Stressing the Bones


By Masha Leon

Published June 23, 2006, issue of June 23, 2006.
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‘Eat your dinner!” Joan Rivers exhorted the black-tie crowd at the May 23 National Osteoporosis Foundation’s Silhouette Ball, held at The Waldorf-Astoria. “The fatter you are, the less likely you are to have osteoporosis,” said NOF designated ambassador Rivers, who once joshed about her bones “clicking like dolphins.” Despite the comedic nature of Rivers’s remark, the fact is that skinny, frail women are more likely candidates for osteoporosis. Doing a shtick about Botox, plastic surgery and her [once] broken leg, she reassured: “My bone density is okay now.” Alex Azar II, deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, informed: “Ten million [American] senior citizens have osteoporosis, with 34 million more at risk.” Touting “smart nutrition [and] exercise” as preventive measures, Azar added: “But it doesn’t matter how good your diet. Your bones need to be stressed to be strong.” NOF chairman Daniel Mica noted: “Not only women are victims, [but] one in four men has osteoporosis.”

“That man was on the moon! [And] because he’s not Jewish he didn’t bring me anything!” Rivers kvetched amiably as she introduced 1966 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, recipient of NOF’s Ethel LeFrak Award. Expounding on the issue of bone health and accelerated osteoporosis as part of space exploration, Aldrin thanked the entire LeFrak family for its “generosity and sensitivity in so many areas.” Flanked by daughters Francine LeFrak Friedberg and Denise LeFrak Calicchio, LeFrak — who, it was noted, lost 6 inches because of osteoporosis — was given a standing ovation. Dr. Ethel Siris, NOF president, credited the pharmaceutical industry for providing the “tools” for the treatment of osteoporosis. “I remember the days when we did not know what was happening and how to deal with it,” Siris said. Her credentials include being the director of the Toni Stabile Osteoporosis Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University. The evening ended with everyone stressing their bones on the dance floor.

* * *

“When the Dodgers quit Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1958, Bud considered it the worst thing ever to happen to Brooklyn,” said NBC sports anchor Len Berman, emcee of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s May 17 Bal du Printemps, held at the Hotel Pierre. “Bud,” Berman explained, “is Dr. Lewis ‘Bud’ Rowland, president of PDF’s board of directors and chairman of the department of neurology at Columbia University, [who] admired Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers all-rounder who was the first African American to break into professional baseball.” Berman detailed the tie-in between Rowland, Robinson and William Black, founder of the PDF. “After Jackie’s retirement [from baseball], Black, president of the Chock Full o’ Nuts restaurant chain, named him vice president of the Chock Full o’ Nuts Corporation. His restaurants were picketed, but he stuck to his guns and Jackie stuck to his job — the first African American to hold a position at this level in any major American corporation.” PDF chairman Page Morton Black — Bill Black’s wife, who sang the iconic Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee jingle in the company’s commercials — welcomed the guests.

Neurologist and prolific author Oliver Sacks presented the Isobel Robins Konecky Creativity Award to composer-conductor Lukas Foss, whose family fled Germany in 1933. Foss is music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Milwaukee Symphony. His works include “Elegy for Anne Frank” (1989), which he scored for piano and chamber orchestra on the 60th anniversary of Frank’s birth (June 12) . An accomplished pianist, Foss dazzled the guests with his performance of Chopin’s Nocturne in B Major and his own variation of Leonard Bernstein’s “New York, New York.” During my chat with Forward-savvy Sacks, he told me that his father came from Starunia, in the Ukraine, and his mother from Solotwina, also in the Ukraine. Both cities are not far from Czernowicz. Event chairs included John Catsimatidis, chairman and CEO of the Red Apple Group, and his wife, Margo; John Castle, chairman and co-publisher of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. (publisher of “America’s Top Doctors”) and his wife, Marianne; Alan “Ace” Greenberg, senior managing director of Bear Stearns, and his wife, Kathy, and dermatologist/research scientist Karen Burke. I exchanged small talk with writer Calvin Trillin, “60 Minutes” creative Don Hewitt and the ever-sparkling Kitty Carlisle Hart.

Parkinson’s disease is one of a group of conditions called “movement disorders” and afflicts 1 million Americans. Its cause is unknown. There is no known cure.

* * *

What began as a dream of Tzipora Jochsberger’s in 1952 as The Hebrew Arts School for Music and Dance (in 1991 it became the Lucy Moses School) has blossomed into the Kaufman Center, which comprises Merkin Concert Hall, the Lucy Moses School and the Special Music School. As noted on the flyleaf of the journal at its May 31 Gala program at the Mandarin Oriental: “The Kaufman Center draws on a rich Jewish cultural heritage, welcoming people of all backgrounds with programs that reflect our diverse society.” Apropos, the evening was enhanced by stellar performances by the very young, young and somewhat more mature students of the center’s music schools.

Composer Charles Strouse accepted the Creative Arts Award for conductor, composer and pianist Sir André Previn, who was unable to attend. “When I was in music school, I wanted to be André Previn,” said Strouse, composer of “Annie,” “Rags,” “Applause” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” “His music influenced all of us. He played jazz better than most Americans can.” Martin Sullivan, president and CEO of the American International Group, Inc., was presented with the Corporate Leadership Award by the center’s treasurer, Emanuel Ganauer, who said: “The arts cannot function in a vacuum. Arts organizations would not exist without corporate support.” Sullivan, whose global insurance and financial services organization operates in 130 countries, responded, “I understand the transformational power of the arts.” Marsha Firestone, founder and president of the Women Presidents’ Organization — for women whose businesses annually gross more than 2 million dollars — received the Distinguished Service Award. Firestone, whose past positions include national executive director of Women’s American ORT, touted the impact on the economy and women’s lives of female-owned businesses. Among the evening’s participants were Rosalind Devon, vice president of the Kaufman Center, and center board member and gala vice chair music publisher Helene Blue.

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