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Liz Neumark Headshot

It was not an ordinary Thursday.

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It was not an ordinary Thursday. I left home at the usual time but with three wardrobe changes in tow. Not so usual.

9 to 5 was almost routine (with the exception of reviewing plans for the upcoming Thanksgiving meal for 10,000 we are planning with the Salvation Army). But the night loomed larger that life with a unique line up of stars and superstars, heroes and legends, and a wide cross section of citizenry.

Another night in the special events business.

First stop - and first change of clothing from office attire to gala appropriate - at Gotham Hall where the Metropolitan Opera Guild - its mission to encourage the appreciation of opera - celebrated its annual award ceremony. "The Guild..... provides an innovative network of music and arts education programs to over 1,200 schools and communities worldwide. These programs include rehearsals as well as performances at the Metropolitan Opera, family education programs to introduce children to opera, an adult lecture series, school residency programs, professional development courses for teachers, website development (www.operaed.org), and collaborations with colleges and universities throughout the country." (metoperafamily.org)

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Opera aficionados, elegantly attired and amply represented gathered to present awards to Martina Arroyo, Philip Glass, Shirley Verret, Joyce DiDonato and Gerald Finley - by Paul Simon, Audra McDonald and others.
It was a very elegant, refined gathering - with a delicious and elegant meal.

On to Jazz at Lincoln Center where A&E and the History Channel premiered the upcoming film - The People Speak. My heart skipped a beat for Matt Damon, and Viggo Mortensen. The film, inspired by Howard Zinn's book of the same title, features readings of the writings of Americans who influenced the course of our democracy. The film includes musical performances by Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Eddie Vedder and others.

About the book - "To celebrate the millionth copy sold of Howard Zinn's great People's History of the United States, Zinn drew on the words of Americans -- some famous, some little known -- across the range of American history. These words were read by a remarkable cast at an event held at the 92nd Street YMHA in New York City that included James Earl Jones, Alice Walker, Jeff Zinn, Kurt Vonnegut, Alfre Woodard, Marisa Tomei, Danny Glover, Myla Pitt, Harris Yulin, and Andre Gregory.
From that celebration, this book was born. Collected here under one cover is a brief history of America told through dramatic readings applauding the enduring spirit of dissent." (harpercollins.com) The writers include Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Eugene Debs - and a range of ordinary citizens.

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From the star studded Manhattan scene, to the star studded sky of Wave Hill (well, it was raining, but on a clear night, the stars ARE there) - for the annual Wave Hill partners Harvest Dinner, a gathering most appropriate the week before Thanksgiving. It is a celebration of the connections and relationships, which support this very special institution. A part of the WH mission is "to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts" but we did it Thursday night through food and gathering around the table with good friends.

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Back to Manhattan, another change of clothing, and the 40th Birthday Party for Sean - P. Diddy - Combs. Papers report he spent $3 million on it - must have been lots and lots of extras. The Grand Ballroom looked very grand. The security was befitting a head of state. The VIP list was star studded and diverse, from Al Green and Bono to Martha Stewart and NYC Socialites. For more sensational accounts of the evening, google Puff Daddy's 40th Birthday Party. For the nascent ballroom, and the non-profit galas and picture perfect weddings that have dominated the past several months, this was a radical change of pace.

"He created a fantasy Garden of Eden-themed room with a $30,000 orchid display, installed his own black dance floor and black chandelier and treated guests -- including Jay-Z, Bono, Nelly, Martha Stewart, Christy Turlington, Zac Posen, Kim Kardashian and Denzel Washington -- to a silver confetti-drop, courtesy of lighting wizard Bentley Meeker, and a performance by Al Green." (zimbio.com). All eyes were on our Grand Ballroom as a cultural pop-star made these four walls his own, joining the ranks of Ballroom alumni - Truman Capote, Donald Trump, Matthew Broderick, Michael Douglas and other illustrious hosts.

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And as I left to go crosstown for my final stop (and final change of the evening) I watched party guests gathering outside, waiting for admittance to the hotel. Hip, urban, beautifully attired - ready to dance and party the night away. And as fabulous as they and the party were, I eagerly headed to my final destination, and the true star of the evening - the Vampire extraordinaire.

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The lines at the movie theatre were not as bad as we (my Twi-hard friends and I) had expected. And they bore no resemblance to the lines in front of the Plaza Hotel. Mostly female, mostly young - and all devoted to the pursuit of eternal happiness with Edward Cullen. We were up for hours past midnight, engrossed in fantasies of true romance while back at the Plaza, the revolving DJ's blasted their music to seasoned partying group of hundreds.

An urban cult of a different nature.

As I settled into my chair, and thought about the previous 6 hours, and the gamut of experiences, constituencies and missions, wondering where this finale fit into the overall scheme of things - I realized that each world (opera and music, acting and the voice of dissention, gardens and growing, pop culture) is a universe. How amazing that I have traversed them all in one evening - to be able to tell my kids "you'll never believe who was at our party tonight". And they will nod, take it in, and then we all get ready for another day in New York. And another great performance.

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