Googlers and Goldmanites Gather for Art, Science and Good CausesBy
Dream and Hudson Guild host benefits; stem cell lab opens
‘Church & State,’ a play about gun violence, gets intense
Goldman Sachs partner Kristin Olson probably didn’t count on Madonna’s "Material Girl" playing as she took the stage at Dream’s "A League of Our Own" benefit, celebrating the nonprofit’s softball teams for girls and honoring her own success on Wall Street.
But the ’80s hit about a woman wanting a rich man was so wrong, it was right. In fact, it was a pretty campy event where stereotypes of femininity were played for irony. So yes, there was wine and chocolate -- heaps of it, served under more than a dozen chandeliers with fake flickering candles. The flowers were pink, the chaise lounges silver and purple velvet.
But also there was guy food -- fries, sliders -- and a lot of guys, including Blackstone Group’s Vik Sawhney, Karim Assef, chairman of global investment banking at Bank of America, and Robert LeBlanc of Onex. "We never said guys weren’t invited," Richard Berlin, Dream’s executive director, said. "This year, we encouraged them."
That said, the organization’s name, Dream, sounds a little sappy compared to Harlem RBI, which it went by until earlier this month. Sawhney, the nonprofit’s chairman, explained the name was changed to reflect the organization’s expansion to Newark and other cities. Of course, it also references the "Field of Dreams" of the baseball movie.
The souvenir of the night was a pack of Topps Opening Day baseball cards, a gift -- or alternative investment-- that Olson, the head of the alternative capital markets group within Goldman’s investment management division, could happily pass on to her son in Little League.
New York Stem Cell Foundation hosted a ribbon-cutting and tours of its new laboratories -- showing off big machines, teeny tubes of RNA, and systems to filter the air. It all looked cool, but Stephen Scherr, chief strategy officer of Goldman Sachs, put things in perspective. "It’s what’s going to happen here that’s exciting," he said as scientists donning blue booties over their shoes got to work. Susan L. Solomon, the foundation’s co-founder, said the building project came in on time and on budget with the volunteered oversight of real-estate developer Stephen Ross. Fun fact: Bill Ackman is renovating the building around the corner for his new Pershing Square headquarters.
In the play "Church & State," up now at New World Stages, Rob Nagle plays a North Carolina senator a few days shy of an election who doesn’t feel right about the speech he’s about to give. Soon the audience learns why: he’s attended a funeral for children killed in a shooting at the same school his kids attend. He’s rattled and begins to reckon with his views of gun violence and what he can do about it.
"For 20 to 25 minutes after the show, I’m not myself, I’m coming down from it," Nagle said after the performance Wednesday.
In the audience that night: Jack Hayflick, who worked at Goldman Sachs for 30 years and is a co-producer of the play. He said he didn’t do it just because of the message. “I did it because it’s a good play," he said. He has seen it many times and is still arrested when he hears Nagle deliver his speech. "It’s the emotion that gets to me," Hayflick said.
Hudson Guild’s benefit saw Google’s chief information officer, Ben Fried, present a $150,000 donation to the nonprofit, which is based in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The funds continue Google’s support of Hudson Guild’s Tech Up Learning Lab, located at Fulton Houses, a residence of the New York City Housing Authority. The crowd had a lot of people who work in tech and media, but Warren Estey of Deutsche Bank was spotted, too. He’s friends with board member Laura Ranji, an alum of Bear Stearns who focuses on philanthropy.