“You know, cos, originally this event was a highly anticipated, elegant and inspiring evening, dedicated to celebrating the careers of such legendary luminaries as Leonard Lauder, John Ledes, Annette Green and probably most importantly, Donald Loftus,” Loftus told this year’s Circle of Champions honoree, Cosimo Policastro, executive vice president of fine fragrances for Givaudan Fragrance Corp. “But somewhere along the line, this beautiful event turned ugly. It went from an elegant night of honor to a grotesque orgy of character assassination, insulting innuendos and deliberate, destructive doublespeak.
“It became a roast,” Loftus, president of Parlux Ltd. and executive vice president of Perfumania Inc., gleefully told the audience of 200 assembled at the Pierre Hotel on Tuesday evening. “And I became the roast master.”
Loftus kidded that “high-level executives were brought to their knees, and the sick, sadistic and malicious onlookers — all of you — responded favorably, we thought, W.T.F?” (That’s “Why Tamper with the Format,” he was careful to add.) “After all, what’s a few tarnished reputations, a couple of bruised careers and a few slanderous remarks…compared to the joy we bring to the greater group of attendees?” He noted that Policastro has “worked on over 4,000 fragrance launches — and that was just this past spring season.”
Soon, Loftus gave the floor to Jill Belasco, president and chief executive officer of CoScentrix and the chairman of the Fragrance Foundation, followed by Camille McDonald, president of brand development for Bath and Body Works; Diane Crecca, senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development for Arcade, and Karyn Khoury, senior vice president of corporate fragrance development for the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.
Policastro was at times visibly moved and at other times cringing and laughing at the Seventies- and Eighties-era photos his wife, Judy, had provided for the slide presentation.
Belasco needled Policastro about his addiction to his BlackBerry and a photo of Policastro in a white Seventies disco suit, which she joked was Policastro unsuccessfully auditioning for the Village People. After praising their three-decade-long friendship, McDonald poked fun at Policastro’s “clinically insane and anal-retentive cleaning habit — pay no attention to the man under the table with the Dustbuster” and noted that she, Policastro and Crecca had been kicked out of Parisian restaurants for laughing too loudly. Crecca and McDonald then read a poem they’d composed to commemorate the occasion, calling Policastro their “Mr. Big.”
Khoury turned toward the serious side when she recounted a story of Policastro in a meeting with Mrs. Estée Lauder in days gone by. “He gave great feedback and charmed us both,” said Khoury, calling Policastro “a sharp, intuitive marketer.”
Policastro choked up as the evening came to an end. “Thank you for all your kind words — you have filled my life, and I don’t feel like a champion — I feel blessed,” he said, visibly emotional before returning to his wise-cracking self. “Thank you for bestowing on me embarrassing photos and bad jokes at my expense,” Policastro continued. “Camille? I know the year you were born. Diane? I know more than just a few skeletons in your closet. Jill, your life is an open book.”
Elizabeth Musmanno, president of the Fragrance Foundation and head of the Musmanno Group, noted that the event, normally held in October, was held in December this year in order to ensure Policastro’s three sons, Alex, Andrew and Michael, could attend the ceremony.