The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) hosted its annual dinner at The Pierre Hotel on Wednesday, December 2nd with cocktails beginning at 6pm. PCF is an organization which is committed to identifying and funding groundbreaking cancer research programs to save millions of lives. Since its founding in 1993, it has raised more than $615 million and provided funding to more than 200 cancer centers and universities. This year was in honor of the 20th season partnership between PCF and major league baseball. However, this evening really is about one man named Michael Milken-a prostate cancer survivor who founded this organization and continues to spearhead efforts to find a cure for cancer.
Milken is an incredible powerhouse on Wall Street and his friends showed up in droves to pay homage to this financial giant. This evening contained a lot of Wall Street bigwigs including: John Paulson, Jerry Cohen, Ray Chambers, Fred Wilpon, Neil Rodin, Scott Minerd, Dr. Richard Merkin and Stewart Rahr. Israel and its omnipresent problems were on the minds of many attendees, including Milken , who told me he has been working in conjunction with Israel for the past twenty years and that Israel has jumpstarted many of the new treatments for prostate cancer. He also noted that Israel has the highest per capita patents for medical instrumentation and research.
As the dinner began, hosts John O’Hurley and Whoopi Goldberg performed a mock tango. O’Hurley was a spectacular master of ceremonies and gave the dinner one hundred percent even singing a song about baseball. He is exactly like his J. Peterman character on Seinfeld and even bought the clothing line. He is also a dog lover mentioning canines about fifty times and recently hosting the Annual National Dog Show on NBC, which was watched by 26 million people. Whoopi Goldberg, showed up for about five minutes made some jokes about how Milken still doesn’t understand that she has no prostate and said on a video she was a PCF dinner survivor.
Contrastingly, an enthusiastic Milken, who is an incredible force of nature, gave the audience a quick quiz and then called up some of his mogul friends to receive baseball jerseys including Fred Wilpon, and Jerry Cohen with Milken commenting if “any of you buy a baseball team in the next year you can also come on stage” to roaring laughter. Milken then posed with baseball legends Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa and gave them an opportunity to discuss their own charities. Torre, the former manager of the Mets, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, spoke movingly about how his father physically abused his mother and the negative effect it had on his adolescence. To aid others in similar situations he and his wife Alice, who is one of 16 children, decided to create the charity “Safe At Home” which has provided a safe haven for over 50,000 youngsters struggling in abusive homes.
Another baseball hero, Tony La Russa, then discussed his charity which rescues animals and uses animals to assist war veterans, battered wives and the like. These heavily impactful speeches then gave way to some levity with the tenor group Forte singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “O Sole Mio.” In an ode to Philadelphia, where the event is usually held, Ed Rendell, the former Governor of Pennsylvania, introduced the night’s honoree, executive VP of Comcast, David Cohen, who discussed his own battle with an early detected prostate cancer and how he was living proof of the value of the leadership of Milken.
The need for medicine to think outside the box was reiterated by O’Hurley who recalled his sister’s death at the age of 17 from epilepsy. Moreover, one of the keys to eradicating cancer lies in the sequencing of genomes and medical pioneer, Jonathan Simons, a leader in prostate cancer research, spoke of the gains being made in “precision medicine” whereby you can know which patient needs which medicine at what time calling this “the finish line” in the race to cure cancer.
After all these pivotal speeches, it was time for business with Milken asking people to sponsor cancer researchers/investigators for $75,000 a year for three years, eventually raising enough money to go from 173 to 205 investigators. Unsurprisingly, Milken knew the names of all of the bidders since these were his friends coming to support him and his cause. Then a live auction was held where Milken only permitted 90 seconds for the items to be sold which included a private plane trip to attend the 6 biggest sports events in the US with four tickets selling for a paltry $180,000.
The evening concluded perfectly with rock legend John Fogerty, accompanied by his guitar playing son, singing his heart out to the delight of the audience. David Yurman, the jewelry mogul, got up to dance with his wife Sybil, with the enthusiasm of a twenty-year-old eventually convincing Milken to do the same. The dinner ended at 11:15pm; way past the bedtime of most “wolves”; but when Michael Milken is involved in the equation the sky is the limit.