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Sixth Annual Ross Club Starlight Gala Shines Brightly

Originally Posted: June 23, 2009

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

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Honoree Martha Stewart with SNL comedian Seth Meyers. Photos by Douglas Harrington

East Hampton - The rainy weekend weather did not diminish the excitement and enthusiastic turnout for one of the, literally, "stellar" events of the Hamptons summer charity season, as hundreds gathered in support of the Ross School on Saturday, June 20 for the Sixth Annual Club Starlight Ball. Celebrities, and the media that covers them, were out in force as the evening of music, comedy and fine dining raised funds for the Steven J. Ross Scholarship Fund. A program, named in honor of the school's late co-founder, that enables 25 percent of the student body to receive financial assistance.

Alexa Ray Joel with beaming Mom, Christie Brinkley.

The evening's events were hosted by renowned author Jay McInerney, who, along with his wife Anne Hearst McInerney, is a Ross student parent. Unless you include the urbane commentary so deftly delivered by McInerney during the live auction, the comedy portion of the evening was provided by Seth Meyers of "Saturday Night Live" to resounding applause and laughter. The musical performances were a double bill of the incomparable soul icon James Ingram, and Ross School alumni Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, who kicked off the dinner with a four song performance that would have made her "Piano Man" Dad proud. Her mother, who had a scholarship named in her honor several years ago, was in attendance and was beaming from ear to beautiful ear.

We caught up to Alexa Ray prior to her performance and asked her how it felt to be back performing at her alma mater, "It is just so much fun to come back here as a real performer, not shy like I was when I was a student, but full steam ahead. It is such a comfortable, community feeling to be here, normally I would be so nervous for such a big show with all this press." We commented that her contribution to the event was her art that, at least in some respect, was developed at the Ross School. "There are so many wonderful charities available to help over the summer and it is so important to take advantage of that so you can say, 'I've had a full summer, I've helped people out.' Everyone thinks it is just a rich kid's school and yes, there are some fortunate kids that get to go here, but everybody gets a chance as 50 percent of the kids are on scholarship, which is amazing. So I am more that glad to give something back, to help give kids an opportunity that they might not normally have."

Some of the cast members of the upcoming film "Trophy Kids."

Brinkley was effusive in her maternal pride, "I am so proud, I love it, I'm her biggest fan. She has a million fans, but it is such a joy for me." She went on to reiterate the importance of the school's scholarship fund, "Right now, with today's economy, the scholarship fund is more important than ever. The Ross School has always had a great, very diverse group of students, despite its reputation of being a rich kid's school, it is not. It is really, really important that we come out to support the school. This is the second time they have asked Alexa to perform. Two years ago when I was honored at this event a scholarship was created in my name and I endowed that scholarship last year, so now we'll have lots of Christie Brinkley scholarship kids as well. We had originally designated the endowment for kids who wanted a career pursuing the environmental sciences or the arts, but now, with the present economy, I feel that if a child merits it and wants to come here that is what is important."

Martha Stewart Scholarship winner Gregory Grossman with his proud Dad.

The 2009 Starlight Ball Honoree was lifestyle entrepreneur, author, television personality and business woman extraordinare Martha Stewart, of whom school co-founder Courtney Ross said, "Martha's accomplishments have been an inspiration to so many of us. She leads people through a process of creative discovery that is keenly characteristic of her work as an educator. She has been a dear friend and an on-going supporter of our school for many years and we are thrilled to pay her tribute."

Stewart spoke with us regarding the award and the scholarship created in her name, "It is so nice, it is such an honor. I have been following the development of the school since it started. I think it is a wonderful school and I constantly recommended it to others. I have a friend who is sending his two kids here from Russia in the fall, so that is very exciting." Stewart also spoke of the importance of supporting the school, "It is terribly important for the school to raise this kind of money and to raise awareness for the work they are trying to do. I salute the Ross School for being able to do it." The first recipient of the scholarship named in her honor was Ross student and culinary prodigy Gregory Grossman, who not only gave an acceptance speech that was eloquent beyond his years, but created the strawberry shortcake dessert served at the event.
Stewart, like Alexa Ray, put her art where her heart is, as she offered an impromptu, unexpected prize during the live auction of a dinner for 12 hosted by her at her Manhattan or Connecticut home. The spontaneous donation raised $25,000 on the spot. Among the other items offered in both the silent and live auctions were vacations to spa treatments and works of art to Knicks' tickets, but the most precious offerings of the night where the works of art created by the students in support of their beloved school.

Starlight Ball attendees browse the silent auction artwork.

The HL Group did a magnificent job managing and marketing the event and the red carpet and media access was, like so many Hamptons events, deftly orchestrated by Lizzie Grubman who is herself a long-time supporter of the Ross School. Among the many celebrity guests were the youthful cast members of the upcoming film, "Trophy Kids" which included Ryan Eggold of "Beverly Hills 90210," David Gallagher of "7th Heaven," Tahyna Tozzi of "X-Men," Tania Raymonde of "Lost" and Nathan Lee Graham who explained the cast's turnout at the event, "We are here to support underprivileged kids that are getting a great education and support the diversity reflected at the Ross School. It is about coming together, which is what our film is all about as well."

Founded in 1991, The Ross School is a unique educational institution that "incorporates innovative models to prepare students to meet the challenges of the 21st century." Among the many passionate supporters of the school, none is more passionate or motivated than founder Ross herself, who explained the school's geneses, "When my late husband, Steve Ross, and I had our baby we knew the world was going to be profoundly different and education would really have to re-think itself. So we decided to get in the game."

Without a doubt, there are thousands of students, parents and teachers that the are grateful that Ross and her late husband did indeed decide to "get in the game," and in doing so created one of the nation's most innovative and inclusive private schools right here in the Hamptons.

To learn more about The Ross School go to www.ross.org.

The Ross School Center for Well-Being transformed into Club Starlight.

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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Guest (Dori Cooperman) from Sag Harbour says::
What a night - sensational crowd- very very upper east side - Glamorous and seductive! I really donated a mountain of cash! What Fun!
Jul 3, 2009 3:07 pm

Guest (Braley) from NYC says::
What a fantastic evening! Courtney Ross should feel so proud and the stunning Alexa Ray Joel and the incredibly funny Seth Meyers were outstanding. The Gregory Grossman film was great - what a brilliant kid! Christie Brinkley is more gorgeous than ever and is such a charitable and gracious asset to the school and to the Hamptons in general. Well done Ross School!!!
Jun 24, 2009 10:17 am


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