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Electrifying Evenings

Originally Posted: November 07, 2007

Nicole B. Brewer

Dance Rocks, the glittering benefit for Career Transition for Dancers (CTFD), lived up to its name and rocked the packed house at New York's venerable City Center with an electrifying evening of dance set to music through the decades, from the 1950s to hip hop.

Christine Ebersole, Ben Vereen, Bebe Neuwirth, and melissa manchester at Dance
Rocks. Photo by PatrickMcMullan.com

Thanks to the efforts and generosity of 22nd Anniversary Co-Chairs, the indefatigable Patricia Kennedy, who knows how to mix rock and ballet, having brought supreme rocker Prince to collaborate with the Joffrey to create the wildly successful Billboards, and the dashing arts savvy Allen Brill, CEO and President of presenter Rolex USA, plus a glamorous group of Co-Chairs who know hard rock and appreciate hard rocks (as in the Harry Winston kind), the night was a one of a kind experience!

The gala featured a star studded line-up of extraordinary talent including Charlotte d'Amboise, Christine Ebersole, Ben Vereen, Melissa Manchester, Tommy Tune, Benji Schwimmer (winner from the hit TV show "So You Think You Can Dance"), and special appearances and performances by and artists from American Ballet Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, Ballet San Jose, Dance Theatre of Harlem's Dancing Through Barriers Ensemble, Dancing Wheels, DP ONE, Miguel Frasconi, The Joffrey Ballet, KR3T'S, Kathleen Marshall, Elizabeth Parkinson, Parsons Dance Company, Keith Roberts, John Selya, Jason Samuels Smith, Mr. Wiggles, and the Wylliams/Henry Danse Theatre.

Highlights of the evening - and there were oh so many - included the scintillating opening number that if you can believe melded Celtic tunes, rap, hip hop and ballet to stunning effect. A sexy and sensual duet to the Bette Midler classic followed the opener. The enchanting wheelchair-bound Marcy Verdi-Fletcher, floating around the stage to R Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" had the room of elegantly clad guests biting back tears. Gnarls Barkley's "You Make Me Crazy" performed with grand jetes were a sight to see. San Jose Ballet's fascinating tribute to The King, Elvis Presley and David Parsons' jaw dropping athletes/dancers and a delicate ballerina dancing En Pointe to James Brown were truly unique! The thrilling evening was produced and directed by the brilliant Ann Marie DeAngelo and written by Deborah Grace Winer.

Perfectly interspersed throughout the evening were the welcomes and awards. Christine Ebersole was dazzling and funny with her self deprecating remarks to open the evening. Anka K. Palitz, who looked absolutely divine in a wine colored, glittering figure-hugging gown, matching opera gloves, and jewels that could have lit up Times Square - we told you there were lots of "rock" stars, received the CTFD Award for her long and outstanding support of dance.

Charlotte D'Amboise presented a similar award to The Jerome Robbins Dance Foundation. Another crowd pleaser was Tony Award winning director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall who introduced dancers who had moved on to new careers with the help of CTFD. Later, the ebullient Tommy Tune introduced Rolex Award winner Bebe Neuwirth to thunderous applause.

Then it was off to the Dancing with the Dancers gala supper and auction where an invitation to the famed Vanity Fair after-Oscar's bash commanded a whopping $31,000 and that's just to get in! Jeweler Aaron Basha snared a London theater trip for $22,000. Reservations to Rao's - not including dinner - but definitely including transportation in Mitzi Perdue's custom made chauffeured Stealth Van netted a cool $13,000.

Clearly, Patricia Kennedy, looking glorious in gold lace, fabulous Buccellati jewels, and white mink, had packed the ballroom with her very generous friends to raise $1.121 million! Patricia we hear is taking a year or two off from her chairlady duties to focus on the launch of her exquisite jewelry line which we hear has QVC very interested.

Bouquets of roses to the dynamic supporters and committee chairs and members who made this, such an extraordinary evening of non-stop entertainment including: Cynthia Gregory, Donna McKechnie, Kevin McKechnie, Jane Powell, Ann Reinking, Chita Rivera, Ethan Steifel, Yolanda Santos Garza, Peg Ranieri, Mercedes Ellington, Alexander Dube, Allen Greenberg, Victoria Herbert, Greg Kriser, Floria V. Lasky, Daniel Stern, Helene Alexopoulos Warrick, Laura Zeckendorf, Ann Marie DeAngelo, Janice Becker, Ann Van Ness, Roberta Silbert, David Goldring, Michael Weiskopf. Also in attendance were Carol Lieberman, Laurence Krashes, Cynthia Fischer, and scores more.

Alexia Hamm Ryan, Taryn Rose, Margaret Russell, Joanne de Guardiola, and Alex-
andra Lind Rose at the 19th Annual Preview Party. Photo by PatrickMcMullan.com

The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's 19th Annual Preview Party for The Haughton International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show at the Park Avenue Armory was a rousing success and raised over one million dollars to promote the well-being of patients, support cancer research and provide public education on the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer. The spectacular night was supported by over 700 guests, which included celebrities, fashion designers and the crème de la crème of New York society. The show, which displayed over 300 million dollars worth of the finest art and antiques from around the world dazzled the crowd and even inspired a few to buy. Sponsors, including Elle Decor, RIGroup, and shoe designer Taryn Rose helped make the night a stunning and financial success. The evening's leadership committee, including event Co-chairs Joanne de Guardiola, Alexandra Lind Rose and Alexia Hamm Ryan, Honorary Chairs Dr. Taryn Rose and Margaret Russell; Connoisseur Chairs Muffie Potter Aston, Karen LeFrak and Jamie Niven and Society President Leslie Jones, was on hand to greet the incoming guests.

The avenues of the show, which runs through Thursday, Oct. 25, were filled to the brim with patrons of the Society and the arts, including Martha Stewart and Charles Simonyi, Calvin Klein, Muffie Potter and Dr. Sherrell Aston, Hilary Geary and Wilbur Ross, Jamee Gregory, Audrey Gruss, Grace Meigher, Elaine Sargent, Minnie Mortimer and Stephen Gaghan, Anne Eisenhower Flöttl, Anne Grauso, Roberto de Guardiola, Louis Rose, Helen Schifter, Amy Fine Collins, Randy Kemper and Tony Ingrao, Sharon Bush, Michel Cox Witmer, Samantha Boardman and Aby Rosen, Frances Hayward, Michèle Gerber Klein, Annie Churchill, Somers and Jonathan Farkas, designer Jackie Rogers, Chesie Breen, Melissa and Chappy Morris, Daisy Soros, Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Dana Hammond and Patrick Stubgen, Andrea Stark, Mario Buatta, Barbara and Donald Tober, Jennifer Creel, Eugenie Niven, Helena and Roman Martinez, House and Garden's Cynthia Frank, Jill Roosevelt, Bunny Williams, Sharon Bush, New York Social Diary's David Patrick Columbia, Jeffrey Hirsch and Gail Karr, Kathleen and Bryan Carey, Coco and Arie Kopelman, and Betty Sherrill.

There were Glorious Foods buffet tables of freshly carved smoked salmon, fresh vegetables, seared tuna, cheeses and breads and condiments, while waiters in black tie passed the silver platters of hors d'oeuvres, champagne, martinis and mixed beverages. Enjoying it all were Joshua Carl Gruss and Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss, Douglas Hannant and Frederick Anderson, Wendy Vanderbilt, Carlos Motta, Beverly Johnson, Mark Gilbertson, designer Maggie Norris, Giles and Emma Haughton, Leigh Keno, Elise Lelon, Roger Koechel Webster, Gillian Miniter, Thomas and Ingrid Edelman, Eliza Nordeman, Robert Dupont, Geoffrey Bradfield, Ivan Jenson, Seth Nagdman, Sherry and Larry Babbio, Alexandra Kotur, Sheila Camera Kotur, Helen Lee and Tim Schifter, Clo and Charles Cohen, Mark Smith, Pat Altschul, Frances Scaife, Mai Hallingby Harrison, Alison Minton, Joe and Nazee Moinian, and Nikki Haskell.

Countess and Count de Lesseps with Mary Ann and Shirl Penney at Hooray for Holly-
wood. Photo by John Wegorzewski

We ventured to the Brooklyn Navy Yards home to David Steiner's mammoth Steiner Studios, for "Hooray for Hollywood" to benefit The Auditory Oral School of New York. It was a simply fantastic salute to stage and screen legend Patricia Neal, Wall Street whiz Shirl Penney, and our own neighbors The Count and Countess Alexandre de Lesseps - or Alex and LuAnn to their pals with honorary chairs Ava Astaire McKenzie, daughter of the fabled dancer, and her husband artist Richard McKenzie.

Everywhere one looked there were living legends of Hollywood's Golden era - "All About Eve" Oscar winning actress Celeste Holm with her husband producer Frank Basile, our neighbors, the always on the go Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach, Big Band singer Margaret Whiting with hubby the delightful Jack Wrangler (currently working on a new show), the flower bedecked torch singer Julie Wilson, and Oscar winning screenwriter Budd Schulberg to name a few. And of course, holding court and center stage was the incandescent Patricia Neal whose broad smile and Southern drawl never seem to fail to enchant.

Executive producer Jennifer Dumas, who did a stellar job on this first time event to benefit the amazing work of The Auditory Oral School of New York (AOSNY), was prescient to see that the crowd was having a grand old time and let them. Following a sumptuous dinner with all the perfect trimmings, the show began and a number of the most dazzling performers from Broadway and the International music scene took to the stage to recreate the glory days of Hollywood. The performances were at once heartbreakingly touching and at another rousing and uproarious. Howard McGillen, Ron Raines, Anna Bergman and veteran Julie Wilson were all show stoppers! Particularly of note was last minute fill in Jen Esposito who in the age old tradition of 42nd Street went out as a replacement and came back a star. A true talent to watch!

When it came time for awards, it was very clear to all, the unusual mix of honorees. The truth is that each of the night's honored guests exemplified the very mission of the Auditory Oral School to overcome tremendous obstacles and succeed.

For Patricia Neal it was her valiant fight against the strokes that might have caused a lesser determined individual to give up and stay confined to a wheelchair. For Shirl Penney it was overcoming the poverty he faced growing up as an orphan on welfare and raised by his ailing grandfather to achieve international respect in the world of finance. And certainly close to the school's own student body Count Alexandre de Lesseps who suffered from hearing loss.

The evening ended with a rousing chorus of "Hooray for Hollywood" with the cast and stars gathered around Patricia, Shirl, and LuAnn and Alex. Margaret Whiting, whose father famed songwriter Richard Whiting wrote the Hollywood anthem, summed it up in three words "It was fantastic!"

Special kudos to Southampton's Patricia Watt who served as the event's Entertainment
producer. As Margaret would say, Fantastic!

Nicole, an award-winning journalist, is Executive Editor & Publisher of Hamptons.com where she focuses on celebrity interviews, fine living and design, social events, fashion and beauty. She lives on the North Fork with her husband, their two daughters, and Bernese Mountain dog, Cooper. www.hamptons.com HamptonsOnline NicoleBBrewer NicoleBBrewer NicoleBBrewer

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