The Alzheimer’s Gala 2015 – An Unforgettable Evening

The 32nd black-tie annual Rita Hayworth Alzheimer’s Gala was held at Cipriani 42nd Street on a balmy Tuesday evening with cocktails beginning at 6:30 pm. Last year I had the privilege of attending the event which was held at the Waldorf Astoria which was a preferable venue due to its grandeur and wide open spaces which accommodate the massive crowd; Unfortunately, at Cipriani the guests were huddled in a small area for hors d’oeuvres and forced to sit on top of each other for dinner.

Beth in Oscar de la Renta and Lenny Wilf

It seems as if every charity event is held at one Cipriani or another; thankfully, this Cipriani was not on Wall Street. Upon entering the space I bumped into my ex husband’s partners, real estate developers, Lenny and Beth Wilf. Lenny is an owner of the Vikings and the Yankees, so it says a lot about the event that Lenny attended this dinner instead of watching the baseball game. The Wilf’s are an incredibly charitable couple giving time and money to numerous organizations and their low key demeanor belies their power and influence.

John Catsimatidis Jr. Andrea Catsimatidis John and Margo Catsimatidis
and Chele Farley

The dinner, underwritten by Rolex, contained a crowd full of luminaries including: Ray and Veronica Kelly, Margo and Jimmy Nederlander, Audrey Gruss, John and Margo Catsimatidis, Somers and Jonathan Farkas, Lauren Roberts, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Barbara and Bruce Winston, Brooke Shields and Chris Henchy, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia and so many more.

Jean Shafiroff in Carolina Herrera, Audrey Gruss in Andrew Gn
and Robin Meltzer in Jenny Packham

The evening began with master of ceremonies Willie Giest, the news correspondent, introducing Yasmin Aga Khan, the chair and founder of the organization, who has worked tirelessly to eradicate the disease that killed her mom, Rita Hayworth. Yasmin Khan, was wearing a stunning Naeem Khan (no relation), and announced that this evening raised $2 million with 23 occupied tables in the room, and tickets sold out weeks in advance.

Ray and Veronica Kelly, Sharon Bush and Jimmy Nederlander

Gala chair Daryl Simon then got up to speak about the theme of the evening which was “Our Future is Crystal Clear” and recount her mother’s ultimately losing battle with Alzheimer’s and the need for courage and perseverance to fight this dreaded disease. Another early onset Alzheimer’s sufferer is the mother of actress Kimberly Williams, the star of “Father of the Bride,” who told of her formerly adventurous parent who was stricken at the age of 61 with the deteriorating condition- eventually being unable to speak or write. Kimberly felt lost and alone until she connected with the Alzheimer’s association.

Chris Henchy, Brooke Shields in Naeem Khan,
and Willie Giest in Zegna

The color of the evening was purple which I was unaware of and I chose a purple ball gown matching the red carpet wallpaper perfectly. I was a tad concerned I might be overdressed until I spotted Michele Herbert in a floor length Naeem Khan with feathers on the bottom and a smashing white fur stole.

Somers Farkas in Naeem Khan and Jonathan Farkas

I haven’t seen Michele most of the year because she has been busy trying to raise awareness for the Alzheimer’s cause and she and her husband Larry were given the Rita Hayworth award for their contribution, in both money and time, to researching Alzheimer’s in women. Michele is a dynamo and when she approached the stage to accept her award she said she “was putting her husband’s money where her mouth was.”

Carolyn Gold, Irina Laksk, Barbara Winston, Ada de Maurier,
Charlene Haroche and Jody Wolf

Michele also said she warned her investment bankers if they did not support the cause then she would take her son’s trust out of their hands and consequently, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, U.S.Trust and many others decided to buy tickets for the evening which were $1,500 per seat. Furthermore, Herbert collaborated with Naeem Khan to produce a one of a kind custom Purple dress auctioned off in the silent auction which included items like dinner at Le Bernardin, two seats to “Hamilton” and a Kara Ross clutch as well as live auction offerings of a trip to Morocco, a weekend at the Golf Masters, and a plane ride to Detroit with the Brooklyn Nets.

Dan Gasby and B. Smith

The next recipients of the Champion Award were B. Smith and Dan Gasby who received a standing ovation for their brave outspokenness in the fight against Alzheimer’s. B. Smith, the magazine publisher, celebrity chef and lifestyle maven has had a widely publicized battle with the disease and her husband and caregiver Dan Gasby spoke about the grim statistics: every 67 seconds someone new develops the disease; two out of three of the sufferers are women; and women in their 60’s are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s than breast cancer.

Jessica Behm in Versace and Kasia McCormick in Monique Lhuillier

His wife B. who was on stage with him but could not speak told him privately “she didn’t want to hide” and that is why they have been so vocal in their struggle. Gasby went on to say that this disease was a 21st Century civil rights issue because the majority of the victims are women, minorities and indigents-urging the audience to press Congress for funding and research.

Mike Tadross and Georgia Witkin

After the program finished, the guests headed to the dance floor in the lavish purple-hued ballroom, which contained pink and purple flowers and crystal chandeliers. I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Tadross, a producer at Warner Bros., who was there to support the Herbert’s and excited to see Brooke Shields since he hasn’t caught up with her since he produced her 1989 movie “Brenda Starr.”

Actress Kimberly Williams

Tadross, in a custom Armani tuxedo, has produced more than 49 movies and is currently working on a movie with Sandra Bullock and a remake of “A Star is Born” with Beyonce. His wife Georgia Witkin is an expert on stress and men and women’s health issues as well as a prominent tv commentator.

Paula Peck in Pucci and Anthony Peck

As we all exited the building I bumped into Anthony and Paula Peck, a friend of the Tadross’s, and inquired if they were related to Gregory.  Anthony replied that Gregory was his father and the thing he misses most of the actor was his warmth, kindness and generosity. I was astounded to have met the legendary Gregory Peck’s son who said that both he and his father’s favorite role was that of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” because his father was identical to Finch.

This was another one of those nights that is hard to describe, but hanging out with Rita Hayworth’s daughter and Gregory Peck’s son in one evening is one of those happenstances they call extraordinary.

– Lieba Nesis

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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