The original invitation to Tuesday night’s Rita Hayworth Gala at the Waldorf Astoria — printed before Sept. 11 — promised a champagne safari just like the lavish one Hayworth and Prince Aly Khan enjoyed on their well-documented second honeymoon in 1952. What guests encountered when they reached the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, however, was not the planned over-the-top exotic theme party but a subdued version of “America the Beautiful.”
“It was a very tough decision,” said Yasmin Aga Khan, Hayworth’s daughter who created the gala 17 years ago to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. “But we made some changes.”
First, the black-tie attire and the safari decor were nixed. In place of the after-dinner flutes of champagne, guests like Anne Hearst, Nina Griscom, Helen Schifter and John McEnroe dug their dessert spoons into tall ice cream sundaes. And almost every lady doffed leopard prints in favor of a black cocktail dress — except for Kathy Hilton, who wore red.
“I just didn’t want to wear a navy suit. See my bag,” she said, pointing to her American flag-beaded purse.
Joe Namath flew up from Florida just for the event.
“We can’t stop what we’re doing with our lives,” he explained.
Jimmy Buffett even got into the spirit by offering the entertainment, free of charge.
“It’s only a few thousand tequilas to him,” laughed Michael Fuchs.
The previous Monday, Charles Ruger coordinated the opening of “Improved City,” an exhibition for artists Paul Richard and Joanna Mohammar at the Carlyle Galleries Building.
Drawing the most attention were Richard’s paintings of a young Rudy Giuliani and another of a grieving Jackie Kennedy incorporated into a Kotex ad. The artist routinely pairs celebrities with products and even stamped Lizzie Grubman’s face on a box of Tampax this summer.
“Lizzie just happened to be in the papers,” said Richard. “I really do feel quite disconnected from it all.”