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Stars at the Waldorf's New Starlight Roof

May 2, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Gilda's Club Worldwide andGilda's Club of Northern New Jersey'sTreasures of the Heart benefit galaThe Waldorf=AstoriaSaturday, 04.28.01, 7 PM onward
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The Waldorf=Astoria's newly refurbished Starlight Roof was the setting for luminaries from the world of politics and show business for the Gilda's Club Treasures of the Heart benefit gala. (Both Gilda's Club Worldwide and Gilda's Club of Northern New Jersey put on the event.) But even the stars attending the event were out-glammed by its honoree, Queen Noor Al Hussein of Jordan.

Before dinner, a very exclusive private reception (complete with tight--and perhaps overzealous--security) took place on the hotel's secured top floor, while 425 elegant and bejeweled guests were crammed into the Palm Room and North Foyer outside the ballroom below. Spotted in the crush were former politicos Mario Cuomo and his wife, Matilda, and Bill Bradley, and his wife, Ernestine (who was honorary chair of the New Jersey Gilda's Club's first gala).

But the profusion of delicious hors d'oeuvres helped keep the crowd from complaining. The challenge for Crystal Plaza Catering was to prepare a meal fit for the Queen, who follows the dietary restrictions of her adopted land. Kosher catering was required, but this was not your bubby's Kosher cooking.

The crowd attacked the overflowing trays of hors d'oeuvres, which included caviar and blini, porcini cappuccino with mushroom dust, exquisitely fresh sushi and other more novel appetizers like lamb and smoked salmon “lollipops” and spoonfuls of Waldorf chicken salad. (If we had to quibble, we'd say perhaps the plastic spoons should have been a more royal substance.) The dinner's marvelous main course was juicy herb-encrusted veal chops.

The event's planners, Judy Paulen and Heather Cleary of Paulen-Cleary Productions, ran an evening jammed with sights and sounds that delighted. Barry Herman Entertainment's Golden Violins group serenaded guests as they entered the dining room, and later Amelia Gold's Violin Camerata, a group of adorable kids from three to 12 years old, wowed the crowd first with classical music and later with a foot-stomping hoedown selection.

The event's long program of awards had an able and humorous M.C., CBS's Charles Osgood, who introduced Queen Noor with a clever poem. The queen, who received a one-of-a-kind open heart broach designed by Henry Dunay, gave gracious and personal remarks about her late husband King Hussein's battle with cancer and how it touches both kings and commoners. She left shortly after receiving her award.

Other presentations followed, highlighted by an award for ABC's Joel Siegel (introduced with affection by Siegel's Good Morning America chum Charles Gibson). Siegel spoke movingly about the death of his then 28-year-old wife, Jane, and his vow to establish a place where cancer victims and their families can go for support. A recent cancer survivor himself, Siegel worked with Mandy Patinkin and the late Gilda Radner's husband Gene Wilder to establish the incredibly successful Gilda's Club more than 10 years ago. A video of remarks from Wilder reminded with poignant humor how Gilda's spirit lives on.

The event ended with dessert, a variety of miniature tarts that arrived at each table under a giant solid marbled chocolate dome. The edible domes caused quite a rush of guests trying to grab them on the way out--far surpassing any centerpiece grabbing we've noticed recently. (Ours was delicious in the cab on the way home.)

--Susan Silver

See the chocolate dessert dome...

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