Goodfellas and Great Gals Honor the Arts


By Masha Leon

Published December 10, 2004, issue of December 10, 2004.
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“I’m a Forward fan,” Jay Golan, director of New York City’s Carnegie Hall, told me at the November 15 Arts & Business Council Awards Gala at Gotham Hall, where marble walls and domed ceilings offered ideal acoustics for violinist Sarah Chang’s impassioned rendition of Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane.” Championing the partnership between business and the arts was the emcee, CBS anchor Harry Smith (who invoked the patron-of-the-arts role of the Medicis), and Lincoln Center President Reynold Levy (who cited Sears, Roebuck and Co. co-founder Julius Rosenwald’s vision of combining business with “something finer in life”).

Corporate Leadership Award recipient Efraim Grinberg, president, CEO and director of Movado Group, Inc., touted his firm’s support of the arts. “Movado,” Grinberg said “means ‘always in motion’ in Esperanto.” (Esperanto, which translates as “one who hopes,” is a universal language developed in the 1880s by Lazarus Zamenhof, who grew up in Bialystok and after whom a street in Warsaw was named.) Efraim Grinberg’s father, Movado Chairman Gedalio “Gerry” Grinberg, and mother (who was in the audience) schepped nachas. At last year’s Jewelry Information Center’s GEM Awards Gala, where Grinberg Sr. was honored, Mrs. Grinberg, who taught at a Yiddish school in Cuba, told me: “My English name is Sonia; my Hebrew name is Yaffa, and my Yiddish name is Sheindl.”

Following a trailer for director Martin Scorcese’s forthcoming blockbuster, “The Aviator,” actor Robert De Niro presented the director of “Gangs of New York,” “Goodfellas” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” with the Kitty Carlisle Hart Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts. In his signature terse style, Scorcese said, “Art costs money.” A 94-year-old bubbly Hart declared: “I met him tonight. He’s charming! I’d like to see him again!”

Ken Paik accepted The Hart award on behalf of his uncle, innovative artist Nam June Paik. “In 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, my uncle was at the White House for a state dinner for the president of South Korea,” Ken recalled. “As he talked to President Clinton, Nam’s pants fell down to his ankles…. Clinton continued the small talk. It was the first time pants that were not Clinton’s were dropped at the White House.”

* * *

The November 19 New York Pops orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall, under the baton of founder and conductor Skitch Henderson, ended on a bittersweet note. Following Ravel’s “Ma Mere L’oye” and George Gershwin’s Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra, the stage was claimed by Lt. Kenneth Megan, who conducted the United States Coast Guard Band in Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture,” then joined the Pops in a thrilling Ravel’s “Bolero.” We opened with Ravel, we close with Gershwin,” a visibly shaken Henderson told the audience. “We lost a man we all love — Cy Coleman — a good friend.” A gasp rose in the auditorium. He then conducted a poignant rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime” (from “Porgy and Bess”). My daughter, Karen, went backstage to see Henderson and his wife, Ruth, and told them, “I never thought I’d cry at hearing Gershwin’s ‘Summertime.’”

On November 15, at The Rainbow Room, Karen photographed Coleman and Henderson in a warm embrace at the second annual Johnny Mercer Foundation awards gala, in honor of Cy Coleman (né Seymour Kaufman). Coleman fans seated at tables that were titled with such songs of his as “Big Spender,” “Give a Little Whistle” and “The Best Is Yet to Come” were Chita Rivera, Tony Danza, Andrea Marcovicci, Glenn Close and Charles Strouse. The memory of Tony Bennett accompanied by Cy Coleman at the piano will long resonate with those who were privileged to see Coleman’s last public performance. And I never will forget Coleman’s exuberance at the opening night party, hosted by Donald Trump at The Plaza, for “The Will Rogers Follies” starring Marla Maples; or his delight when, along with Charles Strouse, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, Betty Comden, Jerry Herman, John Kander, Stephen Sondheim, Marvin Hamlisch, Fred Ebb and Adolph Green, he was honored in April 2002 by the American Theatre Wing.

* * *

“I’m Itzhak Perlman, in case you didn’t know,” said the enlisted-as-emcee violinist at the America-Israel Cultural Foundation’s November 14 Gala at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. On the program were piano duo Sivan Silver and Gil Garburg, who performed a brilliant rendition of Ravel’s “La Valse.” The hall’s theater-in-the-round design offered those seated behind Ms. Garburg the pleasure of watching her dominate the keyboard in a backless, shimmering turquoise gown.

And yes, let’s hear it for bare shoulders, bare backs and colorful gowns as worn by Ariel Quartet violinist Alexandra Kazovsky (pomegranate red) and cellist Amit Even-Tov (silver).Violist Sergey Tarashchansky and violinist Gershon Gerchikov were in classical black. The quartet’s superb performance of Schubert’s “Quartettsatz in C Minor” and sublime rendition of Dvorak’s “American” quartet confirmed why Ariel won first prize in the 2003 Franz Schubert and Music of the 20th Century Competition in Graz, Austria.

Greetings were given by AICF chairman of the board Vera Stern and president William Schwartz, who applauded the audience for supporting “800 artists in Israel and abroad.” Perlman presented the Tel Aviv Award to pony-tailed Chaim Topol. Prefacing an a cappella performance of “If I Were a Rich Man,” Topol declared: “I’ve sung this… 2,500 times and… dedicate it to Yosl — Joe Stein (in the audience).… He wrote the book [for ‘Fiddler on the Roof’].”

Later Topol and I chuckled about our 1967 encounter at The London Hilton, where, as London’s “Tevye,” Topol sparked a near riot at a 1,000 strong women’s fund raiser for Israel, chaired by the countess of Harewood (the only Jewish member of the Royal Family). Spotting Topol (who came to see friend and keynote speaker Yael Dayan), the women surged at him carrying me along in the maelstrom. Gasping for air, I had to be rescued by the hotel’s security guards.

– Karen Leon contributed to this column.

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