“We thought it was a theme party and came as Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction,” explained one of two young men in slim jackets and equally slender ties at Cipriani 42nd Street Wednesday night.
“The wig didn’t come in time,” offered his friend (referring to John Travolta’s ponytailed ‘do).
They were better for it, though they could be forgiven for their theme-oriented mindset. The event in question was the annual New Yorkers for Children Fall Gala, sponsored by Chloe, and cocktail hour (and later the post-dessert portion) had an unexpected twist for loyal guests at the black tie, benefiting the education of children in the foster care system. Entering Cipriani’s atrium, attendees got a taste of Monaco, as they were handed velvet pouches of chips and coins to spend at a slew of slot machines, two black jack tables and a central roulette station. Later, they could use their winnings to enter a raffle for prizes like a Tory Burch handbag or a Le Metier de Beauté package.
“It’s very James Bond,” remarked one woman.
Julie Macklowe, in an appropriately sparkling Sophie Theallet gown, eagerly plunked down all of her chips on number 22 at the roulette table (she lost).
“It’s not real money!” she shrugged, adding, “My real game is poker, Texas hold ‘em. It’s a game for the brain.”
Some were less gung-ho, despite the lack of financial risk.
“I’m just going to watch—I’m afraid I’ll get too into it and competitive,” said jewelry designer Maud Cabot.
“I don’t gamble,” said Marjorie Gubelmann. “I once went to Vegas with my son and mother and all we did was eat and go to shows.”
Soon observers and participants alike were heading into the main room for dinner. Alina Cho, editor at large for Random House, acted as host and emcee and quickly got the proceedings rolling over the risotto appetizers. But first, let her take a selfie (which she did onstage).
“That’s for social media. That’s done, then,” she said, recalling her first time at a NYFC gala many years ago. “I thought, ‘Alina, buy a new dress, this is a very big deal.’ And so I bought my Oscar de la Renta dress.”
Chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson and his wife Maya Haile were presented with the inaugural New Yorkers for Children Community Enhancement award.
“In our community, we see the best of the city and where the city can do more,” said Samuelsson of his beloved Harlem neighborhood where his Red Rooster Harlem and Streetbird Rotisserie eateries are based. “Hope to see you in Harlem because that’s where it’s happening!”
Steve Pemberton, a vice president at Walgreens Boots Alliance, received the 2015 Nicholas Scoppetta Child Welfare award and gave an impassioned speech about his rise through the foster system.
“They told me I only have four minutes,” he said, recalling a dictate in college to keep speeches to the 5 B’s, “meaning be brief, but be brief. Brevity is difficult when you see the runway of your life in front of you as I did when I walked in here today… Man planned and God laughed. I had this dream of a different life than the one I inherited…Thank you for giving me a home.”
Student leader (and fellow foster care success story) Antoinette Kane was bestowed with the North Shore-LIJ Health System Spirit Award.
“Statistically speaking, I should not even be here,” she said, outlining the dire circumstances of her childhood.
After a sobering video presentation, Christie’s Lydia Fenet effectively roused the crowd in a live auction of monetary commitments that eventually raised over $250,000, thanks in part to Samuelsson’s impromptu donation of a Red Rooster brunch for 15. Georgina Bloomberg snapped it up in a bidding war for $22,000.
And then it was back to those tables.
“If you smile nicely at the dealers, you can get your [lost] chips returned,” advised one gentleman.
Everyone’s a winner.