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There were many exciting things to see at the East Side House Settlement’s Gala preview of the 2012 New York International Auto Show. Guests roaming the Jacob Javits Center Thursday night could have admired a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport costing $1.9 million and capable of reaching a speed of 253 miles per hour. They could have eyed the Terragugia Transition flying car, which uses the same gasoline as a traditional car and does just what it sounds like: goes from taking off and landing in over 5,000 US airfields to driving on a regular road (an economic solution for those poor folks forced to choose between their private planes and luxury vehicles?). Or they could have pondered a new taxi design, the Nissan NV200.

I could have been one of these people. But instead, I was stuck in over an hour of inexplicable West Side traffic en route to the Javits Center where the only horsepower being used was by the equine-drawn carriage that passed my stalled taxi. Where’s a Batmobile when you need one?

Fe-Fendi-in-Fiat-500-Abarth.jpgFe Fendi in the Fiat 500 Abarth

That’s not to say that when I arrived just in time for the end of cocktails that I was bereft of any entertaining visions. The bars were packed with all variety of male species, the purple pants-clad kind, the banker kind (was I being presumptuous? Sorry, not sure what gave it away), the check blazer kind and so on. (There were also women in very long bandage tops…or were they dresses? Unclear.)

“This is quite the testosterone event,” said one lady.

No kidding. The silent auction alone offered a Joe Namath-signed Jets helmet for $1700, a Phil Mickleson-signed three time Masters champion flag for $1600 and a Jay-Z-autographed multi-record poster for $1500. In what world does Jay-Z take third billing? Where was I?

“I’d like an Alexander McQueen dress,” said Patricia Shiah as she glanced over the items.

Good luck with that.

blog-autoshow-02.jpgFrom left: Arie and Coco Kopelman; Tom and Patricia Shiah

Also on display were multiple Fiat 500s, as the company was the main host for the evening. The piece de resistance, however, was the Fiat 500 Abarth, a black and red number with a MultiAir Turbo engine, electronic power steering and 15 mm lowered sports suspension, among other features. It was driven straight into the middle of our canopied black tie dinner at the start of the meal so diners could stare at it and plot their live auction bids (proceeds benefited the East Side House Settlement, which helps underprivileged youths—and adults—escape poverty through access to higher education).

blog-autoshow-Fiat-500-Abarth-being-driven-into-dinner-tent.jpgThe Fiat 500 Abarth being driven into dinner tent

And so, just before dessert was served, Lydia Fenet took to the stage to get the fundraising started. A sunset cruise around Manhattan for ten on a private yacht (including drinks and dinner) went for $8000, while a reservation for four at Ari Kopelman’s table at Rao’s (NOT including drinks and dinner) took in $6000. You do the status math. There was a tour for eight of Steven and Alexandra Cohen’s private art collection, led by Sandy Heller, that caused a bidding war—“Oh no, she’s been cut off by her husband at $15,000,” quipped Fenet of one woman—ending at $20,000, an Italian travel package courtesy of Indagare ($22,000) and then the aforementioned Abarath Fiat. It made its way to $28,000. It seats four.

blog-autoshow-Lydia-Fenet-2.jpgLydia Fenet

But if Fe Fendi, one of the benefit committee’s co-chairs, had gotten her hands on it, I’m thinking it would have been put to maximum use.

“We once squeezed nine people in a mini when I was younger,” she confided to me.

Now that’s what I call performance.

Photos: Joe Schildhorn and Neil Rasmus/BFAnyc.com

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