Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Twentieth Anniversary of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Gala


A Night of Legends

The crowd at the Pierre
(All photos Lieba Nesis)

The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) held its annual Legends gala at the Pierre to celebrate those committed to the fight against this pernicious disease. The Research Fund was founded in December 1994 by Sol Schreiber to honor the memory of his wife who fought this disease for five arduous years. Since 1998, the fund has distributed over $65 million for ovarian cancer research through grants to talented scientists at nearly 70 medical centers across the nation. The cocktails and silent auction started at 6:30 PM with a crush of photographers taking photos of Pierce Brosnan and Harry Connick Jr., who graced the red carpet with poise and ease.


Dionne Warwick in St. John

Dionne Warwick, waited in the wings, with the crowd barely taking notice of this celebrated singer - the second most charted female vocalist of all time. Warwick, clad in St. John, told me how sad she was at the passing of Oscar de la Renta, who designed the gowns for one of her very first concerts in the 1960's. "He just knew how to dress a lady and I really do miss him a lot," she said, as she took her place on the red carpet. The death of de la Renta to cancer at the age of 83 is a tremendous loss which has been mourned in the fashion community for the past couple of weeks, and yet, this night stressed that the disease of ovarian cancer is one which afflicts both the young and old.


Kristen Ingersoll, Catherine Malandrino, Kelly Rutherford & Carrie Buckle


The dinner contained numerous luminaries such as: designer Catherine Malandrino and Yahoo style editor Joe Zee, socialites Arianna Rockefeller and Tinsley Mortimer and actors Victor Garber and Kelly Rutherford. The dress code was cocktail attire with Catherine Malandrino looking stunning in a feathered Malandrino sweater, from her 2009 collection, and Tinsley Mortimer appearing appropriately demure in a delicately embroidered black-and-silver Alice and Olivia frock. The dinner, paid tribute to Liz Tilberis, the Editor-in-Chief of Harper's Bazaar, for her tireless crusading in raising money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, until her untimely death at the age of 52. Jeannette Chang, Senior Vice President at Hearst, spoke of Liz's longstanding friendship with Princess Diana, even surprising Jeannette at a Harper's Bazaar event with Diana's presence. Chang burst into tears when describing Liz's love and devotion to her two sons. The overall five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 44% so it remains one of the most virulent and untreatable maladies, since it is usually detected in its latter stages. The importance of raising funds for research grants was highlighted throughout the evening, and the silent auction which contained Knicks tickets, Tory Burch bags and Paris fashion show seats raised more than $100,000. As the silent auction and cocktail hour concluded, the guests headed into the ballroom for some heady speeches and delectable food.


Pierce Brosnan and Harry Connick Jr2

The master of ceremonies for the evening was Harry Connick Jr., who expertly managed to strike a balance between levity and solemnity with the recounting of the loss of his mother to ovarian cancer when he was 13 and the honor he felt in being present at the event with so many "heroes" surrounding him. He also said he was not too excited to be sitting with actor Pierce Brosnan, who intimidated him with his dual roles of Remington Steele and James Bond. The Hope Award was then presented to Chris Salgardo, president of Kiehl's since 2006, who has made philanthropy a chief mission of this American cosmetics brand. Chris, who started his career as a Chanel makeup artist, has made giving back an objective of Kiehl's and said, you "can have a successful business and still do good in the world." Lisa Lampanelli, the comedienne, made a special appearance with some delightfully inappropriate jokes about Harry Connick Jr. being so handsome she had some roofies and duct tape in the car and was going to kidnap him. She then went on to praise Harry for his two-decade marriage, while bemoaning her failed 2-year marriage. Lampanelli boasted of her recent 107 pound weight loss and said putting food near her at this dinner was something she did not appreciate, akin to how a Kardashian might feel if they were placed in a library. While all these humorous speeches and moving tributes interested the crowd, it was Pierce Brosnan who enraptured the audience with his personal speech of how ovarian cancer has affected his life.


Tinsley Mortimer in Alice & Olivia dress

Pierce recounted the devastation of losing his wife at the age of 43 to the dreaded disease. He spoke of the "despair" he experienced at her hospital bedside after numerous surgeries and bouts of chemotherapy. In a lugubrious tone, he then went on to speak of his daughter Charlotte's death last year of the same disease at the tender age of 41. He said Charlotte faced her disease with courage but after three years she lost her battle. Pierce was hopeful that the work of the Research Fund would eventually lead to a cure for this disease, which is often hereditary. Pierce's somber tone and sincere demeanor had many in the audience in tears and his dignity and bravery made him more dashing than any Bond character.

As if to ease the sorrow experienced at the dinner, gift bags were handed out with Kiehl's cremes and expensive diffusers and lotions. The price tags remained on most of the items, enabling me to calculate the estimated value at around $250. While, this put a smile on my face, the evening left me lamenting all the great women we have lost to this terrible disease. Liz Tilberis, who was remembered lovingly by her son Christopher, had such an extraordinary enthusiasm for life, and yet she remained helpless in her battle to overcome this unfortunate illness. While, this disease has claimed the lives of too many exceptional women, there is hope that the funding of scientific research, by organizations such as the OCRF, will ultimately lead to an effective and long-awaited cure.





-  Lieba Nesis

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