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Locked-Down Waldorf Hosts Gala

October 15, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Alzheimer's Association's Rita Hayworth gala benefit Waldorf=Astoria Tuesday, 10.09.01, 6:30 PM onward
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Since the military commenced attacks on Afghanistan on Sunday, the landmark Waldorf=Astoria, the hotel where the president and many diplomats and foreign dignitaries stay while in New York, has been in lockdown mode. Old wooden desks that look as if they've been dragged from the hotel's furniture archives are set up inside the Park Avenue entrance--currently the only operational entrance--and guards stationed at these desks check guests' room keys and wave metal detector wands over purses, briefcases and shopping bags.

Those who came out for the Rita Hayworth gala benefit for the Alzheimer's Association were subjected to the same scrutiny as all restaurant, bar and hotel patrons entering the building. And instead of prettily dressed PR girls and volunteers, guards from Integrated Security Services checked off registered guests' names.

Although guests were a little surprised at the measures, none seemed to mind as they were quickly checked through and allowed to enter the hotel. (These measures impeded guests for less than a minute.) Inside, the Grand Ballroom shimmered with decor fit for a princess (Hayworth's daughter and the event's hostess Princess Yasmin Aga Khan founded the Rita Hayworth gala 17 years ago in memory of her mother, who died of Alzheimer's disease in 1987). Tansey Design Associates placed elegant, all-white floral centerpieces of dahlias, roses, lisianthus, stock and spray roses upon shimmering blue and silver tablecloths.

According to event planner Suzanne Hemming of Hemming and Gilman, the event's original theme, “Champagne Safari,” was toned down to a more elegant, subdued theme after the World Trade Center attacks. For entertainment, Jimmy Buffett gave a special performance, and dance music was provided by the Stingers. The event, which also featured a live auction, raised more than $2 million--$100,000 of which was donated to World Trade Center relief charities.

--Suzanne Ito

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