“NOT EVEN a strong relationship with God can conquer the demons of addiction.”
That was music titan Clive Davis this week at the Caron New York gala in Cipriani 42nd Street. Caron treats and educates in matters of addiction, and Clive was speaking of his dear friend, the late Whitney Houston.
Clive, accepting the Richard J. Caron Award for Excellence, appeared to be deeply moved when he said, “I wish with all my heart Whitney had availed herself of the facilities at Caron.” His remarks were brief and powerful.
This was the 17th annual event for this remarkable foundation. And the evening, not to be facetious, is rather like a big, dressed-up AA meeting. Newscaster Laurie Dhue, probably best known for her eight-year stint on Fox News, was the emcee. Miss Dhue is blonde, strikingly attractive and admirably emphatic. (Well, those Fox News anchors have a laser-like focus.) Dhue—who also has beautiful posture—told her own tale of addiction. She gave out the terrible statistics. She was powerfully convincing. A few people who were drinking at their tables, stopped. And never picked up their wine glasses again!
Bellinis were being offered at the start of the night. These pink drinks also were abandoned after Dhue, and a young woman named Zoe G. spoke. (Miss G.’s tale was harrowing, but if she tells it again at another gala, she needs guidance in keeping it brief and to the point. Some people were eyeing their wine as she went on.)
Auctioneer Lorna Kelly was a riot, in her wry, British matter-of-factness. “I don’t mean to be controlling,” she said at one point, “But I’m just going to ask you for money, and I can’t leave the stage until we reach a certain point. No pressure!” (Caron made over $100,000. Lorna, who seemed to have pink highlights in her hair, and almost became Mick Jagger’s girlfriend back in the day,was not to be trifled with.)
Among the generous throng were Geraldo Rivera, Stephanie Seymour, Bill Moyers, Art Garfunkel, Denise LeFrak and Countess Luann deLessepps (“Real Housewives of New York.”) Everybody looked remarkably fresh, and not just because of Botox or Restylane. You could tell it was a group of people committed to sobriety. And when you’re sober, it shows.
Also honored by Caron was the exquisite singer Judy Collins. Collins sang, in a voice still remarkably pure, “Send In The Clowns” and “Both Sides Now.”
Liza Minnelli, who sought treatment successfully at Caron, appeared and warmly warbled “You Fascinate Me So” and “Confession,” from her 2010 CD. Liza had just come from the Betty White Friars Roast and looked adorable in black pants and blazing reddish-pink blouse. Her choice of the song “Confession” was deliberately ironic, with its references to wine and gin. Well, you can be sober and still have a sense of humor!
Laurie Dhue came back at the end, with her posture and her fabulous necklace and her determination. She is a member of Caron’s Advisory Board and travels around the country as a recovery advocate.
Maybe the struggling CNN should take a look at Miss Dhue? She has presence and authority.
Oh, and a shout-out to the ladies of Buckley Hall Events—Linda Buckley and Anita Hall. This gala, at one of Manhattan’s most beautiful and versatile spaces, was put together with loving care. And the food was great, too, including a downright wicked angel cake dessert.
GUESS WHO went off for a weekend anniversary? None other than Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue! When Marlo—actress, author and record-breaking fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital—fell hard for TV’s Donahue “they” said it wouldn’t last! Now he’s a documentary filmmaker and the two of them have celebrated 32 years of happy marriage.
Incidentally, it was me, Liz, who first reported their romance. And I was the one who did not say it wouldn’t last.
THE WORLD of fiction was plenty mad when the Pulitzer Prize people failed even to name a work this year, so the New York Times magazine recently asked seven “experts” to select a great novelist for them; one who should have won the Pulitzer.
The expert selectors and their choices were:
1. Sam Anderson: He picked David Foster Wallace‘s The Pale King.
2. Gregory Cowles: He named Jean Thompson The Year We Left Home.
3. Maud Newton: She wanted Pym by Mat Johnson.
4. Garth Risk Hallberg: He selected The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo.
5. Alexander Chee: He offered Tayari Jones of Silver Sparrow.
6. Macy Halford: This writer also picked The Pale King by David Foster Wallace.
7. Laila Lalami: She named State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
8. John Williams selected Teju Cole’s Open City.
Well, maybe because two different “experts” picked the same book by David Foster Wallace, the latter is the winner.
But I was so thrilled to see State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Ann is the writer who has opened a Nashville book shop, selling real books you can hold and crack open, and close and put down. State of Wonder is about scientists searching in the jungles of South America. It’s a book you’ll never forget. So, personally and prejudicially, I am saying State of Wonder should have won the Pulitzer. I am just not smart enough or haven’t had time enough to read the other recommendations.
But they are on my list to order via Ann Patchett’s store Parnassus Books and I am going to read them. (Try firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A HAPPY BIRTHDAY today to author Tina Santi Flaherty who is also one of the philanthropist backers of the Writing Center at Marymount Manhattan College. The good-looking Tina gives other writers a big boost.
I WILL have to live a while longer in order to get over this week’s New York Times story on the Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz. He comes across like an engaging guy. (Some people describe him as “cuddly”)
At the Costume Institute gala for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mr. Elbaz is shown wearing white tie with a bulging tuxedo type dinner jacket – and he has on scuffed brown shoes! Wow – some people can get away with anything and I wonder what GQ and Esquire think of such a combination on a male fashion leader?
This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 5/18/12