Saturday, June 20, 2009
I’M in a garden. Not one teeming with trees, vegetables and flowers. Small trees and shrubs dot the perimeter. In the center, toward the back, is a piece of sculpture; I can’t quite make out what it is. On the west end is a long, squat wood bench. On the east end is a group of wooden seats and benches. Framing the seating area are pillars on which a canopy might be arranged to provide cover. The garden floor is pockmarked with large rocks of various shapes. The garden, in the Japanese style, is elevated, as if it’s on a roof. Yes, a roof. In the West Village. Of Manhattan. An island of peace and tranquility in a sea of chaos and strife.
I am not dreaming. I am upstairs at the Stephan Weiss Studio. The sculptor-painter and late husband of Donna Karen used it as a his work and exhibition space. Now, the designer uses the cavernous rooms for her Urban Zen shop and as the venue for events dedicated to making the world a better place. On the card tonight is the 6th Annual Wayúu Tayá Foundation Gala (http://www.wayuutaya.org/) co-chaired by DK and Wayúu model-actress Patricia Velasquez (above). And folks showed up for them: honoree Christie Brinkley, honorary benefit committee member Russell Simmons, singer Billie Myers and Oprah’s favorite interior designer Nate Berkus.
Wayúu Tayá means (pronounced Y-U Tie-Ya) “I am indigenous.” The Wayúu Tayá region is in South America, hemmed in by coca-plant growing Columbia and oil-pumping Venezuela. The foundation’s aim is to holistically improve every aspect of the lives and preserve (rather than destroy) the ancient culture of the Wayúu people. Working with an organization in the region – folks who have a clue – the foundation does the usual good deeds of building schools and installing plumbing, but also sees to it that there is, for instance, a nutrition center, nutrition education, and money management seminars (get Suze Orman!). Indeed, women are taught how to make some dough (not for bread) from those beautiful one-of-a-kind handbags they have been making by hand for centuries – and they cost a lot less than an Hermes Birkin.
Before the crowd goes downstairs to the benefit dinner (which includes three courses + musical performances, honors and an auction), it is content to enjoy the garden and adjacent indoor lounge. Weaving his way through groups in the garden is Renaissance man and honoree Henry Buhl, and people are staring. Later, he quipped that he had been “offered a massage and received two dinner invitations." He is a delightful man and is entitled to such solicitude, but he could BE Anthony Hopkins – even at around five inches shorter.
Seated at a long, dark wood table in the lounge chatting up a friend while eating what looks to be carpaccio is author, model and "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi, who will host tonight's event. She likes it (the carpaccio); she really likes it.
Jewelry designer Judi Kupermann, who has put her talents (judithkupermanndesign.com) to work for the Wayúu foundation, is sitting on a sofa on the east end of the lounge whetting her whistle with prosecco, though Moët & Chandon is on the premises. “I like my sparkling wine a little sweeter,” she explains. JK is giving her feet a break from what I estimate are 21/2 inch heels. TWO-AND-ONE-HALF inch heels. I know. I have no sympathy for her either.
Meanwhile, back in the garden is a crusader in a red cape (and jacket) who introduces himself to Yours Truly as Sir Ivan. According to the bug put in my ear moments before I had the pleasure, SI always wears a jacket and matching cape and owns a Long Island castle (that I verify) where everyone walks around naked (that I do not verify). “Sir” Ivan Wilzig, Wikipedia, gives me to know is a former banker and current musician who is best known for techno remixes of 1960s songs such as "Imagine" and "San Francisco." Continues Wikipedia, he is also founder of the nonprofit Peaceman Foundation (hoping to make the world a better place by stamping out hate crimes and post traumatic stress syndrome) and appeared as Mr. Mitzvah on season two of the reality television show “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” On SI’s arm is an ebony-hued woman (looks familiar) wearing a dress in matching red. Dynamic! Duo!
The 6th Annual Wayúu Tayá Foundation Gala was 17 June.