By: David Patrick
New York Social Diary
Thursday night October 3 the 18th annual Rita Hayworth Gala was held in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf in New York City. The story of the inception of this gala is well known. Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, Miss Hayworth’s daughter by Prince Aly Khan, started this fund-raiser in memory of her famous mother who contracted Alzheimer’s very early in her life – her symptoms although undiagnosed for a long time began to be apparent when she was in her late 30s.
Yasmin and her friends (who call her “Yazzy”) have raised more than $33 million for the Alzheimer’s Association, which since 1982 has given $136 million in research grants for the disease.
This annual gala is one of the glitziest, more glamorous events on the New York social calendar. Each year they feature one of Hayworth’s films as the theme. This year it was the classic Hayworth made under the direction of her then husband (before Aly Khan), Orson Welles – “The Lady From Shanghai.”
This year, under the chairmanship of Andrea Stark, they raised more than $1.4 million for the cause. Corporate chair was Paulo Costa, President and CEO of Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Muffie Potter Aston was Corporate Sponsor Chair. Deborah Norville was emcee. Donna Dixon Aykroyd, Claudia Cohen and Susan Hess were auction co-chairs. Della Rounick was Journal Chair and Milly, Baronne de Cabrol was the Gift Bag Chair. These people, mainly women, have created one of the most dynamic philanthropic events in New York.
This year they honored Margo Catsimatidis and Butch Trucks, the drummer for the Allman Brothers Band. Mrs. Catsimatidis was the chair of the 1998 Gala and has been a vital force of the Rita Hayworth Gala since joining the Steering Committee in 1992. Claude “Butch” Trucks Jr. was given a special Caregiver Award. Trucks has been creating rhythms for the legendary band for more than thirty years.
The Trucks family experienced Alzheimer’s first hand through his mother’s death from the dread disease. Mrs. Trucks died in 2002. “Butch” Trucks on the podium, in his dinner jacket and black tie, looked more like a banker or CEO than a drummer. He speaks with a Southern accent that has probably mellowed out some in his lifelong travels around the globe.
He spoke of his family’s situation explaining that the award for Caregiver was hardly his as much as it was his father’s. He related the first indications that he and his family had of her affliction when she too was aware that something was happening to her mind in 1995. From there on in, it was a descent into an oblivion for her and constant, vigilant care of her by her family, especially by her husband Claude Trucks Sr. Butch told us that it was his father who cared for his wife with tireless patience and devotion through the profound hardship of the deterioration. He said he never heard a complaint or saw even a tear in his father’s eyes until the day, this year, when they carried her from the house to the funeral home. Then he broke down.
Claude Trucks, now 80 years old, was in the audience as his son told his story. And when Butch was finished, there were tears of anguish and sadness in the eyes of the hundreds of guests.
Then after the awards, on came the Allman Brothers Band, which brought everyone to their feet crowding the stage and filling the dance floor. The band played three numbers beginning with “Midnight Rider.” This is the Allmans’ thirty-third year in business. I suppose, for a lot of us who grew up on the Allman Brothers et al that part of the appeal is nostalgic. I say “suppose” because the band is as fresh and vital as ever, and their music, which is now classic, remains without peer.
The corporate sponsor of the evening was de Griscogono. Griscogono’s designer and owner, Fawas Gruosi is best known for his “discovery” of the famed black diamond. Mr. Gruosi has designed more than 3500 black diamond creations from a mobile phone encrusted with more than 200 black diamonds to traditional diamond dop earrings. His creations may be seen at de Grisogono shops in Paris, London, Geneva and Greece, and have been exclusively launched in American at select Neiman Marcus locations, Bergdorf Goodman and London Jewelers.