You may have seen the fat ad supplement in the Spec the other day about the John Jay Awards, which brought in $1.2 million for Columbia last night. Bwog freelancer Addison Anderson has the story from the ground level.
Last night I went to Cipriani on 42nd Street to introduce Eric Foner at the John Jay Awards. “How did you get picked for this?” is what you may be asking, since everyone there who knew me asked the same. Well, jerk, I am a John Jay Scholar, one of “the most outstanding first-year students entering Columbia College.” I’m just as suspicious of it as you are. (at right: a picture I think defines the night. I love Columbia!)
Anyway, I left Morningside with a terrible new haircut from Melvin and Pat’s and subbed it down to Grand Central. Cipriani is a giant Romanesque banquet hall across the street, with really high-ceilings, faux-decayed columns, four bars, arena-rock sound equipment suspended in mid-air, a phat dais, hecka booze, and a waiter for every two guests. It was bathed in blue light and crown icons.
I immediately felt under-dressed. I was wearing a gold-tie, but it was a black tie affair, and some tuxed guys gave me that “you’re young and dumb” look. Thank Mammon I brought a dark silver tie in my pocket. I grabbed a vodka tonic (exceptionally good and large) and went to the bathroom to change. The bathroom had a fireplace. The bathroom attendant was reading “Waiting for Godot” in between wipe-offs of stray water drops beside the sinks. In the full length mirror I beheld the awfulness of my lop-chopped Melvin haircut. I decided to construe any weird looks as mere envy of my stalwart hairline.
The crowd was typical, rich and smart and really gung ho with the school pride. I felt poor and lame and I’d never had cognac so I got some. I squeezed past Foner a few times unseen. A few other students were there, some with the John Jay Program, others with the Senior Fund. The Fundies mentioned they hadn’t gotten to me yet. We were all bewildered. The DJ said “Dinner!”
We sat and ate these weird starter salads: some indecipherable white vegetable on top of lox. Speakers at the podium called for various groups to stand and be cheered at. Hillary Clinton has sent a nice letter. Mayor Dinkins was in the audience. The dinner raised $1.2 million for the Scholars Program, cheer cheer cheer. There was a trustee at my table, cheer cheer cheer. A Scholar talked about visiting Glasgow, cheer, faint, cheer.
Time for lamb. My table got a spunky new waitress. Dean Quigley rattled off promising statistics, made fun of Princeton, and said “My origins are mysterious.” Guffaws, cheering. White wine was served. An ovation for Zvi.
Dessert was served, a puff of sugar surrounded by berries. I went to the dais with the awardees and other scholars. I sat next to Foner and told him I knew some students of his and they all liked him. He’s a nice guy. Bollinger read a letter from Gov. Spitzer. Lisa Carnoy ‘89 from Merrill Lynch got the first award and talked about the eighties. Her classmates roared.
I approached the podium, my hair-cut now on JumboTron. I said I was a senior and a Classics major; my plan was that if anyone laughed at the “Classics major” bit, I’d accuse Quigley of laughing at me and threaten to knock the accent out his mouth. People would laugh and cheer and raise me aloft and I’d wake up Associate Vice-President of Money at J.P. Merrill Schwab Bank. But no one laughed and I just read Foner’s bio, which was oddly put into the second person. Like, “Despite your prolific writing career, you have never neglected your teaching.” He should’ve said “Yeah, I know,” and then we would have had a witty exchange.
Foner came up and I hovered at the edge of his photo with Bollinger and Quigley. Then he gave a very good talk about the importance of Columbia’s spirit of inquiry in a country that needs it. This was the only time of the night that I really liked Columbia. He also made a joke about CC. The place exploded.
A neurosurgeon, Paul McCormick ’78, got the next award. He talked about our awesome neurosurgery department and said the kinds of things to his wife that make everyone want to get all married. I had left my cognac at the table and cursed myself.
Then David Paterson ‘77, the lieutenant governor, came up and killed (ain’t he handsome?). He talked about not getting hired to pack lunches. Pandemonium.
Charles Santoro ’82 from Sterling Investment Partners was last and talked about rowing on the crew team and loving what Columbia had given him. He’s donating to the new rowing house. There was mention of Choate. Laughter, cheers.
To end things, a friend of Santoro’s came up and thanked everyone and invited us to more drinks at the bar. When he congratulated the awardees one last time, he said, “Professor Fomer, did I get that right?” and I almost lost it and jugulated the guy.
Carl Rosenthal ’07 sang the fight song, then a fantastic rendition of “Sans Souci,” during which many tuxes started trouncing to the bar.
Someone thanked me for my time and I headed off to get a crazy pink champagne smoothie, some sort of Cipriani trademark drink. It was great. Some more old folks told me “great job” and meant it, which was nice. Then I asked for an Old Fashioned, and they gave me one. I’d never had one before, as no bar I’d visited knew how to make them. And it was terrible. It’s whiskey with tonic and mashed up maraschino cherries. Yuck, disappointing. Some guy started talking to me and described himself as a “dilettante” to my face about four times before asking me which way was Foner, so I left.
In sum, it was crazy and Professor Eric Foner is the man and America is maybe worrisome and that waitress was sassy but really cool.
John Jay Awards ’07!