Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy Celebrates Spring Gala at the Pierre

The Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy ( is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “inspire youth to take responsibility for their community and develop into self-confident, creative, and accountable adults”. While their innovative work to empower war refugee, migrant, and at-risk youth living on the streets, is based in Italy, in September 2015 they branched out to one of the poorest countries of the world, Ethiopia, and they have plans to further expand to other poverty stricken areas around the world.

Cocktail hour
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

On Tuesday night, they held their 71st Annual Spring Ball, and while the temperature outside may have been so unseasonably cold, one could have easily mistaken it for a Winter Ball, it was certainly warm inside the Pierre Hotel. It was not warm just because it was a packed sold out house that included such guests as

Philanthropist Jean Shafiroff
Photo: Annie Watt

Jean Shafiroff (looking exceptionally lovely in a narrow strapless Oscar de la Renta gown with an oriental floral motif), R. Couri Hay, Tina Radziwell, Beth Shak, Fox News presenter Rick Leventhal, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Rafael Feldman, etc., but because of the warm good feelings and spirited ambience that permeated the event.

Honoree Jan Chipman and R. Couri Hay
Photo: Annie Watt

It didn’t hurt that over $400,000 was raised during the course of an evening of cocktails, dinner, music, dancing, and live auction (the proceeds will be used for BGTI’s youth development program, in which young people from over 18 different countries learn through self-government to lead, rather than become victims of circumstance).

“Cool Artist” Vianey
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Among the items being auctioned off was the “Cool Art” of Vianey who I had a chance to meet. The talented and engaging New York based Colombian born creator, and founder of the Cool Art Movement, explained it is so named because whenever people see his eye catching, bold, playful, colorful work (namely, his figurative faces and abstract patterns), they exclaim, “That’s cool!” It works for me as I was immediately drawn to his murals.

Carlos Arturo Zapata
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Fellow Colombian Carlos Arturo Zapata was also on hand, as were some of his designs (he created the gowns worn by Gala Chair, Contessina Francesca Braschi and Co-Chairs Sharon Marantz-Walsh and Bernadette Milito).

Honorees Karen King,Charles S. Gucciardo,
and presenter Jackie Siegel
Photo: Annie Watt

This year’s theme was, “Building on Solid Foundations and there were six distinguished honorees. Charles S. Gucciardo, Esq., a preeminent New York medical malpractice and personal injury trial attorney, received the Man of the Year Award from Assemblyman Joseph Saladino. The Woman of the Year Award was presented to Karen King (a multi-talented singer, performer, and businesswoman), by Jacqueline Siegel, the “Queen of Versailles”.

Maurizio Forte

The Director of the Italian Trade Commission in New York and Executive Director for the ICE USA offices, Dr. Maurizio Forte, received the Global Citizen Award from Vice Consul of Italy, Isabella Periotta. The Humanitarian Award was given to John Salvato, the President and CEO of Talent Spectrum, by Monsignor Donald Sakano.

Dan Grimaldi & “Celebrity of the Year Award”
actor honoree Vincent Pastore
Photo: Annie Watt

Vincent Pastore, film and television actor (best known as ‘Big Pussy’ in the blockbuster series “The Sopranos”), and Mercedes Ellington, (the granddaughter of jazz legend Duke Ellington), were both recognized as Celebrity of the Year. Fellow Sopranos star Dan Grimaldi did the honors for the former, and Sharon Marantz Walsh for the latter. The Honor and Merit Award was presented to society figure Jan Chipman and Ray Gucciardo by Contessina Braschi.

Mercedes Ellington & Alexis Chevalier
Photo: Annie Watt

There were performances by Karen King who regaled the audience with a selection of songs from her new show. Charles Gucciardo, Esq. sang a few Frank Sinatra tunes. Alexis Chevalier (whose great uncle was Maurice Chevalier) put his own spin on “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from “Gigi”. I must admit that when I originally spotted him in the crowd, wearing his jaunty straw boater, I didn’t get it. But after I realized who it was, it made sense. In any case, he truly stood out.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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