mr. De Niro was handed a menu and he immediately signed on to star in it,” he said.
McHale also noted the Waldorf-Astoria’s sale by Hilton to Chinese investors for $2 billion, announced two days ago. “They’re going to close this place in January to redo it, so take whatever you like.”
Looking pretty fabulous, Sharon Stone said De Niro is “the best kisser in the business.” Director David O. Russell said De Niro would make a good home decorator, while Christopher Walken said he and his “Deer Hunter” co-star sometimes go hang-gliding.
Ed Norton said his acting lessons consisted of studying De Niro films. And Edgar Ramirez, who will appear with De Niro next year in “Hands of Stone,” about boxer Roberto Duran, praised the actor’s generosity to his co-stars.
Kenan Thompson, the “Saturday Night Live” writer and comedian, inducted De Niro “as an honorary black man because he is very, very cool,” and suggested that Slim make him an honorary Mexican.
He then proposed reissuing De Niro’s films with new titles.
“’Taxi Driver’ is going to be ’Can I Get a Cab?’ ’Goodfellas’ can become ’Good Brothas.’ ’Mean Streets,’ well, that’s going to stay ’Mean Streets.’”
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