WAITING IN THE WINGS: Fashion designer Jeffrey Banks will be among the honorees at the Dramatists Guild Foundation’s annual gala later this month.
Banks will receive his award from Tony-award winning costume designer Clinton Ramos. Barbara Olcott, a DGF board member, will also be heralded for her support of the arts. In addition, the playwright Paula Vogel, whose work includes “How I Learned to Drive” among other plays, will also be saluted at the 60th anniversary event on Oct. 24 at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York.
Banks will also be honored this fall by another organization celebrating 60 years — the Council of Fashion Designers of America — for his contributions to American fashion and his status as a longtime exemplary member of the CFDA. Banks will receive the Special Anniversary Award at that event next month at Cipriani South Street at Casa Cipriani.
During an interview earlier this week, Banks said as a teenager he took a summer acting class in Washington, D.C., with a young actor, Chris Sarandon, who was making a name for himself, as was his wife at that time, Susan. “She assisted with the class. I really thought I was lousy, but it was fun to do. I love the theater,” Banks said, adding that Chris Sarandon called him a few months later to encourage him to audition for the 1967 play “The Great White Hope” that premiered at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and later moved on to Broadway.
After five audition and readings with the director Edwin Sherin and the actress Jane Alexander, who was going to be one of the leads, Banks made it to the final round with one other actor, who ultimately got the role. Crestfallen and convinced he would never act again, Banks said decades later he was invited by the designer Kenneth Cole to a fundraiser for his father-in-law Mario Cuomo, the former New York Governor. After spotting the event’s master of ceremonies, James Earl Jones, seated tucking into a steak, Banks said he tapped him on the shoulder to say, “Excuse me, Mr. Jones. I want to introduce myself. My name is Jeffrey Banks. I was almost your son,” the designer recalled with a laugh.
Years later, Banks agreed (somewhat reluctantly) to appear in a short film as a publisher that a friend was shooting for his final senior project at New York University Film School. Called “Plus,” the award-winning short is about a plus-size model vying for a fashion magazine cover and has become popular on the short film circuit. “That’s my one IMDb credit,” he said with a laugh. “That was my brush with acting, but I’m not quitting my day job.”