A WINTERNIGHT’S TALE
NEW YORK — There’s philanthropy and there’s fashion. On Wednesday night, the two met in the Broadway Ballroom of the Marriot Marquis, at the annual Winternight dinner that benefits Lighthouse International. And Saks Fifth Avenue chairman Philip Miller, the gala’s chairman and senior vice chairman of the organization’s board of directors, got credit for bringing the two together and raising $1.7 million in the process.
Among the guests were Celeste Holm, Mark Badgley and James Mischka, Carolina Herrera, Elie Tahari, Joseph Abboud, Nina Griscom, Josie Natori and Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer of Calvin Klein. The evening’s honorary chairman was Harry Belafonte, the journal chairwoman was Saks Enterprises’ chief marketing officer Sheri Wilson-Gray and the honoree was Christina Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Saks Enterprises.
Both Belafonte and Holm admitted to doing a fair share of shopping at Saks. “The last thing I bought? I think it was makeup,” said Holm. Then, touching her silver earrings and necklace she said: “Oh, wait! I got these there.” Belafonte, meanwhile, wouldn’t have looked quite so dapper without the retailer: his rose quartz studs and cuff links came from the store.
During his welcoming speech, though, Belafonte focused more on service than style. With vision-impaired relatives in his family, including his father-in-law, Belafonte said he’d spent a fair amount of time at the Lighthouse, and initiated programs such as bringing musicians into the center.
“I’m celebrity bait,” he told the audience of about 1200. “It’s nice to lull myself into believing that you are all here because of me, but of course that’s not true.”
Miller received the lion’s share of airtime from various speakers, for his many years of work for the Lighthouse.
“We moved to the Marriot Marquis because we needed a larger venue,” said Dr. Barbara Silverstone, president and ceo of the Lighthouse. “And we owe this overwhelming success to Philip Miller. In the seven years that he has been gala chair, he has single-handedly transformed this into a multimillion-dollar fund-raising event.” The Lighthouse has named its career services office for Miller.
“If you really get to the heart of why I’m here tonight, it has to do with one person, and that person is Philip Miller,” said Saks’s Johnson, who has known Miller for about 18 years; they worked together first at Marshall Field’s and then at Saks. Johnson credited Miller for his tireless efforts on behalf of the Lighthouse, noting that the Winternight event has raised $11 million in the seven years that he has been gala chairman.
“I’m sure that many of you have experienced his persuasiveness,” Johnson said. “How many of you thought you were buying two tickets for tonight and ended up with a $30,000 table?”