1. Robin Hood Foundation Benefit
The Scoop: This one is the biggest, in just about every way—floor space, money raised, star power. Last year the benefit had a record 3,600 guests, featured comedian Jon Stewart as M.C. and Rod Stewart as the headline performer, with special guest Al Green, and raised a whopping $25.7 million for this nonprofit that combats poverty in New York. Guests bid upon auction offerings like a round of golf with former president Bill Clinton, a trip to the Northwest Territories to tour Tiffany’s diamond mines, a consultation with Manolo Blahnik for custom-made shoes, lunches with corporate leaders, and a trip to Wimbledon—including private lessons with Andre Agassi.
Behind the Scenes: Robin Hood’s director of communications, marketing, and events, Laurie Fabiano, works with a reliable team to transform the vast spaces of the Javits Center. Avi Adler cooks up inventive designs—last year he and partner David Stark created a whimsical garden feel, with a giant mound covered in plastic grass and pinwheels made to resemble daisies. Glorious Food catered, Event Associates handled fund-raising and logistics, Event Resources provided audiovisual production, and Styles Security provided security services. May 25
2. Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit
The Scoop: The benefit was started by fashion legend Eleanor Lambert in 1948 and is now a highly watched event that draws a mix of fashion, film, and society types.
Behind the Scenes: Met manager of special events Ashley Potter works with chairwoman Anna Wintour of Vogue to plan the lavish fete. Last year’s event had an 18th-century theme inspired by the “Dangerous Liaisons” exhibition. Robert Isabell handled decor and Glorious Food catered. This year’s gala focuses on the institute’s Chanel exhibit. May 2
3. American Ballet Theatre Spring Gala
The Scoop: Highlights of the ballet company’s spring season are performed at the Metropolitan Opera House, and a stylish crowd of 1,200 guests head to the tent in Damrosch Park for an elegant dinner. The event draws big-name society types like Caroline Kennedy, Susan Fales-Hill, Muffie Potter Aston, and Coco Kopelman.
Behind the Scenes: John Banta is the company’s director of special events, and is assisted by events manager Katie Diamond. Last year, chairwoman Blaine Trump worked with event coordinator Jane Emerson and event designer Bill Tansey. Large tropical-looking fabric leaves fanned out from tall green poles that rose over guests’ tables. Lanterns in a variety of orange tones were lit by Bentley Meeker Lighting & Staging. Catering by Restaurant Associates served dinner. May 23
4. Whitney Museum of American Art's Fall Gala
The Scoop: By virtue of the benefiting institution, this hip black-tie event is a hit with artists and society folks alike. Among last year’s attendees were museum chairman Leonard Lauder and artists Christo, Brice Marden, and Frank Stella. The dinner is followed by an after-party held within the museum, which proves to be just as popular as the gala itself.
Behind the Scenes: Kimberly Goldsteen is the museum’s director of special events, and worked on last year’s bash, called “Now Art Now,” which integrated specially commissioned artwork by artists from the 2004 Biennial exhibition. As event designer, Gill Hockett took a minimalist approach to the look of the party, forgoing flowers while Bentley Meeker Lighting & Staging illuminated the party’s title in white lights on the building’s exterior. David Ziff Cooking catered last year, and Starr Tents tented a portion of the after-party space. London Misher Public Relations handled PR. Oct.
5. Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala
The Scoop: Packed with prestige, the opening night at the Met is a social spectacle of the highest caliber. Last year, 500 well-heeled guests attended, including Beverly Sills, Nan Kempner, Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Sid and Mercedes Bass, Henry and Marie-Josee Kravis, and Oscar and Annette de la Renta. The gala raised $2.4 million for the opera company last year, and the season opened with Verdi’s Otello.
Behind the Scenes: The evening is overseen by chairman of special events Cecile Zilkha, and the Met’s director of special events is Wendy Westwood. Last year Bill Tansey created tall centerpieces with tropical foliage and white orchids, while tables were covered with white organza overlays embroidered with moss green dots and ribbon. Sept. 19
6. Frick Collection's Young Fellows Ball
The Scoop: Marina Rust Connor, Lauren du Pont, Lauren Davis, and Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer give this party—which takes on inventive themes every year—social clout.
Behind the Scenes: The Frick’s Sarah Milestone is manager of special events, and oversaw last year’s Carolina Herrera sponsored, “Men’s Club”-titled party, produced by Kevin Krier & Associates. It featured masculine touches like striped fabrics and a cigar bar. This year’s “A Dance in the Golden Age,” will evoke the rich colors and textures depicted in the works of Rembrandt and Vermeer as executed by interior design firm Robert Couturier & Associates. Feb. 24
7. Winter Antiques Show Opening Night Gala
The Scoop: A highlight of the winter social season, this staid event affords bigmoney guests the chance to mingle and check out the fine array of top-notch antiques on display at the Park Avenue Armory, as well as support the East Side House Settlement, which benefits from the preview party. The show also has a popular Young Collectors’ Night party.
Behind the Scenes: Catherine Sweeney Singer is the show’s executive director and Eula Johnson is the show coordinator. LaForce & Stevens handled PR. The New-York Historical Society was highlighted this year, as more than 50 pieces from its collection were exhibited. Taste Caterers served guests at the gala. Jan. 20
8. Central Park Conservancy's Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Awards Luncheon
The Scoop: A showcase for the 1,200 ladies who lunch, this spring ritual brings out big names like Blaine Trump, Adrienne Vittadini, and Joan Rivers. The society ladies wear large hats and bring big purses—last year they raised $2.4 million.
Behind the Scenes: Glorious Food catered last year’s event, while Very Special Flowers provided floral design and Stamford Tent and Party Rental set up transparent tents. The conservancy’s Olivia Striffler will coordinate this year’s event with consultant Laura Hall, and cosmetics giant Estée Lauder will be the event sponsor. May 4
9. Breast Cancer Research Foundation's Spring Benefit
The Scoop: With her combo of business world and high society clout, founder Evelyn Lauder gives this benefit a decided advantage. The event draws more than 1,100 guests, and last year garnered more than $5.5 million.
Behind the Scenes: The event is under the helm of the foundation’s director of special events, Anne MacGillivray. Origins’ Monroe Alechman designed last year’s “Hot Pink Party” with fanciful pink spirals hung from the ceiling. Elton John performed. Elizabeth Hurley will return as M.C. this year at the Waldorf. April 20
10. New York Botanical Garden's Conservatory Ball
The Scoop: A who’s who of New York society heads to the Bronx for the garden’s biggest fund-raiser—it pulled in $1.5 million dollars in 2004. Joanne de Guardiola, Sloan Barnett, Muffie Potter Aston, and Somers Farkas are among the 700 who attend.
Behind the Scenes: Associate vice president for special events Jennifer Rominiecki oversees the elegant affair. Robert Downs Clark Floral Design created a cool blue and green palette for last year’s ball, and incorporated flowers into Frost Lighting’s tasteful chandeliers. Guests passed through the conservatory to a tent from Stamford Tent and Party Rental. Glorious Food catered. June 2
11. MoMA’s Party in the Garden
The Scoop: Business world and society figures mingle with artists at this party, which takes its name from the now-reinstalled Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The event raised more than $1 million last year, and supports the operation of the museum and maintenance of the garden.
Behind the Scenes: Last year’s event honored actor and museum supporter Steve Martin, and was organized by Kara Moore, then acting director of the museum’s special events department. The 2004 party was held at the Roseland Ballroom, with Robert Isabell handling decor and Glorious Food feeding guests. This year marks a return to the museum’s Midtown home, and will be overseen by Moore and director of special programming and events Nicholas Apps. The party will honor longtime museum backer David Rockefeller, in celebration of his 90th birthday. June 7
12. New Yorkers for Children Benefit
The Scoop: Anna Wintour and Oscar de la Renta serve on the board at this nonprofit that aids children in foster care. Seven-hundred guests attended last year’s benefit, including fashion designers Donna Karan and Douglas Hannant, as well as society fixtures Susan Fales-Hill and Dayssi Olarte and Paul Kanavos. The event grossed $800,000.
Behind the Scenes: Executive director Susan Magazine works with JFM 2 Productions to plan the event. Last year’s benefit was cochaired by Teen Vogue editor in chief Amy Astley and included floral design by Antony Todd at Cipriani 42nd Street. Named for the organization’s founder, the gala is the occasion when the Nicholas Scoppetta Award for Service to Children is presented, which has been bestowed upon author Art Buchwald, Senator Hillary Clinton, and most recently to Harlem Children’s Zone C.E.O. Geoffrey Canada. Sept. 21
13. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Night
The Scoop: Dance devotees flock to the company’s opening night—supporters include the likes of Jesse Jackson, Peter Jennings, Jerry Speyer, and Sandford Weill. Last year’s benefit featured New York Yankee Derek Jeter as the honorary chairman and welcomed 1,500 guests. It raised $2.4 million, and tickets ranged from $300 to $2,500.
Behind the Scenes: City Center was the site for the performances; last year saw the world premiere of the ballet Love Stories and Ailey’s Revelations. Following the performances, guests headed to the Sheraton New York for dinner. Director of development and special events Quay Whitlock looked to Avi Adler for event design, which drew upon the performances and stage set—paint cans drilled with small holes and filled with candles hung throughout the ballroom. Nov. 30
14. New York City Ballet Opening Night Benefit
The Scoop: Names, names, names—the New York City Ballet’s opening night has got them, including a mix of artsy types and society fixtures: Isabella Rossellini, Nina Griscom, Anne Bass, Brice Marden, Alba and Francesco Clemente, and Coco and Arie Kopelman. Attended by 675 ballet lovers, the evening resulted in nearly $1.2 million for the organization.
Behind the Scenes: The ballet company’s director of special events is Kara Minogue. Robert Couturier and Efraim Grinberg were chairmen for last year’s gala, entitled “Ballet Four Ways,” featuring catering by Glorious Food, which served guests on the Grand Promenade of the New York State Theater. Decor was provided by Wild Thing Floral Design with Trillium Art, and music was provided by Topspin Entertainment. Nov. 22
15. Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering's Awards for Excellence
The Scoop: Individuals from the worlds of business, medicine, and high society gather to support one of the most esteemed medical institutions in the city. Last year’s 300-guest event earned $1 million. The society’s awards honor achievement in corporate leadership, medicine, and philanthropy.
Behind the Scenes: The society’s executive director Barbara McLaughlin and special events manager Nicole Garwood plan the event with Susan Bell Special Events. Last year’s event was held at the Plaza Hotel, and featured floral design by Ron Wendt. This year the fund-raiser moves to Sotheby’s, where Great Performances will cater and Sotheby’s James Niven will be honored. May 23
16. New York Public Library's Library Lions Benefit
The Scoop: This event singles out those who have excelled in the arts and inducts them as “lions.” Last year’s honorees included soprano Renée Fleming and author Henry Louis Gates Jr. The event raised $1.5 million last year for the General Book Fund.
Behind the Scenes: Kathryn Laino, director of special events, plans the fund-raiser. Last year David Monn fashioned a rustic winter setting for dinner in the Celeste Bartos Forum. Nov.
17. New York City Opera Opening Night Benefit
The Scoop: More than 500 opera aficionados attend the fall opening of the New York City Opera’s season. The crowd includes guests from the corporate and theater worlds, and grossed $1 million last year.
Behind the Scenes: Margaux Biernat is the company’s director of special events and is assisted by Carolyn Castellano. Last year’s opening included a performance of Richard Strauss’ Daphne in the New York State Theater, with dinner on the Grand Promenade from Catering by Restaurant Associates. Avi Adler’s towers of stacked laurel wreaths dominated the space (in mythology, Mother Earth saved the nymph Daphne from the god Apollo by transforming her into a laurel tree). Snap Public Relations/Snap Sacks coordinated the gift bags, and rentals were provided by Party Rental Ltd. Sept. 7
18. Museum of the City of New York's Director's Council Summer Party
The Scoop: Attracting 750 young supporters to this uptown institution, the party is sponsored by a different fashion house every year and is one of the most anticipated events on the social circuit for late summer, with cocktails and dancing throughout the galleries. The benefit raised $195,000 for the museum last year.
Behind the Scenes: Levke Haas is the museum’s director of special events, and managed the benefit, which was sponsored by Gucci last year—with the fashion house’s director of special events Susan Brubaker and visual director James Knight coming up with the event design. The museum’s demure Fifth Avenue home was transformed into a sleek nightclub environment. Kurt Rausch for Flowers designed a massive floral arrangement of 2,500 pink cymbidium orchids that were hand-tied to cherry branches. The Cleaver Company served an assortment of hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Sept.
19. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's Kids for Kids
The Scoop: Celebrities gather to help with readings, arts and crafts, and entertainment geared towards the audience of children and parents. Last year Julianne Moore, James Gandolfini, and Brooke Shields participated and helped raise $1.3 million.
Behind the Scenes: Jayme Rubright is the foundation’s development associate, and works with Empire Entertainment to produce the event at Industria Superstudio. Robert Isabell provides decor. Last year a variety of restaurants, including Barbuto, Kittichai, and Dos Caminos, catered. May 7
20. Municipal Art Society Gala
The Scoop: This stalwart organization’s biggest fete brings out a mix of society elite and leaders in business and the arts who are concerned about the city’s architecture and urban affairs. The gala’s highlight is the presentation of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis medal, which goes out to individuals who have contributed to the greater good of the city.
Behind the Scenes: Jean Tatge, MAS’ vice president of development and external affairs, works with Ruth Bradley of Bradley Associates to produce the gala. Last year’s event honored high-profile arts patron Agnes Gund at the then-unopened Bloomberg building at One Beacon Court (a nod to the organization’s interest in architecture). Robert Isabell placed low baskets of off-white roses mixed with berries, and Glorious Food catered. Oct.
Read about the rest of New York's Top 100 Events...
Photo: Evan Agostini (Frick)
This story originally appeared in the February/March 2005 issue of the BiZBash Event Style Reporter.
1. Robin Hood Foundation Benefit