John Kerry took the stage last night at the New York Restoration Project's annual Hulaween Ball at the Waldorf Astoria dressed in a gray suit and tie. Addressing the at-capacity charity gala, a literally sparkling crowd decadent with intense costumes--from a fleet of giant flag waving Chilean miners to a Prescilla Queen of the Desert troupe--Kerry coolly explained his "costume": "I came as Don Draper in fifteen years."
Bette Midler, diva extraordinaire and the founder of NYRP, an organization at the forefront of greening New York City through various community driven intitiatives including planting one million trees in the next decade (it's ahead of schedule with more than 315,000 trees planted in two years), introduced Kerry on stage as "a senator who does not give up."
Midler presented Kerry with The Wind Beneath My Wings Award for his longtime role in helping raise awareness of and solutions to global warming. She also praised Kerry's 2007 book, This Moment on Earth: Today's New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future. Kerry accepted the award by saying, "I want you to know that 'Wind Beneath My Wings' is my favorite song. It had to replace 'Hail to the Chief.'"
"It's our own rally to restore sanity," Kerry said of the evening that raised around $2.4 million to plant trees, create green jobs, and build and maintain community gardens throughout the five burroughs. Having just arrived from Delaware where he spent the day campaigning for Chris Coons, Kerry made the crack that he saw many versions of Coons' opponent, Christine O'Donnell, in attendance, giving a nod to the witches in the house.
His speech turned serious as Kerry impassionately spoke on the great need for the U.S. to join the world in aggressively reducing global warming. "The world is waiting for us," he said, pointing out that a lack of serious progress is the result of a "national shouting match instead of real dialogue," in reference to Fox News and other bombastic cable news programs that fuel misinformation, which brought hundreds of thousands of people to the National Mall today to protest in the Rally to Restore Sanity.
Kerry's speech called for the passage of cap-and-trade legislation, job-creating clean technology innovation here at home to compete with China and India's nascent but reactive green industry, and to establish energy independence.
He warned that "big, big coal and oil" have spent $500 million to stop clean energy legislation. "Please, tomorrow, wake up and think about it."
The audience included designer Michael Kors, Citi C.E.O. Vikram Pandit, Tommy Mottola and his wife Thalia, John McEnroe, actor Gilles Marini, musician Patty Smyth, and NYRP's new executive director Amy Frietag who oversaw the building of The High Line as a deputy of the Parks Department.
Costume winners, judged by Kors, included a pantless Brett Favre and a hot blond/receiver of infamous text messages in third place, a radiant butterfly and butterfly catcher in second place, and in first place, a family of enormous costumes symbolizing the chorus to A Sound of Music's "Do-Re-Mi." Wearing a suit of green and his neck draped in vines, Kors announced, "Green is the new black." For more photos from the evening check Broadwayworld.com.
With his acoustic guitar, Paul Simon took the stage next; he dedicated "Loves Me Like a Rock" to Kerry, saying, "What a better world it would have been if the [2004 election] results had been different." Simon changed the famous line "If I was the President" to "If I was the Senator of Massachusetts."
After a set of transportive Simon and Garfunkle hits, Midler joined Simon on stage to sing "The Boxer," closing out the evening, which raised a record $400,000 in a live auction and $2 million more from the ticket sales. A Charity Buzz auction is continuing with prizes that range from meeting Lady Gaga backstage at one of her concerts to getting a personal voicemail recording by the actress Julianne Moore.
More pictures from the evening will be posted here soon.