NEW YORK This year's Robin Hood Foundation benefit can be best described by the numbers: Two Stewarts (comedian Jon was the M.C. and singer Rod performed after dinner), 20,000 fresh daisies for the dinner table centerpieces, and 3,600 guests (a record crowd for the event). The big event confirmed its reputation as the city's largest annual fund-raiser, in terms of attendance, fund-raising and sheer size, bringing in more than $24 million—up from $16.7 million last year.
Working with the same tried-and-true team of staffers and vendors from years past, Robin Hood director of communications, marketing and events Laurie Fabiano coordinated the event in an elaborate, enormous dining room created inside the Javits Center.
Designer Avi Adler and his partner, David Stark, brought a cheerful outdoor motif inside Javits. “It was at last year's benefit that I thought, 'Next year we're going to do a big hill of daisies,'” Adler said. Taking that concept, Adler's team created a giant mound covered with plastic grass and dotted with 420 white daisy pinwheels. Above the hill, fans created a breeze that spun the daisy-wheels. “We wanted it to feel like a happy spring day,” Stark said.
To give the cocktail area a park-like atmosphere, yellow benches dotted with plaid, pastel and polka dotted-pillows skirted the hill of daisies. Atomic Design built giant potted flowers, trees and blue clouds made of wood and lined with light bulbs. (Stark told us they considered using real trees, but deemed it impossible; later they decided inflatable trees would be “too cheesy.") The surrounding walls played animation and graphics created by 2 X 4, and the lighting created a black-light effect that had the decor items glowing. And for a slightly surreal feel, entertainers from Spyralhead Lady—a park sweeper on stilts, a woman juggling parasols with her feet and giant bubble-blowers—circulated among guests.
Inside the dining room, orange, yellow and green cloths covered 360 dinner tables. Flower pots filled with white daisies occupied all but 10, which got white peonies. (“They ran out of daisies,” Adler explained.) Enormous screens surrounded the dining room to show more imagery and videos about Robin Hood's work.
For dinner, Glorious Food and more than 600 caterwaiters served a dinner of cold.phparagus soup, filet of beef and breast of chicken florentine with bourbon mustard sauce, baby vegetables and potato salad, and strawberry ice cream and strawberry rhubarb pie.
M.C. Jon Stewart did his schtick at a small stage in the center of the room, followed by a performance by Al Green and the Kipp Academy Orchestra on the first of two stages tucked behind black draping in the back of the dining room. Sotheby's auctioneer Jamie Niven presided over the live auction of over-the-top auction lots such as golf with President Bill Clinton and lunches with Uma Thurman and Sofia Coppola. Newly dubbed American Idol Fantasia Barrino gave a surprise performance with a 60-member choir, and the finale was a concert by Rod Stewart.
Those who weren't ready to leave could stick around for a 45-minute dance party back in the cocktail area, where DJ Marlon B of DGI Productions spun funk, soul and 80's music for the well-heeled crowd. Diane von Furstenberg-designed the gift bag totes, and one guest won a 2004 Ford Thunderbird—a door prize you could only expect from Robin Hood.
—Suzanne Ito & Chad Kaydo
Read our coverage of last year's Robin Hood Foundation benefit...
Read our Impresario Q&A with Robin Hood's Laurie Fabiano...