By SHANNON DONNELLY
Palm Beach Daily News Society Editor
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2002
NEW YORK — It’s not like Palm Beachers need an excuse to spend an autumn weekend in the Big Apple, but when there’s a good cause to support, so much the better. The Alzheimer’s Association is a good cause — and its annual Rita Hayworth Gala was a good reason for scores of Palm Beachers to head to New York.
“The Lady from Shanghai” was the theme for this year’s event, which took place Oct. 3 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The gala takes its theme each year from one of Rita Hayworth’s films. The event is named for the late film star, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and was founded by her daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan.
In keeping with the theme, the night was all Asian. A “black tie or Asian Splendor” dress code brought out lots of women in cheongsams, a black-and-gold kimono-style dress, and even a Mao jacket or two. The cocktail hour-and-a-half offered spring rolls, satay, dim sum and a made-especially-for-the-evening drink called a Lemongrass Cocktail — which tasted little of lemon and even less of grass, but dang sure tasted like vodka.
Not that we would know.
After cocktails, guests moved into the Grand Ballroom, transformed into a 1920s Chinese nightclub. Red silk streamers crisscrossed the ceiling for dinner and the presentation of awards to Margo Catsimatidis for her longtime support, and to Palm Beach resident Butch Trucks. Trucks received the special Caregiver Award, recognizing his mother’s long fight against Alzheimer’s disease and the care she received from her family right up until her death. Trucks’ acceptance speech — a tribute to his parents’ enduring marriage and his father’s determination to care for his wife until the end — was so moving that it left many of the 800 guests in tears.
After dinner, Trucks bought a few of his friends (you probably know them as the Allman Brothers ) to the stage for a mini-concert, which brought Palm Beacher Ashley Deflin to her feet. “I danced and danced,” she said later. “They were great.” Also seen bopping and swaying: Scott Snyder, Mark Gilbertson, Judy Grubman, Joe and Eileen Cornacchia, Donald Trump with Melania Knauss, Gianna and Guido Lombardi, Lori and Bruce Gendelman, Jill Rau, Tom Quick, David Ober and Melinda Trucks, even though she’s heard it all before.
Andrea Stark was chairwoman of the gala, with Princess Yasmin Aga Khan serving as general chairwoman. Co-chairwomen were Donna Dixon Aykroyd, Claudia Cohen and Susan Hess, with Della Rounick serving as journal chairwoman.
Committee members included Beth Rudin deWoody, Hilary Geary, Frances Hayward, Neil Hirsch, Ivana, David and Julia Koch, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder, Earle and Carol Mack, Dina Merrill and Ted Hartley, Jamie Niven, Martin and Patty Raynes, Carroll Petrie, Ron Perelman, Arnold Scaasi, Donald Trump, Vera Wang and Arthur Becke.
Proceeds benefited ther Alzheimer’s Association.