Leon Black Is Chivalrous, Milken Serious at Melanoma Benefit

  • Leveraged finance event raises a record $1.7 million
  • Actress Genesis Rodriguez dispenses life-saving beauty advice

On Tuesday night in Rockefeller Center’s Summer Garden, chivalrous Leon Black offered his hand to actress Genesis Rodriguez to help her on to the stage. Since the crowd’s gut instinct was to stare at her beauty, the gesture of Apollo Global Management’s chief executive officer and chairman was a small sign of civilization prevailing.

Leon Black comes to the aid of actress Genesis Rodriguez.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Actually, civilization prevailed a few times over at the annual Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma benefit, supporting research grants by the Melanoma Research Alliance, which Black founded with his wife, Debra, after she was diagnosed with the cancer. The event raised a record $1.7 million, with more than 95 firms contributing.

“We just need to get Blackstone," said Jeff Rowbottom, managing director at PSP Investments and a former KKR & Co. man, who hosted the event with Brendan Dillon of UBS, Lee Grinberg of Elliott Management, George Mueller and Cade Thompson of KKR, and Trevor Watt of Hellman & Friedman.

Jedd Wolchok, Leon Black, Debra Black, Jeff Rowbottom, Mike Milken, Brendan Dillon and Lee Grinberg

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Black brought along his mentor Michael Milken, the leveraged finance pioneer and founder of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, to cultivate generosity and an interest in research among the thousand people gathered.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s Brian Steinhardt and Richard Fenyes with Scott Rosen of Solar Capital

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

"You’re all in leveraged finance, but this research far outdoes leveraged finance," Milken said. "Small investments result in very large returns."

Milken made sure guests had the chance to meet scientist Jedd Wolchok, whose combination immunotherapy treatment for advanced melanoma has received FDA approval.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in just the past few years," Wolchok said. “The median life expectancy of someone with this disease has changed from 6 to 7 months to several years. However, the job is nowhere near done. We have types of melanoma that are not responding to the current generation of therapy."

Rodriguez urged guests to wear sunscreen. Her credits include the Liam Neeson action flick “Run All Night" and “Yoga Hosers," a forthcoming comedy horror film from Kevin Smith in which she plays the gym teacher.

“One in every 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime," said Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for L’Oreal Paris, which supports the Melanoma Research Alliance. “While the Surgeon General reports 90 percent of melanomas are caused by UV exposure, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 14 percent of men wear sunscreen, and only 30 percent of women use sunscreen on their face."

Her advice: “Use SPF every day, summer, winter, spring and fall. I want to look beautiful, I want to stay young, and I want to have healthy skin for a very long time."

Josh Black, Ali Rachesky, Charlotte Van Dercook and Nathan Bram

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Black then extended his hand once more to help Rodriguez down from the stage, before joining his wife and children.

The event, in its fifth year, has become a fun ritual of sipping beer and grazing on sushi and sliders in an outdoor space that hosted the season-wrap party for “Saturday Night Live" a few days before. That event had Larry David and the cast there until the wee hours of the morning. The leveraged finance crowd left at 9 p.m., with some decamping to Connolly’s on 45th Street for an afterparty.

Suede elbow patches were a sartorial exception.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
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