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Jennifer Holliday Storms The Beach For Miracle House

Originally Posted: May 27, 2009

Edward Callaghan

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Jennifer Holliday raises the roof for Miracle House. Photos by John Wegorzewski

Bridgehampton - What better way to slide into summer than with fabulous cocktails on a gorgeous deck overlooking one of the East End's most beautiful beaches while smartly dressed, attractive servers tempt you with a dazzling array of hors d'oeuvres from the extraordinary kitchens of Robbins-Wolfe Eventeurs?

Miracle House co- founder Amy Chanos with Bethenny Frankel.

That is exactly how the evening began for those who were lucky enough to score a ticket on Saturday, May 23 to what is always one of the summer season's most fun-filled, casually elegant fetes, the Annual Miracle House Memorial Day Summer Kick-off, at the ultra-exclusive Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club.

Miracle House has long been a favorite cause for concerned Hamptonites. The organization provides temporary housing, meals, and advocacy to caregivers and patients coming to New York City for critical medical treatment. Founded in 1990 by a small group of friends, including Nan Sweetser and Amy Chanos, responding to the AIDS crisis, Miracle House now supports over 1,000 people annually coming to New York City for critical medical treatment. Through the years the organization's outreach programs include cancer, neurological disorders, coronary disease, reconstructive surgery, clinical trials and special consultations in addition to HIV/AIDS clients.

From the moment one arrives at a Miracle House event, you can always count on a warm smile and friendly greeting from the organization's staff who are actually pleased to see you! This year's event, the organization's 19th, was both an important fundraiser for Miracle House, as well as a celebration of the life and dedication of one of its original founders, Nan Sweetser, who passed away in November 2008 following a valiant fight against cancer. Some 400 of the Hamptons most fashionably dressed movers and shakers filled the decks and great room overlooking the Atlantic for three hours of greeting old friends, making new ones and bidding on luxury goodies in the silent auction.

Guests enjoyed cocktails on the deck at Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club.

As waiters circled the room passing bite-size burgers with Russian dressing and truffle oil infused mini grilled cheese triangles, guests pored over the many one-of-a-kind luxury items in the silent auction - from an enormous stack of New York Times best-sellers to exotic vacation packages. The evening's emcee, author, food expert and star of Bravo TV's hit series, "The Real Housewives of New York City," Bethenny Frankel held sway at a table filled with her latest best-selling book "Naturally Thin" , currently No. 2 on the New York Times book list - and says Bethenny, "hopefully headed for the No. 1 spot".

She happily signed books and posed for photos for those who made a donation - big or small. The crowd was generous - we saw the huge glass jar filled with 20s and 50s. No singles!

Welcoming guests were event chairs Amy Chanos, Gary Horowitz and Cory Shields along with event co-chairs, Carrie Parker and Mark Sweetser, children of Nan Sweetser, who carried on in their mother's name "There is no better way to start the summer than with a fabulous party, a spectacular ocean view, and a cause that touches the heart of so many people," said Chanos, a founding board member. "This year is even more meaningful as we are celebrating the life of my friend Nan Sweetser, a founder of Miracle House."

Also on the very informal receiving line were Miracle House president Gerry Logue, Coo Jesse Ramos, Treasurer Glen Tongue, Secretary Gary McClain and Executive Director Jenny Y. Dupont. This is one event in which everyone pitches in. No divas here, just good folks who want to make sure that every guest is treated well.

Cory Shields Executive VP, NBC Universal, Gerry Logue, Miracle House President, Amy Chanos, co-founder and caterers, Ken Wolfe and Chris Robbins on the deck.

Thanks to the event chairs and a very dedicated Host Committee, the cocktail portion of the evening pulled in a large crowd. Miracle House COO Ramos noted. " We always do well but we are pleasantly and thankfully surprised that in these tough economic times, our supporters - and new friends - came through." Jesse had special praise for the Host Committee who all worked hard to ensure a strong turnout. They included Sean Cassidy, Mario D'Andrea, Howard Kurz, Gerry Logue, Tony Moran, Craig Reynolds, Sam Rosenblatt, Mary Sculley and Michael Selleck.

Following cocktails, many of the guests, plus dozens of new arrivals who skipped the cocktail reception and came for the dinner, were on hand for the high powered performances of the original "Dreamgirls" star Jennifer Holliday and singer Ron Perkov. Huge paper lanterns floated above the tables which bore artfully created floral arrangements and candles, creating a magical effect as the sun descended.

Welcoming smiles from Doug Smith, Lisette Melendez, Chris Kern, and Brett England who greeted guests at the Miracle House Summer kick-off.

Robbins-Wolfe offered as a first course a new twist on the classic Caesar salad - bundled romaine leaves wrapped with a toast "cord" and slathered with a lemony sauce and slivers of Parmigiano Reggiano. A maple glazed salmon with a succotash of farm fresh baby peas, potatoes, corn and tomatoes accompanied the mouthwatering fish. Dessert was a chocolate mousse roll with a fresh strawberry sauce. Another winner from one of the East End's premiere caterers!

Eric Baker and Bill Kapfer are long-time supporters of Miracle House.

Tucking into their plates were Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd, Donna and Dick Soloway, prominent plastic surgeon Dr. Sydney Coleman with Calvin Klein menswear designer Jeremy Wallace, designer Thom Filicia, Kevin Maple and scores more.

There were tender tributes to Nan Sweetser from Craig Reynolds and Nan's son and daughter. Cory Parker Sweetser spoke about her mother's final days saying, "She had an opportunity to walk in the shoes of the people she had been helping for two decades and to learn how critical was the help that Miracle House provided in helping people to be surrounded by their friends and families at the end. She realized what an impact she had made and how proud it made her feel."

During dessert, the auction kicked-off with Frankel and Christie's top auctioneer George McNeely. There were just a few items but all one of a kind experiences including two tickets to "Saturday Night Live" and After Party with the cast; tickets to "The Jimmy Fallon Show" and a meet and greet with the popular comedian; five nights at a Private Costa Rican Casita' Viewing passes in the VIP section for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade; and exclusive catered private screening for an upcoming Universal release and lunch with "Today Show" co-host Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. There was much spirited bidding, and in the end, event organizers were thrilled that the items pulled in $43,000!

Placing a bid for a rare Keith Haring book at the Gift Table.

Then the superhot young singer Ron Perkov took to the stage and revved up the crowd with several hard driving dance numbers including his latest chart-topping single "Dance With Me" that had diners up on their feet. But the crowd went absolutely wild when the original "Effie" of the smash hit musical "Dreamgirls" Jennifer Holliday came out to thunderous applause. The new svelte Jennifer was tiny-waisted, looking every bit the sexy diva.

Launching into the tender ballad "I am Loved," Holliday brought the audience to a hush that was almost reverential as they all remembered her struggles both on and off stage. Lightening the mood, she confessed that the next number was only half hers, "Deena" (the Diana Ross character in the show) sang the disco version and I sang the ballad. But tonight I'm doin' both."

She then swooped into one of the musical's show-stopping numbers, "One Night Only," which let everyone know this girl can tear your heart out with her vulnerability one moment and then knock you out with her fierce power the next.

Taking a breather she told the audience "I've lost 200 pounds and I am soooo hungry still" drawing gales of laughter. She also shared that she had just turned 50 and was loving being a cougar. "Now I see a hot young 30-year-old and I say bring him over to Mama".

The lantern filled dinner at Miracle House.

Of course, the only way in which she could possibly end the show was with the song most associated with her: the roof-raising "And I am Telling You I'm Not Going," which had the audience on its feet with just the first few verses. Holliday proved that in 28 years since first introducing the song, she had only gotten better and wrung every bit of pain and emotion out of the lyrics leaving the crowd in tears. The applause and cheers could be heard in Montauk!

The extraordinary evening had so many wonderful supporters from NBC Universal to Scoop who provided the tiny beach totes packed with goodies, it would be hard to list them all but suffice to say their support will bring cheer and hope to countless thousands thanks to the marvelous caring of Miracle House.


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Guest (Isa Goldberg) from Sag Harbor says::
Ed, This is a beautiful web site! I wanted to say hi to you, but our granddaughter was with us and she really needed attention. Hope we'll chat soon. Isa
May 30, 2009 10:10 am


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