Alzheimer’s Imagine Benefit Exceeds Expectations

Cheri Kaufman, Yasmin Aga Khan, Sharon Bush – All photos Lieba Nesis

The Alzheimer’s Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s research, held its annual gala on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, with cocktails beginning at 6 p.m. at the Jazz at Lincoln Center. Formed in 1980 by Jerome Stone, the Alzheimer’s Association has raised over $80 million to date.

The organization seeks to find a cure, provide care, and aid in global research for the disease that affects more than 6.5 million Americans and more than 11 million caregivers. Without an imminent cure, the number of people 65 and older are expected to grow to 12.7 million by 2050.

Jaqui Lividini, Harold Koda, Josie Natori, & Joe Boitano

In 2023, Boston University researchers found several genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s unique to Ashkenazi Jews, a more genetically homogeneous population. Sensing the need to spearhead activity more than 50 years ago, Yasmin Aga Khan, the daughter of Prince Aly Khan and movie actress Rita Hayworth, has become a forerunner in the fight against Alzheimer’s after her mother was diagnosed in 1981 at the age of 62.

Ubah Hassan & Oliver Dachsel

Rita Hayworth’s struggle with Alzheimer’s began in her 50s, experiencing confusion, disorientation, and mood swings. By 1981, Hayworth’s deteriorating condition led to a court declaring her legally unable to care for herself with her daughter Princess Yasmin moving next door in New York City. Yasmin has made the fight against Alzheimer’s her life’s work and was thereby awarded France’s Knight of the Legion of Honor by Ambassador Phillipe Etienne in October 2022.

Janna Bullock & Liz Brewer

From the middle stage to the end, Hayworth lived 5 additional years, during which time she relied heavily on oil painting, playing the castanets, and golfing to ease her discomfort. Khan recognized the dearth of celebrities advocating for a disease primarily hidden from public view compared to AIDS, which has dominated the airwaves since Elizabeth Taylor became its spokesperson in 1985.

Ballet Hispanico costumes designed by Josie Natori

The 250-person sold-out evening, attended by 250 people and costing $1,500 per ticket, was one of the most enjoyable of the year, featuring delectable food, a plethora of entertainment, and a meaningful program. Emcee Laurie Hernandez, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Alzheimer’s Association Celebrity Champion, introduced Ballet Hispanico, singers R.Q, Tek, Darren Criss, and Colton Ryan, and musicians Evan Drachman and Wan-Chi Su, who all made the evening a smash success.

Lucia Hwong Gordon, Yasmin Aga Khan, Louise Kornfeld and Christina Estrada

The venue’s view of Central Park South didn’t hurt either as guests feasted on braised short rib and Villa Antinori wine. Guests such as Josie Natori, Harold Koda, Liz Brewer, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Janna Bullock, Peter Thomas Roth, Peter Cook, Sharon Bush, Naeem Khan, Alisa Roever, and Christina Estrada fraternized enthusiastically under dimmed lighting that added a certain Feng shui calm that most dinners lack.

Peter Thomas Roth, Alba Jancou, Peter Cook

Corporate underwriter Rolex Watch and accounting firm Prager Métis helped ensure the lush evening’s success with generous contributions. Documentarian Emma Francis Snyder spoke of her father’s protracted battle with the disease as President and CEO Joanne Pike declared the evening a “moment… and time that the fight against Alzheimer’s changed.”

Darren Criss & Colton Ryan

With increased pharmaceuticals being made available, such as Aducanumab and Lecanemab, to treat the disease which has afflicted luminaries such as Tony Bennett, Charlton Heston, Sean Connery, Robin Williams, Ronald Reagan, and dozens of others, the hope for a cure is becoming more achievable.

This past week, a study by Mount Sinai Medical Center, which looked at more than 27,000 people over 65, found that sildenafil, the main component of Viagra, reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%. With all the positive news of an antidote on the horizon, guests headed to the $200 afterparty, which featured dessert, drinks, dance performances, and a DJ spinning 90’s tunes as the “Imagine Benefit,” which raised close to a million dollars, was a more tremendous success than even Yasmin Aga Khan could have imagined.

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Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

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