|Denise Rich in Rubin Singer|
(All photos Lieba Nesis)
Click images for full size views
The Angel Foundation held its annual ball at Cipriani Wall Street; a headache of a location to reach but an event worth the hassle. This is one of the most anticipated social events on the New York calendar attracting over 900 guests in the fields of entertainment, music, business and finance. People fly in from all over the world to pay homage to Denise Rich and it was sold out weeks in advance. Denise whose daughter, Gabrielle, studied at Oxford and was a champion skier was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease and died at the tender age of 27.
|Music legend Clive Davis|
This dinner is essentially a love song from a mother, named Denise Rich, to her daughter, who was stolen from her way too soon. Most mothers would curl up in a ball and die but not Denise. She started the charity, Gabrielle's Angel Foundation 17 years ago, which fund's research for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood related cancers.
|Tara Fowler & Montel Williams wearing Armani|
Since its inception more than $25 million in grants has been distributed to 150 physician/scientists. Rich is a brave woman and most of her year is spent trying to raise money for this incredible charity so that others do not suffer the same fate as her daughter. I could tell when I entered the grand ballroom and spotted Denise in an electric blue Rubin Singer dress she was nervous.
Even after 20 years had elapsed, the pain of a mother grieving for her daughter was etched on her face. Would she give Gabrielle the dinner she and other cancer sufferers deserved? No need to worry Denise, after attending this event for the past three years it is undeniable that you hit a home run each year and this night was no different.
The guest list is so varied it is hard to categorize but there were celebrities including: Usher, Heidi Klum, Nick Cannon, Clive Davis, Star Jones, Patti LaBelle, Montel Williams, Selenis Leyva, Kat Graham, Sam Moore and Kelly Rutherford.
|Models Ophelie Guillermand in Brandon Maxwell |
and Valery Kaufman in Balmain
The list of models is endless with more Victoria's Secret models than Leonardo DiCaprio's bedroom such as: Toni Garnn, Devon Windsor, Shanina Shaik and Sara Sampaio.
|Jean Shafiroff in B. Michael, Lucia Hwong Gordon in Zang Toi , Mahsa Nejati in McQueen, Claire Caudwell in Mahsa, Paola Bacchini, and Laura Nicklas in Cavalli|
Then there were the socialites without whom no event in Manhattan can occur with Jean Shafiroff, Michele Herbert, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Nikki Haskell, Donna Soloway, Ivana Trump, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Pamela Morgan and Lauren Day Roberts being just a small sampling.
|Gaggle of socialites|
These women were decked out in jewels and gowns and they looked stunning-but more importantly they were having fun. The cocktail hour contained a significant red carpet set up outside the venue with dozens of photographers capturing the images of Heidi Klum in a sexy Versace and Star Jones in a sequined blue Badgley Mischka.
The gala chair was Lorraine Schwartz, the jeweler to the stars, whose own fame increases exponentially as Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Lopez continually don her trinkets (which are quite costly and beautiful). Schwartz as well as Porsche, United Airlines and Perrier-Jouet were the sponsors for this elaborate evening.
|Patti LaBelle and her hair stylist George Fowler|
E! News correspondent Alicia Quarles was the mistress of ceremonies and she introduced Denise who asked that everyone light a candle and have a moment of silence for those who died from cancer. Then NASCAR champion, Jeff Gordon introduced honoree and NASCAR Chairman Brian France and his young and beautiful wife, Amy. It was announced that this was Jeff Gordon's final season as a NASCAR driver-but frankly I do not think too many people in this audience would be missing his presence on the circuit.
|Unik Ernest & Nick Cannon wearing Vivienne Westwood|
Contrastingly, an instantly recognizable star, Nick Cannon wearing head-to-toe Vivienne Westwood and fresh off his Mariah Carey divorce, was introduced as an actor, musician, entrepreneur, television host etc., holding down more jobs than Ryan Seacrest.
|Heidi Klum in Versace with Lorraine Schwartz earrings|
Nick entered the stage to introduce 11-time Emmy nominated supermodel Heidi Klum. I never knew Klum was even nominated but I guess she is the current Susan Lucci of the Emmy's. Heidi gave a 2 minute speech-I clocked it - and said the award should really go to the doctors and nurses. I agree Heidi, let's give you an Emmy for Project Runway and leave the cancer award to Dr. Stephen Nimer ( a cancer researcher at the event). However, Heidi looks better in a Versace dress than Nimer and any other cancer specialist, so that is a good enough reason to give her an honorable mention.
|Mary Matalin in Oscar de la Renta|
As the evening progressed a beautiful woman with short hair and a flowing Oscar de la Renta dress asked if I could zip up the back of her dress. As I began zipping I kept looking at her face and thinking why does she look so familiar? All of the sudden I had an aha moment (thank you Oprah) and realized it was famed political commentator Mary Matalin. I said I barely recognized her with her "shorn do" and she said she used to be a hairdresser so she cut her own hair. Matalin said she had yet to decide on a presidential choice but she was happy to have Trump in the race because he was so entertaining.
|Donna and Richard Soloway with Ivana Trump|
Shortly after zipping up the back of her dress, which her husband James Carville thought was too tight to zip, I spotted her heading to the stage with her beau James to introduce honorees, Mary Kitchen and Jon Orszag. Carville who is a renowned political consultant attempted some jokes by saying this past weekend was great because Trump was out of town and that Larry David was ahead of Bernie Sanders in the polls, but his humor gained little traction amongst the boisterous audience.
|Kat Graham in Marchesa, and nightlife legends Richie Akiva and Scott Lipps|
While the crowd was becoming antsy from the lengthy speeches, a live auction was held by Simon de Pury. The items auctioned included a Porsche yellow Cayman GT4 which has a 5,000 long wait list but only sold for $120,000; Two tickets to the Victoria's Secret fashion show with a West Coast trip for $100,000, and six days on Denise Rich's yacht for $140,000.
|TV hosts Victoria Bonya & Hofit Golan with author Fidan Bagirova|
Additionally, sapphire earrings from Lorraine Schwartz and a diamond ring from Schwartz were auctioned for $70,000 and $22,000, respectively. The people who won the Lorraine Schwartz baubles got them for cheaper than their retail price, an unfortunate occurrence when the money is going to charity. Thankfully, Star Jones who is all business when it comes to raising money, headed to the dais to strong-arm people into donating funds with Patty Hearst contributing $25,000. Jones is one intimidating lady and I would not want to battle her in a courtroom.
Some others who have been heading to court lately, include Kelly Rutherford whose inner beauty is matched by outer perfection. Tonight she was luminous and elegant, with a somber expression as she continues to bravely engage in a bitter custody battle that she told me she is enduring to help women worldwide. The recent article in Vanity Fair vindicates Rutherford in a gratifying press piece after so many unfair portrayals.
|Singing star Usher|
Following the steak and potatoes dinner, Patti LaBelle entertained the audience, looking glorious at the age of 71. LaBelle lost three sisters to cancer and felt fortunate to be able to sing at this event belting out tunes with the vocal power of a 23-year old. Patti, wore an electric blue gown-which seemed to be the chosen color of the evening-and she is every bit the dynamic diva.
|Kari, Emily & Tom Whitehead|
Following her set, OneRepublic took to the stage and sang their hearts out to the delight of the kids in the audience. One girl, Emily Whitehead, who was told she had a 30 percent chance of survival before trying an experimental treatment that has left her cancer free for the past 3.5 years, was most excited to see OneRepublic. Her parents, Tom and Kari, accompanied her to the ball and spoke of the importance of the Angel Foundation.
|Actress Marita Stavrou DJ Cassidy and Marvet Britto|
As DJ Cassidy spun tunes I was overwhelmed by the courage of Tom and Kari who joined Denise for this pivotal event to bring awareness to the scourge of cancer. The gala which was extraordinarily glamorous, really highlighted the valor and dauntlessness of these heroic parents. Denise Rich exited the building with a smile-she had given Gabrielle an unforgettable evening and she knew it.
- Lieba Nesis