NEW YORK — The Phoenix House Fashion Award Luncheon Wednesday at the Waldorf-Astoria seemed like a Friar’s roast with plenty of compassion at its core.

This story first appeared in the June 24, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Joan Kaner, Neiman Marcus senior vice president and fashion director, called Neiman’s chief executive officer Burt Tansky “an absolute tyrant, but a loving one.” Tansky sarcastically referred to Burberry ceo Rose Marie Bravo as “one of those overbearing vendors” for stealing his part. He was supposed to present the fashion award to Kaner, but Bravo bypassed the script and did the honors.

And with a tear in her eye, Kaner described herself as “the little Italian girl from Astoria, Queens, who never thought she would be standing up here, with so many friends.”

Tansky, who did serve as master of ceremonies and is chairman of Phoenix House in Texas, characterized Kaner as someone with “taste, style and a generous spirit — a quintessential fashion maven.” As a side issue, he joked, “What she tells us, we normally don’t do. She doesn’t take any responsibility for markdowns.”

Most moving was a speech from 18-year-old Ayanna Lewis, a runaway, former gang member and marijuana addict who is a resident at the Phoenix Academy of Westchester, where she’s getting treatment for her problem. “You can be addicted to marijuana,” she told the crowd. “Smoking anything for a long period can kill not only your physical being, but your mental being. Phoenix House helped me to learn a lot of things.”

Among the 450 guests were Bloomingdale’s Frank Doroff and Anne Keating, who served as co-chairs along with Neva Hall and Ann Stordahl from Neiman’s. The event raised $350,000.”

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