Scene Last Night: Blankfein, Paulson, Gary Parr, Lightburn, WienAmanda Gordon
Asked if he was a goat or a sheep, hedge-fund manager John Paulson said he’s a goat by birth year (1955). Lloyd Blankfein scrunched up his eyes and said, with a quiver in his voice: “Baaaaaaaa.”
Sure, the head of Goldman Sachs was in the middle of being sheared (of dollars -- he still has the beard) at the New York Philharmonic’s Chinese New Year gala, which raised $1.1 million Tuesday night. Then he reconsidered.
“I’m a goat, but I’m sheepish,” Blankfein said in parsing the word “yang,” which refers both to goats and sheep and is the Chinese zodiac animal of 2015, before dashing off for the concert portion of the evening.
The discovery here was a Chinese instrument: the sheng, a mouth-blown wind organ with pipes extending from a bowl.
“It can play harmony and melody at the same time,” said Karen LeFrak, a composer and New York Philharmonic board member, sitting next to Blankfein during dinner, which included Forbidden Rice Cake and duck breast with hoisin sauce.
On his other side, Blankfein was next to a Russian wrapped in sable fur, real-estate investor Janna Bullock. Also at the table, whose red tablecloth earned admiration from Blankfein, were Richard Lightburn, head of MKP Capital Management, and R. Couri Hay, a publicist and writer specializing in social figures. Former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, Houston-based investment banker Bobby Tudor, and “Gotham” actor Cory Michael Smith were also in the room.
Principal oboist Liang Wang came over to greet LeFrak (he’ll be performing one of her compositions in Vail, Colorado this summer), while Blankfein corralled Yo-Yo Ma, one of classical music’s bona fide stars. Ma had closed the concert, in a duo for cello and sheng by Zhao Lin.
Another guy roaming was Gary Parr, a vice chairman at Lazard and the event’s honoree for his service as chairman of the Philharmonic for more than five years. (Rivulet Capital’s Oscar Schafer took over last month.)
Parr said he’d learned “the importance of getting out of the way of an energetic board” and the demands of fundraising, which put him at a lot of the thousand concerts that took place during his tenure.
“There’s an enthusiasm you need,” Parr said, “It should come naturally.”
One of Parr’s marks on the Philharmonic is working on a partnership with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and its music director, Long Yu, who conducted the gala concert. Shanghai’s orchestra and the Philharmonic have established an academy in China to help musicians transition from their schooling to music careers.
There’s a place for music in investment banking too. “I listen on the way to the office,” Parr said. “It helps the creative juices flow and helps me think more broadly.”
Parr also said the Chinese zodiac animal that represents him would be the tiger.
Byron Wien fielded the zodiac question at another event Tuesday night, a benefit for the Urban Assembly, which has founded 23 public schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. After JPMorgan Chase’s foundation was honored for its support, Wien gave the keynote in a room at the New York Public Library, advising graduates to be more creative than their competitors.
So, is the vice chairman of advisory services at Blackstone Group a sheep or a goat? “Sheep are followers, goats are loners. I’m a goat,” Wien said, adding that his career successes owe much to that temperament.