News & Politics

A Luncheon to Benefit Alzheimer’s Research, Though the Organizers Had Another Calling (Pictures)

The underwriters of Wednesday’s luncheon and fashion show missed the event—because they were attending their grandson’s bris.

Fashion designer Carolina Herrera arrives at the luncheon to be greeted by Saks Fifth Avenue president Ron Frasch. Photograph by Jeff Martin.

It’s possible to become cynical about Washington social life
this time of year. So many events, so much jockeying to be on
the guest list, all the usual suspects. It’s refreshing to hear
of people who, when having to make the choice, put family
before an event, and in this instance they were the event’s
underwriters. We’re referring to
Elise and Marc Lefkowitz, executive chairs of
Wednesday’s packed and festive luncheon and fashion show benefiting the
Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation

While almost 400 patrons nibbled on lobster and filet
mignon in the cheerfully decorated ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton West
End, the Leftkowitzes were in New York at the bris of their new
grandchild. The baby was eight days old the day of the event,
which is when Jewish custom says the bris has to happen–and
Grandma and Grandpa weren’t going to miss it, no matter what.

They had several other boosters to fill the void:
Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder;
Norah O’Donnell, the CBS News White House correspondent;
Nancy Corzine, a furniture and textile designer and president of the ADDF;
Ronald Frasch, president of Saks Fifth Avenue; and fashion designer
Carolina Herrera, who accepted the organization’s Great Ladies award on behalf of former First Lady
Nancy Reagan and also showed a selection of
looks from her fall 2012 collection. Reagan was not there but sent a
letter of thanks that
was read aloud by Herrera. President Reagan suffered from
Alzheimer’s and went public with his diagnosis. “For ten years,
Nancy Reagan was her husband’s principal caregiver,” Herrera
said. “She lived her love.”

Lauder commended the guests who bought tickets for the
event, noting, “One hundred percent of the money you give goes to
Not to overhead. Not to expensive parties like this. Feel good
that the money you have given flows to drug discovery. We only
do drug discovery. That is our game, and we’re good at it.” He
ended brief remarks with optimism. “The cure is on the horizon.
There is prevention on the horizon. That’s our mission.”

When Lauder introduced O’Donnell, he used the moment
for a plug. “She’s wearing a Carolina Herrera dress and Estée Lauder
lipstick,” he said. O’Donnell, in a red dress, confirmed as
much, though she had a moment of brain freeze regarding the lipstick.
“I can’t remember what color it is, but it’s beautiful.” She
then launched into a call to arms for the foundation’s goals.
“Every 69 seconds, someone will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,”
she said. “This is a national crisis. Let’s do something about
it.” She urged people to give generously in contribution
envelopes on the tables and to shop enthusiastically at a Carolina
Herrera boutique that was set up after the luncheon.

Earlier, most of the guests gathered in another room to hear a lecture, “A Progress Report,” from
Dr. Howard Fillit, the ADDF’s executive
director. They also looked through items offered in a silent auction,
which included two puppies, an
Imperial Shih Tzu and a Yorkshire Terrier. Both pups appeared
overwhelmed by the fanfare, and the Yorkie seemed to want only
to snuggle in the crook of his handler’s neck, a substitute–for
the moment–for his mother. She said he was four weeks old,
though the program said he was born February 11. Regardless, he
didn’t weigh more than a pound and a half. The dogs were brought
out onstage and passed among some of the guests; both sold, the
Shih Tzu as a door prize and the Yorkshire Terrier for $1,500.
In my opinion, we should stop having dogs, puppies especially,
at loud, crowded events. Nothing wrong with offering them for
sale, but can’t a picture or a video be shown, letting the
buyer pick up the little angel later from the seller?

O’Donnell called the fashion show a “special treat for
Washington.” The pace was brisk, and some of the sparklier numbers
drew applause, though with the exception of a gown in rose
satin and another in robin’s egg blue, most of the dresses and
suits were in somber shades–navy, black, aubergine, and gray.
Worth noting: None of the models, nor Carolina Herrera herself,
wore platform stilettos. Maybe that trend is, at long last,
gone round the bend. The models wore wedge heels and the designer
a pair of tasteful beige pumps. A few outfits were shown with
elbow-length black gloves, elegant and very “ladies who lunch.”
Will that look fly in DC? We’ll see come fall.