What: The National Alzheimer’s Gala
Where: Grand Hyatt Washington
When: Tuesday, March 27th, 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Who: Guests included representatives of several large corporations—financial groups and pharmaceutical companies, particularly—T.V. personalities such as Jean Smart (the "sanity-challenged" First Lady of 24) and ABC's Terry Moran, as well as political figures including Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Busy Hillary, facing a Saturday first quarter fundraising deadline for her presidential campaign, stayed just for the "invitation-only" Chairman’s Reception.
Ticket Price: $500
Food: The Chairman’s Reception included artful sushi, bacon-wrapped scallops, shot glasses filled with raw tuna and cilantro, and yes, even cocktail wienies (wrapped in puff pastry and served with the old stand-by, yellow mustard). Dinner offered a salad of baby greens, a surf-and-turf power combo of filet mignon and herb-crusted halibut, and a creme brulée (whose crispy crust suffered slightly from what was most likely a long sit in the kitchen).
Drink: The usual martinis and vodka tonics sloshed at the reception, while the dinner featured a 2002 Merlot from Stimson Estate Cellars and a 2004 Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay.
Scene: The Hyatt’s dimly-lit Independence Ballroom made for a rather typical junior-prom type setting.
Auction: In lieu of an auction with exciting goodies, there was simply what they called a “Rally for Research”—co-chair George Vradenburg held up a giant check, as yet unsigned, and would-be auctioneer Meryl Comer, attempting to “appeal to testosterone,” asked guests to cough up some cash.
Most Moving Moment: Though many of the speakers, especially Hillary and Newt, emphasized the disease’s impact on the elderly—and the problems the nation will face as the Baby Boomers reach their golden years—one of the most powerful speeches came from Patty Smith, an Alzheimer’s patient diagnosed at age 51. She spoke of her struggle with the knowledge that she would soon, much sooner than she had ever considered, become a burden to her family. She explained her dread of the day when she will no longer recognize them. "To not know your own children is just totally unacceptable to me," she said.
Bold Face Names: 4 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 3 (out of 5)
Food/Drink: 4 (out of 5)
Exclusivity: 4 (out of 5)
Total Score: 15 (out of 20)
More photos below.