Scene Last Night: In Battle of the Galas, One Triumph

By Amanda Gordon (Bloomberg Businessweek) – Welcome to the battle of the galas.

In one corner: New York City Center, for 70 years a Midtown theater with two stages and Moorish decor left over from its original tenant, the Shriners, who built the place in the 1920s.

In the other corner, Park Avenue Armory, for seven years an ever-morphing stage and arts space inside an Upper East Side building created circa 1880 for the Seventh Regiment of the New York militia.

Both organizations present theater, dance and music, and did so at their galas this week. Both run education programs for school children, which were highlighted at their galas. Both have leaders in finance on their boards and as patrons, who came out for the galas. Only one will win this battle.

Who was there: At the Park Avenue Armory were Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital, Dan Stern of Reservoir Capital, Thomas H. Lee of Lee Equity Partners, Alexander Navab of KKR, Len Blavatnik, Lyor Cohen, Mortimer Zuckerman, and so many more so spread out in that vast drill hall it was hard to keep track.

At City Center were Peter J. Solomon, Mark Kingdon of Kingdon Capital, Stacy Bash-Polley of Goldman Sachs, and Nancy Peretsman of Allen & Co. Pablo Salame, who’s on the management committee at Goldman Sachs, was a bit self-conscious about wearing a tuxedo when everyone else was in suits (poor guy, he had to wear a tux the next night too to Elton John’s AIDS foundation gala).

SpongeBill Ackman

Eric Mindich of Eton Park Capital sat with theater producers Robert and Mindy Rich, who are bringing the new musical “Honeymoon in Vegas” to Broadway, and his wife, Stacey Mindich, co-chairman of City Center, whose credits include “Annie.” (By the way, their three sons loved “Annie” and spent a lot of time with Sandy the dog, she said.)

I’d call this a draw — as props must be given to all people who go to galas, period, including the 500 guests at City Center and 800 at the Armory — but I am giving the point to the Armory. The reason: Ackman’s hoot of a disclosure that he once dressed as SpongeBob SquarePants to a Halloween street party with his kids. According to his wife, the kids ran away in embarrassment.

Ackman also gets a point for generosity: Pershing Square Capital and the Pershing Square Foundation signed on as a sponsor of the Armory for the next three seasons, a $1.5 million commitment.

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