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The Obamas, Spielberg And Memories Of MLK

Originally Posted: May 20, 2009

Jennifer Tuesday

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michele Obama at the recent NAACP Awards. The President has named a new Head to the National Endowment of the Arts. All images courtesy of Google Images

Southampton - Never did the arts get such a big boost as they did this week with the Obama Administration showing the love all over town with some very special appearances and a significant new appointment of a new National Endowment for the Arts czar.

The very big news was somewhat expected as President and Mrs. Obama were announced a few weeks ago as the Honorary Chairs of the American Ballet Theater's Spring Gala at Lincoln Center, celebrating the opening the company's 68th season. When it became apparent that Michelle Obama was definitely coming and would speak, the fashionable ladies of New York and the East End went into a tizzy, and the ballgown hunt was on.

The ABT gala is always a very stylish fete, but this year there was a plethora of voluminous gowns in vibrantly colored satin and silk and an eye-popping display of precious jewels. And in a tribute to Michelle Obama's famous bare arms, many of the ladies went strapless. Renee Zellweger was radiant in gunmetal strapless satin; Deborah Norville Wellner showed off her ample bosom in a gravity defying teal blue number; Fe Fendi and Hillary Gumbel both opted for arm bearing red satin; Iman, a/k/a Mrs. David Bowie, wore a lime green lace princess ballgown that could hardly fit into a well-sized carriage, much less a limo. Kelly Ripa looked very chic in strapless midnight blue; Lynda Carter commanded respect in a gorgeous gray satin overlaid with black lace - very Flamenco; Alexandra Lebenthal was in va-va-voom off-the-shoulder red silk taffeta and Deborah Roberts looked high glam in a one-shouldered ruffled baby pink satin gown, which hubby Al Roker complimented by wearing a baby pink tie!

Matt Laurer attended the ABT Gala.

East Hampton's Steven Schwarzman, who sits on the boards of the New York City Ballet and The Film Society, and is Chairman of the Kennedy Center, looked dapper as he escorted wife Christine swathed in an elegant black and white Pilar Rossi. Southampton's Calvin Klein and Lee Radziwill came arm in arm - both quite chic in black. Also adding to the dazzling red carpet were David and Julia Koch, Annette and Matt Lauer, Tory Burch, Mariska Hargitay and so many more.

And most importantly, the evening's program was as dazzling as the audience. In honor of the farewell season of Principal Dancer Nina Ananiashvili, ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky created a stunning piece d'occasion set to the waltz from Aram Khachaturian's "Masquerade Suite" to be performed by Ms. Ananiashvili. The gala evening featured ABT's Principal Dancers in highlights from the Company's eight-week season, a special guest appearance by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and a performance by the students of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre, introduced by Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.

Michelle Obama also paid a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to help cut the ribbon for their new wing. Later that day, the news broke that her husband had appointed Broadway producer Rocco Landesman to head up the National Endowment for the Arts. Landesman, who owns five theaters on the Great White Way, was one of the producers behind Mel Brooks' rip-roaring success, "The Producers" and is known for his candor and some say irreverence. Though a commercial producer, Rocco's roots are in the not-for-profit world. Carrying a PhD. from Yale, he still teaches and lectures at the Yale School of Drama. Tony Kushner, author of among other plays "Angels in America," is thrilled that he is going to be leading the charge. Word on the street is that Rocco will undoubtedly lobby real hard - Broadway producer style - and is not afraid to do a little arm twisting. Colleagues believe he will push for increased arts funding and energize the endowment, which has watched its budget shrivel since the early 1990s.

Steven Spielberg acquired rights to produce Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic.

While we are talking theater, I should tell you that the prestigious Theatre World Awards, the oldest awards given for Broadway and Off-Broadway debut performances, announced this year's crop of winners for outstanding debut performances. Not surprising the "Billy Elliott" boys - David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish - were all cited, as was Josefina Scaglione, Maria in "West Side Story," which should make Quogue's Arthur Laurents very happy. Arthur championed the casting of the Argentinean beauty in his new Spanish/English production of his 50-year-old musical.

Just heard some great news! Steven Spielberg has finally acquired the rights from the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to produce the first ever fully authorized biopic on the great civil rights leader. Dreamworks will be able to make full use of Dr. King's books, copyrighted speeches and famous works to create the definitive film on the Nobel Prize winner. Steven, who has previously tackled the African-American experience with the much acclaimed "The Color Purple," will produce, along with Suzanne De Passe of Motown fame, and Madison Jones. I have no doubt that Steven, who handled "Schindler's List," will bring the same passion and intelligence to the story of the slain civil rights hero.

Add Lawrence Herbert and the Lloyd Rigler - Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation to the list of honorees at the 2009 Career Transition for Dancers' Awards for outstanding contributions to the world of dance. CTFD is recognizing these three entrepreneurial gents for not only their achievements but their amazing support of the arts from the very beginnings of their careers. In 1963, Herbert developed the PANTONE MATCHING SYSTEM®, the first of several innovations that have changed the way the world communicates color. Today, Herbert's color systems have become the most prominent method for global communication of color in the printing, publishing, packaging, graphic arts, paint, plastics, coating, computer, film, video, textile, home and fashion industries.

Jessica Alba participates in "No More Tears" charity auction.

In addition to his influence on art and design, Herbert has been lauded for his philanthropic endeavors. He is a generous benefactor to the arts and many charitable organizations, including the New York City Ballet, the American Film Institute, the School of the American Ballet, the National Actors Theatre, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Alzheimer's Association.

Lloyd E. Rigler, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, made his fortune selling Adolph's Meat Tenderizer and became a major patron of the arts and a founding donor to the Los Angeles Music Center. Rigler also sponsored projects that made the arts accessible to everyone. In 1994, he launched the Classic Arts Showcase, programming that is made available without charge to cable, public service and commercial TV stations reaching over 50 million homes across the nation

Recognized as one of the most discerning arts patrons in America, he and his business partner, the late Lawrence E. Deutsch, were pioneers in the field of corporate support for the arts. Long before "corporate responsibility" became a given in America, Rigler and Deutsch were building intimate relationships with a number of major performing arts organizations across the country, not merely as donors but, more importantly, as members of executive and finance committees.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of their "No More Tears" trademark, Johnson's Baby Products has announced its second annual Celebrity Hand Me Down charity auction, featuring items donated by celebrity moms Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba. The auction is raising money for the new global Johnson's "No More Tears" Clean Water Initiative, at www.babycause.com.

As part of the auction, consumers will be able to bid on celebrity inspired packages including a "get your pre-baby body back" experience, thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow's donation of her personal trainer Tracy Anderson. The package includes a personal consultation with Anderson, one-on-one training, weekly phone consultations and Anderson's workout DVD's. Jessica Alba has also donated hand-me-downs from daughter Honor Marie, including a limited-edition Maclaren Juicy Couture Ryder Stroller, Hello Kitty rain gear, a diaper bag, as well as an abundance of baby clothes.

Designer Stella McCartney.

All proceeds from the charity auction will go to provide innovative and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene solutions - to ensure every baby makes it to his or her first birthday. The United Nations and World Health Organization found that many experts believe that more lives can be saved through hand-washing than a single vaccine or medical intervention. To aid these organizations with their efforts, Johnson's aims to provide babies and families around the world with access to clean water.

But that's not all for Gwynnie - the Oscar winner is donating a selection of "vintage clothing" to one of her favorite charities. "I thought maybe I would eBay some of my favorite and most treasured things to raise some money for the Robin Hood Foundation, who do a lot of amazing work in New York City", she wrote on her blog Goop. "So check it out, if you are interested. "The auction includes bracelets, necklaces, bags, sunglasses, a bikini and much more - mostly from designer Stella McCartney. I don't know that Stella's been around long enough to qualify but these days, if it's last season it's vintage.

But there will have to be a heck of a lot of Miss Stella's pricey frocks to help match George Soros' gift to the Robin Hood folks. At their gala last week in New York, the billionaire financier and philanthropist of Southampton pledged $50 million to provide basic support for the city's rapidly growing needy population if the organization can match his gift in each of the next two years. Fundraising pros are calling the gift one of the largest ever made to provide the basics - food on the table and a roof over one's head as opposed to supporting financial strategies on a greater scale. Sort of like Human Resources of the Hamptons. If someone's in trouble, fix it! Way to go George!




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