Alzheimer's Association's Glitzy Gala

By Masha Leon

Published November 02, 2007, issue of November 02, 2007.
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On October 10, the Alzheimer Association’s annual “Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered” Rita Hayworth Gala was held at the Waldorf-Astoria. Princess Yasmin Aga Khan launched the gala 24 years ago in memory of her mother, Hayworth, who showed symptoms of the disease while in her 50s. Considered one of the glitziest events of the season, the gala honored Nurit Kahane Haase for her dedication to “creating a world without Alzheimer’s [disease]… no longer a disease for the elderly, [striking] those in their 40s, 50s, even in their 30s.” She told me: “My father, Dr. Zislaw Kahane of Lemberg, Poland, made me promise to honor the memory of a colleague who had died of Alzheimer’s. He left Poland after the war, came to Israel in 1949, where I was born.” Haase immigrated to New York from Jerusalem when she was a teenager. Active in Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, she now heads Journeycorp, one of the largest business travel companies in the country.

A video tribute to Claudia Cohen — TV gossip maven, newspaper columnist, longtime association supporter and a past gala chair — who recently died of cancer, brought tears to many in the audience, including Cohen’s ex-husband Ron Perelman and Samantha, Cohen and Perelman’s daughter.

“We [Yasmin and I] both had a mother who became ‘bewitched, bothered and bewildered,’” said gala chair Louise Kornfeld. She was alluding to the evening’s theme, which was inspired by the 1957 film “Pal Joey,” starring Hayworth and Frank Sinatra, in which the Rodgers and Hart song “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” was showcased. Video screens along the ballroom’s balcony presented clips of Victor Garber, Dick Van Dyke, Dominic Cianese, Peter Gallagher and Olympia Dukakis speaking about their Alzheimer’s-stricken mothers, who now neither remember nor recognize them. Corporate honoree Dr. John Castle, chairman and CEO of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. (which publishes the “Best Doctors” reference books), declared, “Patients need to get the best doctors to get the best outcome.” With Alzheimer’s now claiming 5 million victims in America, Castle noted: “If we live into our 80s or 90s, half of us will suffer from Alzheimer’s.” There were oohs, ahhs and applause accompanying the announcement from Allen Brill, president and CEO of Rolex Watch USA, that Rolex will underwrite the next five Alzheimer’s Association galas.

The photographers were in blitz heaven: The guest list of 650 included Ivana Trump (due a “Mazel tov” on her forthcoming wedding to 23-years-younger longtime companion Rossano Rubicondi); a dazzling Joan Collins; former New York City mayor David Dinkins; TV host Regis Philbin; Neil and Leba Sedaka; past gala chairs Donna Dixon and husband Hugh Ackroyd; Margo Catsimatidis, a past gala chair, and her husband John Catsimatidis, chairman & CEO United Refining Companies and Gristedes Supermarkets (he assured me he was going to run for mayor); Michael Sela, past president of Weizmann Institute; fashion gurus Dennis Basso, Calvin Klein and Carolina Herrera; Muffie Potter Aston, underwriting chair, and her husband, Dr. Sherrell Aston, plastic surgery chairman at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, and former astronaut Buzz Aldrich.


Had anyone called out, “Is there a doctor in the house?!” at the October 22 Lenox Hill Hospital 150th Anniversary Autumn Ball, no doubt half the 1,100 black-tie guests at the Waldorf-Astoria would have responded. Honorary chairs Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband, Matthew Broderick, did not attend, but an affable Broderick made a video appearance in which he praised Lenox Hill as young son James — who was delivered at the hospital — mugged for the camera.

Founded in 1851 as the German Dispensary by Dr. Abraham Jacobi and Dr. Ernst Krackowizer, the facility was renamed Lenox Hill Hospital in 1918. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia notes that Jacobi (1830-1919), known as “the father of American pediatrics,” is credited with the invention of the laryngoscope and was the first to use the diphtheria anti-toxin in practice. The book also notes that Krackowizer (1821-1919) was the first (in Vienna) to experiment with the effects of chloroform — on himself. The dinner journal’s historic photomontage shows Winston Churchill, who at the time was Britain’s prime minister, in a wheelchair. In 1931 he was treated at Lenox Hill for serious injuries suffered when a car hit him as he crossed Park Avenue. The evening was a self-congratulatory love-fest that resembled a family simkha. The hospital’s staff members and several of its 1,400 doctors touted the its 150-year record of never closing its doors once. They also praised its state-of-the-art equipment and technology. It was noted that the hospital was the first in the world to offer angio-cardiology and angioplasty. And speaking of family, among the video profiles there were several doctors’ families, including one of a father and his two sons, who are all on staff, with hospital personnel remembering the younger physicians as toddlers.

Lenox Hill Hospital provides emergency care to more than 65,000 patients annually. It was noted that the hospital “will never turn anyone away.”


Applause! Applause! Yiddish-English-Dutch-Hebrew-fluent stage and film star Mike Burstyn emceed the opening-night gala of the 22nd Israel Film Festival, presented October 23 at the Directors Guild of America Theatre. Stage-film-TV star Ron Silver was the 2007 IFF Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, with acclaimed film director Sidney Lumet — a past IFF honoree — as the presenter (due to an active film set, he had to blitz in and out). But the evening’s supernovas were “Noodle” stars Mili Avital (who was present) and heartbreaker BoaQui Chen, a 6-year-old Chinese actor. Throughout the film, Avital and Chen keep the audience riveted, sometimes teary-eyed and always emotionally involved. “Noodle” has garnered 10 nominations from the Israeli Film Academy Awards, including best director, best music, best cinematography and best actress (for Avital). Imagine a Chinese boy left in Tel Aviv by his immigrant mother with an El Al airline employee; the mother disappears; The boy speaks no Hebrew other than “Ani yeled sini,” which means “I am a Chinese boy.” No one speaks Chinese except… aha! Won’t give away the plot, which absorbed and delighted me through two viewings. The film is sophisticated and elegantly structured, with sensitive direction by Ayelet Menahemi (whose 1992 film “Tel Aviv Stories” still resonates) and superb performances by all the actors —Israeli, Chinese and others. And there are enough romantic complications and sexual tension to satisfy the most avid soap opera addict. As I was leaving the screening, a film maven said to his companion, “This was as good as the best of French cinema.”

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