the lost man chronicles
the daily chronicle

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

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Vanity Fare, cont.

Happy Birthday Tom
Dinner was prefaced with two more awards. One, to Michael Slocum, CEO of Wachovia Bank, presented by NYC’s School Chancellor, Joel Klein; and the other to the happy and flamboyant Broadway star André De Shields, who has played leading roles in The Full Monty, Play On!, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and The Wiz.

In appreciation of the honor, André delighted us with an a cappella rendition of “I Believe in You” at the podium, after which we were immediately served a succulent cut of Sliced Tenderloin of Beef au Poivre with Spinach and Gruyere Cheese Potato Soufflé, Mélange of Asparagus Tips, Grape Tomatoes and Chanterelles topped with Cabernet Sauce. Needless to say, although I was really not all that hungry anymore, I practically licked the plate.

As we indulged in our delectable meal, two more awards were presented. The first two were presented by NYC Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly to Rossana Rosado, former Editor-in-Chief of el diario/La Prensa, the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States; and Stephen J. Dannhauser, Chairman of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, one of the premier international law firms headquartered here in New York City.

Finally, to complement our dessert of a truly incredible Pecan Crunch Sundae, so delicious that I almost felt like I was high while eating it, the Founding Chairman of Citizens for NYC, Osborn Elliott, presented the last two awards.

The first was to the slightly eccentric Graydon Carter, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair magazine since 1992, whose fantastic flair of grey hair complemented his wit at the podium. After thanking his family he told everyone that he wanted to cherish this moment by taking a picture. Of course, everyone laughed as he whipped out his little compact digital and snapped a flash photo of all of us smiling at our tables.

The final award and highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Medal for Lifetime Public Service to Mr. Tom Brokaw, the former anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News.

Mr. Elliot introduced him by announcing that today was actually Tom’s 66th birthday. And so as he came up to the stage, a small cake with a few candles accompanied him and the entire auditorium of a few hundred guests took to singing “Happy Birthday.” Oddly, I felt strangely happy to oblige. Maybe it was because I was seated a few feet from the stage, and thus felt an obligation to sing along as a courtesy to the evening’s primary laureate. Then again, maybe it was just the wine...

Being so up-close, I immediately noted, and was somewhat surprised to see, that Tom was looking older than 66, which to me merely meant that I was getting older too.

Tom received the award gracefully by sharing a short story with us about the first time he came to New York.

When I first came to New York I was 17, a young man from South Dakota who had come in for a mere 36 hours to participate in a game show. I was very excited because I had long dreamed of coming here and had been a life-long (Brooklyn) Dodgers fan.

I was fortunate enough to be accompanying my state’s governor, Joe Foss, because that night when we left the television studios he asked me about my plans. I told him I was scheduled to fly back the next day, but there was so much I hadn’t seen in New York. He immediately said, “Oh, you should stay a few days. I’ll arrange for your extended hotel stay and you call your parents and tell them I said so—and I’ll see them when I get back Monday and close the deal.”

That’s all I needed. I raced back to the hotel and called home to make the case for staying a few more days.

Admittedly I was a little nervous though, because “Red,” as my dad was known, was a gruff, no-non-sense construction foreman, and so I wasn’t entirely confident that he would take to the governor’s whimsical suggestion.

When I told him the governor thought it was a good idea, there was a long pause on the other end of the phone, and then my father said, “Well son, I guess you should. After all, you’ll probably never get another chance to see New York.”

Tom Brokaw, as many of us know, became a quintessential New Yorker. Thus, his “casual” remarks, earmarked with a touch of nostalgic sentimentality, immediately struck a chord in me that I have not felt in a while.

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