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Lauder’s Multimillion-Dollar Lunch

October has brought a rush of pink - and green - for Evelyn Lauder and the organization she founded in 1993, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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Evelyn Lauder with Katie Couric

Kyle Ericksen

October has brought a rush of pink — and green — for Evelyn Lauder and the organization she founded in 1993, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Lauder’s organization has raised more than $190 million for breast cancer research since its inception. This year alone, the Foundation has raised $35 million.

Lauder, senior corporate vice president of the Estée Lauder Cos., headlined the BCRF’s annual Symposium and Awards Luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan last week, awarding $32 million in grants to 150 international researchers. The crowd of 1,000-plus added $1.9 million to the foundation’s coffers through ticket sales and raffle tickets. An additional $5 million was pledged during the lunch by Arlene and Joseph Taub, in memory of their daughter Sandra, who died of breast cancer.

“You are our hands,” Lauder said, gesturing to the lunchgoers. Motioning to the 150 doctors on the risers, she added, “And these are our brains.”

Added Myra Biblowit, president of the BCRF, “With your help, we are moving closer to a world without breast cancer.”

During the lunch, New York State’s first lady, Silda Wall Spitzer, presented Katie Couric with BCRF’s humanitarian award for the work Couric has done to raise cancer awareness. Couric’s husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer in 1998 at age 42 (Jay’s mother, Carol, also died of the disease), and her sister Emily died of pancreatic cancer in 2001. Since then, Couric has donated her time to a number of cancer awareness groups and has had a mammogram and colonoscopy on-screen. She also helped establish the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at New York-Presbyterian-Weill-Cornell School of Medicine.

“I have tried to shine a light literally where the sun don’t shine,” cracked Couric. Turning serious, she added, “I had a pulpit I thought it would be criminal not to use. Increased awareness will translate into lives saved.”

The organization’s Jill Rose Award for outstanding research excellence was presented to George W. Sledge Jr., M.D., of the Indiana University School of Medicine, for his research in antiangiogenesis, which has hastened the development of effective treatments for breast cancer.

A few days before the lunch, Biblowit and her team rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, further raising awareness for the cause.

This story first appeared in the October 26, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Earlier in the month, Elizabeth Hurley — a longtime supporter of the BCRF — undertook a West Coast Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.

The tour kicked off in Vancouver, Canada, where Hurley illuminated the Vancouver Art Gallery in pink and then proceeded to Holt Renfrew’s new flagship, where she hosted a private party with Gary Balaski, general manager of Holt Renfrew, and Natalie Penno, vice president and general merchandise manager of cosmetics and beauty services. The next morning, Hurley gamely autographed a variety of merchandise raising money for the cause, including the Lauder lipstick that bears her name and a pink-and-white striped Holt Renfrew cosmetics bag created for the cause.

“I think about a fifth of my entire wardrobe is pink,” laughed Hurley, who wore a pink Alice Temperley dress and shimmery Patrick Cox sandals for the evening’s festivities and a pink Ungaro blouse and pants the next morning. “Lots of long gowns for the black-tie events, lots of cocktail dresses for the illuminations and store appearances, tons of knitwear. And pink accessories coming out of the kazoo.”

Turning serious, Hurley said, “The progress [made by the BCRF over the years] has been phenomenal,” crediting Lauder’s efforts with saving countless lives. “So many people that come to these events have had to deal with breast cancer. It makes you really humble and grateful and determined to keep going.”

After finishing up in Vancouver, Hurley stopped in Seattle and San Francisco, headlining events at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, then soldiered on to Los Angeles, where she and cartoonist Marisa Acocella Marchetto appeared at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. After talking to Creative Artists Agency head honcho Kevin Huvane at a soiree the night before about his relatives stricken with the disease, Hurley was keen to keep up the effort. “It was absolutely no different percentage-wise talking to [that Hollywood] crowd as it was when we were in Nordstrom in Seattle,” she said of breast cancer’s impact. “It cuts through everything.” In fact, throughout the trip, men from all walks of life shared their breast cancer stories with Hurley. “Whenever we see young guys in the line, they’re either going to be ‘Austin Powers’ fans and they’ve got smutty pictures in their pockets, or their mom’s almost definitely a breast cancer sufferer,” she said. “It’s unbearable.”

What made the experience worthwhile to Hurley and Marchetto was the money raised along the way to fight breast cancer. Estée Lauder racked up $40,000 in counter sales at the Saks stop. Hurley, clad in a floral Versace dress for the appearance, said that among the Estée Lauder bestsellers were a $45 jeweled pink ribbon compact and brush set, an $18 lip gloss in Evelyn pink and a $22 lipstick in Elizabeth pink. “Every year we swap. One of us has a gloss, one has a lipstick,” Hurley explained, referring to Evelyn Lauder. “We always fight. I lost this one.” Regardless of the product, Hurley said she believes women pay attention to brands and corporate leaders that are passionate about causes. “I have always felt fond of Paul Newman doing those salad creams where he donates everything,” she said. “You immediately think, ‘What a great thing to do with your fame.’ You like him. You fancy him anyway.” When leaving Los Angeles, Hurley may have gotten a reminder of how she’s using her fame to heighten breast cancer awareness: the pylons flanking the street to the airport were lit pink for the week.

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