Senior Bwogger, Leo Bevilacqua, gives you a Joanne the Scammer-esque behind the Pantone 292 curtain look at the illustrious and bougie John Jay Awards Dinner.
No stranger to Cipriani’s on 42nd Street, being a Native New Yorker, I knew I was in for a luxe evening, replete with their signature peach bellinis and mouth-watering desserts. However, I expected the night’s proceedings to be drier than the fairly homogenous crowd or at least befittingly dry for a ”college gala thing,” as I explained it to my friend on why I couldn’t go to her senior night pregame. I was definitely mistaken. The four grandiose open bars were not the only thing keeping this event WET. The juicy gossip passing its way through the student tables sequestered in the back (far away from the exalted donors and family) was nothing compared to the candor and lively anecdotes from the night’s illustrious honorees and speakers.
Without a doubt, the most incredible accomplishment of all the John Jay honorees, without even getting into their individual contributions, is that they met their now spouse while at Columbia and have been together ever since, which forced me to cover my cynical yet genuinely shocked laughter every time it was mentioned in their speech. I mean, really?! Not to mention the John Jay senior scholar made a point of speaking of her undying love for her boyfriend, a CC senior as well. It was a lot for my single and drunk ass to take, but I digress.
As I dodged saying hi to my Contemporary Civilization professor, double fisting two bellinis, and attempting to be congenial, I noticed a few familiar faces. The ever elusive PrezBo, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jessica Marinaccio and the stiff yet endearing Deantini. It is moments like these, that as a senior, I appreciate the community that Columbia has. It’s definitely more New Directions than Vocal Adrenalin (Yes, I just made a Glee reference. Come at me!), but it’s a community nonetheless, a home-away-from-home if you will.
Seated beside a few John Jay Scholars, we chatted about how funny it would be if they served John Jay Dining Hall food to counter the nostalgia of some of these overzealous donors. I thought it was a pretty funny notion, though the student government table, as self-important as ever, scoffed. Eh, you can’t please everyone – a lesson they know all too well. Back to the dinner, there was a speech by the Student Body President, Jordan Singer, which hit all the CC buzzwords: ‘Deantini,’ ‘Beginner’s Mind,’ ‘My CC Journey,’ and some other crap about the core. Turns out she was instrumental in creating it, so props, I guess (?). Next Deantini, livelier than usually (no doubt with the help of a Bellini or two or seven), threw some shade at the student table about how we over-work ourselves and we can’t possibly need more than eighteen credits to graduate on time. Hahhahah(?!) Salty much?
Skipping PrezBo’s lackluster speech, which weirdly led with how beautiful Manhattanville was (seeing how it was such a controversial decision), the evening finally got to the main event: the awardees. At this point, the audience was on their fourth or fifth drink and I just felt so bad for the last speaker, Alisa Amarosa Wood, whose speech was definitely curtailed on account of the guests’ diminished patience. I don’t know why I was expecting an Olivia Colman-like speech from any of these honorees (probably cause I don’t go to many of these things), but I felt it was time to bring out the dancing lobsters or at least liven things up with a joke or two.
Jodi Kantor, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist best known for breaking the Harvey Weinstein story, gave a delightfully fresh and honest account of what led her to journalism. She ended up at Harvard Law before jumping ship with a bunch of other CC alums and joining Slate, a move that the formerly ‘undeclared’ major in me could relate to. Then was Erik Feig, whose contributions to The Twilight Saga, when announced, sent whispers in the student table around on whether you were ‘Team Jacob’ or ‘Team Edward.’ Obviously, Team Jacob. I mean those abs. But, yes, back to the Feig speech. Dry. Pretty dry. But he’s an LA bigwig so I was anxious to seek him out and get some sort of post-grad work, a boy can dream. Next, Tom Kitt, a Broadway composer known for Next to Normal and If/Then, spoke about, you guessed it, The Varsity Show. You know Columbia’s oldest still living tradition? Never heard of it? Ugh. I should say too bad, but you can wait till April to figure that one out. Anyway, he’s a composer and has a blue check on Instagram so he’s a big deal. Interestingly, he was an Econ major, which is honestly as cool as it sounds. A Broadway composer that majored in economics. Wow. Only at Columbia.
Oh, and there was this trader on Wall Street called James Brett (no last name), who was honored for screwing over the economy. He was captain of the crew team, which *shocker* was the first sentence in his bio. I think I made a joke about how his trajectory is the least shocking thing (i.e. crew captain to wall street trader at Lehman Brothers). Again, student government was unamused but at this point, I was too intoxicated to care about the pained, affected facial expressions facing me.
Before I knew it, The Kingsmen performed “Roar Lions Roar” and some other old ass song and people were rushing to get their jackets. It was packed. Did I add that? Yeah, people filled the old bank building like it was a sold-out concert at Brooklyn Steel. And it wasn’t far off, just swap lethargic hipsters with the cast of the Wolf of Wall Street. Oh and the entertainment was The Kingsmen, so definitely far off. Haha. I think one of the evening’s highlights was when one of The Kingsmen introduced the group as the finest all-male acapella group before putting an already drunk crowd to sleep like a negroni laced with melatonin.
All in all, I enjoyed the evening because like I said it was an opportunity to immerse myself in the almost Lynchian yet bougie Columbia community wherein the socially awkward, affected and weird can enjoy each other’s company with the help of an aggressive amount of alcohol. So, I guess you could say it was like an adult-ish EC party.