Anyone desirous of learning how to conduct a gala dinner the right way-speak to the busiest man on the planet-Michael Milken. The Milken method consists of a brief quiz challenging the minds of super whizzes in his audience; an auction and fundraising portion that lasts under 10 minutes; adequate information on cancer research reassuring guests their dollars are being well spent; and most importantly, blow-the-roof-off entertainment that will have every Wall Streeter on his feet begging for more. The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) held its annual dinner Tuesday November 19th at Restaurant Daniel located at 60 East 65th street with cocktails beginning at 6 PM. PCF was founded in 1993 by Michael Milken and has since funded nearly $800 million of cutting-edge research by 2,200 scientists at 220 leading cancer centers. Having attended dozens of these galas I can unequivocally say this one was unmatched; the perfect amalgam of guests, entertainment and excitement coalesced to provide one of those unforgettable evenings that only $10,000 a ticket can buy. The sold-out dinner had a guest list of 134 containing the who’s who of the entertainment and business world who rarely appear at galas including: David Geffen, Steve Cohen, Earlе Mack, John Paulson, David Foster and Katherine McPhee, Neil Rodin, Brian Reynolds, Michael and Iris Smith, Sybil and David Yurman, Lynn Merritt, and dozens of others. Milken’s ability to attract these titans year-after-year when competing charities continually vie for their attention lies in his close personal friendship with these individuals many of whom he has mentored.
The evening began with a packed cocktail hour that started at 6 PM. Photographers feverishly snapped the pictures of arriving luminaries with a flurry circling around Foster, McPhee, and Geffen. As guests congregated in the dining room Milken began with his usual quiz as to which department Americans rated as providing the best service-with the surprising answer being the Postal Service. He also noted the incredible achievements of Veteran researchers and scientists who thanks to Milken and PCF were being provided the same access to medical care as well-heeled New Yorkers. PCF CEO and leading cancer researcher Jonathan Simons declared Milken a triple threat: born a math genius, achieving epic strides on Wall Street, and ultimately thrust into greatness through his cancer diagnosis which led him to spearhead groundbreaking research-resulting in a 51 percent reduction in deaths from prostate cancer. Lining up the men whose lives were saved by Milken, remarked Simons, would require a 240-mile single file line that would take 204 days 24/7 to meet and greet. Moreover, every dollar raised by the foundation for prostate research impact 73 other forms of cancer. Simons was excited to announce a new form of precision genomic treatment targeting metastatic cancer that would be a 5th level of defense when all else had failed. Stephen Eisenmann, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer, announced via video that thanks to PCF he was now in remission from a cancer that doctors were certain would end his life. All these miraculous happenings were documented in “The PCF Times” a newspaper that was distributed at the dinner describing advances in medicine along with advocating a food-is-medicine approach.
The fundraising portion was thankfully brief, as Milken was able to raise over $10 million in minutes by auctioning off a baseball camp experience and Billboard Music Award tickets for $100,000 and $50,000 respectively. Moreover, dozens of his peers including David Geffen and John Paulson agreed to sponsor “investigators” for $75,000 a year for 3 years with Stewart Rahr donating a whopping $1 million and another family contributing $5 million to fund revolutionary research for terminal patients. The real fun began at approximately 8:30 PM when mentalist Lior Suchard, who flew in from Israel for the occasion, regaled the skeptical crowd with his uncanny psychic abilities beginning with his revealing the number David Geffen was thinking of and stunning the audience upon guessing the name of the first guy a dinner guest had kissed (Darren), along with her husband’s grade school teacher (Alfonso). Furthermore, he recited the pin number to a bank account of a man whose wife had no knowledge of it and asked financier, Lowell Kraff, to set his Patek Philippe watch to a time, which turned out to be 9:18 PM, that Suchard had previously written on a paper. The room was full of math whizzes who were left baffled by these exceptional happenstances as they unsuccessfully tried to decipher the methods to his magic. After dinner of swordfish and salad had concluded, dessert was brought out by entertainer extraordinaire Jamie Foxx who appeared in the corner and made his way from table-to-table loosening a tightly wound group into malleable putty. Foxx performed for nearly an hour, as well-earned sweat dripped down his lively face. Clad in a purple silk Gucci suit he danced, sang, jumped on tables and generally wowed the crowd as handfuls of women joined him in the aisles. His musical accompaniment was equally enthusiastic, and mayhem nearly struck when he sang “Gold Digger” with dark glasses perched on his nose. Foxx, who was rumored to have performed sans payment, thanked the audience for donating to the charity, and enthusiastically posed for pictures until 11 PM. As the evening concluded even the normally stolid Milken had a wide grin permeating his face, as an avid baseball fan he had just hit a “Two-run Homer” and he obviously knew it.
Photos Credit: Lieba Nesis