Ross and Langone Sup With Nixon, Not Trump, to Help Fight Cancer

  • Cancer Research Institute takes guests through the kitchen
  • Wilbur Ross predicts an independent Bernie Sanders candidacy

The theme of the Cancer Research Institute benefit Sunday night was elections, so Wilbur Ross, chairman of the private-equity firm WL Ross & Co., wondered during cocktail hour: why hadn’t he been assigned to dine at the Donald Trump table, indicating his preferred candidate?

Sunday night at the Four Seasons

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The answer: to defuse potential tensions, the organizers had decided to feature only former presidents with a sufficient distance from 2016’s candidates. So no Bill Clinton or Barack Obama seats, but OK to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

Ross wound up at the Nixon table with another Trump supporter -- Ken Langone.

Ken and Elaine Langone

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

"When push comes to shove, they’ll like her less than him," Langone said of a Hillary Clinton vs. Trump contest, adding that Bernie Sanders’s appeal should be acknowledged too. "He’s got the kids, and that’s something we have to wonder about," Langone said of the Vermont senator’s support among millennials. "What are the kids saying we need to do? It’s up to every one of us to listen."

Wilbur and Hilary Ross

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Ross forecast Sanders will run as an independent. “In this weird election year, Sanders is going to be the wild card," Ross said. "He’s a movement, he’s not just a person, and a movement needs momentum."

The room was filled with Democrats and Republicans, red and blue balloons, but also people unwilling to stump for a candidate.

"We deserve what we get," said Loews Corp. co-chairman Andrew Tisch, a co-founder of No Labels, a group that fights hyper-partisanship.

"I’m not going to vote," said architect Richard Meier.

"I can’t wait for this election to be over," said Lauren Veronis, patriotically wearing a blue dress with red shoes and red lipstick. "I’m hoping the best person wins."

Lauren Veronis

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Veronis has helmed this benefit for 34 years, longer than eight presidential terms -- making hers the reign of a queen, though Four Seasons co-owner Alex Von Bidder called her a first lady. Either way, she looked the part, waving to guests on the steps overlooking the dining room at the Four Seasons, holding a bouquet, a gift from her daughter, Perri Peltz.

Not that she’s succeeded as a party host by taking on royal airs. "We always have a lot of fun," she said. "We don’t take ourselves too seriously."

The different theme each year is part of the successful formula. Other hallmarks of the event are the location (the Four Seasons restaurant), the day of the week (Sunday) and the dress code (no black tie). The most special aspect, however, is how people get their food: walking through the kitchen to fill their plates at multiple buffet stations, which gives the event its name: the Through the Kitchen Party.

"Everybody likes to be an insider, and nothing can be more inside than being in the kitchen of a world-famous restaurant," said Ross.

Eva Dubin

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Eva Dubin had sushi on her first pass, then came back for pasta -- “Federalist fusilli.” The menu also included "Tippecanoe and oysters too," "salmon ceVETOiche," and "above the fruited plain chutney."

At the carving stations were "short ballot ribs," "Alexander Ham-ilton" and "lame duck." For dessert: "yes we pe-can" pie and a Dolley Madison ice cream sundae bar.

The tables, meanwhile, had plenty of hats, campaign buttons and other objects with an embedded history lesson. The baby doll was a reminder of the illegitimate child supported by Grover Cleveland. Because Zachary Taylor died after drinking milk, his table featured a ceramic cow labeled "poison." Ronald Reagan’s table had jelly beans.

Table tributes, clockwise from top right, Grover Cleveland, George Washington, Harry Truman and Zachary Taylor

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Dressed for the party

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

DeJuan Stroud once again oversaw the decor, which also included an inflatable elephant, an inflatable donkey and bunting around the bar.

And the party isn’t just fun -- it’s raised more than $15 million over the years for immunotherapy research, a pathway for beating cancer that was once a dream and is now yielding effective treatments.

Ross lamented that it would be the last Through the Kitchen Party to be held at the Four Seasons restaurant, at least in the Modernist icon’s current incarnation in the Seagram Building. The restaurant is moving out in July.

Dennis Basso, Perri Peltz and Caryn Zucker

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

"When I bought my business, my original office was right next door -- this was my lunch place," Ross said. "I feel a part of me is vanishing."

During the live auction, hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for CRI’s Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, including dinner for six at the Four Seasons wherever it relocates (a location has not been announced).

Paula Root, Danielle and David Ganek

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The event raised $1.2 million and drew 280 guests, among them Leonard Harlan (for Trump); Benjamin Rosen (a Hillary Clinton supporter); E. John Rosenwald; Larry Leeds; Christopher Harland; Charles Bronfman; David and Danielle Ganek; David Wassong, Tony Bennett; Tom Tuft and Diane Tuft; and Robin Hayes, chief executive of JetBlue, who donated a travel experience to the auction and sat with CRI’s CEO, Jill O’Donnell-Tormey.

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