Orchestra leader Bob Hardwick accompanied the program on the piano, Hearst president Cathy Black paid tribute to the honorees and introduced a “mystery gift” which turned out to be a person in the form of one Bette Midler who serenaded the founding trio with a rendition of “I Wish You Love” (see the video for her version of the verse): Click Here Make sure to scroll down some until you see PLAY VIDEO!
Photo: G. Gershoff
May 08, 2007
At Liz Smith’s Literacy Partners dinner last night in New York, Bette Midler – the surprise performer at the swellicious Lincoln Center event – quipped about the State dinner, “I wasn’t invited, so it turned out I was free. And I hear President Bush has already made his first faux pas of the night. He congratulated Queen Elizabeth on her Oscar win.”
Liz Smith Dishes Up $20 Million
And yes, the Literacy Partners event last night at Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater was a tribute to the amazing Liz Smith and her partners-in-reading Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd.
They have raised more than $20 million in 20 years to teach illiterate adults how to read. Last night they raised $1.2 million with special guests Vanessa Redgrave, Frank Langella and novelist Alexander McCall Smith giving readings.
Literacy Partners is a phenomenon. With low overhead, the smallish group spent $1.6 million last year, according to tax records, just on programs. The staff gets reasonable, not particularly great, salaries, but the results are huge.
Two graduates of the program spoke last night and, as usual, brought tears to the eyes of the most jaded New Yorkers. They were a 46-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman whose lives have changed thanks to Literacy Partners. Remarkable.
Among the guests: Hearst Magazines’ Cathie Black and Ellen Levine – Hearst was the night’s sponsor. Harry Evans and Tina Brown broke bread with many members of the New York glitterati, including the quite legendary artist Francoise Gilot, who is also the mother of Paloma and Claude Picasso; and ABC News’ Cynthia McFadden, who brought with her Bob Woodruff and his wife, Lee. The latter pair read a little from their new book and spoke about their ordeal since Woodruff was wounded a year ago in Iraq. Again, remarkable. They are a great team.
Scaasi and Ladd have worked hard on Literacy Partners all these years, but Liz Smith is really the face of the organization. How she has time for it, I don’t know.
At 80-plus years old, she is still turning out a great daily gossip column in the New York Post and online. It’s the template for this column – don’t kid yourselves. We’ve learned more from Liz than from three major colleges.
She is the gold standard for entertainment reporting, and the gold standard period. Bravo!