If you want to ensure a successful awards dinner, have Marshall Brickman as your M.C. A creator of the musical Jersey Boys, he has a wealth of mob related anecdotes, and with the aplomb of a seasoned comic, he delivers. At Guild Hall's annual gala, rooftop at the St. Regis on Monday night, he told a story about an inmate who wanted him to do a sequel called, "Has Anybody Seen Frankie?" Declining, he now fears for his life.
Given the decidedly downtown edge to the awardees, the speeches were rather formal. Lou Reed presented to Laurie Anderson for Performing Arts. A "woman who can do anything," Anderson thanked two people, one who taught her how to say no, the other yes. When she asked the famously reclusive Thomas Pynchon for the rights to make an opera of his Gravity's Rainbow, he wrote back, fine, with one restriction, it must be for one instrument, the banjo. The other was Buddhist Trungpa Rinpoche advising, "You need to learn the skill of feeling sad without being sad. We all have to find the way ourselves."
Model China Machado, claiming she is in her 80's presented to photographer Bruce Weber, crediting him with revitalizing her career. The noted fashion photographer and filmmaker likened Guild Hall to a farm stand, enumerating in detail the colorful aspects of the beloved institution, this cornucopia of cultural riches. A reel of his photos from classic crotch defining briefs ads, to a portrait of Robert Mitchum, to a naked youth with the physique of a Greek god cavorting in the Montauk surf with an elephant, followed.
Eric Fishl will have a show at Guild Hall this summer. Introducing Jon Robin Baitz, he noted "if the people in my paintings could talk, I would want them to speak Robbie's words." And Baitz, a Sag Harbor playwright -- his much acclaimed Other Desert Cities is now on Broadway -- had a message: he hoped the Hamptons might still attract the young DeKoonings out there and not just be an oasis for the aging, waiting for Loaves & Fishes to sell them lobster salad.
Knowing just what he meant about out-sized prices, East enders such as Fern Mallis, Ron Rifkin, Ken Olin, April Gornik, Paul Davis, Janet O'Brien, Michael and Ninah Lynne, dining on roasted filet mignon with a side of wild mushroom and fois gras flan, cheered their neighbors on.
Without a doubt, the most moving part of the night belonged to Dina Merrill. A pavilion at Guild Hall now bears her name. Ted Hartley presented the Special Lifetime Achievement Award to his elegant wife, calling her "his lifetime achievement award." Clips from movies and television, snapshots of her performances with the likes of Cary Grant reveal her to be -- no surprise -- and much as the ceremony was, a class act.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.