If New York is anything at all, it’s Party City. Every night there are big ones and little ones, fun ones and deadly dull ones, beautifully decorated ones and ghastly looking ones, ones filled with beautiful people and others with — well, let’s not go there.
Many of these fetes are fund-raisers, which keep the city alive. One of the most glamorous “different” celebrations is the On Stage at the Met extravaganza, a fabulous dinner-dance that this year celebrated its 20th anniversary. This is the Met’s most successful benefit and this year it set a record by raising $2.4 million.
What makes this party so “different” is that it is set on the great stage of the Opera on the very boards where the world’s greatest singers trod and tread amid the most amazing decor — huge sets from the Met’s most famous operas. Imagine the drama of it all. This year’s huge backgrounds were from the Opera’s 1967 production of “The Magic Flute” designed by Marc Chagall. Even Renee Fleming looking around at all the glory was impressed. As this annual On Stage celebration salutes corporate support of the arts, many of the business world’s biggest big shots who care about culture attend every year looking spiffy and rich in their dinner jackets with their lovely best-dressed ladies on their arms. Each year, there is an honored guest and, at this one, the honoree was Josef Ackermann, the handsome chairman of Deutsche Bank. He and the bank were saluted for their leadership support of the Met for more than two decades. Deutsche Bank’s chairman is the greatest of music lovers, who once took singing lessons in Washington and has been known to say that, if he had ever had the slightest chance of a career in opera, banking would have gone right out the window. Among the dinner chairmen were Victor Ganzi, the president and chief executive officer of the Hearst Corp.; Klaus Kleinfeld, president and ceo of Siemens; Seth Waugh, ceo of Deutsche Bank Americas; William Weldon, chairman and ceo of Johnson & Johnson, and Dieter Zetsche, the president and ceo of DaimlerChrysler Corp.
This story first appeared in the April 20, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Of course, none of this great financial success, the Met’s foremost fund-raiser, would have existed without the one and only Cecile (Mrs. Ezra) Zilkha, the Met’s vice chairman and the chairman of the evening, a dynamo who created the event, which has since raised $27 million, in 1986.
Zilkha’s lime and tangerine chiffon was kissed and congratulated by what seemed like each and every one of the 950 guests. Those two dazzling stars, Placido Domingo and Fleming, sang for the multitudes before dinner, which was purveyed by Glorious Foods.
Bill Tansey made the tables beautiful with centerpieces of French tulips, ranunculus, roses and sweet peas. It was a rich Chagall palette of pinks and reds, a very elegant, lush still life accented with three silver Corinthian candlesticks towering above tables covered in shimmering cerise and blush. The Michael Carney orchestra played for the dancing.
And this is just a few of the swells who showed up: Mrs. Josef (Pirko) Ackermann, wife of the honored guest, in shimmering satin; Ambassador John Negroponte, the consummate diplomat ready to become our new security chief, one of the most powerful figures in government, with his charming wife, Diana, wearing a beautiful jeweled shawl of many colors; Carol and George McFadden; Anna Moffo; Irene Aitken; lovely Lily Safra in from London with her emeralds; Ambassador and Mrs. William Luers; Marie-Josee and Henry Kravis; Mercedes and Sid Bass; Helen Gurley Brown and David Brown; Bruce Crawford, the chairman of Lincoln Center, and Mrs. Crawford; Ambassador John Loeb Jr. with Sharon Handler; James Kinnear, the honorary chairman of the Met; Marilyn Horne; Robert Higdon; Catharine Hamilton from Chicago; Kenneth Jay Lane; Pete Hathaway; Peter John and Karen Goulandris; Patricia Ganzi; Pamela and James Finkelstein; Pierre Durand; Mrs. Placido (Marta) Domingo; Mr. and Mrs. James Conlon; Bob Colacello; Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner; Mr. and Mrs. William Morris (he is the president of the Met); Ambassador and Mrs. Edward Ney; Ezra Zilkha; Bettina Zilkha; Mr. and Mrs. James Wolfensohn; Linda Wachner; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Volpe (he is the general manager of the Met), and Mrs. William (Christine) Hunter (she is the Met’s new chairman, a brilliant woman who was formerly chairman of the Washington Opera, is a great philanthropist and is as knowledgeable about the arts as you can get).
Mark Badgley and James Mischka will premiere their fall collection Thursday at Bergdorf Goodman, and among those expected to see the duo’s new cocktail and eveningwear are Cornelia Guest, Mai Harrison, Joanne de Guardiola, Muffie Potter Aston and Cynthia Lufkin. The collection was inspired by an Irving Penn photograph of Charles James ballgowns in muted shades of pink, blue and champagne. The show marks the return of Badgley Mischka to Bergdorf’s.
Speaking of Joanne de Guardiola, whose mansion on East 64th Street is on the market for almost $30 million, she’s busy scouring the city for a suitable new residence that she and her family can move into when she is finished designing it. At the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club preview, where she and Adrienne Vittadini were co-chairs, Joanne wore a sliver trenchcoat over her short silver and white polkadot dress by Behnaz Sarafpour, diamante-studded stilettos and a green lacquered Yves Saint Laurent evening bag with jeweled flowers and handles shaped like ivory tusks. It seemed like the thing to do. Adrienne wore a black-and-white Chanel jacket and Charlotte Moss was in a black column with feather trimming by Lee Anderson. The night’s honorary chairman was great interior designer Albert Hadley, who has influenced a bushel and a peck of present-day designers. At the black-tie dinner at the Union Club that followed the preview, Ann Getty wore a white Chanel dress and short jacket and Muffie Potter Aston chose a vintage silver silk suit by Isaac Mizrahi.
Gisele Bundchen has a little something going on on the side and it has nothing to do with Leonardo DiCaprio. She has been buying, renovating and selling properties in New York, Brazil and Los Angeles. She says she spends about 40 percent of her time on her new projects and I guess that leaves 60 percent of it for Leo.